Holding hardware prices

We have made a decision to delay passing on increased hardware prices for another two weeks. This provides prospects and existing customers considering upgrades to purchase at pre falling Australian dollar prices. In some cases, our decision will save up to 30% of some key items.

We have taken this decision as to prove our commitment to help our small business customers as much as we are able.

Our decision has been communicates with our users and sales prospects through our weekly newsletter and sales team contact.

We are yet to make a decision about hardware/software package pricing.

Take your software with you

retailer-mobile.jpgWe have launched a new marketing campaign around our Retailer Mobile retail management software offer. Using this software, our users have access to data for their retail businesses from almost any location.

The new marketing material is a new direction for us, demonstrating flexibility and enjoyment – key elements of our software and Retailer Mobile in particular.

By providing access back to the store from any location, we are enabling small business retailers to make better business decisions. This is particularly useful at warehouses, wholesalers and trade show where ordering is undertaken. Relying on supplier data or gut feel is not good for the retailer.

This latest marketing collateral is from our own marketing team. I am thrilled since this pitches us differently to traditional software company. It reflects well on our approach to business and how we view ourselves. Enjoying what you do is key.

Five uses of Point of Sale software beyond the register

Point of Sale is a misstatement of what POS software is all about for good Point of Sale software takes you far away from the point of sale. Here are five things which good Point of Sale software offers the business beyond the register:

  • Stock management. From the wholesaler to your shelves, good point of sale software drives better stock outcomes for your business.
  • Staff management. By rostering within your software you can more easily balance the labour pool of the business.
  • Marketing. From SMS advice to customers when special orders arrive to messages on receipts to targeted email and other campaigns, good Point of sale sofwtare will help you drive better business outcomes.
  • Decision making. By tracking what sells with what, what is selling faster, what is selling slower, return on investment, return on floorspace and stock turn you are equipped with the measurements to drive better decisions.
  • Theft management. By understanding what is being stolen or when fraud is being committed – even when you are thousands of miles from the shop – you are empowered to take decisions necessary to protect your interests.

These are just five of the many ways good Point of Sale sofwtare will help a retail business beyond the register. It really comes down to business outcomes.

Tower Systems pro-actively engages with its user community to drive outcomes in these areas. Through our user meetings, face to face training sessions, online training sessions and advice sheets we guide, encourage and lead our users to achieve more. Our view is that the better our software is used in a retail business the better that business is an advertisement for us.

In Newcastle today

Several of us heading to Newcastle today participating in the first of our Spring User meeting events.  We have a full house booked so it should be a good session.  The content side of the meeting is all new so it will be good test this and see if it is helpful to our user community.

An important part of these events is that we have the technical, management and sales sides of Tower Systems represented.  This demonstrates accountability and in the software business this is crucial.  Too many companies don;t let their sales people near customers once they are signed.

Using multi store software

One of our competitors is a bit rattled, they have been bad mouthing us to sales prospects. Last week they told a newsagent that we do not use our multi store software in our own retail businesses. They knew this is not true. We use our own multi store to manage stock in our Sophie Randall businesses at Toorak, Melbourne Central, Forest Hill and Epping Plaza.

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The competitor knows this because they have seen it working themselves. It speaks volumes about their business that they lie like this.

User meeting details for this week

Here are the details for our free user meetings this week:

  • Sydney: October 30th, 2008, 10am, RYDGES CAMPERDOWN, 9 Missenden Rd,Camperdown NSW 2050 
  • Newcastle: October 28th, 2008, 10am. BEST WESTERN MADISON,109 Madison Drive,Newcastle NSW 2290 
  • Brisbane: October 31st, 2008, 10am. BRISBANE RIVERVIEW HOTEL, Kingsford Smith Drive, Hamilton QLD 4007

The meetings will start with a presentation on how to user our software to more effectively compete in tough times.

Supporting Make a Wish

maw.JPGMaterials arrived from the Make A Wish Foundation last week – provided as part of our financial support for their work this year. The stickers acknowledge the donation and encourage others to join with Make A Wish. We make a donation at this time each year in lieu of sending Christmas cards. We like the work of Make A Wish and the transparency of their operation.

Planning software updates

We had our first meeting to discuss our first planned software update for 2009 last week. Such is the complexity of balancing supplier and user requirements that we need to set specific targets four months out. Years ago we would code and release. Today, with a large user community and with a host of live online supplier interfaces, planning, designing, coding and testing is considerably more complex. The result, as experience in recent years shows, is more stable sofwtare updates.

So, last week we started to focus attention, from management through to development, on our first update for 2009.

