Helping small business retailers to compete with online through POS software

Bricks and mortar retailers are doing it tough in the fight for sales with online businesses. You are often sought out for face to face advice but lose the sale to an online operation when it comes to price comparison.

We have put together advice for small business retailers, independent retailers, to offer guidance on the future direction and management opportunities where competing with online businesses is a challenge. We offer this advice here for free to any retailer to consider, regardless of the POS software they use.

Given the different cost bases for an online business serving a country or the world compared to a retail shop serving a local community, you can’t win on price, not in the long term.

In working with thousands of small business independent retailers in Australia, New Zealand and other countries over many years we have seen some excellent successes and some epic failures.

Success in competing with online competitors begins and ends with making good decisions based on sound facts and structuring the business for success at every possible point.

This is business

For many retail shop owners, the retail shop is part lifestyle, part sport and part business. This can complicate the decisions that need to be made to make the business successful.

Running your retail shop as a business has to come first. Get this right and you can enjoy the sport and have the lifestyle you want. If business does not come first, the other two will usually not follow.

So, competing with online begins with your headspace, it begins with committing to getting the business right and relentlessly pursuing its success.

In practical terms, this means that every business decision is based on careful consideration of sound data. If the data does not support a business decision, you don’t do it. Simple.

Five ways you can compete with online

Here are five ways you can differentiate your business from online, ways that leverage personal, human, contact.

  1. Track every contact. Treat every contact as a customer. Know who they are. Explain that it’s part of your service – to offer advice and keep in touch. This will qualify them as a customer from their very first question. While it may scare some off, better that you do it early before you give away your expert advice.
  2. Give them a gift for listening to you. Every customer who spends time taking in your advice should be given a voucher for them to spend in-store in a purchase above a certain value. This shows that you value their attention. Presented well it can better connect them with you for the longer term.
  3. Subtly share stories about the risks of online shopping. There are documented stories you can find about people being ripped off – what they ordered is not what they received, credit card fraud and the like. Arm your team with these stories … maybe a story about a customer who bought from you following an expensive rip off online.
  4. Reward loyalty with a front-end approach. Ensure that every purchase over, say, $10, comes with a voucher offering a discount off the next purchase. Factor this into your mark-up model. Cash rewards showing on a receipt can be a powerful lure to bringing a shopper back.
  5. Personalise your service. Arm all sales staff with personal business cards. Place follow up calls or emails to shoppers spending over, say, $100. Host networking events in-store. Connect with and support local clubs. Add value through personal contact at every possible opportunity. Structure regular, value-adding, contact with your customer base.

The difference between a bricks and mortar retail shop and a website selling the same products online is that your business, the bricks and mortar business, is real, it can be visited, it’s personal. Everything you say and do needs to reinforce this and build trust based on this.

Be open about price

Don’t be afraid to say that online businesses can sell for less. That’s because they do less and care less. You could do this too but that’s probably not the business you want to run.

Competing on price really comes down to changing the game. This is where a properly structured and consistently run loyalty program offering an amount of cash off the next purchase based on the current purchase can make a difference for you.

Being consistent

Online businesses through the software behind their websites are consistent if nothing else. This is where good retail shop software can help a retail shop compete. It can drive consistency in the bricks and mortar business on pricing, loyalty rewards, customer marketing, buying, pricing and employee performance tracking and motivation.

Good retail shop software is designed specifically for retail shops to leverage the difference retail shops offer over online retailers. When used to the fullest, it can drive sales and bring customers back more often. It can play a key role on competing with online.

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POS software update adds value to small business software

Tower Systems is thrilled to announced the advanced beta release of the latest version of its smart POS software. Developed in-house bbq the Tower Systems retail software development team, this latest release of the Retailer software delivers many enhancements. here are just some of the enhancements:

  1. Enhancements to Special Customer Order Arrivals and Management
  2. Enhancements to Stock Re-ordering processes (Order by Sales and Order Management)
  3. New Improved and expanded Multi-Store ordering and receiving processes
  4. New direct Shopify Integration
  5. New Layby Receipts to match the new POS Receipts
  6. New Layby Notes for collections
  7. New Layby Tourist Refund Scheme compliance
  8. New Customisable Customer Menus
  9. Latest News Corp Route Delivery List Integration
  10. New Bulk Image Import tool for stock
  11. New option to disable receipts for EFTPOS sales
  12. New and more comprehensive ability to manually Edit Customer Loyalty Points
  13. New ability to open Special Customer Order Management screen directly from POS
  14. Enhancements to Linked Items
  15. Enhancements and consistency to Packs (previously Cartons)
  16. Enhancements to Customer Invoice Maintenance Ordering and Re-ordering.

