Accomplish more on the floor with mobile POS solutions

Technology is no longer just a means to an end – it’s become incredibly personal. Today, people regard their mobile devices less as tools and more as extensions of themselves; they identify with them, express themselves through them, and use them to form deeper relationships. So it stands to reason that new, mobile Point of Sale (POS) technologies hold significant power to make connections – and make sales – on the store floor.  

Is it really necessary for retailers to have more than a Point of Sale device or access to inventory? It is, because many of your competitors have already discovered how emerging in-store technologies, especially a new generation of mobile tools, can improve customer experiences in- and out-of-store. Mobile POS devices are no longer just a tool for micro-merchants to accept card payments. Increasingly, large U.S. and global retailers are equipping associates with smartphones and tablets that let them respond to customer needs from the sales floor.

The 2014 National Retail Federation Big Show validated that the in-store customer experience should be a huge priority for retailers. Specifically, the volume turned up on discussions around technology’s power to help with this, a departure from recent years where the focus has been more on solutions for inventory and supply chain management. Experts at the event said that the current focus on in-store technologies is driven by two major retail realities:

  • Retailers who in recent years have heavily invested in back-end supply chain technologies are now ready to direct resources toward customer-facing operations.
  • Fierce competition from online channels that offer vast product selections and free shipping is compelling brick-and-mortars to ramp up their customer service processes. Offline stores are realizing that they must do everything possible to improve the variables that can make or break the in-store experience, including register wait times, access to product information, and higher-touch personalized service.
  • Line-busting. During busy periods, associates can reduce the average time spent in a checkout line by processing transactions on a mobile POS device, while customers are standing in queue.
  • Flexible sales environments. For special promotional events, such as sidewalk sales or warehouse clearances, as well as “pop-up” stores, mobile POS eliminates the time, cost and complexity of having to set up conventional registers or move bulky merchandise.
  • Incomparable service. Mobility empowers associates to stay with a customer as the individual moves through the store, supporting the entire shopping experience, from merchandise requests through payment.
  • Inventory lookup. Associates on the floor can answer customer queries about pricing and product availability across the enterprise. They can also do physical inventory counts and cycle counts on fast-moving products.

How does mobile POS trump traditional POS?
Historically, POS equipment has provided value to retailers, but this technology has had limits. With traditional POS, retail associates are tied to fixed locations in the store. Associates are equipped to complete transactions but their ability to assist customers with their purchasing decisions is stifled. Today, mobile devices are omni-present and people have become very comfortable using them to find information and communicate on-the-go, so much so, that retailers using them to enable store associates to better service customers on the sales floor should come as no surprise.

With recent advances in wireless technology, portable handheld POS systems are providing smart retailers with improved ways to serve customers, improve the shopping experience, and streamline inventory and back office functions. The key differentiator from legacy POS systems is the ability for associates using a mobile POS device to truly connect with customers at the most pivotal point – before they arrive at the counter to pay.

Mobile POS can be used in ways that contribute to a consistent brand experience across all customer touch points. This allows a retailer to offer an omni-channel experience without having to sacrifice the brand message based on the channel the customer is trying to shop. Prior to mobile POS tools, retail associates weren’t given the tools that empowered them to fully respond to the full range of customer needs, desires and questions, while still on the floor. Now they are with mobile-enabled capabilities and benefits like:

In addition to these customer-facing advantages, mobile POS solutions deliver operational benefits to retailers. For example, a wireless POS can generate additional savings by cutting hardware costs and, without the need for as much landlocked POS space, can open up valuable floor space to make room for more product promotions and smoother traffic flow. And because mobile POS operates on the network like any other POS system and connects directly into back office applications, associates have access to data for business intelligence, supply chain analytics, work flow processes, shipping and receiving, and inventory management, without compromising the time they spend on the floor serving the customers’ needs.

A retail revolution
Stores that have reduced their traditional POS systems in favor of mobile POS are already realizing greater customer satisfaction, something that makes perfect sense considering our increasingly mobile way of life. Customers are empowered by the information they have access to through their mobile devices and are accustomed to being communicated with in a near real-time manner. Missing out on mobile POS could mean missing out on significant opportunities: to streamline the shopping experience, make the sale, and most importantly, engage with customers in the relevant and convenient manner they’ve come to expect. It is important to remember, however, that the increase in use of mobile POS does not mean that we will see traditional POS systems entirely phased out. There are other aspects to consider, some of them social, and many people are still most comfortable when they have a counter to go pay at. There also needs to be a station to store bags and other items, so wrap desks will never disappear completely. This is an opportunity for retailers to reduce the number of service desks and increase mobility using mPOS, while ensuring that it integrates seamlessly with your traditional POS system.

