Retailers using the Tower Systems Point of Sale software have rushed to take up the opportunity of the ground-breaking Discount Voucher facilities released for commercial use in Retailer 2.5.
Seen as a game-changer in shopper loyalty stakes, the Discount Vouchers facilities are being discussed by Tower users when talking about the update. the company is tracking uptake and it’s considerable.
While the Tower software continues to support VIP / loyalty cards (as it has done for many years) if’s this new and innovative approach to shopper loyalty that has captured the imagination of the Tower retailer community.
By front-ending the loyalty reward, the Discount Vouchers engage shoppers earlier. They also enable the capture of shopper details for marketing and promotions – offering the best of the old and the innovation of the new.
While they have been in live use since February this year, Discount Vouchers were only commercially released to the wider Tower user community earlier this month.
Small business retailers don’t get many days off from their shops with seven day trading and late trading usually two nights a week. This is why today is a bonus with just about all shops closed. But while shops are closed, retailers are often busy at home and working on paperwork, using the day off – or some of it at least – to get caught up.
We make sure we are available on days like today for urgent issues if they come us. Some of us at Tower Systems are doing what our customers do today, working on some quiet time activities so we’re better prepared for when everyone is back on deck.
Such is the nature of small business ownership. Days when you are closed are days of opportunity for getting other things done. Understanding this is important to good customer service.
So to all small business retailers out there taking the ‘day off’ to get some work done … we hear you and empathise with you.
While mainstream media outlets appear to enjoy reporting difficult times for retailers, Tower Systems is pleased to report a good start to 2013. Retailers are investing in their businesses.
Sales of our Point of Sale software are good across a range of marketplaces. It’s a broad range of engagement that helps us to understand the state of retail, small business retail actually, in Australia.
Our experience and perspective differs with the negative press of the last week. We can only put this down to our relentless focus on small and independent retailers, a sector of retail often overlooked in sales data and other KPIs reported in such reports on the state of retail.
Small and independent retailers, especially those well rounded in their local communities, continue to do well. The current tax breaks from the federal government help focus attention on the POS software opportunities.
While the vast majority of retail employees we have met are honest, there are some who steal from their employer. Christmas is a time of an increase in theft by retail employees. Here is our advice for retail business owners for cutting the cost of theft by retail employees:
Change the passwords that provide access to the most sensitive data right away and do not given them to anyone unless absolutely necessary.
Change the roster, shake things up.
Remove all handbags, phones and personal items from the counter.
Get employees out of any non-uniform clothing with pockets.
Implement random end of shift cash balancing several times in the day unannounced.
Use employee cards for tracking sales by employees – these are better than a three code employee code.
Stop employees ringing their own purchases up.
Treat your business as you would a large bundle of $100 notes. The more serious you are about managing your cash the more of it that will make its way to your bank account.
Talk to any retailer and they will tell you that shopper theft is a serious problem year round and worse at Christmas. From stealing complete items off the shop floor to removing items or parts from packaging and taking what they want to defrauding you of cash at the register, it’s expensive to the business as well as disheartening.
Our work with retailers in a variety of retail channels has helped us develop some simple advice to help retailers cut customer theft. This advice is as relevant at Christmas as at any time of the year. Here is our advice:
Know what is being stolen. This is the most important step by a long shot. If you know, you can take steps. How do you know? Spot stock takes are the best approach as they quickly advise the difference between what you have in stock compared to theta your smart POS software tells you. We have free training and advice sheets that help with this. A spot stock take can take a few minutes. Once you know the problem, act by managing the stock involved differently.
Scan and track everything. This act alone shows to your employees, customers and yourself that you take inventory seriously.
Issue receipts for every sale. Never give a refund or exchange without the receipt.
Require that amount tendered is entered in your POS software. This reduces shopper fraud at the cash register.
Have your security software integrated with your POS software. This makes it easier to track events.
Inspect bags. This shows shoppers you are serious.
Test yourself. Hire a security expert and see what they can steal without being caught.
Cut the cost of shopper theft in your retail business with these tips and tight shop floor management.
We have seeing the economic value of Halloween grow in a range of retail sectors this year.
While traditionally strong in the gift and party space, Halloween is growing in value in other retail sectors as they embrace the opportunity to use the day and the lead up to it as a reason for themed promotions.