As noted, these are only some of the enhancements to the POS software delivered in the latest update delivered by Tower Systems.

Enhancements are sourced from user suggestions and developed in close consultation with users of the software.

Each update is tested in house, alpha tested in several retail stores and then released to the beta community prior to release to all customers. This process results in stable and enjoyed software.

Tower Systems leftists customers choose when they install any software update. Small business retailers love this.

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POS software Shopify integrated websites for small business retailers

The deep and seamless link between the Tower Systems POS software and Shopify e-commerce sites is proving to be popular with small business retailers keen to transact online in a smart and current technology way.

The now released Shopify POS software link is racking up sales as shoppers shop for what they love with product fulfilled from a high street retailer using the link.

Being able to run one stock file between online and offline is vital for retail businesses.

With the Shopify site being live in a few days and using inventory data from the high street store, Tower Systems has devlieverd a best-practice POS Software / Shopify solution that any small business retailer could use.

WHY SHOPIFY?

Shopify is an easy to use e-commerce platform. We think anyone can setup a Shopify site for themselves. Linking the site to our retailer software is also easy. Shopify is a great place for a business to start on their online journey. You can control pages, products, look and plenty more. Shopify is not as complex as Magento and other more comprehensive website platforms.

WHAT TOWER SYSTEMS OFFERS.

For a modest fee, Tower Systems offers a live Shopify site linked to a retailer’s business with plenty of facilities and functionality:

For ease of reference and clarity, below is a numbered list of all work and tasks included in the above quote. This is the complete list.

  1. Shopify account. We would create this for / with you. It needs your credit card. There is a basic Shopify cost, currently US$29.00 a month.
  2. Template / theme selection. We will step you through template / theme options included in the price and with you and choose one for the site. Note: there are some themes (not developed by us) that you can purchase outside our package price for more specialist options. These can cost up to $200.00 extra.
  3. Overall design to be applied to the template selected to customise the look and feel of the site. The design process is not priced to be a back and forth process. We will listen to your brief and provide a design. Minor adjustments can be made within the quote but any diversion from the original brief would add to the cost.
  4. A functioning live website for your business that works and can be accessed from different devices – computer, phone, tablet – with auto detect of the device so the site looks good. With the website to be based on Shopify with the following:
    1. Homepage. Including text, images, button.
    2. Home page links to any business accounts you have for: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
    3. A home page feed of your business blog if you have one and it is published through Shopify that allows data feeds.
    4. Admin page for your management of the site. This is not seen by the public. There is a range of settings you can control for proper management of the site.
    5. About page. Where your business is described. You will provide the text for this.
    6. Privacy Policy page listing a good privacy policy we have developed – that you can modify.
    7. Terms and conditions page listing terms and conditions we have developed – that you can modify.
    8. Contact us page showing your location on a map and making contact easy with you.
    9. A shopping cart facility for managing the products you sell. This is the guts of the site, the most important part. This specifically includes facilities you would use to manually load products or import products from Retailer.
  5. The setup of loading of products into the site via a live link to the Retailer software.
  6. Interfacing to one or both payment gateways: Stripe and Paypal.
  7. Defined to Google and Bing so those search engines know about the site and it can be found. This is vitally important.
  8. Embedded SEO. Each page will be developed with appropriate meta tags to encourage easy finding through search engines. We will use our best-practice SEO knowledge to maximise the opportunity.
  9. Training of your nominated person in the management of the site. This is done over the phone and should take no more than two hours. We would suggest two sessions of training for appropriately skilled people.
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How Tower Systems settles new POS software users in to enjoy their software

Tower Systems offers a level of personal service to small business retailers installing its POS software. The company has multiple roles in the business focussed on the easy and gentle settling in of the software into businesses using the software. The roles have evolved over time to serve the singular goal of helping retailers get to a happy place with their Tower Systems software quickly.

