The POS Software Blog

The POS Software Blog

News from Tower Systems about locally made POS software for specialty local retailers.

CategoryRetail Advice

POS software AI integrations announced to help local small business retailers stay ahead

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We launched our first POS software ChatGPT AI integration 17 months ago now. We are grateful to have kept up to date with AI developments and how they can help local small business retailers to run more successful and efficient businesses. It’s been a ride for sure.

Keeping abreast of AI developments is important. In a recent update we have done this:

Decommissioning of Legacy AI Models: In line with OpenAI’s recent announcement regarding the phased shutdown of several AI models, we have proactively taken steps to ensure a seamless transition for our users. The affected models have been decommissioned from our system to pave the way for more advanced and capable alternatives.

Introduction of New AI Models: We are thrilled to introduce the addition of two groundbreaking AI models to our system:

  • GPT-3.5-turbo-instruct: An enhanced version designed to understand and execute instructions more efficiently, providing you with faster and more accurate responses.
  • GPT-4: The latest iteration in the GPT series, offering unparalleled AI capabilities with improved understanding, creativity, and contextual awareness.

Of course, there is more work under the hood when it comes to AI and POS software. Our commitment is to help our small business retailer partners to access tools that help them run efficient and forward-leaning businesses.

Being an early-adopter of AI technology for POS software we have experiences on which we can draw. This, and relationships with AI businesses help us play ahead in this space.

Our POS software AI integrations offer practical and smart help to retailers. We back the software facilities with packaged documentation and easy to access stackable training videos. Our goal with these is to demystify the AI side of things to a level that the POS software integration is understood and useful.

Tower Systems is a small business focussed POS software company developing, and supporting POS software for niche specialty retailers. Jewellers, garden centres, bike shops, toy shops, produce businesses, farm supply businesses, fishing shops, pet shops, charity businesses, landscape gardening businesses, antique shops, sewing shops, haberdashery businesses, newsagents and more benefit from this software.

Find out more at www.towersystems.com.au Call 1300 662 957 or email sales@towersystems.com.au

If you are tired of local community group donation requests of your shop, this may help

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Requests from schools, charities, and other local community groups can be a challenging for local small business retailers. They are often made by people who have never shopped with you and may never shop with you.

Guilt is a powerful emotion, and some representing charities and community groups know this. Take a beat and think through how you want to handle such requests in advance of them coming your way. If you have a process you can deal with the requests consistently and with less stress.

Here’s our advice for local small business retailers on handling community group donation requests:

  • Manage your philanthropy like any business activity. Decide how much money you’re willing to donate each year, and then stick to that budget.
  • Get on the front foot. Write to community groups at the start of the year and ask them to submit a proposal if they’d like your support. This way, you can choose the groups that are a good fit for your business and your community.
  • Support the groups that support you. Look for groups that have members who are also your customers. This way, you’re helping both the group and your business.
  • Let your shoppers choose. If you offer discount vouchers, you could let customers donate their vouchers to a local group. This is a great way to get your customers involved in your community giving.
  • Reward engagement. You could offer a discount to customers who are members of a local group. This would encourage them to shop at your business, and it would also support the group. This is critical advice. There has to be a commercial benefit for your business if you are to be able to help these community groups into the future.
  • Educate groups about good engagement. Let groups know that you’re looking for ways to work together to benefit the community. You could ask them to do things like promote your business on their social media pages, or write about you in their newsletters.
  • Write about your engagement. Once you’ve chosen the groups you’re going to support, write about it on your website and social media. Don’t be boastful or arrogant, be grateful. This will help to raise awareness of the groups, and it will also show your customers that you’re committed to giving back to the community.

Remember, your giving should serve both your heart and your business. By following these tips, you can make sure that your donations are a valuable investment for both you and your community.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Be clear about your expectations. Let groups know what you’re looking for in a partnership, and what you expect from them in return.
  • Be professional. Even if you’re dealing with a small community group, it’s important to be professional in your dealings with them.
  • Be grateful. When a group partners with you, be sure to thank them for their support.

By following these tips, you can build strong relationships with community groups and make a real difference in your community.

Why this advice from our POS software company matters: Every day we connect with small business retailers about their businesses, through our help desk, in sales situations and elsewhere. Owning and running a local small business retail shop is challenging, time-consuming. Coming up with fresh ideas is hard. It’s necessary though. The ideas we share here are things we have tried, and found to work.

How local retailers can win more from work from home now we know it’s here to stay

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Work from home is now a permanent fixture of work. What accelerated as a result of the Covid pandemic is here for the long haul. It is so established that there is a generation that only knows this type of work.

Work from home is loved because it frees time for what people love, improved health options and gives those engages in it more control.

This shift in work culture is an opportunity for local retailers to attract and retain customers in their neighbourhoods. By understanding the needs and preferences of a work-from-home (WFH) population, local businesses can become an integral part of their daily lives.

This is true in almost any business type. As a company that makes software for local retailers, we ourselves are invested in helping local retailers leverage the work-from-home opportunity.

Local businesses are themselves a form of work-from-home for many of the retailers. This is an opportunity for those businesses.

