Coffs Harbour user meeting

We have scheduled a user meeting in Coffs Harbour for September 17, starting at 10am. We were hoping to get there in the last round of member meetings but could not fit this in. We found a scheduling opportunity and locked in the date. This user meeting will focus on the new XchangeIT platform, recent developments in our software and user questions. Two of us will be there to run the meeting and we’d gladly welcome non Tower Newsagents who want to see our point of difference in action.

The invitation will be sent to all of our users in the rgion later this week.  In the meantime, you can book by emailing bookings@towersystems…

Four retail software training opportunities this week

We are hosting another four free online training workshops this week. Thanks to the WebEx platform we use and our back end funding, there is no cost to access these live training opportunities. We even pay for the toll-free call for the sound. Here are the sessions available:

  • Magazine Management Workshop Sept. 1 11:00. This is the most popular training workshop we have ever run. Indeed, I’d suggest that more newsagents have done this training than any other industry training.
  • New Staff Member Training Sept 1, 14:00. We will train your new employees on the basis of our POS software – to help them better navigate the system and save you time.
  • Mastering Sub Agents Sept 3, 11:00. This session will cover everything about sub agents and our newsagency software from allocations to billing to recommended supply.
  • Point of Sale Training Sept 3, 2009 14:00 ideal training for all retail staff.

To book for any of these sessions, please go to our website click on support and click on online training. There, you will also see the course curriculum for the next month or so.

We will host more than 300 training workshops this year – a massive commitment to our customers and their employees.

Ready for the JAA International Jewellery Fair

jaa_fair_sydney_09.jpgOur stand is ready at the JAA International Jewellery Fair in Sydney which opens tomorrow.  On show will be Tower Systems’ new jeweller management software including our new repairs facilities, marketing tools and retailer efficiency tools.  this will be the fist outing for some of our new facilities.  We have experts from the company on hand to show the strength of our jeweller software and support services. The professionalism of the stand shows off our commitment to the marketplace and our dedication to the jeweller channel.

Phase one of XchangeIT review

The issues of XhcnageIT and Network files this past week notwithstanding, we have completed phase one of the XchangeIT review we initiated and have already reached agreement on some good outcomes. This first part of the review has been conducted with one of the key stakeholders. The learnings from the last few months have been useful in helping them understand how some fine tuning of XchangeIT processes can benefit newsagents as well as them.

Our involvement is different to other software companies since we are newsagents too – we use XchangeIT every day and it is this perspective which enables us to engage on a more practical level with the magazine distributors and XchangeIT.

As with all of our XchangeIT work through the trial phase and, now, the roll out, we are happy to share our unique perspective with other software companies. We want the whole industry to have the best EDI platform possible.

Update on XchangeIT data issues

We have been working with XchangeIT and magazine distributors on their data problems. Late today they passed on this information:

Given the number of issues we experienced this week with missing DD2 files, Network Services has opted to resend files as a back up to XChangeIT Link members only. This will result in many agents getting duplicate files, which they will need to be aware of. XChangeIT will send out a headline informing agents that we are sending out the DD2 files again and advising agents to not download them if already received.

Our support team can advise if there are issues handling duplicate files – the software handles this.

Newsagent software update released

We release another software update yesterday to leverage new opportunities from the XChangeIT EDI platform for newsagents. A separate communication is being sent to our users with details of the online download.  We’re ahead on XChangeIT thanks to our ownership of a newsagency.

Annual stock takes are unnecessary

Using our point of sale software and following our stock management guidelines, our retailer partners are able to eliminate the cost and time investment in annual stock takes. The key to this being acceptable to government authorities is professional management of the stock on hand quantity. By professional management, I mean a structured approach to spot stock takes, recording all stock coming into the business in the POS software, scanning out all sales and scanning out all returns. The spot stock takes serve to indicate theft and adjust records accordingly.

We can save an average retail business turning $2 million a year or less around $3,000 in stock take fees. In addition to this cash saving, the business benefits from more accurate stock on hand data and this leads to better stock purchasing decisions.

The net saving to a business which implements our recommended approach to professional stock management can bank on savings in the order of 15% of the current value of stock on hand. This is a considerable amount of cash to free in any business.

Useful customer postcode data for retailers

Based on our recent trials, we have reached the conclusion that two continuous months of postcode sales data is all that is needed to support quality business decisions based on customer location.