One of the most important benefits of the Tower Systems approach to new customers is the new customer help desk entry point.

New customers of POS software have different needs to long term customers. We have found that by handling the two are different points on the help desk we are able to deliver a better help desk experience to each.

Our new customer specialists make outbound calls, to get to our new customers ahead of them getting to us, to provide them with intuitive assistance prior to them realising they could benefit from then insights being shared.

By separating new customers out from the everyday support call traffic, help desk resources are better managed and customers more satisfied with the different experiences based on their knowledge and needs.

In additional to personal new customer service, Tower Systems helps new customers settle in with terrific user documentation, training videos, follow up training and business management level insights.

Since we own and operate our own retail businesses using our POS software we are able to speak from personal experience. This is a valuable point of difference for our customers and for us. For example, we can talk about how to setup for easy Xero integration or the ideal product category structure or how to deal with suppliers more efficiently. being able to say this is how we resolve this issue in our shop is a tremendous point of difference our customers love.

There is nothing worse than a help desk person telling you what to do when they do not understand what they are saying in the context of your retail business. Context is everything as they say. We understand the context of POS software in a retail business because we live it. We use this context in helping small business retailers settle into using our POS software.

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Lay-By facilities help small business retailers leverage special event sales

IMG_2549 (1)We are grateful for the opportunity of participating is a special collector event last weekend at a business using our POS software.

While many elements of our POS software helped make the event run smoothly, it was our Lay-Bys facilities that shone through with professional management of many large Lay-By transactions.

Lay-Bys are important to small business retailers as they enable them to capture sales they might otherwise lose. For them to work, though, they need to be professionally managed.

Our software professionally manages the Lay-By from sale to tules to deposit to payments to collection to safe storage.

On a day like this special event, Lay-By was important to help the retailer achieve sales they might otherwise have missed. Our software helps drive consistency for the retailer and build confidence for the shopper.

We love spending time in retail and seeing first hand how retailers use our POS software.

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POS software business intelligence platform shines for small business retailers

The Visual Deck business intelligence platform from retailers using the Tower Systems small business POS software has received more kudos from business mentors, advisors and accountants seeing the BI platform for the first time at Xerocon South, the Xero users conference in Brisbane last week.

The reaction was terrific when they saw the easy access to business performance comparison data in  visual way, from our cloud based application.

They loved that it was accessible from anywhere including by them in their businesses where they support small business.

They loved the fast year on year comparison.

They loved the KPI focus of the app.

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We are proud of what we have delivered in the Visual Deck, that we are offering our customers a platform they can use to see the performance of their business, visually, as our experience is this will guide better business decisions. We are also proud of the elegance of the software.

The syncing between the in-store POS software and the Visual Deck is in the background, non intrusive.

The Visual Deck is particularly useful for retailers who are not in a business often.

Like all good software, the Visual Deck continues to evolve.

Retail business performance, seen differently.

The Visual Deck is a platform through which you can see the performance of your business, visually. Graphs replace reports, making trends obvious and a path ahead clearer to follow. Graphs that change with time and through which you can dive deeper into what is happening in your business.

The Visual Deck is only available for Tower Systems customers.

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Small business retail management advice: how to recover from a ransomware attack

The fastest way for a small business to recover from a ransomware or crypto lock attack is to have immediate access to full backup  of data and software from immediately prior to the installation of the malware that led to the attack.

A smart cloud based backup service is the very best protection. It is also the most cost effective.

While many small business retailers prefer the cheaper alternative of manually backing up each day, invariably these backups are either not done every day or they can be faulty.

Some business owners use free cloud backup services but as is the case with anything in life, you get what you pay for.

The Tower Systems smart cloud backup service costs $2 a day and can be stopped at any time. It is fast, continuous, local and off site in a secure server farm.

How Does Tower Backup Work?
The software performs an incremental backup every fifteen minutes. An incremental backup is a backup of files that have changed or are new since the last backup.