Capitalise on Convenience:

People working from home crave convenience. Gone are the days of dedicated lunch breaks and after-work errands. Local retailers can bridge this gap by offering:

  • Delivery and Click-and-Collect: Offer delivery partnerships or a click-and-collect service. This allows customers to browse online during breaks and pick up their purchases on their way home. Partnering with delivery apps can further expand your reach.
  • Extended Hours: Consider staying open a little later on weekdays to cater to the after-work crowd who might not have had time to shop during the day.
  • Services. Copying, emailing, suppliers and more. Depending on the nature of the work and infrastructure required, local retailers can service this.

Embrace the “Workcation” Vibe:

Many WFH professionals are blurring the lines between work and personal life. Local cafes and restaurants can cater to this by providing:

  • Comfortable Workspaces: Retailers with space can offer designated work areas with good Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, and access to outlets. Create a “workcation” atmosphere with ambient music and ample natural light. We can see this working in any type of business, not just cafes.
  • Meeting Rooms: Provide small meeting rooms that can be booked for video conferences or team brainstorming sessions.
  • Loyalty Programs: Reward frequent customers with loyalty programs that offer discounts.

Become a Community Hub:

Working from home can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation. Local retailers can foster a sense of community by:

  • Hosting Events: Organise after-work social events, workshops, or networking opportunities. This not only attracts customers but also builds a sense of belonging.
  • Partnering with Local Businesses: Collaborate with other local businesses to offer joint promotions or host pop-up shops within your store. This creates a more dynamic shopping experience and fosters a sense of community spirit.
  • Supporting Local Causes: Partner with local charities or groups and donate a portion of proceeds or host fundraising events. This builds goodwill and connects you to the heart of your neighbourhood.

Leverage Technology:

Technology plays a crucial role in reaching and engaging with WFH customers:

  • Strong Online Presence: Ensure your website that is easy to use on any device. Showcase your products, highlight your services (like delivery or click-and-collect), and ensure your online store reflects current stock levels.
  • Social Media Engagement: Be active on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Post content relevant to work-from-home participants.
  • Local SEO: Optimise your online presence for local search. Use relevant keywords and make sure your business information is accurate across all online directories.

By embracing the work-from-home trend and adapting their offerings, local retailers can become a natural extension of the lives of their neighbourhood customers. Building strong relationships with your local community and offering convenient, personalised experiences will ensure your business thrives in the era of remote work.

Now, how does our POS software help? Work-from-home has changed what people buy, and when they buy. Our POS software can track and identify this for you. It can also connect to a website for easy shopping by locals.

Our POS software made for local retailers helps them embrace the local work-from-home community.

We are thinking about work-from-home today because where we are, in Victoria, Australia, it is Labour day, the public holiday declared for celebrating the achievement of the 8-hour day by unions. It is a day off related to work.

Small business retail advice on how to reduce the opportunity of ransomware attack

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Ransomware / malware can come in many forms. Every computer connected to a network in any way is at risk. There is no guaranteed protection but there are important steps a business can take. This advice provides advice designed to reduce the risk to your business.

Here is best-practice advice from our POS software company for local small business retailers on ways to protect against Ransomware:

  1. Ensure you use professional, up to date, virus protection.
  2. Ensure you have a good firewall with strong settings.
  3. Do not click on emails or attachments unless you are sure of the sender.
    1. Be particularly wary of ZIP files in emails.
    2. The ATO will not email you.
    3. Your bank will not email you.
    4. Australia Post will not email you, not like the example I have posted.
  4. Ensure all passwords you use are strong.
  5. Consider using an email filtering facility.
  6. Do not allow remote access to your computer unless you are certain of the person accessing.
  7. Ensure you have strong passwords. A strong password should include: some CAPS, some numbers and at least one special character. Check your password at: https://howsecureismypassword.net
  8. Change your password regularly.
  9. Run an up to date operating system.
  10. Have rules on computer use: no games, no online gambling, no porn, no personal emails.
  11. Have an overarching rule: do not open any email or go to any website unless you are certain.
  12. Use a cloud backup service like the Tower backup service. This provides the fastest recovery.
  13. Have multiple backup devices for additional protection.
  14. Do not use automatic file replication programs / facilities such as Dropbox or Google Drive. If a file is encrypted with malware / ransomware it will upload to the account and infect other files.

Most ransomware attacks can be avoided by careful scrutiny of your emails and websites you visit.

Small business retail advice: less is more when it comes to visual noise in your shop

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As retailers ourselves for decades, we have learnt first-hand that less is more works when it comes to visual noise in the shop.

Less signs, posters and other visual blocks can impede retail sales. Here’s our practical, no nonsense approach to reducing visual noise in pursuit of sales growth.

If you give your customers too many things to look at inside or outside your business, they will notice less.  Your choices show them what you want them to look at

Less is more. Have less visual noise, less visual pollution, and more will be noticed.

Show your customers what you want them to notice by giving that product, range or display fresh air (visually) around it.

Take a look today, right now, at the visual noise in your shop. It is easy:

Stand at the door of your business facing into the shop and scan around counting the signs you can read and displays you can see.

How many are there?

More messages, more signs = less noticing them.

Yes, less is more.

