In today’s retail environment, Timely Automated Insights are the most valuable resource.

Hey there, Vend user!

By now you have probably settled into a nice daily routine with Vend helping you run your store(s) and your business. The key to successfully growing your business depends on the tools you use and on how quickly you adapt to the changing needs of the market.

 

Introducing POSxDATA, a reporting tool that integrates seamlessly with Vend and allows you to set up automated reports that are delivered directly to your inbox!

 

POSxDATA enables you to answer top of mind questions such as:

  • How did sales at Outlet A compare to sales at Outlet B this week or this month?
  • How many stock transfers occurred between my outlets in the last month?
  • Which products are running low on stock and need to be re-ordered?
  • What are my customer balances at the end of each month?
  • How were sales this week compared to the same time last year?

 

POSxDATA allows you to set up these reports in 5 minutes and then not worry about re-running these reports every time. The Daily, Weekly and Monthly schedulers allow you to choose how frequently you want to receive a particular report. The interface is mobile-friendly so you can even set up reports on-the-go through your phone.

In today’s competitive business environment, Vend has you covered on the day to day business operations and POSxDATA will supply the intelligence you need to make smart decisions.

 

POSxDATA is currently available for free to all Vend users. Simply click on the link below to register and connect your Vend account to get started.
https://app.posxdata.io/#!/register

 

Below is a quick walkthrough video that show how easy it is to set up a report.

 

We want to hear from you!

We are constantly looking to add more report templates that are useful to Vend customers. We would love to get feedback on the data points or analysis that would help you with your decision making. So email us with your request and we will do our best to solve your reporting needs in the shortest time-frame.

 

About Us

POSxDATA has been developed by Shoppinpal, a top developer partner of Vend. Shoppinpal has been working closely with Vend for over 3 years and have helped many Vend customers with their custom requirements. Shoppinpal is an integrations expert and has significant expertise in developing connectors for Vend that allow data to flow from Vend to other systems such as Netsuite ERP. Check us out at www.shoppinpal.com

Creating the nerves for retail organs – Retail data management 101

With technology evolving, and the extensive use of internet has given birth to cloud systems. Cloud systems have recorded a heavy growth in the past couple of years. Analytics is one of the main categories where SaaS products have seen a widespread  growth. Because of its usability, low maintenance, and cost-effectiveness, cloud retail systems (POS, ERP, eCommerce etc) have seen an exponential growth.

With huge data being recorded on a day to day basis retailers face a challenge of organizing, transfer and analyzing  the data as per their need. While many retailers prefer to create efficient reports in a manual way which turns to be a painful and time-consuming job. Other simply ignore to create smart reports which usually affects their decision making for the business. Due to unavailability of data sync platforms, many brands and retailers are finding it hard to move to these cloud systems because of their historical data recorded in their traditional on-premise systems. This also creates a blocker for syncing data across multiple systems used in an enterprise like POS, eCommerce and ERP systems which when efficiently used provides data transparency on all levels of the business.



The introduction of omnichannel concept has led retailers to go on a hi-paced growth. Retailers are sourcing and selling goods on multiple channels like e-marketplaces and multiple storefronts. Handling multiple channels and storefronts at the same time and having transparency of customer data, product data, inventory available and invoices across all requires time and workforce. This always results in an increase in overhead costs and a decrease in operating margins.

Business owners and managers need leverage cloud systems, the option of integrating with a large number of add ons and plugins which when used efficiently will lead to an increase in productivity. There are multiple products out in the market which make the data transfer from traditional systems to cloud systems seamless. The next important aspect to this is analysing the data as per the business requirement.

Business owners and managers when having a consolidated look at their products, customers, sales and inventory matrices over a period of time help them to make effective decisions. It becomes very easy for them to schedule a report at the end of the week and have consolidated stock order, customer sales or in transit reports which have been missing from most of the top rated retails systems.