Mobile POS/Scanner is now Visa Ready

Infinite Peripherals, Inc. (IPC), the leading developer of mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices, has been approved by the Visa Ready  Program, which indicates that the company’s popular Linea Pro 5 and Infinea Tab 4 mobile peripherals meet Visa’s requirements for a reliable, convenient and secure mPOS experience.

The Linea Pro 5 and Infinea Tab 4 equip the Apple® iPhone, iPod touch® or iPad with
an encrypted MSR, barcode scanner and Bluetooth® chip for use with custom software for mPOS and other merchant operations. The first mobile Secure Card Read (SCR) iOS solutions to have earned PCI PTS 3.1 SRED approval, the Linea Pro 5 and Infinea Tab 4 can be valuable parts of a merchant’s compliance with the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

“Infinite Peripherals is aligned with Visa’s rigorous security requirements, and our mPOS devices are fully tested and approved with PCI PTS 3.1 SRED,” said Jennifer Brown, strategic relationship and program manager at IPC. “Security is a primary focus for IPC, and the Visa Ready Program is an important way to differentiate our hardware solutions.”

Payment security is paramount, and merchants using IPC’s Linea Pro5 and Infinea Tab 4 can be assured that transactions are reliable and compliant with Visa’s security requirements.

Promoting Electronic Payments

Introduced in 2013, the Visa Ready Program enables hardware manufacturers and mobile application software developers to ensure that their devices or applications are compatible with Visa’s requirements to initiate or accept Visa payments. Furthermore, the program is a framework for collaboration with Visa, along with guidance and best practices to access the power of the Visa network.

About Infinite Peripherals

Since 1993, Infinite Peripherals, Inc. (IPC) has been fueling mobility with cutting-edge mobile peripheral devices, receipt printers, mechanisms and receipt printer-related components. Numerous major retailers in the United States are moving to mobile POS with IPC’s Linea Pro and Infinea Tab, helping to transform shopping, drive traffic and increase customer conversion rates. Anticipating trends and pre-empting solutions for a constantly evolving business landscape, IPC enhances operations in retail and other industries, including healthcare, hospitality, transportation, warehouse and logistics, entertainment and security.

LightSpeed Reports 398 Percent year-over-year growth in cloud business and $7.3 billion in transaction volume

LightSpeed Launches Advanced Cloud Analytics for Retailers of Any Size. Company reports 398 percent year-over-year growth in cloud business and $7.3 billion in transaction volume; brings new levels of sales and customer insights to merchants.

MONTREAL, June 18, 2014 – LightSpeed, the commerce platform for serious retailers, today launched Advanced Reporting for LightSpeed Cloud, as well as increased momentum for its cloud business line and transaction volume. As a follow-up to the launch of its brandable iPad POS application, today’s announcement adds big data analytics to LightSpeed’s cloud-based POS system, giving retailers real-time insight into sales, inventory trends and customer preferences so they can make better decisions about their business.

As evidence of the increased demand for cloud-based POS tools that go beyond the transaction, LightSpeed is seeing 70 percent of new customers opting for cloud. In addition, revenue from its cloud line of business has increased 398 percent in the last 12 months. The company is also revealing that its 19,000 stores are processing $7.3 billion in annual transaction volume, up from $6 billion earlier this year.

Brick and Mortar moves to the Cloud

Increasingly, independent brick-and-mortar retailers are turning to cloud-based technologies that can help create the highly personalized customer experience once only possible online or to larger retailers with deeper pockets. According to Accenture, the retail cloud market is expected to reach more than $15.1 billion in 2015. When LightSpeed introduced its cloud POS in 2013, it enabled independent retailers to manage their business, engage customers, and check them out, all from a web browser or an iPad. In addition to the ease, agility and cost savings inherent to the cloud, LightSpeed now provides retailers of any size with actionable data analytics — including insight and predictive visibility into sales, inventory levels, employee performance and customer preferences –to help them grow their business and better serve their customers.

“We implemented LightSpeed because we absolutely needed a cloud solution that could fit the needs of our growing brand. With our rapid expansion — adding five stores in four years — we knew we would need one holistic view of all of our inventory, sales and employees,” said Wesley Uthus, co-owner of Minnesota-based fashion boutique PRIMP. “Now, with LightSpeed, my partner and I know what’s going on across all our stores at all times down to very specific detail. We can make informed decisions about which store needs our attention most on any day of the week. It helps us determine where we need to focus our resources to keep business running smoothly and profitably.”