While some retailers will leave postcode tracking at the point of sale turned on all the time, others want to run it for a short period to capture what they need. There is a time cost at the sales counter – hence the need to have the ability to stop and start such a campaign.

We have looked at data for a range of periods and have found that two months of data is the smallest sample size we would recommend for useful results to be obtained.

Our postcode tracking tools can be easily turned on and off. We’d be happy to help any of our retailer partners with advice on using these free sales tracking tools.

Software for newsagents delivers more value

We are in the process of rolling out two new suites of products for newsagents through our POS software. In each case, the suppliers approached Tower Systems because of the size and quality of our retail network. Each of the products offers excellent add-on sale value, has no stock cost and is to be supported with great in-store collateral.

We are glad to be close to delivering another excellent sales driving opportunity for Tower newsagents.

I am not blogging the details of the suppliers here to save them from harassment from other software companies serving newsagents which do not have these new products.

Better buying for gift shops at Gift Fairs

Gift Fairs are key buying occasions for gift shops and retailers offering gifts in other businesses. The challenge of Gift Fair buying is to not get caught up in the excitement of the fair and over commit.

Our Gift Shop reporting and stock management facilities help gift shop owners buy better at Gift Fairs. Beyond the traditional sales reporting, we offer category reporting and comparisons. This data is useful when considering new product for the business.

If existing product is being considered, then retailer can visit the trade show with a recommended order created by the software. This decision based on stock performance can help counter the excitement of the fair.

Helping gift shop owners and other retailers focus more on fact based buying usually releases cash in the business for return to the owners (as profit) or investment elsewhere in the business.

We have recently worked with several users of our POS software to help them prepare for a Gift Fair with the goals outlines above in mind. Together we made excellent progress which helped their business and enhanced our understanding of how we can help on such buying occasions.

Value in analysing the shopping basket

Balance in crucial in any retail business. Our Point of Sale software helps retailers measure balance. The key is in our shopping basket analysis tools.  Our Basket Analysis Report is an important element in the efficiency tracking reporting.

By tracking what is in customer shopping baskets, retailers can see whether products are being sold alone. The same assessment is available for whole department and categories within departments. This analysis helps smart retailers measure their reliance on hero products, departments and categories. If this is found to be the case, they can redress this imbalance.

For example, in one of our own newsagencies, some years ago we found that 80% of newspapers were sold alone. With newspapers being the highest volume item we sell, the sold alone statistic was an indication of inefficiency. We embarked on a campaign to drive efficiency, to have more newspapers sold with other items. This included placing other items with newspapers and pitching offers at the counter better to drive impulse purchase. By measuring and tweaking the campaign we drove the sold-alone number down to 60% without reducing newspaper sales.

Having the data is crucial to understanding a situation and tracking the impact of action taken to redress this.

This is where Tower Systems goes beyond the usual software company. We provide access to business support which helps our retailer business partners genuinely benefit from our technology and the insights it makes available.

While running a Basket Analysis Report may sound quite boring, the reality is it is likely to unlock a goldmine of opportunities for any retail business.
Our Help Desk and management teams will gladly work with any of our customers to analyse business performance. This is another part of our Tower AdvantageTM program.

Officesmart training for newsagents

On Thursday this week are are hosting free IT training for Officesmart newsagents.  This new training workshop is offered as part of our online training program.  It will cover all newsagents need to know to make the most of managing Officesmart customers, orders and catalogues using their Tower Systems newsagency management software.

Officesmart is a stationery marketing group for newsagents.  It has been successfully used by many newsagents to dramatically increase their stationery business.

Newsagents not using our software are welcome to sit in on the free online training session.  Click here to book.

See us at the International Jewellery Fair in Sydney

We are putting the final touches to our preparations for the International Jewellery Fair in Sydney this weekend.  At our stand we will be showing our new repairs management software, our latest jewellery business management software, a range of gift cards and smart customer management tools.  Plus we will have some surprises to share.

We are on stand N39 at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre.

As with other Jewellery Fairs, we expect to see gift shops and other retailers as well at jewellers at this trade show.

Attending ACP Connections Conference

I am attenting the ACP Connections conference in Cairns on Thursday with a couple of hundred other newsagents.  Any Tower Newsagents attenting and keen to catch up, please give me a call on 0418 321 338.

While I am at the conference and in cairns with my newsagent hat on, I have a number of meetings already booked to discuss newsagent software opportunities.