Here is advice for less visual noise in your business:

  1. Edit. Every few days stand at the front of the shop and review your signage and edit the mix.
  2. Posters and signs. Do not put up any poster or sign unless it is absolutely necessary.
  3. Housekeeping notices. Have all customer notices, such as your exchange policy, discount policy, minimum eftpos charge etc, all in the one unobtrusive place. Neat. Clean.
  4. Call to action signs. If you have items on sale or discounted, place them all in the one location, a designated sale location in your business, with simple and professional signage.
  5. Product signs. For product signage in-store, be consistent in style and look. Smaller signs next to products will work better than big signs from the ceiling – how often do your shoppers walk in looking up anyway?
  6. Colour block. Colour blocked product is more appealing to the eye, it looks less messy, less noisy.
  7. The counter.  Again, edit for clarity, edit for focus on the messages that really matter.
  8. Be clean. Look for clean sight lines, where your products are the feature. Use products themselves to tell stories.

It is common for retailers to say that shoppers don’t look in the shop. An alternative what to look at this is to say that you are going about trying to catch shopper attention in the wrong way.

Reducing visual noise will improve the experience for your shoppers and for those who work in the business. It will focus everyone on what you decide matters the most right now.

This visual boise advice applied to your front window if you have one. What’s the message? Is it clear? Is it focussed? Is it getting attention on the street? the answers will guide you as to what to do next.

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Thanks to our retail experience, we are able to provide suggestions b beyond the POS software. This is another differentiating factor for us, for which we are sincerely grateful.

Tower Systems helps small business retailers recover EFTPOS costs with an auto-calculated surcharge

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We make it easy for local small business retailers to accurately apply a surcharge to a purchase based on the type of payment card presented.

With the cost of each card varying and some banks offering card specific costs to businesses, this approach by us makes it more certain for shoppers and retailers when it comes to a surcharge based on the type of card used.

Our POS software talks to the payments processor once the card is presented and instantly a surcharge is calculated and details provided to the shopper. We do this in the way the ACCC requires.

Certain rules apply when a business applies a surcharge to particular cards:

  • the surcharge must not be more than what it costs the business to use that payment type

  • the surcharge can only include costs that are for accepting that particular payment. For example, if a business pays an amount for gateway fees for processing credit card transactions only, the business cannot include this cost in its debit card transactions.

This approach meats with legal obligations of retailers in Australia. It also makes it easier for retailers to cover the cost of card payment, which can be considerable based on the type of card presented.

Using the Tower Systems POS software, local small business retailers can apply a credit or debit card surcharge with certainty, ease and confidence. They can provide good customer service and fully inform shoppers such that they may choose another method of payment.

The rules in Australia for applying the same surcharge for all payment types are that it must not be more than the lowest surcharge they would set for a single payment type. This is from their ACCC website. This is why applying a surcharge based on the actual payment type presented can matter – there is a huge different in payment type costs.

Our POS software makes it easy for small business retailers to apply a surcharge and manage toe collection of this and record keeping associated with it. We take care of business for our customers, make their job easier and provide a safe framework within which they transact with their customers.

PUSHING A CASH IS KING MESSAGE IS A FOOL’S ERRAND IN MY VIEW AND HERE’S WHY

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Too often we see small business retailers pitching cash is king on social media and shake my head. It’s a waste of time. People will pay how they want to pay, if you let them.

Berating people, telling them that cash is better for you and the economy is an argument not backed by facts.

The cost of handling cash is not dissimilar to the cost of taking cashless payments. especially today with fewer bank branches available for cash deposits and making change.

Retailers are retailers. They are service businesses. If someone wants to pay a retailer money, they need to be flexible in the forms in which they receive this. And, if one form of payment is more expensive than another, consider a surcharge for that and explain to your customers why.

Posting on social media about the cost of card payments and bemoaning money banks make from this is not cutting through. You only have to look at the continued growth in card and other non-cash payments to see that. So why waste time and energy complaining about something that has no chance in going your way. Instead, spend time celebrating what you love about your business.

Of course, what you put on social media from and about your business is 100% up to you. The challenge is that anything one retailer in a channel does can speak for more than that one business.

What we want in our business, our prime goal, is more shoppers. Anything that gets in the way of achieving this needs to be considered, and probably dropped. I think the social media posts bemoaning the cost of card payments and calling for people to pay cash are an example of a turn-off social media post. Such posts risk turning people off your business and off colleague businesses in the newsagency channel.

Yes, the payments arrangements in Australia are unnecessarily complex and they do have a cost to our businesses. But, shoppers are flocking to non-cash methods of payment and it is good for our businesses if we accept these with ease and grace.

Instead of waging an unwindable campaign about your preference for cash over card for payment, consider diverting that energy into business improving opportunities such as addressing common expensive management misses that I too often see in local small business retail. Here are low-hanging-fruit ideas I pitch to retailers:

  • Dead stock. A problem not seen is not a problem to too many. In the average indie retail business, dead stock is equal to at least 3% of turnover.

  • Running out of stock. In one business I looked at recently, being out of stock cost the business $15,000 in sales in six months. ordering based on what their software advised would have solved that.

  • Failing the price opportunity. Shoppers are less price conscious than we think they are. Have faith in your business. Price based on the value you offer and not based on fear of competitors.