Big Data for Small Retail

Most point of sale systems for small and mid-sized retailers offer rudimentary reporting, such as sales totals or number of transactions. LightSpeed’s new Advanced Reporting for Cloud includes more than 40 reports that give detailed information on product sales, profits and margins; customer preferences; employee performance; payment methods; and vendor-by-vendor analytics; across all stores and channels. A highly visual, real-time “Dashboard,” accessible via a web browser or through a mobile app, gives a quick look at performance across all stores, and the new “Stats” panel shows best and worst performers across locations. In addition to giving a complete, real-time perspective of your business, LightSpeed’s new advanced analytics allow retailers to predict sales, inventory needs, and revenue based on historical trends and external factors like weather and holidays. It also captures customer preferences across online and offline channels, indicating purchase history, favorite items, and other customer insights that fuel successful loyalty programs.

“Customer engagement, forecasting and inventory management technologies are only as good as the data that fuels them. This, coupled with more traditional retailers expanding online and bringing retail technologies into their stores, has made demand for cloud-based POS tools and data analytics soar,” said Dax Dasilva, CEO of LightSpeed. “As a result, we’ve seen a 150 percent increase in our cloud customer base in the past twelve months. With Advanced Analytics, we’re delivering to retailers the kind of data analysis normally associated with large-scale ERP or business intelligence solutions, but in an easy-to-use format and at a cloud price.”

Examples of the insights retailers can glean from LightSpeed’s new Advanced Analytics include:

  • A holistic view of your customers: how they engage with your brand online, in-store, and through email

  • Which vendors, products, and stores are the most profitable

  • Who your most loyal customers are, and how you can reward them

  • How to better prepare for seasonal holidays or weather shifts

  • The strengths and weaknesses of your sales team so that you can reward star performers and augment training resources

About LightSpeed

LightSpeed provides serious retailers the simplest way to build, manage and grow their business and create a better shopping experience. More than 19,000 stores processing over $7.3 billion in transactions annually use LightSpeed’s retail commerce platform to unify inventory, customer preferences, sales and analytics, in-store and online. Founded in 2005 with offices in Montreal, New York City, Olympia, WA, Ottawa, Santa Cruz and Sydney, LightSpeed is backed by Accel Partners and iNovia Capital.

How Retailers Should Use QR Codes To Engage Catalog Shoppers

The ink needed to print a QR code on a major retailer’s catalog might weigh only a fraction of an ounce, but when used right, it’s worth its weight in gold. Too bad the majority of catalogs seem to be squandering the opportunity by under utilizing the code or worse, not including any at all. In a world where an integrated multi-channel approach is a must-have for any retailer to survive, the stakes of leveraging every opportunity for interaction are higher than ever.

QR:  The Bridge to the Modern World

Involvement devices have come a long way from the time of Ed McMahon’s Publisher’s Clearinghouse mailings, where you would peel off a label and stick it onto another page before dropping it back in the mail with visions of Ed showing up at your doorstep some day soon.

Today, print’s best involvement device is the QR code. It works as a portal or bridge into the mobile online world where the cataloger’s brand lives and breathes in real time. Even better, it can lead the customer from the catalog page to the checkout button on their smartphone within minutes.

The printed catalog delivers rich colors and a personal, tactile experience still not attainable through any mobile device. In many ways, though, it is a vestige of a bygone era. And an expensive one at that. Catalogers know this. Even the U.S. Postal Service (also a vestige of a bygone era) knows this. That’s why the USPS is running a postage discount promotion for the second year in a row this summer to encourage the use of QR codes by direct mailers.

So, let’s take a quick look at the way a few catalogers are using QR codes. With hundreds of catalogers mailing version after version to their lists, this is a very small, somewhat random sample, indeed. However, the three we’re looking at already show how varied the use of QR codes can be—and what that might imply for their results.

Delia’s

By appealing to fashion-hungry American teens via retail stores, web, and catalog, Delia’s sold over $220 million in 2011. In the single catalog we looked at, Delia’s had a QR code on its back cover. When scanned, the code points to Delia’s Facebook page. That’s certainly one way to build involvement with the Delia’s brand, but it may not be the best. Delia’s has an Apple app with full e-commerce capabilities, so Delia’s could be missing out on the opportunity to help the customer cut to the chase and get straight to their virtual shopping bag. Still, at least they’re using the code.

Anthropologie

Some say that Anthropologie’s marketing strategy is more about selling a lifestyle than selling products. Perhaps that explains why making it easy for customers to move toward actually buying something doesn’t seem like such a big priority in their catalog. They did not include a QR code anywhere. The closest they came was one line next to the address:  “For store information, go to www.anthropologie.com.” Their 800 number—they do take phone orders—is printed only once, in tiny type, so having no QR code seems to fit in with their attempts to play hard to get. Marketing critique aside, by not using a QR code on their catalog, they are missing the opportunity to draw customers into closer involvement with their brand, whether or not they intend to make an immediate sale.

