ADVICE FOR SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS ON HOW TO SEE THEIR BUSINESS DIFFERENTLY

This is not the usual advice you would expect from your POS software company. But Tower Systems is not your usual POS software company.

In our work with small business specially retailers in Australia and New Zealand we often hear about burnout, retailers being tired and over the grind of opening the shop working all day, closing, getting little sleep and doing it all again.

We hear of retailers who are often too tired to be innovative in their approach to business, to exhausted to think about the future let alone today or tomorrow.

We get it that retail is tough, full of challenges. Our job is to help retailers see things differently.

Call us crazy but we have some ideas designed to help small business retailers reconnect with their businesses. They are unconventional. They are free. They are fun. They are designed to get you looking, hearing and smelling your business differently. They are designed to open your eyes to opportunities you may be missing.

Are you ready? Here are our unconventional ideas for refreshing your views of your small retail business – in the hope that you find opportunities you were not seeing.

  1. Go to your shop at night time. Leave the lights off. Put a chair on the middle of the shop floor. Sit down. Take your shoes and socks or stockings off. Put a blindfold on. Soak it up. What do you smell? What do you hear? Is there any sense of place that you get from being there.  Be still for fifteen minutes or so thinking about this. Breathe deeply. How does your shop smell? Does it have a smell? If not, why not? Then take the blindfold off and look around you for another fifteen minutes. Finally, get up – with your shoes and socks or stockings still off – and walk around the shop. Take in the environment you are in control of. Let the ideas flow. If you want to take it to a deeper level, lie down on the floor on your back and look up and around – kind of up-skirt your own shop while it’s empty!
  2. Get a stool or fold up chair, pack a lunch and spend at least three lunchtimes in a week sitting opposite the entrance to your shop watching customers. Don’t write anything down, just watch. Preferably do this without people noticing you. Wear a disguise if necessary. Watch intently. See where people go, what they pick up, what they buy if possible. Try and predict what they will do. Watch and think. Watch and think.
  3. Get a small desk and a sign for the desk that says CUSTOMER SERVICE. Place the desk near the front door of your shop. Set yourself up at the desk, sitting behind it. Dress formally, old school. Like in a 1950s movie preferably. Sit up straight. Look the part. Sit and wait and see what comes your way. Have fun interactive with customers. The desk should look out of place but it should also look fun. The idea is that your customers, your staff and you will be a bit shaken up by the change. See what comes your way.
  4. Sit out the front of the shop for a day. Yes a whole day. Sit and watch, take notes and think about what you see, what you could change and ask people, as they come out, what they would change too.

We have more crazy ideas. These barely scratch the surface of the crazy idea cupboard. Just ask.

We’re here to help small business retailers create and run successful independent small local retail businesses. Our help goes beyond our software. Were retailers too and love being able to talk retail with anyone.

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SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL ADVICE: CHOOSE THE LOYALTY OPTION THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU

The Tower Systems POS software has every possible shopper loyalty requirement covered from points to integrations to instant gratification loyalty to collectible loyalty to multi buy loyalty to supplier driven and funded loyalty.

No matter what loyalty option you could conceive, Tower has, in its community of 3,500+ small business retailers, most likely encountered the need and served it.

Our experience with loyalty is different businesses have different needs. This is why one of our loyalty experts works with you to determine which of the options is right for your business needs.

We help you discover the options in the software that serve your needs.

Our retail management advice today is think about the needs of your business carefully. The most obvious loyalty option, the one most others use, might not be right for you.

Our retail management tip today is: choose the loyalty option that is right for your small business.

  1. Points based loyalty.
  2. Loyalty rewards where the rewards are a voucher.
  3. A cash discount off your next purchase.
  4. Integration with a banner group loyalty program.
  5. FlyBys integration.
  6. A partner program where the shopper gets a reward and their community group gets a reward.
  7. A local community support loyalty offer.
  8. VIP pricing.
  9. VIP pricing coupled with a loyalty rewards offer.