Thanks to shopper touch-points in our software such as ads on receipts and in-sale promotions on customer displays we are seeing more retailers use our Point of Sale software to leverage the Halloween opportunity.
Thanks to our experience in other retail sectors, we have been able to share advice on making the most of the Halloween opportunity ot those embracing Halloween this year for the first time.
While some distance form supporting Point of Sale software, we are thrilled to have experience on which we can draw to provide better customer service.
We are hearing of some excellent Father’s Day 2012 sales results from retailers using our Point of Sale software.
We especially like to hear the success stories where our POS software has helped drive sales – like the use of the customer-facing screens at the sales counter where impulse purchase items are successfully promoted. These screens and the LCD customer displays used by many of our retailers as an effective yet silent point-of-purchase up-sell tool.
Retailers using our Point of Sale software are able to work more commercially successfully with wholesalers through a range of facilities in our software designed to facilitate this.
By eliminating manual ordering of inventory and sharing accurate sales data, the retailer and wholesaler can more closely align their businesses to achieve what both want … sales of products.
The flow of sales data to a wholesaler can trigger purchases as the retail business requires. This can reduce stock being held in the storeroom. It can also provide the wholesaler with sales certainty and thereby reduce the opportunity for the retailer to look at alternative suppliers.
Our Point of Sale software becomes the glue for connecting wholesalers and retailers, building stronger and more valuable relationships for the benefit of both organisation.
retailers benefit from a lower inventory investment and increased sales – this is a double win.
Wholesalers benefit from greater certainty around sales and an ability to more accurately budget and serve their retail businesses.
Working with both suppliers and retailers helps us serve these businesses and their collective needs. This proves added value of our retail management solution for beyond the software we are able to explain and demonstrate how working together form a data flow perspective can help their businesses.
We are proud of our work in this area and appreciate the trust and engagement of retailers and wholesalers.
The news reports of retailers in trouble are bad enough. The commentary suggesting a broader retail problem is more worrying.
While there is no doubt that some retail channels are doing it tough, there are other retail channels enjoying success and plenty of retailers enjoying success.
All of us in retail need to shin lights on the success stories to get the attention of the commentators and their editors who seem to think that stories of dark clouds around retail attract readers.
100% of our revenue comes from retailers. We will end the 2012 financial year with a wonderful sales increase on FY 2011. Retailers are investing in their businesses. Every day we hear success stories.
Many success stories we hear are from small and independent retailers, business owners who are active in their local shop, managing their business with a focus on a genuine local point of difference. We are thrilled to be part of some of these success stories.
While the media will continue to report retail bad news, we will continue to live success in selling to retailers and through them the success they achieve in their retail businesses.
Tower Systems sells Point of Sale software to retailers in a range of retail channels including: garden centres, jewellers, bike retailers, newsagents, homewares shops, gift shops and bookshops. The company serves in excess of 2,500 retailers in Australia, New Zealand and several other countries.
One way bricks and mortar retailers can demonstrate value of the physical shop over an online business is through customer service around handling customer special orders.
Face to face contact offers easier exploration of special interests which can lead to a one-off order being placed. This is challenging with online businesses. While some online businesses offer live customer service, many do not. Many do not accept special orders.
Using our the various vertical market versions of our Point of Sale software, jewellers, bike retailers, homewares shops, gift shops and garden centres are able to easily handle customer special orders. We offer a range of flexibility in handling these. Indeed, our handling of customer special orders has just been further enhanced thanks to insights provided by some of our customers.
The latest customer special orders software enhancements will be in the next update to our software. Our work in this and other areas is proof of our commitment to continual improvement of our software and the continual enhancement of the value our customers can extract from using our software.
Customer special orders are often for higher end, more valuable products. This is another reason to ensure that the process of managing the orders is tight and streamlined and focused on the customer outcome. Having software which is attuned to these business goals can help a retailer focused on special customer service to leverage the opportunity for commercial benefit and for customer satisfaction.
This is an area of our software where the needs of jewellers, bike retailers, homewares shops, gift shops and garden centres aligns, where we are able to have a common software facility for each of these vertical markets. What we have learnt from each of the marketplaces applies to the others.