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ShoppinPal recently launched POSxDATA, which enables you to get powerful custom reports and metrics to help grow your business, delivered to your inbox for free. Click here to take it for a run.

 

 

ShoppinPal’s Team & Culture

The ShoppinPal folks are a mission-driven bunch that’s out to forever change the lives of brick & mortar retailers. The bulk of our presence is in Pune (India), with couple of key employees working out of Houston (The USA) and Auckland (NZ). In the last few months we have excelled in team building and in solidifying our work culture, so allow me to share a few things that define and guide us.

shoppinpal team

1) A tremendous sense of ownership permeates everything we do. For a startup, it’s not enough to have a super smart team unless each member acts as a protagonist of his ideas and take initiatives, no less than the owner . We are very fortunate that every employee acts and makes decisions like a founder/owner, which has enabled us to assign meaty responsibilities to even our interns. Every single day I see stellar examples of people taking load off of each other and doing whatever it takes to bring fruition to the mission…and I’m incredibly grateful for that. 2016-01-27 13.22.57

2) Every teammate has a perpetual desire to learn, , solve seemingly impossible problems, and then share that knowledge. This not only makes each member a part of the input but also strengthens the interpersonal relationship of the employees. We’ve been very fortunate that several customers and partners have embarked on shared problem solving with us which has resulted in a wealth of open source software that will hopefully benefit thousands of retailers and developers in the years to come.

3) Commitment towards social causes. As they say and we firmly believe, core is more important than the periphery, we work both as a team and individually in various ways to do our bit for the society. Once a quarter, we organise outings for kids from local shelters, engaging them in some recreational activities and providing some moments of joy. . Here are a couple of pictures from recent ones that included tours of a world class horticultural center and an Army war memorial museum. We also have a “vacation allowance” which doubles if your vacation involves some volunteering towards a social cause.

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We have a Team+Tech foundation now that will enable us to shake up the industry. Stay tuned!

The Indian brick & mortar retailer’s dilemma…to digitize or not?

2 years ago, I would have gone to a mall (in India) to purchase a pair of shoes which I now can buy at a cheaper price sitting at my home with a guarantee of same day delivery. Moreover, with many players entering the e-commerce market we now have a plethora of choices for shopping online, as if the entire retail world has been served up on a platter to the consumer with a great selection of products and unbelievable prices. Electronics, Apparel, Books, Media you name it. Almost everything which was exclusively available at physical stores can be now bought via few clicks on your phone.
Implications for brick and mortar retailers
For most brick & mortar retailers, this dramatic shift in the retail ecosystem has adversely impacted revenues and growth. Showrooming has become quite popular and been a real pain — the shopper uses the information provided by the staff at the store but eventually makes the purchase online, sometimes even while he/she is in the premises of the store!

Realistic Retail Shop

Retailers’ recognize the need to collaborate with marketplaces, however only a fraction has jumped on that bandwagon due to technological and operational complexities. Besides the big3 (FlipKart, SnapDeal, Amazon) there are several other prominent national players (e.g. PayTM, ShopClues) and many niche/local ones as well. One of the biggest stumbling blocks is the use of a popular ERP/POS (Tally, for example), which only tracks their store sales and is completely disconnected from the catalog they need to create on a marketplace. More than maintaining a separate catalog, the killer requirement is the need for constantly syncing stock counts 2-way between the store and marketplace so that the retailer doesn’t run out of stock…which eventually results in the retailer getting suspended from the marketplace!
Further complicating the situation is that many retailers own multiple stores which then brings in new requirements around data sync across different store locations and virtual selling channels. Many POSes (Vend, for example) have stellar support for syncing inventory and sales data across multiple store locations. However, they don’t help when it comes to syncing data across e-marketplaces. Creating a brand new catalog for each and every marketplace along with manually monitoring inventory + sales has become quite a drag for retailers, and in most cases the business owners end up hiring additional staff to manage various digital channels. No wonder most retailers shy away from digitizing their operations and listing on marketplaces.