There are plenty more options than these – catered for and serves within the smart Tower Systems POS software.

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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: CHALLENGE EXPECTATIONS

Every week we get to see many different retail situations through our work with small business retailers. The most exciting shops we visit are those that challenge our perception of that type of retail business. This happens when we go into a shop expecting to see a certain range of products or a certain type of display because of the type of business it is and we actually find something quite different, far more exciting, something that challenges the perception of the business.

Through our work with retailers we share the insights we see, this ideas we pick up and the excitement we feel when we see something unexpected.

So, beyond the POS software and the technical work we do we share good retail, retail we like, to encourage change elsewhere.

We try things ourselves in our own shops, like the greening of the magazine department in our own pop culture newsagency as shown below. Introducing plants to the magazine department has resulted in excellent shopper interaction.

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SUNDAY RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: HOW TO MARKET YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS TO RETIREES

The retiree (or seniors) marketplace can be lucrative for a retail store. They tend to be loyal and engaged in word of mouth marketing about good retail experiences. They can also be flexible about when they shop and this is where a retail business can really leverage the opportunity.

Before you can market any retiree service or benefit you need to develop a plan for handling the opportunity. What products will be offered and at what special prices? The most common approach is to offer a flat discount to retirees, or seniors as they are called in some marketplaces. This discount is usually between 5% and 10%.

Price is important to the seniors marketplace since they either have a fixed income or are living off finite savings. They like businesses which help them save money.

You will also need to decide when the discount or other offer is available. Some businesses make the offer available only on certain days, usually the quietest days of the week. Others offer access to the benefits all the time. Think carefully about the needs of the business before deciding when you will provide access to the benefits – focus on the business outcome you want to achieve.

In terms of accessing the benefit, it is common and fair to ask for some form of proof of eligibility. This could be in the form of a drivers license or a seniors card as is available in some locations. This is a card usually issues by local government. Sometimes, it is issued by residences.

An alternative is to create your own retiree / seniors card for use in promoting the business. These should be professionally designed and produced. Ensure that such a card is respectful and something these customers would proudly carry. Design the card so that it promotes the benefits you offer – so that it is an extension of your marketing program.

Whatever method you use to identify your retiree customers, it has to be simple to use at the counter for processing the appropriate discount.

To market a business to retirees consider these options:

  1. Train employees to offer the discount or other benefits to someone who looks eligible. While this could cause embarrassment, it could also extend the word of mouth around the offer.
  2. Promote to retirement villages in the local area.
  3. Advise local government authorities that you offer a benefit to retirees.
  4. Contact local clubs and organisations likely to connect with retirees.
  5. Promote the benefits in-store and in your business newsletter. You want to spread your offer as far and wide as possible, so that retirees beat a path to your door.
  6. Visit local retirement residences and offer assistance.
  7. Advertise in trailer parks.
  8. Look up clubs the Internet – there are plenty of groups, clubs and forums for older folks travelling around. They share tips about places they like.

The value of the retiree market to your retail store will depend on the value of the offer available to them and how widely you promote this. While some retailers see retirees as a chore others see a business opportunity.

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HOW ONE SMALL BUSINESS RETAILER HAS USED OUR POS SOFTWARE TO INCREASE REVENUE BY 114%

Retailers want, need, year on year revenue growth. Here is a story of how one small business independent retailer followed our advice, used the smart loyalty facilities in our software and for one product category increased revenue by 114%. Elsewhere in the business benefits flowed too, rich benefits, bottom line benefits.

For within our POS software is a suite of smart loyalty tools that ensure you get shoppers spending more each visit. That is what this retailer has achieved. In this one department of plush items, they achieved $9,459.14 (ex GST) in revenue in April. That is up 114% on April 2015. Here is one line from the management report comparing April 2016 with April 2015. But beyond this one line, across four pages, this business is reporting excellent year on year growth – on good GP items, not low margin agency lines … and it is doing it on the back of smart loyalty facilities that are unique to the Tower Systems software.

