Article | March 19, 2020
Pundits are already speculating about the post-coronavirus culture and economy. Among the lasting, potential changes are more diversified supply chains, the mainstreaming of online education, more companies embracing work from home, stricter hygiene rules for restaurants and hotels (that survive) and other public places. And beyond all that, a great deal more online shopping. Unlike any other single event in our lives perhaps, the coronavirus and related economic fallout have the potential to massively shift U.S. consumer buying patterns. For the several years before the virus, we were seeing store closures and retail bankruptcies — the so-called retail apocalypse. That will be exacerbated and accelerated by the coronavirus and impending recession.
Article | February 12, 2020
The start of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past and prepare for the future. While holiday 2019 was another record year for retail sales, brands faced some serious challenges when it came to a shortened shopping window and the ever-growing consumer expectations around timely, accurate, and convenient deliveries (and returns). Some may believe these woes to be behind us now that the holidays are over, but the potential for spikes in product demands remains throughout 2020 leading into next year's holiday season. And if history has shown us anything, it's that now is the time for retailers to implement the right processes and technologies that ensure seamless and positive customer experiences, or risk ongoing negative impacts to the bottom line.
Article | December 15, 2020
Prior to the pandemic and quarantine, less than 8% of commerce was online. As of Q3FY20 eCommerce grew north of 14% of all commerce. So while the Retailpocalypse was in its last phase, physical retail still outsold eCommerce by at least 7:1.
The failure rate of crowdfunding campaigns is 85%.
The failure rate of eCommerce store owners ranges from 80 to 97%.
What if there were a way to bridge the gap between these three failure rates? What if we could bridge what people consume online with what they purchase offline before waiting for brain-computer interfaces (BCI)? In short what if we could bridge social and commerce? (Example use case.)
Mostly missing are the memorable, meaningful, measurable and monetizable responses from people interested in stories about beagles, princesses and pitbulls, pets, car repair, raspberry blueberry vinaigrette gyros, budget-saving techniques for holiday travel, getting stuck at airports in blizzards, rental cars and Cup o’ Noodles, My Fair Lady and @Instacart, dining out at the delicious Banana Leaves café, cooking kosher halal gelatin-free, blue #1 artificial dye-free egg nog flavored marshmallows, 50th anniversaries and chocolate ganache, adventures camping with youth groups, birdhouses built by kids, rainbow hair dye, artificial dye-free cakes DIY for your child’s birthday party, and Halloween gingerbread houses and Greek Mount Olympus costumes.
Other than ad revenue Youtube collects which most of it’s video posters see little of, monetizing the DIY craze has proven quite tricky. Ditto for Christmas shopping, smartphone accessories, buying a new luxury Subaru online with no salesman, how to get hard to find contact lenses and vitamins for kids, how Amazon often has thrift store prices on inventory thrift stores rarely carry, the challenges of buying clothes on Amazon that don’t fit but you don’t realize that until the clothes arrive, DIY car repair, funny car repair, glorious victory of car repair, diaper cakes and muscle aches, drones and honey scones, Triple A baseball and blue-tailed skinks, favorite foods, fasting, and Boston, fused vertebrae and buried treasure, where to buy school supplies when most stores are sold out, creameries and charcuterie,
Bridging social media with eCommerce has been the white rhino of many investors and start-ups for many years.
Instead of working toward such solutions, we have VC’s and stockholders asking about vanity metrics:
- How many people looked at your website? Instead of: How many people subscribed or how many purchased an item?-
- How many downloads per month does your app have? Instead of: How many of the people who downloaded your app have note removed it less than 30 days later?
- What’s your ad revenue? Instead of: How can your product capture or create more value?
In reply entrepreneurs answer these questions, they often present their increased spend on marketing followed up with vanity milestones:
“We’re using Google Analytics and similar providers to track every movement of the supply chain, to ensure when the purchaser’s journey is completed, there’s no delay in delivery. This will lead to more frequent purchases ideally of higher priced products, and…
We are pitching to Chipotle on Friday!”