Online to offline (O2O) — bridging the best of both worlds

The key to winning in this Retailers need to play on their strength — for certain categories (e.g. Appliances) shoppers like to touch and feel the product before they commit, which provides physical retailers a big edge in these segments. ShoppinPal is in the process of jointly rolling out solutions with top marketplaces whereby consumers could reserve a product online and make the final purchase in-store once they visit. Also on our roadmap is the “try and buy” capability, which is most suited for apparel and jewelry.

Happy Realistic Retail Shop

Our vision is to bring true omnichannel to small and mid-sized retailers globally. Take our seller app for a spin and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear how we can help solve your challenges in this space.

India’s Retail Revolution

In the past quarter I’ve been spending a lot of time in India working with retailers of all sizes. Some of the biggest names in the private sector are making massive bets in the space, and at the same time smaller chains are looking for ways to establish a stronger relationship with their increasing mobile/digital shopper. I’ve noticed a few key trends, each of which deserves a post or two – so I’ll start out with a summary here and continue this topic as a series.

The 1st big trend I expect to see in the next 2-3 years is the rapid fire growth of the mobile POS. It will happen like nowhere else in the world. I believe it will be along the lines of the mobile revolution, whereby several nations and continents in the developing world skipped the landline. In the same way much of Indian retail will not see the legacy POS and will directly transition to modern cloud based systems. In the past 2 months we’ve been getting several enquiries from Indian retailers who want to increase engagement with their shoppers and drive higher foot falls to the store. This presents a phenomenal opportunity for m-POS vendors and other related services (cloud-based accounting, digital marketing, mobile commerce etc). However, I think the speed of innovation by dominant players in the west will not be enough, and like the mobile revolution we’ll see a slew of Indian product companies come up shortly that will address local needs in a cost-effective manner.

The 2nd key trend is behavioral changes in the middle and lower middle class that will significantly impact consumption. On one of my cab rides I got into an interesting conversation with my driver. He left his village over 15 years ago and came to Mumbai. Initially he was very hesitant to go to any restaurant or store that had even a slight upscale ambience. However over time he walked into some of these places and realized that prices are actually not that different and the experience is orders of magnitude better…in fact shopping for groceries at a store like Big Bazaar is a great weekend outing for the family. Many of his close friends shared the same hesitation, so he took each of them for a shopping trip to show that these places are indeed price-competitive and everybody is welcome. Now all those friends of his also shop at Big Bazaar and eat at the mall once a month. In fact some of them have even started shopping online. This is a major shift and the implication is that billions more will be consumed as a result of the shifting attitudes of the lower middle class.

Third there’s the war amongst the e-commerce giants — FlipKart and Amazon. Both have insanely deep pockets and they are putting the cash to good use, although some of their practices such as forcing merchants to sell below cost are questionable and have resulted in significant lash back from various groups. The big retailers are obviously scared of this new dynamic – the new kid FlipKart rose to a 10X valuation in less than half the time these big boys (e.g. Shoppers Stop) have been around. This war will be very interesting to watch and I’ll continue sharing my observations as we continue to work with players here.

You can beat eCommerce: Here’s How

In the last 10 years online shopping has come to roost. Amazon, eBay and others have turned the world of shopping upside down by offering a wide selection and addictive convenience to shoppers. Brick and stores have suffered as a result with fall in foot traffic, and resulting loss of revenue. However there’s hope dear hard-working retailer as you can fight online commerce on it’s own turf. Or in other words you can take advantage of technology breakthroughs to attract new shoppers and drive new sales right from your store.

What key advantages can I offer

New capabilities enabled by cloud POS systems, order-ahead services, and easy integrations with new shopping channels, will help you win the hearts and minds of shoppers in your area.

What technology breakthroughs do we speak of?

There are some amazing new tools that need to be availed of.