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This is what matters in a small and independent retail business, good year on year growth for high margin product. This unit sales and revenue year on year comparison is vital as it is the truth of this retail business, raw data on which they can rely to measure success and guide next steps.

Our role, beyond providing excellent POS software, is to provide training and support for small business retailers to help them get the best possible value from the software and to understand the data on which we report.

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FREE POS SOFTWARE TRAINING: HOW TO CUT THEFT IN YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 12.53.10 pmNext week, we run another of our popular Howe to cut theft in your retail business workshops. Run many times over many years, these free live workshops help engaged retailers to protect against theft, especially employee theft. Retailers using our POS software who encounter employee theft, especially expensive employee theft, have not undertaken this free and easily accessed training.

Our commitment to our small business retail customers is that we provide regular access to free live training workshops. This session is another of these free weekly opportunities.

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SUNDAY RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: CELEBRATE THE BIRTHDAY OF YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS

Business birthdays are important – for you and for your customers, especially in a locally owned small retail business.

Embrace the opportunity of your business birthday for a celebration. But be sure to not make it all about making more money. Take time to embrace the achievement and love it.

Here are practical tips for celebrating the birthday of your business:

  1. Setup a photo board and invite customer engagement. Let’s say your business is six years old: ask customers to bring a photo showing them at six years of age. Their stories become part of your story.
  2. Setup a noticeboard. Let’s say your business is twenty years old. Headline the board with: To celebrate our twenty years in business, join us and list twenty things you love about this town.
  3. Recognise local heroes. Host an after drinks night in your shop and take a moment to acknowledge and thank local heroes. The number you acknowledge should be the number of years you have been in business.
  4. Thank previous owners. Create a history board of previous owners. Where they are now. Their stories. Show the rich long history of your business from before you owned it.
  5. Hand out a flyer listing X hidden gems of your region (where X is the number of hears you have been in business). The flyer is your birthday gift to your customers.
  6. Have cake. Everyone loves cake. If for no other reason than to get to eat cake have a birthday cake. Make it special. Have a big cake or lots of cup cakes. Set and date and time for the celebration.
  7. Party favor bags. Give every customer shopping on your birthday a bag of treats and favors you have chosen to celebrate your big day.
  8. The Happy Birthday discount. Offer a big discount to any customer who comes in on the day (or through the week if you wish) and sings, at full voice, Happy Birthday.
  9. Say thank you. In your front window, create a stunning and personal display saying thank you to the town. Do it visually, creatively and with a full heart.
  10. Half price birthdays. On the day itself, offer birthday cards at half price. While you are giving away margin and will bring forward what might otherwise have been full margin sales, you could get people buying cards from you who have not done so in a while.
  11. Be thankful. On Facebook leading up to your birthday share what you are thankful for from and through your business. Be sure to write with a voice of gratefulness and celebration.
  12. Dress the shop for a party. For at least the week of the birthday dress the shop as a themed party, maybe a kids party. Get everyone involved. Have fun and bring your customers in on the fun.
  13. Maybe a birthday party celebration sale. One night, after the shop has closed, put on some wine, cheese and nibbles inviting people to join you for some party games, prizes and deals.

A key aspect of these ideas is to remind people that your business is stable, can be trusted, is locally connected and knows how to have fun.

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REINVENTING THE POS SOFTWARE EXPERIENCE FOR SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS

Change is the order of the day for retail as it has been since the first shops opened. What is different in 2016 is that the pace of change has picked up. Indeed, the pace of change today is greater than at any time in the past. Technology is playing a key role in that: online and offline technology is facilitating, pushing and even forcing change.

Staying up to date is a challenge, especially in small and independent retailer businesses where having the time and resources to stay open can be difficult.

Tower Systems tries to insulate its customers from some of the challenges of change by leveraging changes in the software without needing to change hardware infrastructure.

