Trailblazing technology - Back office management simplified for SMEs

How close are we to a cashless society? We’re not there yet, but as consumer spending trends shift away from cash purchases and towards electronic payments, the demands on businesses are growing.

For example, an electronic point of sale (EPOS) system is rapidly becoming a prerequisite for SME owners aiming to grow and develop their business.

Intimidating as this might sound to many smaller businesses, there’s good news; the costs involved with implementing such a system have been significantly reduced by the introduction of cloud-based iPad POS solutions.

Lowered barriers to entry mean SMEs are now able to compete with the enterprise in terms of the payment options they can offer. But the positives don’t end there. EPOS installation provides a multitude of additional benefits to the small business owner. The previous entry in this series focused on the front-of-house features a good POS system should include, and in this piece we’ll address the benefits that appear behind the scenes.

Keeping track - monitoring your customers

Being able to attract new customers is essential for developing a small business, but maintaining ongoing relationships with existing ones is perhaps even more important. Attracting a new customer can be up to 15 times more expensive than keeping an existing one, and research shows that the more familiar a person is with a business, the more money they are likely to spend - so it’s worth looking after your regulars. A POS system with a built-in customer relationship management (CRM) tool is therefore a must.

CRM software can help you collect and manage customer details, providing a wealth of information from which you can identify your most valuable customers, track their spending habits and monitor sales of a specific product. However, many of the more sophisticated CRM tools rely on the input of a customer email address, so look for a POS system that allows you to input these details quickly and easily.

It’s testament to the value of the customer data you obtain that some POS providers will seek to keep it for themselves - or even charge you to access it! Be sure to check the terms and conditions of your contract and only choose a system that allows you to ‘own’ your customer data. With full control of this information, you will be able to export data and use it to create targeted email marketing campaigns via platforms such as MailChimp, Constant Contact and MadMimi. The concept is very simple; if you make your customers happy, they are more likely to return, and CRM tools make this easier.

Powering performance - managing your employees

Happy, motivated and well-trained staff play a key role in providing an excellent customer experience. You may not have considered this, but a good EPOS system is invaluable in helping you monitor, aid and remunerate your employees efficiently.

Traditional cash registers made it possible to put some checks on how cash was managed in your business - and the modern iPad version takes this to the next level. Each and every transaction is tracked and associated with the responsible employee. It’s now even possible to tie this data to your in-store cameras so you can be on top of what’s going on in your business. The ability to track transactions via ‘sales by employee’ reports also allows you to identify your top performers and incentivise them to keep up the good work. At the other end of the scale, the reports can also highlight areas of underperformance, so you can provide struggling staff with further training where necessary.

The ability to view employees clocking in and out from any location (via cloud connectivity) provides you with the peace of mind of knowing your store is fully staffed when working remotely. The really great part? You can take that time-clock data and marry it to your employee scheduling and payroll tools, so you’re only ever paying people for time worked.

Taking stock - mapping your inventory

So we’ve covered customer and staff engagement - what next? As many SME owners are undoubtedly aware, controlling costs and driving revenue are integral to business success. A quality POS system should help you to do both through intelligent inventory management (the process of ordering and tracking the products that you sell). Whether you’re running a clothing retailer or a full-service restaurant, if you can’t identify the items that are costing or generating cash for your business, you will be unable to maximise profitability.

The ability to upload your inventory into your POS system en-masse is a huge time-saver, as you may often want to update more than one inventory item at a time. The system should then automatically match sales and inventory data, so that you can stay on top of the stock you have available. It should also alert you to any price changes introduced by the supplier. For example, if a wholesaler raises the price of a bottle of wine from £7 to £10 and you’re not reacting with your retail pricing, it could severely impact profit margins and even end up costing you money!

In summary, POS systems can be an important time-saver for small businesses - both front of house and behind the scenes. If you’re going to invest in an electronic point of sale, make sure you can reap all these benefits.

Then, as an SME owner or entrepreneur, you’re free to focus on growing and developing your business.

Jason Richelson, CEO of ShopKeep