Cloud POS systems

Point-of-sales systems of today have evolved from the green-screen machines sulking away in a corner. The new breed of POS systems, such as Vend, LightSpeed, ERPLY, and ERPLY allow retailers to manage their stores from just about anywhere with an Internet connection. will let you manage your operations from a variety of devices (including tablets), allow easy upgrades, and also integrate with all kinds of 3rd party software. The last point is critical as we shall see.

Same-day delivery

Heralding a new era in local, new services have sprung up in major metros worldwide that allow for immediate delivery in densely populated areas. Deliv is one of those companies that specializes in same-day delivery for retailers. Their couriers pickup an order as soon as it is placed at the retailer and deliver to the shopper usually within the day. The cost is very reasonable and quite cheaper than next-day or even 2-day delivery by Amazon or at eBay.

eCommerce Carts right from your POS

Traditional eCommerce platforms were designed to best suit the need of online wholesalers, and not brick and mortar. Retail stores need a better solution that works directly with their POS to eliminate the need for managing different systems. Solutions such as ShoppinPal allow you to create a simple and fast online store right from an enabled cloud POS. They also allow you to plug your storefront in new channels such as PayPal, Facebook. Yelp etc allowing you to capture sales from local and social traffic. Finally they allow busy shoppers to order and pickup right at store, and for select metros even same-day delivery.

How does it all work together?

Solutions like ShoppinPal were created to help retail stores drive new revenue and simplify online commerce. Once integrated, they can read all your inventory, pricebooks and stock in real-time, render a storefront with pictures pulled in right from your POS, and further create an invoice right back to the POS once a sale is made. They further integrate with other popular consumer channels, as well as delivery services like Deliv. We are really excited about the future of retail and armed with the right tech tools, the market is yours to win.

Does your retail store need an ecommerce website? 8 things to consider

So you have a physical retail store or maybe even a chain of stores, but as a small business owner with a never-ending to-do list that keeps you busy way past store hours, you haven’t quite made it to one item on your list – launching your online store.

It’s no secret that today’s shoppers are changing the way they shop. Consumers know about your store before they ever step foot in your doors. They are influenced by online reviews, their friend’s opinions, and a brand’s online presence more than ever. Online sales continue to rise steadily and now account for 10% of total retail sales. Even purchases on smartphones are rapidly increasing. Unlike most physical stores, online stores are open 24×7, so that must mean more sales, right?

So you ask yourself: Do I need an e-commerce website? Will this be a sales channel that will drive significant sales or at least drive shoppers to my physical store? Here are a few considerations when you are contemplating starting an e-commerce store for your brick & mortar store.

Do you have time to create and maintain an online store?

Thanks to e-commerce platforms like Shopify as well as players offering lightweight online stores for small retail shops, no longer does it cost 5 figures to launch an online store. The financial cost to get started and monthly fees for most e-commerce platforms are relatively affordable. Where an online store costs you… is time. Will you or someone on your staff have the time to add images and detailed and helpful descriptions for all of your products?

And this initial setup is just the beginning. You’ll need to be able to keep your online product information up to date as you add or delete items from your physical store’s shelves. Retail stores that have a high turnover, especially apparel stores, can find it difficult to keep their e-commerce site’s products current.

Do you have a considerable social media following?

Most small retailers understand the power and importance of a solid social media presence, and we at ShoppinPal have seen a lot of awesome retail stores doing this right. But out of all your likes and followers, how do you measure the effectiveness of your social media efforts? It’s no secret that it’s much easier to click on a link and buy online than to remember to stop by the retail store to buy an item later. Giving your social media followers an instant way to buy from you the very moment that they become interested in your item online can prove to be a massive opportunity to monetize your hard-earned traffic on popular social networks.

How much of your website traffic comes from outside of your city?

Most small retailers that have yet to launch an online store at least have a website so shoppers can get basic information about the store. So where are your website visits coming from? Using Google Analytics, you can quickly see how many of your visitors are local and how many visitors are outside of your city. If you have a decent number of non-local visitors finding you, launching an e-commerce store should move up on that never-ending to-do list.