King Schools

Unless you’re a pilot in training or know one fairly well, you have probably never heard of King Schools. They offer more than 90 flight training courses, plus all sorts of accessories for pilots-in-training. They have no retail stores, but that’s all the more reason to mention them here–retailers can learn a lot from King Schools about how to use QR codes in their catalogs.

In the one catalog we reviewed, King used a QR code on the front cover and the back cover. Now, the iPad shows enormous potential for use in general and commercial aviation, so King is smart to use their QR codes to point customers directly toward their mobile apps and offerings. In fact, King Schools uses QR codes on the “Take Courses on Your iPad” landing page itself.

In most cases it seems counterintuitive to display a QR code on a website for people to scan. After all, they’re already there. It’s a smart use of codes in this case, for two reasons. First, the codes lead the customer directly to the Apple app store, so it actually makes sense to scan the codes even though the customer is already on their website. The customer is now just a few clicks away from buying and installing the app. Second, there is one QR code for their app store in general, and then there are unique codes for individual apps.

Best Practices

With these few examples in mind, it’s time to look at best practices for using QR codes in catalogs, which can be a two-sided equation. There is the technical aspect and the branding/selling aspect. As far as the technical side goes, customers need to use their smartphone to scan the code successfully, and the destination on the other end must be optimized for mobile access. Sometimes the hardest part is organizing the resources required to execute the back end side of things, especially if the goal is to make an immediate sale.

The main thing to consider is that QR codes work as a bridge, and that bridge is a smartphone, iPad, or some other tablet with all their usual constraints (screen size, internet connection, quality of camera, QR reader app, user proficiency, etc.). Also, don’t assume that everyone has a QR reader or even knows what a QR code is. Especially in catalogs, where customers have been seeing postal service bar codes for years, people may assume that the pixelated square thing is just something else for the USPS to lose money on. Instead, including a brief call to action to scan the QR code should do the trick.

Technicalities

The content in a QR code tops out at 4,296 alphanumeric characters, but catalogers only need a fraction of that to get the customer to where they want them. However, even when the character count is down to a few dozen, size does matter, because QR codes with more data embedded in them are more complex visually. This means that even smartphones with the latest and greatest optics will have trouble reading densely populated codes.

Make sure the QR code is big enough. Even the simplest codes will frustrate the scanning process if they are too small or if there isn’t enough white space around them. Maybe a QR code isn’t the most photogenic thing in the world, so it’s a good challenge for catalog art directors to incorporate it into the design without shrinking it into oblivion.

Crossing the Bridge

Getting customers to scan the QR code is only half the battle. Now you need to make sure they feel it was worth their while to scan. It’s all about the next steps in your customer relationship. If you have an Apple or Android app, then that’s where to send people if you know that you can convert sales successfully on mobile devices. Sending them to your Facebook fan page is an option, too, but not a big win if a majority of your customers are already fans.

Special promotions, optimized for mobile access, will certainly earn your QR its keep. If your goal is to inspire a trip to one of your stores, then do what Brookstone does and send customers to a Google map with all store locations within a hundred miles. It’s also possible to send scanners to a dedicated page—again, optimized for mobile—where you give them a number of options:  Facebook, shop, app, etc.

More sophisticated catalogers will want to use personalized QR codes. Today, even local printers are likely to have the means to print unique QR codes for each recipient in a mailing. This creates the ability to track scans back to the individual, a marketer’s dream when it comes to one-to-one marketing relationships.

Innovation can get you traction within the social media realm, and that’s money in the bank. Whether you’re a major catalog player or using QR for something completely different, always consider getting the marketing and PR people involved to leverage any novelty aspects of the application.

The benefits pile up quickly to those catalogers who take the time to get smart about QR codes. For example, online fulfillment costs much less than traditional phone orders. Thick catalog “books” can be thinned down a bit if QR codes succeed in pulling customers from the page and onto their site or apps, cutting postal costs for the millions of mailings every year. And, even if the cataloger doesn’t go to the extreme of printing unique QR codes, the branding value of offering that connection from the old-style printed piece to the dynamic world of interactive mobile technology makes it well worth the effort.

A Tablet-Based POS App for Restaurants: Ambur

In 2009, a team of former restaurant owners and workers set out to create a point of sale system for the hospitality industry that would be easier and more cost effective than any other available. Two years later, the Ambur point of sale iPad app was introduced to the market.  It can be used with any Apple touch device, which increases flexibility and availability in a busy restaurant setting. It’s customizable—from creating a menu to meet your unique needs, to customizing receipts and payment options. The following features could make a nice solution for your mobile hospitality needs:

– Set up the customizable point of sale system according to your needs.

– Receive free updates and free support.

– Customize your reports with important details.

– Save and store your sales data on your mobile device, with free backup on Dropbox.

– View, print, email, or export reports.