  • Bloated roster. I often see a bloat cost equal to around 10% of business labour cost.

  • Wrong trading hours. Some stay open too long while others are not open long enough. Either way has a cost to the business.

  • Being blind to theft. Theft in local indie retail retail costs on average between 3% and 5% of turnover. Not watching for it, tracking it and mitigating against it has a cost to the business.

  • Ignorance. No, it’s not bliss. There are insights in software that can guide better decisions, faster decisions, more financially rewarding decisions. Yet, too many in retail don’t want to know.

This is a list of seven action items from which any small business retailer could benefit. Pick any or all of these ahead of spending time going on social media calling for people to pay by cash instead of a card and you will gain more benefit for bottom line.

Tower Systems provides easily actionable POS software use advice to local small business retailers

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Each week we provide our customers with easy actionable advice on easy to use the POS software we make to run more valuable local retail businesses. here is advice we provided our customers last week:

Good morning. Grab a coffee or tea and spend 5 minutes with us:

Open Retailer. Go to Reports. Select the last option, Insights Dashboard. Click on What’s Not Selling. This tab will list products not performing. You can adjust settings to suit your specific business.

Stock that is not selling is dead stock, capital tied up, space tied up.

Once you know what is not selling you have the opportunity to act in a targeted way to quit the dead stock and not order it again.

Many retailers ignore looking at dead stock. Some don’t want to know while others are scared to discover it and others don’t think it is important.

In our experience, a retailer looking at dead stock for the fist time will discover that around 20% of their total stock on hand is dead. In a business with $120,000 in stock, that’s $24,000 in capital at risk. Can you afford to have $24,000 doing nothing for your business?

Listing dead stock is one way you can make more money from your business by using your Retailer software.

The Insights dashboard provides easy access to actionable insights into your business. It helps you make more money.

Do it now: Open Retailer. Go to Reports. Select the last option, Insights Dashboard. Click on What’s Not Selling.

If you’d like help doing this or understanding, please reach out. Also, our knowledge base offers an awesome video about the Insights Dashboard.

The feedback from our customers about this and other advice encourages us to each week provide ready to use advice to our customer community. Since we only serve local small business retailers, our approach is targeted. Their needs are similar across the various retail channels in which we serve.

Now, in our advice when we refer to Retailer we are referring to our own POS software. That’s been its name for 27 years now. We changed the name in 1997.

We’re not your usual POS software company. We are grateful to offer practical retail management help and advice beyond what its usual for software companies.

Small business retail management advice: greeting customers

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The sales clerk asks Can I help you?  You answer No thanks, I’m just looking. You wander ar=round the shop and the sales clerk goes back to what they were doing.

It’s a fail in retail.

If you don’t ask a shopper if you can help them, they don’t have an opportunity to say I’m just looking thanks.

Consider changing your opening with shoppers, ditch the old script of opening by asking how can I help?

Consider a welcome greeting of it’s great to see you today or thanks for stopping by or even simply hi. You could try more active engagement like we just got this in, or have you seen this, it’s really cool while showing a product.

Too often in retail team members are trained in scripts to use and requested to follow them by rote. Scripts dehumanise human interaction, they can make what is meant to feel like conversation shallow, useless, noise.

We think it is critical retail team members are encouraged to ditch scripts and be in the moment when engaging with shoppers. It is important all team members feel trust from the business in their ability to engage.

Oh, and who are we? We’re Tower Systems, makers of POS software used by thousands of local small business retailers, and we are retailers ourselves – have been since the 1990s. We’re not your usual POS software company.

One way to make opening conversation with shoppers on the shop floor easier is doing more work on the shop floor, moving tasks there that may otherwise be done in a back office or at the sales counter.

You can nurture conversation skills in the shop by engaging with the team in active conversation.

Now, if a customer does say they are just looking, a simple no worries is a good response. Certainly, don’t follow them around or try more questions. Leave them be.

Years ago, retail staff were told to engage with shoppers, pressured even. It was as if staff engagement was the key to sales success. While, for sure, it can play a role in some settings, there are many other factors that drive sales: the right products, a well laid out shop, a happy shopping environment, compelling offers and happy team members to name a few.

Shoppers who are looking are wonderful to have, much better than no shoppers at all.

Auto fulfilment helps local retailers have stock just in time with less capital spent

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The work we have done for retailers and suppliers in the space of auto fulfilment of inventory saves time and money. .

There is evidence that auto inventory fulfilment increases retail sales, benefiting the connected local retailer and the partner supplier. This truly is a win win.

It all starts with good and capable POS software that is tuned to provide the necessary data flow to sit at the bottom of the auto inventory fulfilment relationship.

This is work we have done for years. It has continued to be enhanced as different needs have emerged in this contexts space.

What is auto inventory fulfilment?

It’s simple really, sales data flows from the local retail business to the partner supplier and once inventory in the story hits a trigger point, the supplier targets fulfilment based on agreed rules and processes.

This works well when a supplier supplies a range of products – allowing for the order needs for items to be grouped together for a more efficient delivery.

The retailer can see the sales data in their POS software as can the supplier in their IT systems. Nothing is shared about products related to any other supplier.

Auto inventory fulfilment can leverage just in time opportunities, reduce inventory investment by the local small business retailer, save space and save time.