Are your products easy to ship?

Selling online means you’ll be shipping items to your customers. How easy are your products to ship? If you sell large or heavy items, you may not be excited about this. You do have a couple options though. 1) ask your suppliers if they’d be willing to dropship some of your hard-to-ship items so you can collect the money and avoid the hassle. 2) offer your shoppers the option to buy online, but pick up the items at your store. More and more shoppers appreciate and take advantage of the in-store pickup option.

Do you have time to pack and ship online orders?

So you have products that are actually easy to ship? Awesome. So who has time to actually pack up these orders and ship them out? This is a great problem to have. Just make sure your team knows how online orders will be fulfilled. We find that many of our retail clients have one employee that is the go-to person for anything and everything relating to the e-commerce store, from maintenance to fulfillment.

Do your POS for in-store sales and e-commerce store for online sales play nice together?

Streamlining operations is key given the complexities of running a retail business. Make sure that the e-commerce platform you choose to power your online store works seamlessly with your store’s point-of-sale system so that your product information and inventory levels can be synced across channels. Cloud based POS systems, such as Vend and Erply, make your life easier because their rich API enables easier sync between the POS and your web store.

How much do you want to pay for your online store?

Whether you decide to use a free, open-source e-commerce solution like PrestaShop or decide to use a web-hosted e-commerce platform like Shopify, there’s a cost involved. A free, open-source solution will cost more upfront for a web developer to get your store open. An easy-to-use e-commerce platform like Shopify and Big Commerce will charge you a monthly fee to run your store. These solutions have gained popularity because of their ease of setup, ready-to-go online store templates, customer support, and the ability to get an online store up and running without being a developer. Monthly prices will vary depending on the number of products as well as certain features that you may want, but the price range is typically between $30 and $200 per month. For smaller retail shops, this monthly cost can be uncomfortable without knowing how much monthly revenue their online store will generate, in which case choosing an e-commerce store that offers performance-based pricing instead of a monthly fee may be a better fit.

What ROI will be worth the effort?

More revenue is great. So, how many dollar signs do you have to see from your online store in order for the effort to be worth it? Are you just measuring the revenue that comes from online transactions? There may actually be a lot of benefits that won’t show up there. Is your online store actually helping you drive more in-store traffic? What about the shoppers that never considered shopping with you due to your lack of an online store but now love your products?

If you have an established brand, your e-commerce site can be a destination that shoppers actually seek out. In this case, you’re sure to see a good level of sales coming from your e-commerce store. However, if you don’t have an established brand, you’ll quickly find that the world of e-commerce is extremely competitive. In this case, you should look at your online store playing a supporting role to help increase your physical store’s sales.

Something else to consider: Shoppers tend to purchase high-value items such as designer clothing, antiques, jewelry, furniture and cars at a physical store. But does this mean that they don’t visit the e-commerce store? Absolutely not. In fact, the more the item costs, the more online product research is done by the shopper. So even though the actual transaction may take place online, your online store still plays a significant role in the purchase process.

Bottom Line:

Whatever your goal – to add a sales channel or drive more shoppers to your physical store, an e-commerce store is imperative. Whether you and your staff have time to manage the online store will determine which e-commerce platform is best for your retail store. Picking a solution that integrates seamlessly into your operations and requires very little maintenance is the key to doing this without going crazy!

Adding Clicks to Your Bricks: Tips for Taking Your Retail Business Online

Establishing a strong retail business can be challenging, but once you have solidified a brick-and-mortar base, adding e-commerce to the mix is a natural next step. These quick tips will guide you to online success as your business grows.

1. First thing’s first

74% of adult smartphone owners ages 18 and older say they use their phone to get directions or other information based on their current location. Are they finding you? Before even thinking about an e-commerce site, let’s stop cover a few things to check off your to-do list first.  The overwhelming majority of purchases still happen in-store and it’ll be that way for the foreseeable future, so make sure you make it easy for shoppers to discover your physical store… where most of your revenue will still come from after you start selling online.