In software updates we bring to the businesses of our customers tools and resources they can use to be more competitive. Tools and facilities through which they can enhance the relevance of their businesses in a changing retail landscape.

We think and work strategically on such technical changes, always thinking about what we can do to help our customers drive their relevance for we know if you customers feel more relevant and are more successful as a result of our software then a need of our business plan is satisfied.

What we do is more than about the software though. Enhancing our POS software is only part of what we do. The even more important aspect of helping our small business retailers compete is how we communicate with them about the enhancements. Our live training workshops, regional user meetings, training videos, advice sheets, personal training and other touch points help our customers learn about and embrace opportunities for change in their retail businesses through what we deliver in our POS software.

In our latest work we have helped retailers redefine the over the counter sales experience, leveraging important touch points, driving value from shopper engagement. For retailers, changes like these are money in the bank.

Our work directly linking with Magento, Shopify, Xero and other respected and widely used platforms is an example of us delivering on our commitment to help our small business retail community to embrace change and leverage change for their commercial success.

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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: HOW TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS MORE SECURE

Security is important in any business but especially in a small independent retail business. Here is a list of actions we recommend you consider to ensure your business is secure.

  1. Know how many keys there are to your premises and who has them.
  2. Keep a spare key in a safe place away from the business.
  3. Keep a current data backup off site. Regularly check that you can restore the data from your backup and that the data is current.
  4. Regularly check the use of your business software for the deletion or alternation of sales as this could indicate employee fraud.
  5. Have current reputable virus protection on all your computers.
  6. Have current reputable firewall installed on your network.
  7. Never open a zip file sent by email.
  8. Never open an email from a bank, the ATO or the police.
  9. Change the most powerful / valuable password for your computer software monthly and share it sparingly. Passwords should be complex. Check the strength of your password here: https://howsecureismypassword.net
  10. Be discrete when talking about the business and its performance.
  11. Do not do the banking at the same time every day or every few days. Do not follow the same route. Do not carry the same bag.
  12. Have a camera system installed to get a good shot of the faces of everyone entering and leaving the business.
  13. Consider registering your CCTV with the local police – this is an option in some jurisdictions.
  14. Ensure customers can see they are being filmed.
  15. Train employees to make eye contact with customers.
  16. Train employees on emergency procedures for handling: theft, aggressive people, shoplifters.
  17. Use the full stock control facilities of your software to understand the financial cost of shoplifting.
  18. When doing magazine returns, check discrepancies weekly to understand magazine theft.
  19. Ensure your windows are not cluttered. The police advise cluttered windows are a security risk because of what they can hide.
  20. Ensure there is good lighting outside if the store is locked up when it is dark.
  21. Ensure you have the best possible sight lines of the shop from the counter.
  22. Have a no personal items at the counter policy.
  23. If you catch someone in the act of shoplifting ask them to wait in the store, and call the Police. Also (advice from NSW govt. Crime prevention):
    1. Tell them who you are.
    2. Tell them why they have been asked to stay in the store. o Advise them that Police have been called
    3. Ask the person to surrender any property that doesn’t belong to them. Remember, retailers and other citizens have no legal right to search a person.
    4. Most importantly, do not put yourself at risk.
  24. Have a clear refund processing policy and ensure all employees are trained on this.
  25. Track all sales by employee code.
  26. When hiring: ask if applicants agree to a police check, check their references, do not hire friends of employees, explain your commitment to zero tolerance re employee theft.
  27. Have an employee theft policy in full view.
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SUNDAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAIL MANAGEMENT ADVICE: MAYBE IT IS TIME TO CHANGE YOUR FRIENDS

Who do you talk to about your retail business? Are they sympathetic, pandering almost? Or, do they challenge your perception of your business?

Do they agree with everything you say? Do they offer pity as a response for you explaining your situation?

Good friends will challenge what you say. They will ask tough questions to test what you say about business performance. They will not put up with a victim mentality. They will want to know what you are doing to improve your situation and that your actions are rooted in your business data.