– Organize your menu to meet your specific requirements.

– Set permissions for individual users.

– Store customer contact information.

– Keep reservation data in one place with the easy reservation system.

– Accept cards on any device with compatible card readers.

The team continues to adapt and update the POS app to meet the growing challenges of an increasingly mobile hospitality industry. Here is their story:

“Before the iPad was released in April 2010, few people realized all the different applications it would serve in just a few short years. iPads are currently being used in hospitals, restaurants, air travel, retail, and various other industries. In 2010, the point of sale (POS) market was still dominated by a handful of large companies, some worth billions of dollars. These companies had a stronghold on the market and yet were unable to solve many pain points for restaurateurs. The systems provided by these companies did not adapt to the needs of specific restaraunts, remained hard to use, and were expensive.

The iPad was the perfect tool to disrupt the market. Going into the iPad POS market, we knew what we were up against. The incumbents had a twenty-five year head start, strong reseller networks, and recognizable brands. We knew competition would be tough, but we also understood that restaurant owners needed an easy-to-use mobile POS system at an affordable price. That’s exactly what we set out to create!

Having years of experience in the restaurant industry, we realized that a large number of features do not necessarily make a better product. A POS system may be packed with dozens of features, butthey don’t provide much benefit to the user if they are difficult to access. Every feature built into our app serves a specific purpose and is easily accessible. As we grow and add more features, we make great efforts to make sure that we keep Ambur easy to use, so we don’t end up like the systems we want to replace. Another great advantage of an iPad point of sale system is the mobility. Wait staff can carry around iPads, iPad minis, iPods, or iPhones and access the POS system no matter where they are in the restaurant.

From the start, we knew we had a great product and getting it into the hands of restaurateurs would allow us to prove it. We decided to base our sales on a completely transparent model. Restaurateurs can download a limited version for free from the App Store and evaluate it at their own pace. In the evaluation stage, our sales agents can answer any questions the customer may have. We work closely with the customer to make sure that this is a good fit for their business. This model has served us well; since our customers are already familiar with Ambur before they purchase, they know it is the right solution for them. Newer POS companies have similar models, and we think it is a great trend. With the point of sale being the heart of a restaurant, the staff need to be fully comfortable with it.

Apple’s App Store has allowed us to reach customers in thirty countries! Such a big reach does have it’s own challenges. One challenge that we encounter every day is to make sure that we are able to support not only the software but all the corresponding hardware remotely. Extensive documentation, understanding customer’s needs, and great customer service allow us to be one of the most highly rated POS systems in the App Store.

From talking with thousands of restaurateurs, we came to understand that the most important aspect when choosing a POS system is the owner understanding the needs of their business. There are a lot of POS solutions on the market, and not all of them are a good fit for every business. Once a restaurant owner has outlined their needs, they should ask specific questions and make sure that the POS system can perform as needed. Restaurateurs should be wary of companies that don’t offer free trials or a 100 percent money back guarantee on their solution.”

An Instant Loyalty Program For Small Merchants

What if you’re a small merchant, maybe a single store operation or a small chain, and you want to offer a loyalty program because, well, loyalty programs really work.   However, the challenges of a loyalty program for smaller companies are well documented, numerous and not so easy to overcome.

To execute a loyalty program effectively, a business owner has to design one and stick with it.  It has to last for years, because it may take customers that long to earn a reward, and they will be angry and disappointed if you abandon the program before they’ve had a chance to get a reward.

Second, a business owner has to invest in cards or building an app (very costly and time consuming).   Also, customers are already loaded with apps, and key tags, and membership cards. The last thing they want is yet another card to remember.

A third problem is training employees on the program and even when you give out cards (like a frequent buyer card), the business has to take an extra step of asking for and then logging customer information.   It can cause employee frustration and management headaches.

Well, this is where AppCard comes in to make life simple.  AppCard is a program that any merchant can implement without tears.

I tried AppCard a few months ago.  I didn’t quite get it at first.  It took a while to get my arms around the idea, but once I read through their website, watched the video and played with the app, it totally clicked.

It boils down to this: AppCard is perfect for small chains and solo merchants who want the power of a real loyalty program without all the hassle.

Once a merchant signs up with AppCard, his customers can join by downloading the app, which works on Apple, Android and the web.   By using AppCard, the merchant avoids the pain of hiring  programming to build his own app and maintain it or support it.

A merchant doesn’t have to spend thousands of dollars to print up and give away key tags or membership cards – which many of us take home and quickly forget about.    No, it is very simple.  Once customers put the app on their phone, they can use their phone number to check in at the store.

AppCard can work in conjunction with Epson’s OmniLink printer and automatically capture points earned/dollars spent by a customer.  No other interaction is needed.