Location, location, location

Make sure you are easily found. These are all steps you can take even before having a website or e-commerce store, and this article gives step-by-step instructions to help you.

  • Create a Google Places listing
  • Create a Google+ profile and Google+ Local listing
  • Claim your Facebook Places Page
  • Create or claim your business listing on Foursquare
  • Claim your Yahoo! Local listing
  • Claim your business page on Yelp

A bare bones website

Now, it’s time to get a website up and running. But this doesn’t mean you have to set up an online store already. It’s okay to start slow, but you have to start somewhere. At the very least, this starting point is a fast and easy way for shoppers to find you and tell them about your store.

  • Set up a domain name using GoDaddy or a similar service.
  • Get web hosting (via a service such as HostGator). When it comes to the company that keeps your store alive, this is imperative. Your business will be relying heavily on this third-party hosting company.
  • Set up your email using your domain name. By establishing an email address such as [email protected] (as opposed to an address like [email protected]), you significantly increase credibility as a retailer. You can get free email through HostGator, but Google Apps for Business is another great option if you don’t mind spending $5/user per month.
  • Let’s start small… Get one page up on your website that, at the very least, includes your address, phone number and email address.

2. Sell through another channel before your e-commerce store is open

Here’s another quick win… After you’ve made sure shoppers can find you and before jumping into a lengthy process of launching your online store, give your shoppers the ability to buy from you from their phones from the comfort of their home, yes, without an e-commerce site. You can offer your customers an engaging mobile shopping app in a matter of hours with ShoppinPal. This way, shoppers nearby can discover your store, browse your inventory and make purchases using the retail app, taking advantage of an additional sales channel while you’re building your e-commerce store and setting the stage for your online store’s debut.

3. It’s time to build your online store

Okay, so you’ve completed the quick and easy steps, and now it’s time to dig in and get your hands dirty and do some heavy lifting to get your online store up and running. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but these pointers should give you a good head start.

  • Choose your e-commerce platform
  • Add items to your online store. This step can take some time, so use these tips to be prepared and be efficient during this exercise.
    • Do you have high quality images of your items? If not, you may want to invest in a good camera in order to make your products shine.
    • Do you have product descriptions of the items? This can be one of the most time consuming exercises for a successful online store. Be sure you write original, descriptive, and lively product details for each and every item. After all, it’s not just the convenience that drives shoppers to buy online, but also the wealth of product information to help them with purchase decisions.
    • Is your inventory frequently changing? If so, the ongoing management can be very time consuming and pose an additional challenge in retail sales online. Be prepared to spend quite a bit of time managing these product listings yourself, or delegate this task to a team member that will be your point person for the online store.
  • Optimize the checkout experience so that your shoppers have the least amount of clicks possible to buy from you. The last thing you want to see on your online store’s dashboard is tons of abandoned carts.
  • Speaking of abandoned carts, be sure to set up automatic abandoned cart recovery emails so shoppers can easily revisit their cart and complete their purchase if they happen to get lost in the Wrold Wide Web before they actually buy something.
  • Just as you do in your store, make customer service a top priority online as well. Aim to deliver a site that is both aesthetically pleasing, thoughtfully functional and easy to find contact information.

4. Make your e-Ccmmerce store Google-friendly

Getting your store up and running is only half the battle. Now, it’s time for the never-ending efforts to optimize your site and your product listings so that shoppers find you online instead of your competitors.

  • Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to choose appropriate keywords to boost your company’s online presence as well as the visibility of each and every item you sell.
  • Link to other websites and vice versa. This will give your site greater visibility in Google Search results and via other companies.
    Frequently update content. Make sure to stay on top of new and changing trends that may affect the content on your site.
  • Submit your site manually to search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Bing) and optimize SEO rankings.
    Using manufacturer or distributor product descriptions on your simply won’t cut it. How many retailers do you think take the easy way out and copy and paste? You need unique product descriptions and keyword rich image names that set you apart from the others and give you the best opportunity to be found online.