While some members of our development team have been working on the update for some time – there is always overlap – others are doing work on our current update since there will be some small enhancements to this between now and early next year. Such is the challenge of dealing with some suppliers who do not release changes in a manner which suits our development cycle.

Developing a software update involves various departments within the company: development, marketing, sales, support and management. Over the course of the next four months these will meet many times to ensure that the goals for the update are achieved.  These will cross over with meetings reviewing the most recently released update and meetings about other 2009 updates.

A considerable amount of our time is spent working with suppliers and ensuring that our software meets their needs and that our customers are therefore able to meet requirements of their suppliers.

While all of this sounds dry and formal, it is necessary when you are serving a sizeable user community.   Our size affords us opportunities and we respect them by taking a formal and conservative approach to software development.

Marketing through your software

We have made sure that marketing a retail business is easier with our software by loading our software with tools focused on driving sales from existing customers and helping the business win new customers. These tools include:

  • Coupons on receipts – to drive traffic. These can be general for the business or purchase specific.
  • Up-sell scripts – presented during the sale based on the items purchased.
  • Text messages on accounts. Making the account a billboard for the business.
  • Loyalty marketing – tracking points or other benefits based on customer purchases.
  • Tracking sales by employee – thereby enabling you to run an employee reward scheme to drive sales growth.
  • SMS marketing – based on customer details, what they have purchased.
  • Email marketing.
  • Direct mail – with the list created based on purchases.

While there are other marketing facilities in our POS software, those listed are the most popular for using the technology to drive a more successful business.

Smart retailers make marketing part of their business systems and their regular contact with customers. The result is bigger sales and, naturally, a healthier bottom line.

New stock files loaded

We have loaded more up to date and tested stock files at our website this morning: Henderson Greeting Cards; GNS 08 Christmas catalogue; Darrel Lea-Christmas 08; Simson Cards.

Businesses pursue value

One consequence of the current economic conditions is that small business owners are pursuing value in their transactions. By value, I mean an ability to derive a good return from the investment.  Conservative software companies like us with a long track record and achieving consistent growth are appealing to businesses which want to automate.

Smaller software companies, with a few hundred users or less, are at risk as are those which are shrinking in terms of their customer base.

So, value is the name of the game – value from being able to benefit from today’s software investment for many years into the future, value from partnering with a firm capable of continuing to enhance your investment, and, value from using software which genuinely helps you cut operating costs and increase sales at the same time.

There is no room in today’s new marketplace for spin -this is where history counts for something by proving that you do deliver on your promises and provide good value.

Best practice magazine management advice

We have released significantly enhanced magazine management advice sheets for newsagents.  Australia’s three magazine distributors have made changes recently with more to come early in 2009.  This revised advice from Tower Systems keeps our users up with best practice.

  • N12.1 Stock Returns Settings
  • N12.2 Stock Returns Scanning
  • N12.3 Stock Returns Reports

These advice sheets relate to the latest release of our software

Wayne is 21!

wayne.JPGWayne Tranter, a valued member of our installation and training team, turned 21 on Tuesday this week. To celebrate, his parents organised a surprise, a limousine to pick him up from work – we helped out in co-ordinating his roster to fit with their secret plans. Wayne turned crimson when his parents walked into the Help Desk room Tuesday afternoon unannounced.

Some of Wayne’s colleagues took him to lunch to celebrate the big day.

In a practical sense, Wayne turning 21 is a big deal for us because it is now much easier to organise a rental car. Wayne travels most weeks and in many locations the rental car agencies will not rent to a driver under 21.

Improving over the counter payments

We have reviewed and revised each of our integrated over the counter payment solutions to further improve the consumer and staff member experiences. These latest enhancements are included in the update sent our last week. The improvements include greater security measures, additional customer service facilities and greater choice.

Point of Sale software today is all about being a gateway to suppliers and service providers. hence the importance of efficient, stable and up-to-date interfaces to these external businesses. This is part of any retail software which will be under constant review in part because of regulatory requirements and also to make the most of technology enhancements.

The latest version of our software helps our retail customers drive better efficiency. It also affords greater choice in the area of financial services providers.

Extra Help Desk staff to manage the update

Support call traffic increases considerable when we send out an update.  People call to check instructions, because they have encountered an unexpected obstacle or to check how a new function works.  We have scheduled to have additional resources available through the next few weeks to cope with the increase in call traffic.

Meeting with Hong Kong gift suppliers

hk_show.JPGI have been in Hong Kong this week meeting with gift shop suppliers at a trade fair in which 4,000 suppliers participate. This has been a good place to progress this project since it puts us closer to the source of product for our customers. We are working closely with many suppliers to Gift Shops, in Australia and overseas, to enhance their technology link with their retailer partners. The outcomes from this are lower operating costs, fewer mistakes and better quality business decisions.  