If your friends don’t challenge you when you talk about your business consider seeking out others you can talk to who do challenge you. 

Owning a business of any size can be tough and lonely. In the business it is rare you will be challenged. In your immediately family, too often, you will not be challenged. This is why you need to seek out those who could and will challenge you. You need to be challenged. Your plans need to be tested through tough questioning.  While some good friend will do this for you many will not.

So, do you need to change your friends?

Seek out people who will give you truthful assessment of what you say, people who will have an opinion and be unafraid to share it. You want people who will actively listen to you and give you their insights.

Seek out people who will want the same from you.  The ideal friendship is one that is equal, open and honest in conversation.  This is what retail business owners need – people who can help them see what they may not be seeing for themselves.

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TAGS CHANGE THE WAY SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS TRACK INVENTORY

The introduction of tags in the Tower Systems POS software last year added to an already powerful reporting suite for our retail customers.

Using tags our retailers can take a horizontal slice through their business data across departments, categories and suppliers, linking items based on a licence or sole other connection relevant to the business.

Tagging is smart easy and powerful, providing small business retailers a fresh view of their businesses, one unique to Tower Systems.

We have been demonstrating the value of tags in our user meetings, [providing our customers with ah ha moments when they see it, get it and realise the power for their businesses through the unique view of business performance available to them.

Tagging inventory items is another point of difference we have been able to leverage for growth among our small business retail user community.

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Sunday retail management advice: use a museum piece to drive traffic

IMG_4574A trend in specialty retail overseas is to have a locked and secure cabinet housing a product people may not purchase but will come in to look at and photograph and salivate over.

The photo shows a runner designed by some famous guy. The pair sells for US$9,000. The manager of the store told us they have at least 50 people a day come in a look at the boot and take photos and that enough purchase other items to make the investment in the stock worth it.

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TOWER SYSTEMS AT ATLANTA GIFT FAIR IN THE US

A team from Tower Systems further benefited from participating in the Atlanta Gift Fair last week, networking with small business gift and homewares retailers as well as their suppliers – including suppliers from Australia. Thanks to contact since the show, the benefits are being realised quickly.

This large gift fair – representing 7,300 brands – is attended by thousands of retailers. It is the gift and homewares retailers the industry’s largest event featuring the most comprehensive collection of home décor, furniture and gifts. The venue spans multiple buildings and multiple floors in each building – it is many times larger than the largest gift fairs in Australia. This is what makes it an exciting event for us – a real eye-opener.

The range of products on show is more diverse and the types of businesses attending is equally diverse. This is why attending has been beneficial for the Tower Systems team as they have been able to expand their horizons as to how our POS software can better serves the needs of growing gift and homewares businesses.

We are not detailing takeaways here for obvious reasons.

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SMALL BUSINESS RETAILERS NEED GOOD GIFT CARD SOFTWARE IN WAKE OF DICK SMITH COLLAPSE

IMG_3465The woes of retailer Dick Smith and the swift announcement of the status of gift vouchers by the Administrator last week has made shoppers suspicious of gift vouchers. This is what happened following the collapse of the Red retail group – Angus and Robertson – some years ago. It took months for trust to rebuild.

Unfortunately, we can see a similar situation follow what is happening at Dick Smith at the moment.

Thanks to the comprehensive gift voucher / gift card management facilities in our software, our small business retail partners have a good story to tell about managing the cards / vouchers and the cash collected.

Our software is well established and tested in this area, across multiple retail channels. we manage the vouchers in a way a CPA would expect and the way a shopper can trust.

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POS software customer love helping us sell POS software

We invited several customers last year to have their photo taken in-store as part of a promotional series showing happy small business customers in their shops where they use our smart POS software. We were thrilled every customer we approached agreed.

Here is one photo from the wonderful LollyBomb business in Adelaide. Some of the specialist facilities in our software help this business in smart and engaging ways.