5. Engage and build community with social media

Now it’s time to attract visitors to your online store by engaging with shoppers online where they hang out while telling them a bit about your store and products while you’re at it.

  • Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social platforms to your best advantage.
  • Whichever platform you choose, be sure to add buttons on your website encouraging people to follow, like, and connect with your company and your products.
  • Consider setting up the ability to sell through Facebook. Shopify and Volusion also make this very easy.

6. Don’t stop there

Having a great online presence is a continuous effort, and it takes an all-around approach utilizing various channels and techniques to see the most value.

  • Don’t forget to use newsletters (via email subscriptions) to update your customers and advertise new products, deals and sales. If you don’t currently use an email marketing solution, MailChimp is hard to beat.
  • Once you have optimized your site, blogging is a great means of keeping it that way. Search engines love original, organic content, and one of the most effective ways of keeping your site fresh and search engine-friendly is to incorporate a blog on your site. This also provides a great way to engage with and solicit feedback from your customers.
  • Finally, Google Analytics provides insight into how people find and use your website. This will help your business gain valuable knowledge of customer behavior and further, will help you make educated decisions on how you will improve your online retail presence.

Tips for Choosing a New Point-of-Sale System for Your Retail Store

So you’ve known for quite some time that you need to go ahead and upgrade your point-of-sale system, but you get a headache every time you even think about the task ahead. It can be a frustrating experience trying to decide on which new POS system you would like to use for your store. “Am I making the right decision? Will it really really meet my store’s specific needs?” Fear not brave retailer, we have some tips that will help.

Where to start?

With tons of new options on the scene, it can be nerve racking just trying to narrow it down to a couple frontrunners. Since ShoppinPal works seamlessly with leading POS systems for small to mid-size retailers, our team here at ShoppinPal has spent countless hours looking into the latest POS systems and talking to hundreds of retailers – from retail owners that have never had a POS system, or those that describe their system as “ancient” and “tired,” to those that have a modern POS system but are shopping around for a better fit. We’ve learned a thing or two about point-of-sale systems and the needs of retailers, so in order to make this daunting task a little more manageable let us help you eliminate some choices right off the bat…

Whether it’s a new and modern system or one that’s been around for years, you really have two types of POS systems to choose from: on-premises and cloud-based. Go cloud. Nice! You’ve just eliminated quite a few choices. Good start.

Why cloud based POS systems? Three reasons:

  • Upfront cost: The main difference between the Mac and the Cloud based systems is that the Mac system requires a significant upfront hardware investment. With cloud based POS systems there is low to no upfront cost, which is a pretty big factor especially for small retailers.
  • Get up and running fast: Mac based systems require special installation and configuration. Cloud based POS companies love to tout the fact that it is very easy to set up and get going in no time.
  • No lock-ins: There are lock in costs associated with being in a closed on-premises system. It creates cost prohibitive barriers to employ other aspects with your system.

So how do you make a choice?

Be prepared to put in many hours evaluating your options. Short of hiring someone with expertise in the area to make the decision for you, you are the best judge to figure out which POS system will meet your store’s needs within your budget.

Who currently uses the point-of-sale system that you are considering? If you have a gifts store, and the majority of their featured customers on their website are cafes, it might not be the best choice for you. Specifically ask what retail verticals they serve.

Talk to existing customers. If similar stores are using the POS system that’s made your short list, call them. Ask them how they like it. Ask them what issues they run into. Ask them if they are happy with their choice.

Sign up for a free trial. Cloud based POS systems make it a realistic expectation to give it a test run before you make a final decision. Take advantage of it.