Other benefits I saw: small merchant associations – like a “downtown” merchant association, (here in Sarasota we have St. Armands Circle – a collection of high end small stores) can band together to help promote the same loyalty program, thereby encouraging the user to participate even more frequently.

Rewards are easy to set and end-users can be targeted for promotion.   The company offers 90+ reports for analyzing consumer behavior.

A Digital receipts feature allows customers to have a receipt emailed directly to them instead getting eight or ten inches of thermal paper.   This is surely the next big thing in retail.  I find myself getting about 100 feet of receipts a month and it’s truly absurd.  A solution like AppCard can save vendors money and earn customer respect by being progressive and “green”.

A few other features I found attractive:
– Merchants can reward customers whether they pay by cash, credit or debit card
– The app can display a digital storefront for each merchant.
– It’s a source of leads because customers who carry the app can find other businesses who participate right in the app.
– Can be set up in less than 20 minutes.

AppCard has an impressive group of lead investors including:  Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google, Jerry Yang (co founder of Yahoo), Peter Thiel (cofounder and former CEO of PayPal and Yair Goldfinger of ICQ.

QikServe integrates with MICROS ordering and payment app ready for mass adoption

Mobile technology company QikServe today announced that its mobile ordering app is now available through the hosted MICROS Commerce Platform™ (MCP) from MICROS, a leading provider of information technology solutions for the hospitality and retail industries.

Customers using MICROS for point-of-sale can now extend their system to include QikServe’s mobile ordering and payment service, providing an end-to-end mobile solution from customer order through to fulfillment and back-end systems. This means that hospitality businesses can now provide customers with the choice to order and pay for food and drink through their smartphones seamlessly through their existing POS system.

Integration with POS systems has been identified as a key hurdle to widespread adoption of mobile ordering solutions, which typically require businesses to use additional hardware, such as tablets or wireless printers.

“We are pleased to be able to provide our customers with QikServe mobile ordering functionality. With QikServe, hospitality operators can offer their customers more choice in how they order and pay for their purchases,” said Tim Brown, SVP eCommerce at MICROS.

“The integration between QikServe and MICROS is another step forward in bringing mobile ordering and payment technology to the masses,” said Ronnie Forbes, CEO, QikServe.

About MICROS Systems, Inc.
MICROS Systems, Inc. provides leading enterprise-wide applications, services and hardware for the hospitality and retail industries. Serving an extensive portfolio of clients worldwide, MICROS solutions are utilized in hotels, casinos, table and quick service restaurants, retail, leisure and entertainment, fuel and convenience, cruise, and travel operations in more than 180 countries, and on all seven continents. MICROS combines its industry knowledge and expertise to provide cloud-based, mobile and on premise solutions that allow its clients to streamline operations and successfully engage their customers.

MICROS applications include point of sale, property management, central systems, business intelligence, eCommerce, loyalty, CRM, loss prevention, distributed order management, labor management, inventory management, and merchandise planning solutions. MICROS services include hosting and SaaS, platform implementation and integration, strategic business consulting, interactive marketing, design services including creative and user experience, and managed services.

About QikServe
Mobile technology specialist, QikServe was founded in 2011 by a team of mobile self-service experts. The company’s goal is to radically change and improve the ordering experience for customers by providing a mass adoption self-serve system. As a business QikServe is dedicated to providing integrated solutions and driving engagement and loyalty through the consumer device. The QikServe system has been deployed across the UK and United States in restaurants, bars, hotels, sports stadiums, airports and tradeshows.

NCR Silver Combines Functionality, Ease of Use, to Simplify Mobile POS Experience

From retail shops to chocolatiers, cafés, restaurants, food trucks and even farms, NCR Silver is proving to be the right fit for a myriad of small businesses looking to use an integrated mobile POS for more than just payments.

In fact, NCR Silver is doing for small businesses what NCR has done for large retailers for more than 100 years – providing the necessary tools and capabilities to manage and grow a successful business. Silver keeps these tools simple, allowing small business owners to focus on servicing customers and growing their businesses rather than managing technology.

This ease of use, combined with solid retail experience is especially important to customers like John Masek, co-founder of Oregon-based Bricks & Minifigs, the largest aftermarket Lego store in the country.

“When I was looking for a point of sale for Bricks & Minifigs, I wanted a name I could trust,” Masek said. “With 130 years of experience behind them, I knew the NCR brand could deliver.”

Accepting many forms of payment including credit cards, checks, cash and mobile payments, NCR Silver is an iPad solution that gives small merchants the ability to track sales and profitability, customize automated email marketing programs and sell anywhere. The mobile POS also includes essential back office reports and dashboards to provide small businesses with a 24/7 view of their locations.