It can help the supplier with supply management and manufacturing if they make what they sell.

The keys here are efficiency of space, capital and labour. And, of course, POS software is at the heart of it. Everyone involved benefits -t the local small business retailer using smartphones POS software and their IT connected suppliers.

Auto inventory fulfilment facilitated through POS software is another innovation available to local small business retailers, it is something big retailers have had access to for many years.

Tower Systems is grateful to offer specialised retail POS software for garden centres, sewing shops, music shops, pool maintenance and supply businesses, produce businesses, fishing bait and tackle businesses, firearms dealers, newsagents, pet shops, adult shops, bookshops, jewellers, toy shops and more.

Our customers are local family run businesses across Australia and New Zealand.

Advice for retailers frustrated about EFTPOS fees

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Retailers often complain about the cost of accepting payment by cards compared to cash.

The thing is, every method of payment has a cost, including cash. In my experience working with retailers, the cost of cash is higher because of theft. However, it is not easily seen, especially in retail businesses that do not research or teach theft.

Here are some business ideas for addressing the cost of EFTPOS:

  1. Promote cash payment – if you want the costs associated with cash of course.
  2. Be clear as to the cost of using a card. You could apply a surcharge, which I think is a ridiculous idea though.
  3. Price knowing that cards will be used by customers. Build the cost into your pricing model. Keep the bump under 1.5% and it is less likely to be noticed.
  4. Lower a cost elsewhere to cover the cost. Shaving a hour of employee rostered time can save you around $30.00, that’s equal to purchases of $3750.00 on a card – depending on the type of card used.
  5. Increase sales. While you should be focussed on this anyway, increasing sales helps you address the EFTPOS cost and more in the business.

If you are annoyed/upset/angry about EFTPOS fees, we suggest you look at parts of your business over which you have control and that offer a better return from your physical and emotional attention:

  1. Dead stock. A problem not seen is not a problem to too many. In the average indie retail business, dead stock is equal to at least 3% of turnover.
  2. Stop running out of stock. Manual process for stock reordering, by retailers and suppliers, regularly result in sell-outs, and, therefore, missed sales. Every time that happens it is a cost to the business. In a retail business I looked at recently, the cost of sell-outs was more than $12,000 in a year, or $6,000 in gross profit, all because of poor re-ordering management.
  3. Bloated roster. Some prefer to spend money on people so they have time to themselves for relaxing, golf or to sit in the back office, where no customer purchases from. I often see a bloat cost equal to around 10% of the roster.
  4. Wrong trading hours. Some stay open too long while others are not open long enough. Either way has a cost to the business.
  5. Being blind to theft. Theft in local indie retail costs on average between 3% and 5% of turnover. Not watching for it, tracking it and mitigating against it has a cost to the business.
  6. The wrong product mix. GP% is a key measure of retail business performance. Increasing yours beyond what is traditional for your channel provides you with a buffer. For example, transaction count / sales can decline and you can be okay. Measure GP%. Set a goal. Chase it. The air is cleaner in above average.
  7. Ignorance. No, it’s not bliss. There are insights in your software that can guide better decisions, faster decisions, more financially rewarding decisions. Yet, too many in retail don’t want to know. That failure costs them plenty.

The items on the above list are all on the retailer to address. The benefit is that addressing these results in a stronger, leaner and more valuable retail business.

5 ways small business retailers can use POS software to help improve sales counter workflow

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Here are 5 valuable and easy to implement ways retailers use our Point of Sale software (POS software) to reduce labour costs in their local retail businesses:

  1. Sales counter workflow. Smooth. Easy. Smart. Accurate. Few keystrokes. Easy for even casual staff who are not in the business often. In our POS software it is smart, efficient, streamlined and labour cost saving.
  2. Match revenue and roster. Focussing on rostering to revenue and revenue opportunity is a challenge for small business retailers. Tools in the POS software from Tower Systems help indie retailers do this with ease and consistency. These are tools retailers love as they can drive revenue reduction and / or labour cost reduction.
  3. Smart stock control including reordering. By eliminating manual processes around placing orders for replenishment stock, retailers are able to, in one place and at one time, accurately create orders based on business performance data.  By ordering based on business activity (sales) the business do working based on success rather than gut feel. A business switching to ordering from within their Point of sale system can expect to free up cash by reducing non-performing stock. This process is further improved through digitally engaged supplier relationships.
  4. Customer management including accounts and loyalty. Through computer-based customer accounts and loyalty management, the retail business is able to transact with customers accurately, in a timely manner and in a way which puts customers first.  Generating monthly customer statements, for example, could take a few minutes whereas manual processes could take many hours and face challenges with accuracy.
  5. Fact assisted decision making.  Too many retail businesses spend too much time spinning their wheels pursuing decisions because they are not using business facts to feed these decisions.  All to often we see poor business decisions made based on emotion and or ignorance rather than historical business data.  Replace the error prone and fact-less approach with a fact-based approach and a business will soon find that decisions are more right than wrong.  Retail businesses can bank on the results.

These are just 5 of the ways in which our Point of Sale software helps 3,500+ small business retailers in Australian and New Zealand to improve the management of their businesses, streamline processes and drive more efficient allocation of labour resources.