This leads to concentrated research on Chipotle’s SWAT, followed up with an excellent pitch including a demo via Zoom.
The result of this pitch is usually:
1. The person loved the pitch and accepts your invitation to meet again with his/her manager next week.
2. The person you pitched to is not the decision-maker
3. The person you pitched to doesn’t quite understand what you’re pitching
4. The person you pitched to had 3 other projects due by COB and wasn’t fully present and listening to your 10-minute pitch
5. You provided too many facts too quickly, trying to build rapport
6. You shared how you’re product can reduce shrink, increase ROI, decrease costs, increase retention, and cure cancer. The person you pitched to doesn’t believe all those promises.
7. The person you pitched to is afraid of advocating change; the risk from change that results in lesser results can lead to negative repercussions. The risk of “business as usual” is minimal.
Forgotten by almost all eCommerce platforms and store owners are the facts that:
- People behave differently when they are observed (best behavior vs. average behavior). Despite this, we are seeing an incredible number of start-ups that offer to help track everything your customers do. “We’re Palantir for eCommerce” is essentially the ethos of these companies.
- The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwarz – too many choices overwhelm the person making the choice, to the point that no decision is made. If you don’t train your mind to buy what you want even if you have to look on pages other than Amazon and Google Shopping, you might end up buying the product you almost wanted.
- The concept of incentivized virality – when PayPal gave $20 to each person who referred another person who joined, and when DropBox offered free data storage to people who referred friends who joined – which Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh brilliantly detailed in Blitzscaling:
The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies.
So now each eCommerce platform tries to copy Amazon who built their model on the opposite of physical retail. Consider your last experience renting a car at an airport vs. Amazon:
- Do you want to refill the gas tank or would you like us to?
- Would you like liability only or more comprehensive types of insurance coverage?
- Would you like a GPS?
- Would you like to join our exclusive members club? etc., etc.
Adding to what @ElevateDemand said, “ B2B marketing is broken,” Raj De Datta, CEO and cofounder of @Bloomreach said, “The future of B2C marketing looks like B2B marketing,” Kevin Marasco, CMO of @Zenefits correctly said “marketing is going back in time from B2B to B2C” or person to person.
Smart speakers in every phone, tablet, laptop PC, TV, and car succeeded by BCI, which @Facebook and @Neuralink are pioneering, hold great potential. Until those products arrive or after their R&D phase, @Homemaide’s object recognition and image recognition models can provide the sorely needed bridge between Social and Commerce.
Article | May 12, 2021
Point-of-sale (POS) software is constantly evolving. Clunky cash registers alone can’t keep up. Brick-and-mortar retailers are adopting leaner systems that operate on mobile devices in favor of complicated setups that cost thousands of dollars.
But it’s not just retail stores that are interested in POS systems—online store owners who sell at craft fairs, trade shows, and farmers markets are also in need of inexpensive and easy-to-use point-of-sale solutions.
So, what exactly is point of sale software, how do you know if you need it, and how do you choose the right tool for your business?
What is point-of-sale (POS) software?
Point of sale software is what brick-and-mortar retailers use to conduct sales in person. It's sometimes a cash register, computer, or even a tablet where cashiers input products, tally the cost, and conduct the financial transaction. Most POS software will also communicate with inventory levels to keep everything in balance.
A lot of big-box stores have wildly complex and expensive POS solutions, some of which were custom built for their needs. Independent retailers are moving away from these traditional POS systems and toward cloud-based point-of-sale solutions.
Types of POS software
There are two main types of POS software: on-premise and cloud-based. On-premise POS software requires you to be on location to use it. Terminals are the most common on-premise POS. Cloud-based POS software offers more flexibility, as you can use any connected, compatible device to access the dashboard. Cloud-based POS software is becoming more mainstream—the market was valued at around $1.29 billion for 2019, with an expected growth rate of more than 21.38% through 2026.
A cloud-based POS allows you to conduct sales and check in on your business even when you’re not at the store. You access it directly from the internet, and it’s often compatible with most POS hardware (cash drawers, printers, etc.) and other tools in your tech stack. This is great if you’re a small business that sells in a store and online along with the occasional in-person event.
