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How to be Found by Local Shoppers During COVID-19

How to be Found by Local Shoppers During COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis has been traumatic for merchants and shoppers alike. With so many cities, regions and countries under lockdown, normal shopping routines have been disrupted. Many small businesses have adapted to offer alternative ways to shop from phone or chat orders to full online stores with curbside pickup and delivery.

Here are a few steps you can take to make sure local shoppers are aware that you’re open and let them know how they can support your business.

1. Update your Existing Customers by Email

If you’ve been collecting customer emails or regularly send out email newsletters, make sure to update your customers about updated store hours and new ordering methods. Email is often the easiest way in which to quickly communicate with your most loyal customers. Make sure to use an email marketing tool such as MailChimp so that customers can unsubscribe as required by privacy regulations.

2. Update your Google My Business (GMB) profile

One of the easiest and most effective ways you can communicate with your customers is by updating your Google My Business profile and other popular online local directory listings.

At a time like this, your customers are looking for updated information on your business operations. Google and Google Maps are often the first place that shoppers go to look for this information and so, your GMB profile needs to be accurate. 

For example, if your hours of operation have changed because of Covid-19, you are temporarily closed, or are offering curbside pickup, you can update your GMB profile to reflect these changes. 

Here are a few tips for providing the most accurate information to your customers: 

  • Let people know if you have changed your services (e.g. if you are now selling products online through e-commerce or marketplaces, offering curbside pickup etc.)
  • If you are able to sell online, make sure you link your GMB profile directly to your online store to avoid shoppers missing your products.
  • Update your business hours & ensure phone number accuracy 
  • Share any precautions your business is taking (in relation to cleaning and sanitizing products, new procedures, employee policies) 
  • Stay connected to your customers by downloading the Google My Business app and turning on messaging. This way, it will be easier for customers to reach you. 

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Google My Business has also released new features to help merchants communicate with their shoppers about updates pertaining to their businesses. These updates include:

  • The ability to mark a business or location as temporarily closed
  • You can add COVID-19 updates via GMB Posts in order to share timely updates about how your business is responding to the outbreak. Google has even created a tool for you to create free customized marketing materials. If you already have a verified Google My Business account, just visit https://marketingkit.withgoogle.com/ and type in your store name and easily customize the designs.
  • While it does not pertain to retailers, restaurants and quick service businesses can also specify new attributes such as takeout, dine-in, and delivery.
GMB Curbside Pickup

3. Get Added to Local Directory Listings 

Other local directory listings also provide important information about your business to potential customers. Simply put, adding your business and maintaining updated listings in as many directories as possible will make it easier for customers to find you online. 

So if you haven’t already, consider adding your business to the following online directories: 

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve developed Support Retail as a free tool to help connect local businesses to shoppers in the area who are looking for products that their business sells.

Getting listed on these directories helps your business increase your rankings in search results and reach more local shoppers. And the best part is that most of them are free to use and they generally only require a few steps to get set up!

shopper searching online

4. Update your Social Media 

Social media is one of the most useful channels for communicating and connecting with shoppers. Sending customers constant updates via email or SMS can backfire during these stressful times, whereas social media has proven to be much more accessible. Leveraging social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is key to a good communications strategy. 

Here are a few recommendations when it comes to communicating with shoppers via social media:

Update your store on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to let shoppers know how your services have changed. This includes updating your store hours, contact details, and how your business is responding to the current climate.

Make sure to link the Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages for your business directly to your online store as you want shoppers to land directly in your webstore and see products when they click through.

As you can see below, Facebook has also added a special feature that allows business owners to specify how their services have changed in response to COVID-19.

  • Update your store’s Facebook Page to let shoppers know how your services have changed. This includes updating your store hours, contact details, and how your business is responding to the current climate. As you can see below, Facebook has added a feature that allows business owners to specify how their services have changed in response to COVID-19.
Facebook COVID-19 Update
  • Share credible and relevant information: There are a few things that customers want to know right now. Is your store still open? If not, are you taking orders via e-commerce?  How can they contact customer support? What measures are you taking to protect your employees? How are you supporting your local community? What can your local community do to serve you?
  • Help uplift your community and customers: In addition to keeping your customers updated, be helpful and courteous. Remember, the way you respond to this crisis is a reflection of your brand and company values. Your social posts and promotions need to reflect what is going on in the world right now. Otherwise, you risk coming across as tone-deaf or less credible.

5. Update your Website 

Think of your homepage as a digital storefront. Your customers will use your homepage to find any promotions, navigate to product pages, find updates about your business etc. 

Remember: If you are using the TAKU eCommerce WordPress plugin, you will need to link your e-commerce store to your existing navigation menu. Otherwise, your customers will not be able to get to your webstore from your website menu.

Consider having a banner or a section on your homepage that shares important information and updates about how you are responding to the current situation. For example, let shoppers know that you are offering curbside pickup or delivery options, updated customer service contact information, how customers can support you by purchasing gift cards, etc.

Note: Make sure to keep the most up-to-date information at the top of your message as you add new features and remove any outdated information. Customers may be shopping online and may not scroll to see messages further down the page.

