Should You Add Old Data to a New POS System?

Should you start your new point of sale system/barcode application by entering your existing customers? This question gets asked all the time. The answer is definitely… maybe. Let’s take a look at what kinds of businesses really need customer data and just how much it costs (in time and money) to enter data into a POS system.

Customer data is dynamic, fluid and changing. Every day, every minute, your customers are moving to new homes, getting new phone numbers, buying new cars and leaving town. New customers are showing up all the time. Should a business owner even bother to put in old data?

Over the course of several decades in point of sale, and thousands of installations, I have observed businesses taking six or even twelve months to put in their old customers and a bit of information about them. That is before they even start using the system – in other words, they delay starting to use their new point of sale system to add old data. We know, from the national home ownership statistics, that people move every 4.5 years. If a retailer spends a year putting in customer data, then by the end of 12 months, at least 22.5% of that information is inaccurate. I’d bet the number to be even higher because customers change phone numbers, email addresses and  other parts of their persona even more frequently. That’s a lot of useless data that someone got paid to enter into the system.

Now – what about the type of business you are in? Do you even need or want to track your customers purchases? Do your customers even want you keeping track of what they buy? I belong to a frequent buyer club at my local liquor store. They give me a discount key tag with a bar code that they scan when I come in. Occasionally they email me a list of specials. I am not sure I like them keeping track of what I purchase. It’s a little personal.

On the other hand – when I take my car in for an oil change or other service, I love the fact that they have my complete service records in their point of sale system in case I need them for something. So: the answer to the question at the top of the page in part depends on the type of business you are in.

Recently I needed to get a warranty repair on an expensive road bike I had purchased a few years before. The frame had cracked and the manufacturer was going to replace it, but they wanted a receipt.  Unfortunately I could not find the receipt and had to go back to the store to get a copy. Luckily that store owner could produce it readily.  And in doing so, he certainly endeared himself to the customer!

POS System Value

One of the incredible values associated with keeping a list of customers with a POS system is the ability to email them, direct mail them or call them – if you get their permission to do so. In the world of opportunities for generating business, there is no lower hanging fruit than your existing customer base. Reasons to reach out to them occur regularly – new products arriving at the store, products being discontinued and are now on closeout. Changing your business location is a reason to contact your customers. And (one of my favorites) reaching out to your customers to ask how you can improve your service.

What about the 80/20 rule? Remember this rule?  It says that 80% of your business comes from just 20% of your customers. Hmmm. If we entered just 20% of the existing customers into the point of sale system, we will speed up our transaction time at the counter and overall, not annoy anyone by making them wait while we enter their data  at the point of sale. That’s sounds like a more user friendly, less stressful, less costly approach.

If we kept a little notebook at the counter, and wrote down the names of those customers who are not in the POS system when we go to ring them out – then we will keep things speeded up and STILL get the value of ringing out those items and keeping our inventory accurate. I suggest adding those customer names during slow hours so that you don’t annoy them when they are just trying to complete their business.

To summarize – it’s probably best to start ringing items as quickly as you can into your new point of sale system, and add your more frequent customers as you go along – although not necessarily at the time of sale.

iPad POS a Major Boon for Businesses?

The economy has been in the tank for quite some time. It’s no surprise that those hit hardest by the economic slump are often small businesses and their owners. However, we recently came across some interesting numbers indicating that businesses implementing certain iPad POS solutions may be able to beat the sinking national economic numbers.

According to the Intuit Small Business Index, small businesses faced a small slump in overall revenue during the period from May 2012 through May 2013.   Over this period, small businesses nationwide saw a 0.6% drop in overall revenue. Interestingly, in a recent report from ShopKeep, a POS provider, same store sales for merchants using the ShopKeep iPad POS platform not only beat the national average – they pummeled it. ShopKeep reports that same store sales increased by more than 17% over the same period. According to ShopKeep CEO Jason Richelson, these numbers are indicative of “a broader trend [in which] early adopters of iPad POS systems are generally more successful in today’s marketplace.”

Now, considering that these numbers are coming from a company with a vested interest in the numbers working well for its product, it’s safe to say that this is a big jump to make. Where we see great logic to the high numbers is in the power of analytics and retail data that can come from smart iPad POS systems. But, we must remember that this info can also be made available on larger, legacy systems. POS systems that allow businesses to harness the power of cloud computing and mobile technology can, however, make a big difference for smart owners looking to maximize profits.

We recently covered a small business, Artisan Cheese Company, running ShopKeep iPad POS and analyzed how they used innovative social media strategies to boost revenue and bring new customers into the store. Business owner Louise Kennedy Converse told us that she selected ShopKeep after coming up with a list of necessary components for her company’s POS system: “I knew that I wanted to utilize a low profile tech platform as a register. I didn’t want to go old school and use a cash register from Staples, as the reporting would have been a nightmare…It had to be simple to use, robust in the back end, and I didn’t want to be locked into a contract with equipment that [would be obsolete] the minute I drove it off the lot, so to speak.” Artisan Cheese Company found the right solution in ShopKeep, and business is definitely booming at this unique artisanal cheese store. But is the credit due to their POS solution, or is something larger and more complex behind their success?