Local retailers in Australia could benefit from engaging with Halloween

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I am back from a quick trip to the US – New York, Wisconsin (several small towns and Los Angeles).

It was fascinating to see the total embrace of Halloween, in all retail sectors: jewellers, garden centres, bike shops, pet shops, toy shops, homewares shops, fabric shops, gift shops, landscape businesses, bookshops, fashion stores.

While I have seen Halloween in the US plenty of times before, this time I paid attention to the range of retail businesses engaged.

Retailers in every category embrace Halloween as an opportunity for fun. They also use it as an opportunity for in-store events to reconnect with the local community.

What I saw was much more than candy and trick or treating … it was a seasonal embrace with fun at the heart. There were events, sales, photo opportunities and plenty more. Most were very local, and engaging.

Many retailers use it as an opportunity too ease into Christmas with Halloween prep starting in early September.

I like the idea of Halloween right after Father’s Day and as something prior to Christmas being put up in store. While we have done Halloween in our shops previously, in 2024 I think we will take a more US local retail approach and create something quite different for here.

I mention it today because events in-store, in any type of retail business, are vital to helping to be noticed, and attract new shoppers, and new shoppers are vital to all of us in retail.

This photo is from a bike shop / coffee shop in Lake Geneva Wisconsin. I saw people crouch down for a photo. Simple. Effective. Engaging.

There are so many opportunities local retailers can embrace with Halloween beyond what we have seen as common locally.

Bike shops, jewellers, garden centres, toy shops, pet shops, bookshops, gift shops, homewares shops, newsagents and even farm supply businesses all have opportunities in the Halloween space and I saw plenty of examples in the US recently.

In our POS software it’s a season we can help you track, too.

I am grateful for what I got to see. It was heaps fun.

Mark Fletcher
CEO. Tower Systems
mark@towersystems.com.au 0418 321 338

PS. Retail is personal and Halloween leans into this opportunity.

Advice for small business retailers on dealing with increasing retail theft

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We know from the news that retail theft has increased. Shoplifting, stealing, retail theft, call it what o=you like, has a financial cost as well as an emotional cost. It can debilitate business owners, managers and team members, multiplying the total cost to the business.

Employee theft is easier to uncover, track and address than shopper theft.

Good POS software will offer proven tools for indicating potential employee theft and do this in a way that empowers business owners to act before the cost to the business is out of control.

The challenge is that many small business retail owners and managers do not use theft discovery and mitigation tools in POS software. We know because our Tower Systems POS software is well resourced in theft detection and mitigation and too often in talking with customers it is discovered later rather than earlier.

Our advice for retailers on employee theft is to use your software, check regularly, act on the indicators to see if there is something concerning there. In our case here at Tower systems – call or email – one of our senior theft mitigation specialists will help. These are people who have worked with the police and insurance companies on such situations. They will Bring that experience to the table for you.

Shopper theft, shoplifting, stealing of products is best discovered by a regular process of what we call spot stock takes. Choose several high interest product categories and every week check stock on hand. This will indicate if there is an issue. If there is not, choose another.

Having a consistent approach to spot stock takes if key to the discovery point of shoplifting.

The best deterrent is your action. Here is our advice to be known as a shop not worth stealing from:

  1. Greet people when they enter the shop. Them seeing you see them, eye to eye, will deter some people planning to steal.
  2. Have systems to collect evidence: CCTV and, when appropriate, matching POS software data.
  3. Always report people caught to the police.
  4. Write about reporting it to the police on social media.
  5. If you have camera evidence of theft but no knowledge of the name, use the photo to try and figure out the identity.

If the problem in your shop is serious and at a point where it is distressing you, consider bringing in a uniformed security guard for a week or two. While there is a cost with that, it makes a physical statement about your approach to the security of your space.

Complaining about theft is not action.

Catching someone and getting your goods back is inadequate action.

Not acting on a hunch because of a fear for what you might discover is not action.

Theft requires action. Typically in local small business retail it is costing the business somewhere between 3% and 5% of turnover. In our experience, retailers trend to not act because they are not sure where to start.

Here at Tower Systems we offer guidance to retail business owners on what to do, actions to take, processes to establish to at least get a handle on what might be happening. That is the best place to start if the business has not been acting consistently up to that point.

Free small business retail advice: Bing Business Profile. Steps you can take to be more easily found.

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Further to our advice in recent emails on how to setup your Google Business Profile, here is advice on doing the same for Bing:

How to set up Bing Places for Business and Connect it with Google My Business

Yes, Bing is a thing. It is growing in popularity as a search engine. It’s leading on Ai integration and that is one reason for growth in its use.

Now, the why: Establishing a strong online presence is crucial to being found, especially by people nearby, searching on their phone. One effective way to ensure your business gets discovered by potential customers is by leveraging local search platforms like Bing Places for Business and Google My Business. In this article, we guide you through the process of setting up Bing Places for Business and offer advice on connecting it with Google My Business to maximise your online visibility.

Here is our advice, which we have followed for our Malvern store.