What about support? The last thing you want is to be frustrated because you can’t get simple questions answered from the company you chose to help you with such an integral part of your business. Ask the POS companies about the level of support you will get. But don’t stop there. Search for them on Twitter to see how many frustrated customers have resorted to tweeting for a response on a support question.

Does the POS system offer a solid selection of product add-ons?  Vend is an excellent example of a POS company that gets this right. Look at their add-on offerings; it’s clear that they care about the other set of operations and marketing tools that the retailer needs to work seamlessly– whether it’s web commerce, accounting or a mobile shopping add-on like ShoppinPal.

What did we miss? What’s the most important thing for your store as you search for a new POS system?

Stay tuned for an upcoming post where we’ll talk specifics about a handful of the leading point-of-sale systems for small to mid-size retail stores.

Beacon Technology: What does it mean for retail stores?

Beacon technology will potentially revolutionize the customer retail experience. It brings a new dimension to interaction between you and the customer. So what is Beacon Technology? Well, it works on Bluetooth low energy (BLE) – which is used by a low frequency chip that is found in devices like mobile phones. These chips communicate with multiple Beacon devices to form a network.

iBeacon is a version of BLE software made specifically by Apple that was released with IOS version 7. In Apple’s case, this software pushes notifications to users as they walk around an Apple Store. But this is just the beginning; soon, independent developers and companies will be coming up with software tailored specifically for the Retail niche.

Before we get to why this matters and what’s in it for you, let’s quickly get out the way what some of you are thinking– What’s the difference between this new Beacon technology and that thing you read about awhile back…NFC?

Well, when looked at through the retail lens, NFC works only when your device is very close to the NFC tag to read the information– 10 cm or less. Whereas beacon technology can work within 70 meters of a beacon device. No scanning necessary. In addition, this system can pinpoint where your customer is in the store– microlocation– and relay specific information for them.

Cost factor

Each NFC tag costs approximately 10 cents due to it containing silicon which basically means 10 cents for every product. This represents a significant and recurring cost to small retailers– although it could make sense for small retailers with higher ticket items. On the other hand Beacon technology requires a one time significant investment in devices that broadcast information to smartphones. Estimote sells 3 devices for $100 which can be used in a 10-20 meter area. With time and competition, these devices will cost much less and will become more affordable.

Who are the big players?

Estimote: This is perhaps the best known of the players to use BLE for beacon technology. Their devices, which are in the testing phase, are small. Estimote integrates with many mobile platforms including iOS7.

PayPal: PayPal produces a USB device that is compatible with several POS systems: Vend, Leaf, Erply, Leapset, ShopKeep, Micros, Revel, and NCR. PayPal Beacon detects a shopper with the PayPal app on their smartphone (only if the shopper has enabled it), which then pulls up the customer’s photo on the merchant’s POS system for verification before the sale. If the shopper also enables automatic check-in, the complete experience and payment happens without even taking your phone out of your pocket.

Apple: Apple’s incorporation of this technology will probably be what gives it the biggest boost. As mentioned before, it’s IOS 7 software has the ibeacon technology built in. It is unclear if Apple itself will produce and sell the hardware for ibeacon technology but other manufacturers’ products will be easily compatible with it.

So what does this mean for Retail?

Analytics: The BLE technology will give retailers a greater insight into customer purchases. For example, retailers will be able to tell how much time a customer spends in each part of the store – and how they navigate the store. This is valuable information that can be used to optimize the in-store experience and increase revenues.

Loyalty: In the not so distant future, we will begin seeing this technology used to create powerful 1:1 offers for customers– on the spot (literally). This sort of customized targeting could, for example, use the customer’s purchase history and favorited items to come up with product-specific offers when they approach that item on the shelf. We all know these types of offers would convert very well!

Customer Service: You can expect a revolution in customer service alright. Imagine that as soon as a customer walks in to the store, your sales staff will know their name, what product categories they shop most, the items they browsed last time but didn’t purchase and what their spending habits are. Using this information, retail stores can create a better shopping experience and offer superior customer service.