When you use a cloud-based POS and link it to your Shopify store, your inventory automatically adjusts, helping you mitigate costly problems like stockouts. Cloud-based POS systems are also typically less expensive and more convenient than a tethered on-premise solution.
There are other types of POS software that fall into one or both of the above categories:
Mobile POS (mPOS): A mobile point-of-sale can move around inside or outside a store. Store owners can take transactions from a central point of purchase, like a traditional checkout counter or cash register, or wherever they need it to be. To take transactions on the go, retailers often use hardware like a tablet or smartphone to process transactions. Best for: Pop-up shops; increasing in-store conversion rate
Tablets: A tablet POS can be both mobile and docked to a station. These POS systems run on Android tablets or iPads, acting as either the main POS or supplementing your central POS station. This is also a mPOS. Best for: Selling products with lots of details, features, and/or use cases; collecting lots of customer data at the point of purchase; self-serve options; pop-up shops and event sales
Desktop: POS systems that run on a desktop computer are typically on-premise solutions docked to a checkout station. They’re bulky but often more powerful and reliable, depending on the hardware you choose.
The main POS station in a permanent brick-and-mortar store; businesses that want to add mPOS in addition to their desktop setup
Self-serve kiosks: Self-serve kiosks are common in food-based businesses, especially for quick-service restaurants and fast casual dining. This type of POS can drive a 15%–30% increase in average check size. They also work in retail environments. Best for: Food-based businesses; reducing lines and wait times; digitally savvy customers
POS apps: Depending on the POS, there are a few point of sale apps to choose from. POS apps work with your hardware and other compatible devices to enable you to access your data and manage business operations. Best for: Businesses that want flexibility and customizability without needing lots of technical resources or budget
Open-source POS: Open-source software allows companies to use their source code to build custom solutions with their platform. You can build your open-source POS system internally or with external collaborators. Best for: Enterprises with lots of technical resources; highly unique POS needs
Multichannel POS: A multichannel POS can integrate with various commerce channels, an increasingly important capability. These channels include your own website, third-party online marketplaces, your store, pop-up shops, event sales, wholesale, social media, and more. Best for: Ecommerce merchants who do or plan to sell in-person; multichannel online brands
Retail POS: A retail POS has features tailored to a brick-and-mortar business selling products. These features could include inventory management, forecasting, and multichannel selling. Best for: Pop-up shops; permanent brick-and-mortar stores in a traditional retail environment
Restaurant POS: Restaurant POS systems are designed with food-based businesses in mind. Specific features might include menu planning and costing, ingredient-level tracking, dish customizations, and self-serve ordering. Best for: Food-based businesses (fast food, casual, quick-serve, sit-down, etc.)
Components of a POS system
There are other pieces of hardware that can complement your POS setup:
Barcode scanner: In addition to scanning barcodes, you can also use some scanners to add discount codes. There are 1D barcode scanners that use the traditional bar code, and 2D barcode scanners that can read QR codes.
Cash drawer: Unless you only process cashless payments, you’ll need somewhere to put the cash customers use to pay for your products. The cash drawer is a safe, secure place to organize bills.
Credit and debit card reader: This piece of hardware can read debit and credit cards. There are several ways to read a card, including swipe, tap, and EMV chip. You need this for payment processing so you can receive the funds from the customer’s bank.
Receipt printer: These aren’t always essential, especially if you use Shopify POS, because you can send email receipts, but a printer can connect to your POS and spit out receipts on the spot.
Label printer: There are some instances where you’ll need to print a label—ship-from-store, for example. With a label printer as part of your POS setup, you can do that on the spot.
Scale: If you sell products by weight, you’ll need a scale to be able to determine how much to charge customers. Some scales connect directly to your POS for a seamless checkout.
What does a POS system do?