Customers like Masek rely on integrated customer marketing capabilities, like bulk emails and reports, because they are easy to set up and provide valuable insights into how marketing campaigns impact sales. The built-in loyalty program makes it easy for all types of businesses to reward customers at checkout, by eliminating the need for paper punch cards.

In addition, redeeming points is effortless for because the information all shows up on the POS at checkout.

For many family-owned businesses, a user-friendly, cloud-based POS also ensures they don’t have to spend extra hours in their stores reviewing and analyzing sales reports.

For example, the owners of Aly’s Applesin Texas wanted to start a business that centered on traditions, quality products and a flexible, family-centric lifestyle.

Taking a homemade caramel recipe and combining it with apples and chocolate turned out to be a great place to start for the Deason family, which started its business following the birth of their daughter, Aly, in 2009.

Fast forward to 2014, and now Aly’s Apples has four retail locations throughout Texas, all using NCR Silver POS with multi-store capabilities.

“We’re one of the largest resellers in Houston and are building our own customer and email database,” Shane Deason, owner of Aly’s Apples, said. “Silver was able to put everything together, from raw data to marketing magic. We would like to franchise in the future and would certainly recommend NCR for its functionality, but equally important is its ease of use.”

Multi-store capabilities give the Deasons flexibility to manage sales across their four locations by viewing a consolidated report or drill down to the individual store for details.

Additionally, NCR Silver lets small businesses like Aly’s Apples take advantage of the move to digital receipts – a trend that is growing in popularity among consumers.

Email receipts protect us at tax time,” says Deason, adding that email receipts also provide a level of convenience for his customers. “Today email receipts are as much a way to connect and nurture customer relationships as they are proof of purchase,” he adds. “NCR Silver makes it easy to leverage integrated tools like loyalty and email marketing that are built into its system.”

Patten Seed Company in Georgia dates back to 1893 when a former school teacher opened a general store that sold seed, fertilizer and everything a small town needed from a farming supply store.

“We started with NCR Silver just a few months ago, but saw an immediate and positive change in our business across all of our 14 locations,” said Chris Burns, controller at Patten Seed. “As a landscape company, we’re seasonal, and when spring hits, we get blasted. NCR Silver POS is superior to any of the systems we have used. It’s so user-friendly. I can spend only a few minutes on the phone with one of my retailers and they will have it installed and ready to go.”

And at Roba Family Farms, with seven terminals, NCR Silver is used to ring up tickets for seasonal (harvest and Christmas tree) sales, They also have NCR Silver set up in the café to sell cafeteria items for guests who are visiting the farm for festivals and events. The business makes most of its revenue in the seven weeks between the Halloween and Christmas seasons. During that time they run daily reports, and have used NCR Silver to see what items they should grow, based on volume. They started using NCR Silver about a year ago, and Sue Roba says the introduction of NCR has been great. “We hope to expand our reach, and NCR Silver will help us.”

Retail: The Give And Take of Social Media

As social media proliferates, pretty much every retailer is looking at how they can ”ride this wave” to their advantage. But while many retailers think of it as just another channel to advertise to your customers, social media can be so much more.

That’s because social media enables retailers to both listen to their customers and engage their customers. And that balance—the yin and yang, the give and take—is what’s required for retailers to realize social media success.

Can I hear you now?

In many ways, social media is an always-on focus group. Let’s say you’re a seller of women’s apparel. You see a cluster of tweets in which customers lament they can’t find the right size or don’t like the new colors for the fall season. You just got advance notice of what your point-of-sale (POS) reports won’t tell you for another month. You can take instant action to change the product mix at the retail storefront.  The reverse is also true… if your inventory control system is reporting an ‘out of stock’ on red dresses, but an overstock on black dresses, your social media campaigns need to adapt in real time to reinforce that ‘a girl can never have too many black dresses for the holiday season’.

Not only that, but you can also cross-tab social-media data by gender, age, those who shop on weekends, non-customers versus loyal customers, and so on. In fact, that’s a perfect example of Big Data in action—millions of bits of data that, with some sophisticated analysis, can reveal true insights. Once you have that, you can begin to understand how pricing, merchandizing, and couponing strategies can alter your customer experience and your margins.

Talking back

Social media also enables you to directly engage your customers—and increasingly, your competitors’ customers. Let’s say a customer tweets that she’s upset she left a competitor’s 20 percent-off coupon at home (which of course you would notice as you’re monitoring conversations about your competitors , aren’t you?) . That’s your opportunity to send a tweet direct to the customer with your own 20 percent-off coupon.

In fact, one of the most valuable aspects of social data is that it’s “living” . It’s a point-in-time data source, but because it’s unique and personal, it lets you measure unique trends over time. For example, you can launch an initiative to grow “share of voice” of a specific customer set, and measure precisely how your actions and engagement efforts influence those people over time.