Helping bricks and mortar retailers redefine their value proposition is something we have been focused on here at Tower Systems for some time. By leveraging the points of difference of live face to face service, retailers can grow in the face of increased competition from online businesses. Our retail management software helps with this. The extent of help will continue to evolve as opportunities become available to us.
Developing the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your small retail business is one of the most important steps you can take in business. A good USP will frame every decision you make. It will also define why you are in business for it goes to the heart of your passion.
Yes, a USP must reflect passion for this is what drives your love of your business … and you do love your small retail business don’t you! This is where small retailers are different to big retailers. Where they get lost in KPIs, share price and other metrics, small business retailers think in personal terms, often with emotion.
So how do you create your USP? Here are some tips we have found useful when working with retailers on this…
Take your time. You will be done when you are done. Getting your USP right is more important than meeting a deadline.
Think. Try and get time away from the business to think about your USP. A good location we have found works is siting on a seat across from the entrance to your retail business.
Love. Work out what you love about your business and / or what you want to love about your business.
Differentiate. Think about what’s special in your area or marketplace about your business.
What do you stand for? If someone says who are you? you will probably answer with the facts. If they say, no, I want more, what makes you special? you will probably, hopefully, take them inside what makes you tick. So, you need to know, what does your business stand for?
Define. Try and put into words your passion and what is special about your business. Brainstorm ideas in ten words or less. Get as many down on paper as you can.
Would you be missed? It is said that people often define their view of themselves by wondering if they would be missed. Think about your small retail business in this way. Would you be missed? If so, how and why?
It might take a few goes, working through these ideas. The result should be something close to a USP for your business.
Your USP needs to be succinct, passionate and unique, something that explains why your business is different and why people should shop with you.
If you think you are close, test it with your employees and family. Test it with yourself too by asking what you would change in the business with this USP in place, what decisions would be different?
A good USP will guide business decisions and provide a framework through which you navigate change in the business. But most important of all, it defines why you are in business.
Key to the Newsagency of the Future workshops we are running around Australia this week and next is a discussion about the need for a USP, a Unique Selling Proposition, and consideration of what a good USP could be.
With so many newsagents and suppliers in the room at the same time, the USP discussion is timely and valuable. Already we are seeing some creative ideas emerge as well as new newsagent / supplier relationships evolve from the business building discussion.
With our technology taking a back seat in the discussion we are showing genuine concern for the need for newsagents to adjust to changed market conditions. These are not sales workshops … they are tower Systems presenting its point of difference quite practically and valuably.
The workshops will be followed up with worksheets to guide participants into action, so that the sessions do lead to genuine change in the businesses of the attendees.
Small retailers are vitally important economically and socially to Australia from the employment they provide to the local communities they support to the innovation they drive.
By small retailers we mean retailers turning over $500,000 a year or less.
These small retailers are more likely to be self funded and local, operating from one shop. They are the types of businesses which struggle to access low-cost capital, leaving the owners to invest sweat equity and find smart ways of operating.
We love these small retailers and their innovation. We love what they bring to our country economically.
This is why we support small and independent retailers – for the contribution the make to our country nationally and locally. Indeed, we serve around 2,500 of these small retailers today so we know about about their operation from inside out. We get to work with them daily and through this have developed a deeply held respect for what they do.
So while governments fling hundreds of millions of dollars at big business, small retailers are often innovating and contributing without any government support, supporting down the line employment opportunities for other businesses. The innovation and local community from small retailers is, in our view, more valuable than some government supported big businesses.
While our software is used by some large businesses, some doing hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, more than 75% of our customers are in small retailers … hence our passion for this niche of Australian retailers.
We are thrilled to be helping a group of retailers leverage coupon marketing to drive sales efficiency. Largely untapped in Australia, coupons are widely used in the US and some European countries with great commercial success.
The first steps we have taken are innovative and use existing facilities in our software to track redemption. We will watch how this opportunity is used by retailers and further enhance coupon opportunities within our software based on retailer feedback and supplier engagement.
A good coupon campaign leverages suppliers as much as retailers in delivering innovative. We are talking with several suppliers on how to help bring more retailers to the coupon opportunity.