We are working to eliminate more manual processes from the ordering, receipt of stock and stock management processes. By working with suppliers we have found that we are able to better serve our retail users.

Hong Kong this week has been an eye-opener on many fronts. Travel always is.

Protecting magazine returns data

For years newsagents using our software have been able to keep copies of returns reports.  To enhance the experience of our users, we are now automatically keeping a copy of all returns reports regardless of whether a user requests this.  Having the spare copy will become more important as the management of magazine returns moves to the next phase of development in 2009.   We felt it was important to ensure that the 1,500+ newsagents who partner with us have the best possible protection.

The end of the IT skills shortage?

I have received four resumes this week from excellently qualified IT professionals who have been retrenched recently.  I expect there will be more over time and more businesses cut back on software development and in-house support.

The current global economic situation could bring to an end the IT skills shortage.  If that does happen, the implications will be felt in many areas – employer / employee loyalty may (should) improve, there will be a bigger pool of candidates from which to choose, graduates will find it tough and project costs will stabilise, possibly leading to a surge in new project development. 

The skills shortage has made taking on major new projects challenging.  The new world could be an excellent opportunity for major advancement.

Free training for point of sale software users

Our National Spring Tour starts next week.  We will cover many cities, delivering free training and offering free face to face support as we meet with hundreds of our users.  The details are:

  • Newcastle – Tuesday, October 28 – 10am
  • Melbourne – Wednesday, October 29 – 2pm
  • Sydney (Camperdown) – Thursday, October 30 – 10am
  • Sydney (Camperdown) – Thursday, October 30 – 2pm
  • Brisbane – Friday, October 31 – 11am
  • Melbourne – Friday, October 31 – 11am
  • Canberra – Wednesday, November 5, 2pm
  • Perth – Wednesday, November 5 – 10am
  • Dubbo – Thursday, November 6 – 10am
  • Albury – Thursday, November 6 – 10am
  • Geelong – Friday, November 7 – 11am
  • Adelaide – Friday, November 7 – 10am
  • Cairns – Monday, November 10 – 1pm
  • Gold Coast – Tuesday, November 11 – 1pm
  • Darwin – Wednesday, November 12 – 11am
  • Hobart – Wednesday, November 12 – 1pm

Click here to download the booking form for the Spring User Meeting Tour.

Protecting end of day reports

The latest update to our software creates and stores an electronic copy of end of day reports for future reference.  While we have offered this as an option for years, we realised that the time the reports are needed is when they option has not been selected.  Hence our decision to create this backup copy of the completed report without the need for any user intervention.

Support your local newsagent

hs_oct19a.JPGI was reading the Sunday Herald Sun on a flight to Hong Kong yesterday when I turned the page to read Terry McCrann’s column and there, on the page next to it, was the full page ad we created to promote newsagents.

This is the second run of this ad in the Herald Sun. They are running it for free in support of newsagents and the TV campaign we are running using the same creative. There are two more ads to go.

Yeah, I was proud to see the ad.

I had forgotten that the ad would run in yesterday’s newspaper and smiled as soon as I saw it. I know from feedback from newsagents that people are reacting to the ad. Newsagents have told me that customers mention it at the counter. One told me that a customer told them that it stopped them buying magazines at the supermarket.

This campaign is about building a better connection between consumers and newsagencies. It is also about newsagents being proud of their businesses And the roles they play.

I am pleased that Tower Systems has been able to help the newsagency channel through the campaign and I am grateful to the Herald Sun for their support.

Just read: Differentiate or Die

differentiate.JPGI read Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout years ago when it first came out. My second read, over the last few weeks, was better, more useful, than the first for me.

Accessible in language and themes, Differentiate or Die is relevant to businesses of all sizes. This is a book to keep close by. I especially like the discussion about the term Unique Selling Proposition – first introduces by Rosser Reeves in his 1960 book Reality in Advertising.   Understanding the term from its inception helps in our pursuit of this. Trout in this book explores the USP concept thoroughly and usefully presents many differentiating strategies.

Like any business, we strive to be different in our products and our services. Being competitive comes down to differentiating your offer from others with whom you compete – so much so that they are no longer the competition.

Besides differentiating our business, we strive, through our software, to provide our customers with tools which make it easier for them to differentiate their businesses.

Improved sales data for newspaper publishers

The latest release of our software shipped last week delivers new facilities for providing sales data to publishers from newsagents – if newsagents wish to use the facility.  We have also delivered new facilities for providing data sought specifically by Fairfax for their products.  Both new facilties were developed in close consultation with publishers.  At all times, newsagents have control over whether they participate and use the facilities.