Part 1: Setting Up Bing Places for Business

  1. Create a Microsoft account: To get started, you’ll need a Microsoft account. If you don’t already have one, visit the Microsoft account creation page and follow the instructions to sign up.
  2. Access Bing Places for Business: Once you have a Microsoft account, navigate to the BingPlaces for Business website (https://www.bingplaces.com/) and sign in using your account credentials.
  3. Claim your business listing: On the Bing Places for Business homepage, search for your business using its name, address, or phone number. If your business appears in the search results, claim it as your own. If not, proceed to create a new listing by selecting the “Add new business” option.
  4. Provide accurate business information: Fill out the required fields with accurate and up-to-date information about your shop, such as the name, address, phone number, website URL, and category. Make sure to be consistent with the details you provide across different online platforms.
  5. Enhance your listing: Bing Places for Business allows you to enhance your listing by adding photos, business hours, descriptions, and other relevant information. Utilise these features to make your listing more appealing and informative to potential customers. These details also help when people search.
  6. Verify your listing: After submitting your business information, you’ll need to verify your listing to prove that you’re the rightful owner. Bing Places for Business offers various verification methods, including phone verification, email verification, or postcard verification. Choose the method that suits you best and follow the instructions provided. We used the phone verification and it was fast, and easy.
  7. Keep it up to date. This is important. It’s also why we outline advice on connecting to Google My Business.

Part 2: Connecting with Google My Business

  1. Sign in to Google My Business: If you haven’t done so already, sign in to your Google account and visit the Google My Business website (https://www.google.com/business/) to access the platform.
  2. Add your business: Click on the “Manage now” button and enter your business name in the search field. If your business appears in the results, select it and proceed to claim it. If not, click on the “Add your business to Google” option.
  3. Provide accurate business details: Fill in the required information about your shop, including the name, address, phone number, website URL, and category. Ensure that the information matches what you’ve provided on Bing Places for Business.
  4. Verify your business: Google My Business requires verification to confirm your ownership. Similar to Bing Places for Business, you can choose from various verification methods, such as phone verification, email verification, or postcard verification. Follow the instructions provided to complete the verification process.
  5. Optimise your listing: Take advantage of the features offered by Google My Business to optimise your listing. Add high-quality photos, specify your business hours, provide a detailed description, and encourage customers to leave reviews. The more complete and engaging your listing is, the better it will perform in search results.
  6. Link Bing Places for Business and Google My Business: To connect the two platforms, visit the Bing Places for Business dashboard and locate the “Connect to Google My Business” option. Follow the provided instructions to link your Bing Places listing with your Google My Business account. This connection enables seamless sharing of your business information across both platforms.

Here are some additional tips to consider:

  1. Consistency is key: Ensure that the information you provide on both platforms is consistent and matches the details displayed on your website and other online directories. This includes your business name, address, phone number, and website URL. Consistency helps build trust and avoids confusion for customers.
  2. Utilise keywords: Incorporate relevant keywords in your business description, category selection, and other fields. This helps search engines understand the nature of your business and improves your chances of appearing in relevant search results. And, you can adjust these as you go.
  3. Monitor and respond to reviews: Regularly check and respond to customer reviews on both BingPlaces for Business and Google My Business. Engaging with your customers demonstrates excellent customer service and shows potential customers that you value their feedback – even if it is negative.
  4. Add additional business attributes: Both platforms offer the option to add extra attributes to your listing. Take advantage of these features to highlight special offerings, amenities, accepted payment methods, or any other relevant details that may attract customers to your shop.
  5. Share photos and videos: Visual content plays a crucial role in attracting customers. Add high-quality photos and, if possible, videos that showcase your products, services, and the ambiance of your shop. This visual representation helps potential customers get a better sense of what to expect when visiting your business.
  6. Monitor analytics: Both Bing Places for Business and Google My Business provide analytics and insights on how users are interacting with your listings. Monitor these analytics regularly to gain valuable insights into customer behaviour, popular search terms, and the overall performance of your listings. Use this information to optimise your strategies and improve your online visibility.

Remember, maintaining an active and updated online presence is an ongoing process. Regularly review and update your information, respond to customer inquiries, and adapt your strategies based on analytics to stay ahead in the competitive online marketplace.

By following these steps and implementing effective strategies, you can leverage the power of BingPlaces for Business and Google My Business to enhance your shop’s visibility, attract more customers, and boost your local presence.

We get that this can feel daunting, time consuming and not necessarily immediately valuable. Our advice is that it is valuable, and well worth doing.

Do not pay someone to do this work for you. It’s your business, your digital shop front, your responsibility to set your own narrative.

Aussie small business retailers love using AI to create better product descriptions

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ChatGPT integrated POS software from Aussie company Tower Systems auto-generates more meaningful products descriptions, saving time and removing a pain-point for small business retailers.

Released in February 2023 and fine-tuned since, the ChatGPT integration is loved by retailers.

The product descriptions are concise and tuned for search engine success.

“We run 3 shops ourselves and love the time this saves,” commented Mark Fletcher, Managing Director of Tower Systems. “The ChatGPT integration generates the description based on simple prompts. The retailer can review the text, and adjust if necessary.”

“Local small business retailers are time-poor so anything we can do to save time is a win.”

In a typical shop, coming up with a description for a new product can take several minutes with a range of factors to be considered. The ChatGPT integration eliminates this. The feedback from customers using the new facility are encouraging and motivating to the software developers as it recognises the practical value of their focus on productivity enhancements.