While we do not expect Australian coupon use to evolve as far as the US experience where weekend newspapers often carry hundreds of coupons, we do expect good growth in this marketing opportunity as retailers realise the positive impact on basket building which could be achieved.
Our work on coupons includes researching the US experience first-hand, talking with suppliers and retailers on how they use then and then starting discussions on opportunities in Australia.
This is genuinely innovative work for retail in Australia. We are proud to be in a leading position on this.
Despite what is reported by the mainstream media, our assessment is that independent retail is travelling well in Australia. Certainly that is what we hear from many small and independent retailers using our retail management software.
With well over 2,000 retailers as customers, we get to canvass trading performance information. This is what leads is to acknowledge that retail at the independent level is travelling well. Sure there are speed bumps here and there. However, retailers offering a valued unique selling proposition and backing this with excellent customer service are generating excellent sales growth on last year.
We are sharing this message of retail success at our current round of user meetings and highlighting the good news in retail and outlining how retailers can leverage our retail management software to help them deliver these points of difference and drive their own success.
We refuse to feed into the media infatuation of doom and gloom for retail. Not only because we are a positive bunch here but because such pessimism should not be lumped on all retailers. There are success stories out there and concentrating on these helps not only the retailers but also Australian shoppers.
Retailers using the Point of Sale software from Tower Systems have access to a range of free marketing opportunities with which they can grow their retail businesses Here is a list of some of the free marketing you can engage in using our point of sale software:
Coupons on receipts. Receipts can be more than a record of sale. Add a coupon to the base and lure customers back into your business – like your own shop-a-docket. Good software can include coupons based on what was purchase, the amount spent and or other criteria as appropriate. The keys to successful coupons are – a compelling offer with a sunset and which is presented simply and attractively.
Promotions on accounts. Never send mail without including a promotion – including and especially statements and accounts. These can easily contain a promotion printed on the statement or account – it’s easy to have your software do this automatically. It’s free and silent marketing effort.
Up-sell during the sale. Use your point of sale software to guide staff on up-sells for items. The promotional script appears on the screen without interfering with the sale but reminding staff of the offer. The key with good during the sale up-selling is that the offer is compelling and easily pitched. Track success by staff and reward success.
Two for one, three for two etc. Using your software, easily offer discounts for volume purchases. Your sales staff need do nothing since the software can track the offer and apply the discounted pricing for quantity purchase. You can set start date and times and end date and times. It’s easy and fast to setup. You can make this for one item or a whole catalogue. Also, you can run multiple offers at any one time or over times which crossover. The keys are: make the offer compelling, promote it in the usual place for the stock as well as at in a high traffic location.
Loyalty marketing. Reward customers for spending more than usual. THIS IS IMPORTANT – too often I see newsagents for rewarding customers for doing what they usually do. No, reward them for EXTRA EFFORT. Using the loyalty facilities included in the Tower software, you are able to accrue points for customers and offer these as a form of currency. Running your own VIP Club or some similar named loyalty program is easy to setup and manage. The system tracks points and lets customers know balances etc on receipts and via correspondence generated by the software.
Customer database marketing. Using the marketing tools in the Tower Systems software you can quickly trawl your customer database based on what your customers have purchased, when and for how much as well as using other criteria. The key is to track customer details. This is why most businesses run a loyalty program – not so much for customer rewards but for research about customers and what they purchase. The Tower software has excellent tools for this. Email, mail or call them with the offer – low cost marketing which should drive more sales.
Trawl your data. Track what sells with what. The 10×10 report is excellent for this, it lists the top ten items sold with the top ten items sold. See what customers buying your top ten items are likely to buy, place these near the top sellers so more will buy them. Just looking at this data will unlock more opportunities for you.
Gift cards. Give your customers something they can buy for family and friends which locks in business for you. Gift cards only work if the giver feels that the recipient will find something they like at the store – your store.
Service, service, service. Customer service is the most important differentiator in retail today, especially in newsagencies. Sure, you can discount and use price as a differentiator but where is the commercial sense in that? No, customer service is king. Customer service is a marketing activity.
There are several ways you can use your Tower Systems software to drive better customer service:
Give out receipts. Receipts build trust. You can set the minimum value to trigger printing and reduce paper wastage. I’d suggest $4.95 – given the price of what newsagents sell, this will be more than a single item in most cases or if it is a single item it’s got a value which warrants a receipt.