We are grateful for their help in promoting our software.

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Sunday retail business management advice: get your web strategy right

A tech company recently sent out a survey on 2015 activity to their customers with an out of date logo, a design from the 1990s and a follow up thank you note referencing 2014. These three missteps made the business look unprofessional in its approach. They made it an easy target for anyone wanting to show weaknesses in the business. Their communication also provided some fun for competitors.

Since online is so vital to business today it is important that your online and electronic communications are on point: professional, using your current logo and art, referencing current activity and followed up with relevant material.

Software companies and all businesses need to be professional in every contact as the last contact could be the one on which we are judged.

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Helping small business retailers manage labour cost

Labour is the second highest cost in small business retail yet it is often among the least managed. Tower Systems helps small business retailers manage labour costs. By manage, we mean keep efficient to ensure they are appropriate to the needs of the business. We have helped small business retailers cut labour costs by 25% without any downward impact on sales revenue. We do this through our smart POS software in a range of ways including:

  • Tracking sales by time.
  • Tracking sales by employee.
  • Employee rostering.
  • Tracking labour cost by hour.
  • Mapping costs against seasons and other important activities within the business.
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Sunday small business retail management advice: give people waiting something to buy

candylaneSupermarkets, fuel outlets and convenience retailers nail the candy lane, the floor space in front of the counter where people line and wait to be served. It’s called the candy lane because it’s where candy is often sold. It is a space strategy appropriate to any retailer.

What is it you present to shoppers who approach the counter, any counter in your business? Are impulse purchases by your shoppers growing?

Products need to be easily understood and relevant to your business. They need to be products on which customers can make a split-second decision.

Manage your candy lane for success.

Success is shoppers purchasing items on impulse from display units placed in your candy lane.

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Helping small business retailers transact without a POS software computer system

Tower Systems has published updated advice to help retailers transact in the unlikely event of their computer system not being available. This advice proved to be popular with our customers – we can tell from the considerable download count.

Small business retailers learn to rely on their POS software. If it becomes unavailable for some time and for reasons outside anyone’s immediate control it can challenge the business operations. This is why having a plan for survival is vital to the business.

Planning for contingencies such as a blackout, massive hardware failure or some other contingency is important in retail and we take our role in guiding retailers on best practice business management seriously here at Tower Systems.

This latest business management advice is part of a long-term commitment to publish advice that is useful, accessible and freely available for our small business retail customers.

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Xero, the accounting our POS software links directly to lauded

We love Xero. While we link to multiple small business accounting solutions, Xero is the one receiving most praise by experts and good press on a number of fronts at the moment.

Tower Systems is proud to be an approved authorised Xero POS software partner, listed on their website.

We are not surprised to see a POS software competition ignoring Xero when rating accounting software. Their ignorance is not unexpected.

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The Tower Systems small business POS software handles a change to GST easily

With all the talk of a change to GST arrangement in Australia, it is appropriate we note that any change to GST in terms of quantum and the products and / or services on which it applies would be easy for Tower Systems to manage.

The Tower Systems  POS software today has all the facilities necessary for our customer to handle such changes without the need for a software update.

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POS software helps retailers sell more hampers at Christmas time

Christmas is hamper season for many retailers and Tower Systems helps retailers easily and confidently make, manage, sell and deconstruct hampers.

We track all the components of a hamper, special package pricing, sales history, customer engagement and, if necessary, the breaking down of hampers to single items should a hamper not sell.

Making it easy to manage hampers helps the Tower software be selected by gift shops, bike shops, pet shops, garden centres and other retailers where hampers are an important part of the Christmas trade.

Our work in the hamper space started years ago when we sold our software to a hamper specialist. They guided us to develop smarter tools and these sit in the core POS software we offer to retailers today.

Hampers are a terrific way for local small retailers to pitch a point of difference. Our software makes hampers easy to manage and sell. More important, our software makes it easy to leverage for next season.

This is another POS software Tower AdvantageTM.

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