These incremental backups are catalogued on your NAS device. They are then collated to create your full system backup. This process allows access to backups from a particular point of time – even at the file level. Because backups are stored on the NAS device you have immediate access in-store as well as being sent to the Tower Systems Data Storage Centre in the cloud where a secure additional offsite copy of your data is kept.

How Does This Differ From My Daily Backup?
Retailer Backup ONLY backs up your Retailer Data leaving your other business data, accounting data, important documents and emails at risk. Tower Backup backs up your entire main PC, meaning all your business data is safe and secure. A copy of your business backup is also securely sent via the Internet to our secure data storage centre, giving you a safe off-site copy for protection.

Once Tower Backup is implemented you will no longer need to perform your daily backup. You or your staff will no longer need to wait for the daily backup to complete. The saving could be in excess of $150 per month if your backup is taking 15 minutes or more to complete.

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Tower Systems invites users to suggest training topics

As we prepare for the next semester of our free online training workshops we are inviting our customers to suggest topics they would like covered. Each time we do this we discover topics of interest – usually in the business operational space where software interfaces with business management.

We are proud to be resourced sufficiently and to have sufficient interest in our weekly online training workshops for us to continue with these.

It is hard work running the sessions, handling the follow up, providing the infrastructure and doing this week in week out. The work is worth it as it provides a valuable point of difference for us.

Years on, our free online training is resource from the company. We love the customer interaction every week.

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Tower Systems POS software featured in XU magazine for Xero users

IMG_2466We are thrilled with the covering of Tower Systems and our POS software across several pages of XU magazine, the magazine sought after by Xero accounting software users.

The latest issue of XU magazine, released at the Xerocon conference in Brisbane this week, is packed with practical business advice and support for small business owners, accountants and bookkeepers. It is a must read for anyone using Xero or connected with the Xero community.

We appreciate the opportunity to be part of this respected publication.

Using our POS software, small business retailers are able to save rostered hours in their businesses, be smarter in selling and marketing and be more informed in business decisions. These benefits are enhanced through the Xero link.

The latest article in XU magazine explains the benefits and presents Tower Systems as the professional software company it is.

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What being at Xerocon South means for our POS software co

FullSizeRender-1Being at Xerocon South is proving to be a wonderful experience. Spending all day talking with accountants and bookkeepers who help small business retailers run more successful businesses.

The discussions are detailed about small business challenges and opportunities, specific to specific niche retail channels that we serve such as toy shops, jewllers, garden centres and pet stores.

Talking business, talking Xero and talking smart cloud based software – we are loving it, loving the detail, loving the learning and loving the optimism.

This is an exciting and motivating event, especially for those of us serving the small business retail space.

What this event mean for us is ne connections, with accountants and bookkeepers – people like us who serve small businesses to help them run more successful businesses. This shared goal brings is close together.

We are the only vertical market POS software company here, enabling is top delve deep into our specialisation with accountants to help them be more specialist with their clients.

We took the photo early this morning before the doors opened at 8am. We love the green look.

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Helping small business retailers engage in targeted marketing

Next week we are hosting a free workshop on targeted marketing for retailers using our specialty retail POS software. This free training is part of our weekly free live training workshop program, training that people can access from anywhere.

Click here for more details on this training and to book.

We are proud to maintain our commitment to training, first established years ago. It is hard work deliver on the marketing pitch. Here at Tower systems we deliver. Plus, we are transparent about it with sessions listed publicly and numbers showing too – so you know it is real.

Small business retailers want certainty from their POS software company. We are committed to providing certainty of access to terrific software backed by accessible and friendly support.

If you are in specialty retail and want to engage in targeted marketing, this free workshop could be ideal for you.

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Small business retailers benefit from using tags in smart POS software

More and more of the small business retailers using our POS software are using the tags facilities in the software for more efficient management of inventory data managed by the software.

Tags in the Tower Systems Retailer software provide an easy way to manage stock. In the powerful stock manager facility you can select all items with a tag and then:

  1. Change price.
  2. Change description.
  3. Change department.
  4. Change category,.
  5. Change supplier.
  6. Add to an  an order.
  7. Stock take.

Tags are a terrific tool in your software for managing stock. We encourage you to use them. We can help.