Thank your customers. Be sure to include thank you text on your receipts.
Being consistent. The Tower Systems software can remind staff of your greeting and thank you process during a sale.
Offer extra advice. You can setup advice to share with any item you sell. This displays on the screen when you scan an item. Take time to set this up and have your team provide this advice as an extra free service.
Use a customer display. This shows what is being scanned and the price being charged. It will build trust.
Train your team. Make sure they can answer questions about accounts and stock items quickly. For example, using ALT/T you can quickly let a customer know when you next expect to receive a magazine in.
Use the software. Putaways are big business for newsagents who do them but frustrating. Newsagents using our putaway tools save a ton of time and improve customer service through personalised labels (and barcodes), text messages when issues come in and tracking when they are collected. This saves time and dramatically improves customer service.
Process cards at the register. Using the PC Eftpos link you can process credit and debit cards at the register, cut time and improve sales accuracy. While there is a cost for this, the benefits for the business and the improved service for your customers could make it well worthwhile.
There are many more ways you can market your business for little or no cost. The ideas in this report are designed to get you started. The key is to do something and do it right away. Then, next week, do something else. Change in how you market your business is essential. If, for example, you go with the ideas of including a coupon on receipts, run it for a week and have at least two more coupons ready to run – each for a week.
While plenty in Australia have a day off today to celebrate our national day, in the retail sector many do not. Major shopping centres choose to open today and this means that retailers must open as well – it is usually a requirement of their lease.
Because of the high cost of loabour on a day like today, often close to $50 an hour, small business retailers will tend to work the day themselves, to save costs.
While it would be reasonable to argue that these small business retailers have chosen to go into business for themselves, there are opportunities in the calendar for shopping centre landlords to grant a day off. Australia Day is one such day. It is not a big shopping day – go to any shopping mall and see for yourself. Aussies will be at the beach, gathering around a BBQ or in the pub. Not shopping.
Closing on Australia Day to give not only retail employees but small business owners a day off would be an excellent move by landlords. It would improve quality of life and quite possible help improve tenant businesses.
Here at Tower Systems our office s are all closed today. However, our after hours help desk phone as well as our senior management emergency numbers are all working.
Tower Systems Managing Director Mark Fletcher, Gavin Williams our Chief Operating Officer and Nathan Morrison our National Sales Manager have been participating in the US National Retail Federation’s 101st Annual Convention & EXPO in New York this week.
Businesses and individuals focused on and committed to retail and helping retailers are here in NYC this week, looking at and talking about the future of retail from large stores through to small independents around the world.
Participating in retail field trips, meeting other software companies in the retail space, seeing the latest in retail related hardware and icing with world-renowned retail leaders is presenting the leadership of Tower Systems with some valuable insights.
The four-day event is packed with excellent conference sessions on the latest retail trends and the Expo floor is awash with businesses offering leading edge products and services to retailers to help drive more successful businesses.
Already we have participated in some excellent and insightful discussions and learnt about trends which will be useful in planning and developing software and services enhancements.
In all, this event is proving to be an excellent learning opportunity, an ideal to a terrific year for retailers and companies which serve retailers.
We will be sharing insights gained from the NRF conference at our next round of user meetings.
We have received reports of some excellent Boxing Day Sale results over the last five days. Some retailers using our Point of Sale software have reported sales up as much as 50% on the excellent results from the previous year. While the news has stories of the numbers from Myer, David Jones and other majors, from where we sit there are plenty of small business retailers with excellent results so far from this year’s Boxing Day Sales.
We have glad to have played a role, however small, in assisting this.
From assisting with handling pricing during the sale through our software too providing two professional posters for our retailers to use, Tower Systems has offered proactive support and assistance to retailers in our community who wanted to leverage the Boxing Day Sale opportunity.
We appreciate opportunities to demonstrate support and assistance beyond what is usually delivered by software companies.
The package of advice and assistance we put together earlier this year for retailers experiencing tough times is proving to be of assistance to those retailers who have tapped into the opportunity.
Designed to provide retailers from a range of channels to see their businesses from a different light and to make efficiency-driving and profit-building changes, our advice is helping according to feedback from some of our customers.