Revised gift shop software selection advice

Tower Systems has released an updated guide to choosing the right POS software for gift shops.  In the guide we provide a framework through which gift and homewares shop owners can evaluate software and make the decision as to the right Point of Sale software for their business.

While we are keen for gift shop owners to choose our software for gift shops, we have been careful to provide advice which others will read and judge as professional and balanced.

Power outages challenge retail processes

The power outages caused by rough weather this past week have demonstrated the value of UPS battery backups for computers in retail businesses.  A good UPS provides time to shut the system down in an orderly fashion or even keep the system running during a short blackout.

We have released a special offer for UPS units to our customers.

Point of Sale training for retailers and employees this week

Tower Systems is running four more excellent free online training opportunities for users of our Point of Sale software this week:

  • Point Of Sale Training 25 Aug 2009 11:00 Great for business owners and employees.  This session is FULL.  We are running it again in a week.
  • Magazine Management Workshop 25 Aug 2009 14:00
  • Officesmart 27 Aug 2009 11:00 This training will be invaluable for Officesmart newsagents.  We will help you make the most out of managing Officesmart offers using your Tower POS software.
  • XchangeIT Compliance 27 Aug 2009 14:00.  The very latest training in this evolving EDI solution for newsagents.

To book for any of these sessions and to see sessions over the next six weeks please click here.

We make it easy to book, live.  None of this email us and we will email you back.  Our live booking system shows you what sessions are scheduled and the number of seats available.  Perfect self service.

Comparing post-sale training and how users can interact with this is a great way to compare software companies.  Indeed, we have won new customers thanks to our public commitment to on-going training and our transparency around the booking process.

Saturday Help Desk support

Software companies which say they care about their retail customers ought need to demonstrate this in the services they provide.  Saturday support is a good example.  I am not writing about mobile phone based support – anyone can do that.  No, I am writing about a staffed live office-based help desk.  The office base is important because the people providing the services are better equipped to log into a client site or access company resources – crucial facilities to providing excellent support.

We continue to offer a staffed Help Desk service on Saturdays.  This is popular with our customers and is another reason for good customer retention.

Easy selling of instant scratch tickets

Further to my post earlier this week, below is another example of touch screen buttons we have setup to make selling easier.  These touch buttons are for instant scratch tickets for our newsagent cutsomers in New South Wales.

scratchie_touch.JPG

While we would prefer to to make it easy for our customers to scan the scratch tickets, these touch buttons are just as fast.

Communicating with POS software retailers

news_on_screen.JPGTo open another communication channel with our users, we introduced a communications box on the entry screen to our point of sale software last year.  This takes a feed direct from the development team in our software company.  It provides us with another channel through which we can communicate about updates and other important news items which we know will be of value to our customers.

We know that retailers are often time-poor and that we need to use a multi-channel approach to reach our customers with useful support and service information.

Updating eziPass electronic products platform

We are testing a new release of our eziPass electronic voucher products platform.  The new release will enhance the facilities we available through eziPass and enable our retail network to sell a broader range of products and services.

While newsagents make up the majority of retailers using eziPass, we have more convenience stores and newsagencies using eziPass and this will increase as we expand our product range.

eziPass is interesting to suppliers because of the size of the network and the diverse range of products offered including those we pull from wholesalers as well as those we pull directly from suppliers.

The new release should be out within a month, following QA and a beta release.

The rush to quit POS Solutions DOS software

We are seeing an increase in the pace of newsagents looking to switch from the POS Solutions DOS software. This is good for the newsagency channel because the POS DOS user community has been holding newsagents back for some time.

We help POS Solutions DOS users switch to Tower Systems Windows based newsagency management software through expert training, transition help, a service level commitment which they will enjoy and special upgrade pricing.

We also offer free online training workshops for former POS Solutions users – to facilitate discussion about what they used to do with their old software and how they do this today.

Touchscreen buttons make POS sales easy

We have offered preset artwork for hundreds of touch buttons from which our users can select for their touch screen configurations.  Some users even design their own buttons for specific local purposes.  The image below is a photo of some of the buttons used by a newsagent in Victoria.  While nothing beats scanning for accuracy, the buttons are ideal for situations where you do not handle the product.

touchbuttons.jpg

Our buttons can be easily changed, even for short term requirements.

We have found that by using buttons which look like the mastheads on magazines and newspapers, selling is easier – especially for users new to the technology.

We have an excellent advice sheet which guides the setup of touch buttons.