“Looking at product descriptions from many small business retailers, we found many were overwritten and not tuned to search engine needs, thereby denying sales opportunities to these businesses.”

The ChatGPT integrated POS software update was provided to the Tower customer community for no cost. Retailers using the software have the option to not use the AI integration.

It is part of a suite of POS software enhancements that targeted productivity improvements for local small business retailers who use the Tower Systems POS software.
Here is what the ChjatGPT integration looks like live:

Tower Systems serves more than 3,000 local specialty retailers in Australia: newsagents, pet shops, jewellers, garden centres, farm supply businesses, bike shops and gift shops.

The company also owns and runs 3 high street shops in Melbourne and 6 online retail businesses.

Advice for retailers following the Google core update

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Four days ago, Google announced that it had released a core update. This has implications for all businesses that are found via Google searches.

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Whenever Google updates its search ranking algorithms, your website can do better or worse in the search results. It is important to watch how your website is impacted.

Google offers useful advice on dealing with the implications for a core update, including this excellent and practical advice:

We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward. To learn more about how to create content that’s successful, see our help page on how to create helpful, reliable people-first content. It has questions that you can ask yourself when assessing your own content.

This is key for any local small business retailer with a website: ensure your contact is unique, fresh, and valuable to the reader.

Our advice to retailers for whom we have developed websites connected to our POS Software is to ensure content is fresh, useful and updated as appropriate. 

We recommend against paying content farms, AI platforms or others to write content for you. If you are an expert, be the expert. Consider using your name, as a byline, on pages you have written.

Consider deleting pages that are out of date. Quality matters more than quantity.

Ensure product descriptions are your text and not that supplied by a supplier to all retailers they supply. Unique content matters.

Consider questions you answer. Do your answers on your website make you an authority? What changes could you make to be more of an authority?

Make sure page headings are relevant to the content.

Think about the humans you want to attract to your business, write for them and not for a search algorithm.

Every page on your website needs to have a human related purpose, the Google algorithms consider this.

If your business website contains any pages written by others, especially if those pages were created offshore, review them thoroughly and ensure your voice is heard, ensure the pages reflect what you want said about your business and its offers.

Here at Tower Systems we create and support POS Software for specialty retailers, and we create websites for retailers using our software. 

We are grateful to serve more than 3,000 local and independent retailers in Australia and New Zealand.

If you’re looking for new POS Software, we’d love to find out more about your needs:
Australia: 1300 662 957
NZ: 0800 444 367
Email: sales@towersystems.com.au
Website: www.towersystems.com.au – where you can easily access videos of software demos and our pricing.

Thanks for reading.

Mark Fletcher
Managing Director
Tower Systems International (Aust.) Pty Ltd
ABN 61 007 009 752
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-fletcher-tower/

PS. Your web developer may say that they will update the content on your website to leverage the Google changes. While that may appeal as a time saver, it is important that the content in your website reflects your expertise.

The most important competitor a local small business retailer has is themselves

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Too often in local retail business we get in our head about big business competitors when the most important competitor any local small business retailer has is themselves.

Here at Tower Systems we develop and support POS software for local specialty retailers. We are retailers ourselves, too.

We’ve worried too much about big business competitors ourselves when wonderful opportunities can be seen when we look at ourselves as our own competitor.

This short video speaks to this opportunity.

POS software digital receipts, roster integrations and self-checkout help local independent retailers shine

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New in the Aussie made and supported Tower Systems POS software:

  • Roster integration solutions direct connected to our POS software: Tanda, Deputy and Planday (by Xero).
  • Digital receipt platform Slyp – for businesses and customers who prefer a digital record over paper receipts.
  • Shopper self-checkout using indie-retail focussed hardware and a new release of our software.

Plus, Tower Systems customers have free access to our FREE online marketplace: www.findit.com.au, a place designed to drive in-store shopper traffic. Simply tick a box and your products are listed at FindIt, helping you be found by more people.

FindIt is a marketplace where you will find a broad range of products from local small business retailers. If you prefer to shop local and shop small, FindIt is a platform sure to interest you. Retailers connect to FindIt through their Tower Systems POS software.

Local shopping is good for the local community since local businesses tend to hire locally, spend locally, source inventory locally and engage locally.

Those who care about the local community will; tend to support local businesses for these reasons.

Local shopping is a win for everyone given the circular nature of the local economy.

The more we shop where we live the more those businesses can support local community groups and hire locally.

We all benefit from this.

The other benefit of local shopping is that it tends to be at local small businesses. These businesses tend to h

Our goal is to help local independent retailers run healthier, happier and more valuable businesses. We nurture this through our POS software, our engaged customer service and through free enhancement opportunities, like FindIt.

We have demos publicly available for each specialty retail channel at www.towersystems.com.au. You don’t have to register, give your email or your phone number to watch.

Our www.findit.com.au free marketplace for retailers using our POS software is gaining traction with Google and Bing.

We have more than 100,000 items not currently showing because of lack of images of images. Google wants images. What you can see live is products with good images and good descriptions.

To list your products for free, start by clicking here: https://www.towersystems.com.au/findit-vendor-signup

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