We are fortunate in that we can draw on our own retail business experience – we have owned and operated retail businesses for the last fifteen years – and the experience of others to proved practical business advice which does help retailers respond to challenging market conditions.
Our assistance and advice is provided on a pro-bono basis. This includes providing free access to a special business turnaround report through to in-store consultation and assistance on issues specific to a business.
We are grateful for opportunities to help in this way and for the trust shown by those customers who have sought us out to help. We respect confidentiality and therefore do not speak about specific situations where we have been of assistance.
Our help for retailers doing it tough is available to any of our customers. There is no barrier whatsoever to accessing our assistance.
This service is another point of difference for Tower Systems. It reflects another way in which we go beyond being just a software company and demonstrates how we see ourselves as a genuine partner of the businesses we serve.
The decision by the Reserve Bank to lower interest rates is most welcome. It will reinforce the increase in consumer confidence we have seen in the retail sales data we have seen. It will also reinforce growing retailer confidence.
Leading into the Christmas trading period this is good news. It sets retailers and us up for a good start to 2012.
With confidence for some retailers a day to day, headline to headline, proposition, good news on top of good news is just what they need.
We are heading into the Christmas period with a full order book and plenty of activity for our on-site installation and training teams. The Reserve Bank decision will stretch that well into the new year.
A key function in our software for retailers is the tracking of business for the day and reporting numbers for the end of the shift. Our software manages this well and our training drives consistency among those using it.
We track end of shift numbers here at Tower Systems for help desk call traffic and engagement. We see this as a vital assessment and management tool for our customer service offering.
Every day, at the end of the day, we look at call traffic, closure rates and other KPIs to understand how business has gone for the day. The numbers are vital to developing a view of how we have performed in our customer inbound contact. They are also vital to team management and pursuing the best possible customer service experience for our customers.
The specific numbers are inbound calls, closed calls, closed calls by team members, outstanding issues, feedback from the day. This data is shared with our senior management team to keep them abreast of our customer service performance. This data is laid against regular outbound after the event call quality checks as we undersea d it is one thing to close calls and another to answer questions to the satisfaction of the caller.
A structured of end of day, analysing numbers, for a help desk is the mark of a professional customer service organisation in our view. It shows that we take our role seriously and invest time and money in measuring our performance. This end of shift data analysis of call traffic numbers, coupled with our outbound calls to customers to assess call quality and usefulness, if evidence of our Tower AdvantageTM in action.
Retailers are loving the buy now pay later offer from Flexirent which can be used to pay for our system. While we are agnostic about how our customers finance their system purchase, there is no doubt that the Flexirent offers flexibility at a time in the retail calendar which retailers like. This is why we have been happy to let our customers and sales prospects know about the opportunity.
Retailers purchasing our Point of Sale software can defer payment until 2012, freeing up cash-flow until after the Christmas trading period. In the meantime, our retail management solution can be installed before Christmas so that the business can get the most from the Christmas trading opportunity.
Flexibility in payment timing and structure is important to retailers as is easy of accessing finance.
It was good to see reports overnight of an improvement in retail performance as tracked by the ABS. The ABS report reflects what we are seeing in sales data shared by some of our customers across several retail sectors. The September quarter was strong and early October numbers continue this trend.
We are seeing a mirroring of the retail sales results in the investment retailers are making in technology. We are significantly ahead of where we were this time last year and ahead on budget.
Our retailers are able to easily compare their performance this year with last through a suite of reports and reporting tools in our software. This type of comparison is vital to the success of their business as the most important competitor any retailer has is themselves.
We have shared the details of a Pre-Paid SIM retail display offer with our retailers selling mobile phone recharge through our software. This latest offer gives our retailers over $300 worth of SIM card product for just $35. It also includes a handy display unit for easy and professional merchandising of the SIM packs from Optus, Telstra, Lebara and others.
There is strong evidence that selling SIM packs helps drive recharge business for retailers just as selling handsets drives recharge business.
This new Pre-paid SIM display unit is sure to help our retailers win more of the Pre-Paid SIM and recharge business. We are pleased to have been able to promote the opportunity.
We have over 1,000 active retailers selling recharge.