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Sunday retail management advice: how to sell your retail business when no one is interested

Small and independent retail businesses can be a challenge to sell even in a strong economy. This is because they are often not understood and not presented well for sale.

One way to make a business more appealing is to be more open about it being for sale.

Put a sign in the window. Yes, this will tell your employees, customers and suppliers that you want to sell up and move on. Own that decision, embrace it. Stop worrying what people will think. Explain your good reason for putting the business on the market and then run the business with more energy and focus than ever before.  Your actions will demonstrate that people need not worry.

The sign in the window works on a couple of levels.

First, small businesses are more likely to appeal to people who live locally, people who may not be in the market to buy a business until they see your sign.  I know of one small business that had not sold in over a year and then sold in a week following a sign being put in the window. It could be that an employee is interested in buying the business.

Second, the sign is your reminder that the business has to be sale ready every day. Shoppers walking through your door are coming to an open house to see the business for sale. That’s how you should approach it – working your heart out presenting the business perfectly and appealingly every day.

Businesses can take time to sell. Sometimes it takes the right people seeing the ad at the right time for you to find a buyer.  The stars aligning aside, the most important barrier to selling any business is that it does not look or feel appealing, manageable and or capable of delivering the level of return a prospective purchaser would want. This is why you have to work hard and relentlessly to make your business look valuable, appealing and enjoyable.

Too often small business retailers think that the economy, retail channel issues or other external factors are slowing or halting the sale of the business. Even if this is the case, reject these thoughts, bring it back to you and your actions. If you want to sell your business then run it as if you want to sell it – every day.

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Why more small business retailers are switching to Xero for their POS software integrated solution

More small business retailers are switching to Xero for their business accounting solution and choosing the Tower Systems Xero integrated POS software for the retail front end.

Delivering a seamlessly integrated solution offering a whole of business approach backed by two respected IT companies with excellent customer service as the core focus.

We use Xero here at Tower Systems and there is no doubt that it offers an excellent accounting solution. Our experience with the integration helps us help our customers with proper setup as we can speak from experience.

With the POS software / xero integration retailers…

  1. Save time.
  2. Reduce mistakes.
  3. Reduce accounting fees.
  4. Have faster access to business data.
  5. Cut duplication.
  6. Have more time for parts of their business where they can make a more measurable difference.

While we integrate with MYOB and Quick Books, it is the elegant Xero integration we love because of the product itself. We are proud to be showing it off in a couple of weeks at the Xerocon conference in Brisbane.

We have a competition bagging Xero but we think that is because they did not get approved for integration.

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Sunday retail management advice: how small business retailers can compete with a big national retailer

Small and independent retailers often feel helpless when a big national retailer opens up nearby. There is no match for their range, buying power, advertising coverage or even news coverage.

The sheer size of a national competitor is what scares many smaller retailers. This is often enough for them to give up and close the business.

Giving up and running is the easy way out. There is no lesson learned, just an escape from the fear.

The alternative is to find out how to deal with the national retailer.

Here are five tips for small businesses on how to face and deal with a national retailer moving into the area:

  1. Don’t compete. By not talking about the competitor, pricing against them or pitching your business in any way, you separate yourself. While they may have similar products, it is unlikely that they are targeting your specific business so why target them? Focus instead on your own business. Not competing should include not advertising price comparisons, not focusing on the competitor at staff meetings, not expanding your range to sell more of what they sell and not obsessing about them. We were working with an independent retailer recently who decided to offer a product they sold which is also available in a nearby national retailer for 10% less than the sale price in the national retailer. This move gave the independent retailer a margin of 15%. In discussion I discovered that most of the customers who visited the independent retailer were unlikely to shop in the national retailer. So why compete on price? If you know why customers shop with you, you have the opportunity of not giving up margin out of fear.
  2. Run a better business. From the moment you hear about a new national retailer coming to town, look at every aspect of your business for opportunities for improvement. From the back room to the font counter fine tune your processes, employee training, stock buying and the look of the business. Dramatically improve your business from the inside out. This will improve your business health and help you weather challenges which may lie ahead. Too often, independent retailers wait until the national retailer is open to react. This is probably a year or two too late.
  3. Be unique. Look for ways to make your business unique. It could be on product range, operating hours, add-on services or something else. Embrace any opportunity to make your business unique. Even a unique niche range of products can give you traffic a big competitor will not chase. Try and focus on products which require a level of retail skill and knowledge to sell – national retailers have challenges hiring and retaining retail employees with specialist knowledge and skills.
  4. Engage the community. Connect with the community at every possible opportunity. Support local groups, speak at functions, get known as someone and a business who care deeply about the local community. Subtly make the connection that you are fortunate to be able to help because of your local business. Being smaller and independent you are better able to personally engage with the community. You and your team are the business whereas a national chain will always be the corporate. They can throw money around locally, you can throw time, knowledge and more flexible assistance.
  5. Tell your stories. Your retail narrative, your stories, connect you with the local community. Tell these through the people you contact, your own blog, a Facebook page and in the pages of the local newspaper. Tell human stories about your business, the people who work in it and the local stories which connect with it. Your stories could be about local community connection, convenience of shopping, commitment to range, personal customer service, product niche knowledge … there are many different narratives with which an independent retailer can connect. It is important that one you have your narrative you stick to is, that it inhabits your decisions, marketing and public presentation.

By acting early and in advance of a national retailer opening, you better position your business to weather their advertising and PR onslaught. Get in early, build a stronger business and understand that through this the new business in town will not be your competitor.

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Helping small business retailers compete with our Xero / POS software integrated solution

The most effective ways small business retailers can compete with big businesses and online is through efficient operation, accurate data and customer service touch-points that add appreciated value.

Tower Systems only sells its POS software to small business retailers.

We believe in small businesses, their importance to local communities and their broader economic value.

Through our software, our personal in-store training, 24/7 human and locally based help desk service, regional user meetings, weekly online workshops and other touch-points we help small business retailers beyond what is usual for POS software companies.

Our company motto is we’re here to help. We take this seriously. Everyday, out motto challenges us to help our customers in ways they do not expect, ways beyond the software itself.

Founded in 1981, Tower Systems has evolved as technology has evolved. The software we sell today is generations away from where we started. We are proud to have served some of our customers for decades.

More than 3,500 specialty small business retailers in Australia and New Zealand use our specialty POS software.

To us, a specialty retailer is one that offers services unique to the channel, services that define the business. We embed in our software for each retail channel facilities that serve needs unique to that channel. We take pride in doing this and enhancing these channel-specific facilities as the needs evolve.

We appreciate software cannot stand still. Every year we release significant enhancements, serving the needs of our customers. One such enhancement a couple of years ago was our Xero integration, approved by Xero and listed on their website as a partner.

The Xero integration delivers to retailers a seamless and deep connection between our POS software and Xero. This saves time and reduces bookkeeping costs for any small retail business.

The Tower Systems POS software / Xero link is another Tower AdvantageTM.

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Beautiful software leverages POS software data

Retailers are reacting to the beautiful interactive business intelligence reports available through the cloud-based platform released by Tower Systems.

Small business retailers are loving the elegant reporting, that they can access the reports from anywhere, that they can easily compare trading periods and that vitally important business data points are so accessible.

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This software is creating a buzz among retailers hungry for a fresh view of business performance and keen to see how they are competing with their most important competitor – themselves.

Tower Systems is grateful to the encouragement of its small business retail customers and their guidance in developing this and other exciting new software.

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Tower Systems leverages Tyro and Xero partnership

Thanks to the Tower Systems partnerships with Tyro broadband EFTPOS for retail and Xero and our direct integration with the beautiful Xero accounting software, we are thrilled to support the Tyro Smart Account. This has been outlined to our small business retail customers in this week’s customer email:

Our EFTPOS partner Tyro now offers a fee-free bank account that links to Xero and automates your supplier bill payments? It’s called the Tyro Smart Account, and is available exclusively to Tyro merchants.

If you’re using Tyro and Xero and you’d like to activate your Smart Account (it’s free after all), contact banking@tyro.com. Tyro is also offering complimentary Xero training on batch payments to all merchants who activate. The training is conducted by leading online Xero trainer Jet Convert and is valued at $110.

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