That’s very hard to do with other data sources. And it’s what allows you to build a “target segment of one” to optimize customer experience for each individual customer.

Cloud computing, data analytics, and in-memory computing are crucial tools in combining and leveraging that social data with POS data, loyalty data, and syndicated data. Most retailers already have far more data sets than they ever anticipated. But they aren’t achieving the insights they could and should. Enriching those data sets with the million bits of social data requires thoughtful planning on the back end, where the data is stored, and on the front end, where it’s visualized.

Look before you tweet

For all its advantages, social media carries potential downsides. One is that as long as customers are interacting on Facebook or Google+, much of their data remains locked in Facebook’s or Google’s servers, and creating an environment where much of your most valuable data isn’t even something that you ‘own’. Some retailers might consider creating private (so called ‘owned’) social platforms where customers can engage—and where you can access their data and engage the customers directly in exchange for value you provide them.

To that end, never expect your welcome to extend beyond the terms of your relationship. Let’s say a customer “likes” your branded line of tools. He probably wants to be kept in the loop on your new ratchet set. But he doesn’t want to get involved in your company’s political conversations about immigration, minimum wage, or civil rights – no matter how noble they might be.

More important, never let your social activities cross the line into creepy. Perhaps you can aggregate data from a customer’s loyalty card, purchases, and social activity to determine with 100 percent certainty their income, marital status, and political views. That doesn’t mean you should. There has been ample media coverage of companies that became too invasive in the collection of data.

The customer you keep

Many of your customers are actively communicating on Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms. If you aren’t managing your social media presence, they may be doing it for you. If a customer repeats a completely erroneous allegation that you sell products made with child labor, for example, you have to be part of the conversation if you want to control the damage.

At the same time, don’t look to social media solely to engage your “complaining 10 percent.” Yes, you need to respond to customers who have had a negative experience. But what about the customer who refers to your coffee chain by tweeting, “Just ordered my favorite latte at my favorite cafe!”? You can respond, “And we love seeing you, too!” Customers who are acknowledged by the brands they love deepen their loyalty—and can become your best ambassadors.

It’s all part of the give and take of social media.

VeriFone Releases Revolutionary Portable Payment Terminal VX 690

Bluetooth, 3G and Wi-Fi communications enable merchants to accept all types of payments in any environment with a sleek handheld terminal

VeriFone Systems, Inc. announced the VX 690—its first handheld EMV-capable payment terminal featuring Bluetooth, 3G radio and Wi-Fi connectivity for fast transactions and flexible payment capabilities.  The terminal’s size, design and multiple connection capabilities meets merchants’mobile point of sale (mPOS) demands—especially in North America, Australia and parts of Asia—where 3G connectivity is increasingly required for payment device acceptance.

“It is no secret that merchants increasingly want a user experience that parallels that of a consumer electronics device,” said Bill Nelson, executive vice president of Global Product Management for VeriFone. “The VX 690 achieves this goal while providing 3G connectivity that is critical in many markets where 2G networks are transitioning to 3G. The user experience of the terminal combined with its robustness, flexibility, and technical communication capabilities will not only enable payments today—it will enable commerce tomorrow.”

Enhanced Communication Flexibility

The VX 690’s Bluetooth, 3G radio and Wi-Fi combination provides fast, wireless payment convenience as well as fewer dropped transactions in virtually every type of merchant environment. Dual SIM functionality enables the terminal to quickly connect to different networks to keep transactions moving, while built-in GPS allows merchants to track the location of every transaction, providing greater visibility into operations and inventory across multiple stores.

The terminal is PCI PTS 3.0 compliant and features built-in security protection that includes end-to-end encryption to protect data at every point of the transaction.

Simple, Consumer Electronic Style Design

The VX 690’s simple, handheld design is similar to consumer technologies and easily fits on countertops and in users’ hands. Its built-in functionality includes:

  • 3.5″ capacitive touch display that allows merchants to enable commerce with marketing messages via video streaming and audio capabilities
  • Single micro-USB connector for added convenience and functionality
  • EMV capability for supporting PIN, Signature, and no Cardholder Verification Method (CVM)
  • NFC capability to support contactless and mobile wallet transactions
  • Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support
  • Peripheral capability for potential future expansion, including biometric scanner/barcode reader

“Virtually all consumers use portable technologies providing enormous capabilities in their day-to-day lives. Using these technologies has become second nature, not only because of their practicality, but because they present advanced functionality in a brilliant, yet simple package that is easy to use,” said Nelson. “The VX 690’s purpose-driven design merges advanced, secure mPOS capabilities with the type of sleek and simplistic form factor that is familiar to consumers and can help merchants improve the customer experience.”

The VX 690 from VeriFone is expected to be available in late 2014.