So we ask: why the huge difference in numbers? Is it really the power of iPad POS that accounts for the massive disparity between the fate of the national small business index and ShopKeep’s report of 17.4% growth in same store sales? iPad POS can definitely arm a business with real time data and powerful analytics; is it making a difference for your company? Have you seen an increase in revenue since implementing a more compact POS solution? These are some of the questions we should consider.

RFID for Retail: Inventory Management for Point of Sale

Smart retailers know that inventory management is key in the battle to keep costs down and profits up.  In this case study, we examine how international fashion and lifestyle company Gerry Weber deployed a radio-frequency identifcation (RFID) system from Trimble to keep tabs on inventory and increase security for the retail chain.

Trimble’s RFID system is called ThingMagic and powers several components of the inventory management system at Gerry Weber.  The system includes handheld scanners used for inventory, point of sale scanners, and Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) gate antennas. Gerry Webber has implemented the system in 150 retail stores in Germany and throughout Europe.

Gerry Weber began by embedding RFID rags into the care labels of 25 million garments it manufactures annually.  These “smart” care tags help the retail chain to streamline inventory and simplify the order management process.  During the receiving process at its retail locations, Gerry Weber staff scan the RFID tags with handheld scanners powered by ThingMagic RFID readers. The use of RFID for this inventory activity can save store employees a significant amount of time because it eliminates the need for counting items by hand or scanning individual barcodes when orders arrive.   The retailer has also integrated mobile computers for retail floor inventory, resulting in reduced labor requirements, increased inventory accuracy, and improved product availability.

Gerry Weber has also deployed RFID-enabled point of sale and electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems to automate purchasing and electronic theft protection processes. The diverse, multi-faceted system includes embedded RFID tags to automate the acquisition of sales information at the point of purchase and provide protection against potential shoplifters by detecting items leaving the store. In addition to automating purchase data collection, the system sends an alert when removed items have no record of being scanned at point of sale, indicating a potential theft.

“Gerry Weber has made a commitment to RFID based upon the significant value its extensive testing and business case analysis has proven,” said Bernd Schoner, vice president of Trimble’s ThingMagic Division. “The use of our powerful embedded RFID engines lays the foundation for several applications in retail environments. We are very pleased to be a part of this solution and believe it provides yet another exceptional example of the value of RFID in the retail market.”

Companies serving the retail market choose solutions like ThingMagic RFID modules for their small form factor, ease of integration, and superior tag read rate across a variety of operating conditions. This particular family of embedded RFID readers is designed to enable mobile and stationary devices across the full retail spectrum.  It’s clear that Gerry Weber is happy with the retail solutions provided by Trimble in its RFID system, ThingMagic.

PayPal Introduces Cash for Registers

PayPal’s making a move. Just last month, on the very same day that Square introduced their new Square Stand and Groupon updated Breadcrumb, PayPal announced their Cash for Registers campaign. It’s not quite what it sounds like—you can’t turn your old cash register into PayPal for a crisp stack of dollar bills—but it’s still pretty enticing. PayPal is waiving transaction fees for U.S. merchants who stop using “a dusty old cash register” and switch to a PayPal-integrated POS solution, such as their PayPal Here or that of one of their partners: Leaf, ShopKeep POS, Vend, NCR Silver, ERPLY or Leapset. According to PayPal, they will waive credit, debit card, check and PayPal payment fees for the remainder of 2013.

Transaction fees, while small on their own, quickly add up. The appeal of PayPal’s offer is obvious, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out, especially in the context of the other two POS announcements that were made on May 14.

On the same day, Groupon announced an update to their POS solution, Breadcrumb. Breadcrumb was previously available to the restaurant industry, but its name has been updated to Breadcrumb Pro. This nomenclatural upgrade is because Groupon is now also offering a different POS solution aimed at a wider variety of merchants. They’ve named this one Breadcrumb POS. Confused? So was I, until I came up with a way to remember which is which: Every restaurant needs a PROfessional chef, but every business needs a POS.

Handy, right?

Our third contestant for May 2013 POS headliner was Square, which made an announcement of a different sort. They introduced a new hardware item, the Square Stand, which turns an iPad running Square’s POS system into a full-fledged cash register. The iPad is locked into place, and the (quite slick-looking) stand includes a credit card swiper and easily connects to POS accessories. The stand is currently available for pre-order and will be available early July. It’s priced at $299.

Obviously, every company offering POS software professes that their product is the best available. PayPal cites their wide variety of payment options, Groupon promises rock-bottom rates; Square touts their slick-looking complimentary hardware. In the end, it’s your choice which POS system you will you use. Can you go wrong? Sure, but probably not by much, at least not when you’re dealing with well-established companies. Maybe Square’s setup is slightly better for your business, or Groupon’s low fees would benefit you in the long run, but you just can’t resist PayPal’s cash for registers offer. Or maybe PayPal is best for you, but you love the look of Square, or Breadcrumb. That’s fine. Just like with Macs vs PCs, iOs vs Android, Toyota vs Honda, in the end it mostly comes down to personal preference.