Modern POS systems offer far more functionality than simply administering transactions. They can complete other business functions, as well as inform important business decisions, including:
Managing inventory across all locations, both online and offline
Providing sales metrics and reporting
Managing customer data effectively
Improving in-store sales
Adapting to business needs with customizations
Managing inventory across all locations, both online and offline
Whether you have inventory at your storefront, pop-up shop, or warehouse, keeping accurate counts across the board is a tricky (and sometimes tedious) task. Inventory is one of your largest expenses as a retailer, and you need a simple way to manage it. That means having the right products in the right place at the right time—and a POS that helps you achieve that goal.
A modern POS system should help retailers manage inventory anywhere you keep your products. Not only does this level of inventory management make tracking easier, but fulfilling orders is quicker when you know how much of a product is at a given location at any time.
With a POS, you can easily monitor stock counts across all your stores, while keeping customers happy by avoiding stockouts and automatically ceasing sales of products when inventory runs out. Accurate stock counts streamline ordering from vendors so you always have inventory in stock wherever your products are selling best.
Complete visibility of your inventory across all locations also makes it easier to move stock from one place to another (e.g., from warehouse to storefront) when you run low on a product. And it’s simpler to create purchase orders and accurately create your demand forecasts.
Providing sales metrics and reporting
A POS is useful for far more than processing transactions. You also can use crucial information from your point-of-sale solution to make data-informed decisions about your entire business.
Modern POS systems make it painless to see analytics across every channel in your retail business, both individually and as part of your business as a whole. The ability to break down and filter sales data this way can often shed light on what’s working—and what isn’t.
So, when you’re assessing a POS system, ensure you can easily track the following:
Data for both in-store and online sales
Sales broken down over time (number of sales by day, week, month, etc.)
Sales per employee
Sales per channel (across all stores and for each location)
Staff activities broken down by employee
Product reports (to see what’s selling and what’s still sitting on shelves)
Number of orders (broken down by various stages of fulfillment)
Easy, intuitive access to this kind of data can help you make better decisions and understand the overall health of your business.
Managing customer data effectively
A POS should also help you easily collect, track, and manage customer information. Access to these details can help you better understand your ideal customers and identify your most loyal shoppers.
When evaluating your shortlist of POS contenders, make sure that your top choice helps you manage the following:
Customer profiles. Collect contact details to build in-depth profiles of your customers to help you learn more about them and their shopping habits.
Customer order histories. Quick access to a customer’s order history can help you effectively cross-sell and upsell by offering on-the-spot, tailored product recommendations based on past purchases.
Customer loyalty programs. A POS should give you access to your loyalty program across all sales channels, whether someone buys online, in-store, or elsewhere.
Improving in-store sales
The traditional shopping experience has changed, and retailers have to meet the ever-evolving demands of customers in order to compete. But a POS system can help you keep up with a shifting industry.
The right POS features can help you appeal to the empowered shopper and make more sales. For example, use your POS to stay in touch with customers and keep your products top of mind after they leave your store. Sales associates can email customers a list of items they were interested in but didn’t purchase while in-store, so, when they’re ready, the customer can buy those items via a feature like Shopify POS Email cart.
Providing a variety of shipping options is another way you can serve your customers’ evolving needs. You can use a POS feature to ship a purchase to whatever address is most convenient for a shopper, whether it’s their home, their office, or another location—which can give you a competitive edge.
A POS that offers flexible shipping alternatives can minimize the need for returns and exchanges and keep sales strong. That’s why the following pickup, purchase, and delivery options are quickly becoming table stakes:
Buy online, pick up in-store. In-store pickup allows customers to buy online and collect their order from the retailer’s physical store or a third-party location. Thousands of stores are decreasing returns and selling more by letting customers check the size, color, and shape of their purchases before walking out—all while offering highly valued flexibility.
Home delivery. After customers buy products in-store—especially heavy or large products, like furniture—they don’t necessarily want to lug it home with them. As an added convenience, offer home delivery. Or, if an item isn't available in-store, but is at another location, customers can buy in store and have the item shipped to their home.
In-store returns/exchanges for items purchased online. Creating a hassle-free returns experience for customers can actually build loyalty. For example, if a customer wants to return a product they purchased online, they may want to make a return immediately rather than sending the product back via snail mail. Make it simple for them to visit your store to make the return.