Homepage example

6. Do a quick online search

Once you’re published, make sure you do a quick online search of your store to see how you rank in the search results and to make sure all of your links are updated. If you have any old or outdated links that have permanently changed, you can look into doing 301 redirects to get them automatically directed to the new URL addresses. If you’re not familiar with 301 redirects, you can ask your website administrator to assist.


While your physical doors may be closed, that doesn’t mean you can’t be open for business. You can still serve your customers by shifting your business online and offering curbside pickup and delivery options. To help you make the transition, TAKU eCommerce is offering a free trial until July 1st, 2020. Click here to learn more.


We hope you found this article helpful.

Keep an eye out on our blog for more e-commerce tips.

For more information on TAKU eCommerce, click here

COVID-19 Survival Tips for Retailers

COVID-19 Survival Tips for Retailers

👇👇👇 Scroll to Download the PDF Version of our COVID-19 Survival Tips for Retailers!!

For retailers dealing with the impact of COVID-19, shutting down may not be an immediate option, particularly if they are an essential business in their community. Over the past 10 days, we’ve spoken with many small businesses who are looking for ways to better manage the impact. Scroll down for tips on how you can minimize the impact of COVID-19:

Sell Online and Stay in Contact with your Customers

  1. Add or Expand Digital Sales Channels including e-commerce for shipment or pick-up in store. Read more regarding the TAKU special offer to support local businesses who want to start selling online.
  2. Offer Contact-less Options. It is expected that shopper behaviour will be significantly impacted by COVID-19 at least until there is a vaccine developed next year. This means that shoppers will have health and safety top-of-mind for the foreseeable future. Prepare now to make sure you are prepared before your competitors. Take this time to set up “Leave At My Door” delivery options or “pre-scheduled contactless curbside pickup” with orders placed online, by phone, fax or email. These are great options as you have confirmed pre-paid sales before you pack an order, you minimize staff and customer exposure and you avoid the cost of packaging products for shipment.
  3. Make sure you have a Google My Business profile and keep your store hours up-to-date. For a limited time, Google will be showcasing any Posts made on merchant GMB profiles to people searching locally to ensure that local businesses get more coverage in their community. GMB Local Posts are a free (!!) and effective way to stand out in local searches and update shoppers about any new offers, delivery options, etc
  4. Join Local Social Media Support Groups to stay engaged with the community. These are not commercial spaces so don’t sell unless it’s appropriate but find out what your community needs. Here is a great example of a small business that found a way to give back.
  5. Connect with local businesses to pool resources. Large retailers who rely on delivery such as Amazon can’t ship products in a timely manner anymore. There may be an opportunity for your local businesses to step up, particularly if you supply complementary products by offering local delivery together.
  6. Keep an eye out for government Requests for Proposals if you’re in a position to re-tool your business to help address the challenge of COVID-19..
  7. Look for ways to leverage the new “Stay-at-home Economy,” the new market created by demand from family, friends and children in self-isolation as a result of coronavirus. There are reports of sizable increases in at-home related categories including: personal fitness gear, home office equipment, indoor games, home and garden supplies, educational materials and books, hobbies, entertainment-related electronics, direct-to-consumer (DTC) friendly products suitable for mail-order subscriptions such as coffee, etc.
  8. Keep an eye on your POS sales data to see if there are new trends to make sure you are stocking and promoting the products that shoppers want now vs. what they wanted to buy a few months ago.
  9. Take advantage of marketing offers to get free ad credits to reduce the cost of staying in contact with customers. For example, Google has announced $340 million in Google Ads credits available to all SMBs with active accounts over the past year. Credit notifications will appear in your existing Google Ads accounts and can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across Google advertising platforms.
  10. Be flexible and don’t be afraid to take action. A flexible and adaptable mindset is what will get you through this crisis. The situation is changing day-by-day which means you will need to make adjustments in your response. Even if you come up against resistance in the beginning, shoppers will eventually come around because people still need to buy and consume things.
  11. Expect long-term changes in shopper behavior. While some pre-crisis shopper behavior will return, this pandemic will have long-term impact on general shopping behavior. Make sure you’re aware of those changes and adapt your business to match them. My parents are both over the age of 70 and have never ordered anything online in their lives. While they still prefer shopping in stores, needless to say, they are both avid online grocery shoppers now and will likely continue to buy more online in the future as they find it more convenient for re-stocking.
  12. If sell B2B, find a way to pivot to target recession-resistant or essential companies as they will be the most likely to invest in new products or services.

In-Store Management Tips

1) Encourage Visible Hygiene Management in store by having all staff use gloves or wear masks. Have hand sanitizers readily available at the checkout area, near doors with handles, etc. If possible, have staff wipe baskets or trolley handles before passing them to shoppers.

2) Have clear signage to help customers understand the impact of COVID-19 on your store and what to expect for their shopping experience. Download these signs from CFIB to customize for your own business: Temporary Closure Notice, Safety Notice to Visitors

3) Pre-pack bulk goods such as fresh produce wherever possible to minimize touch. Stop offering samples unless they are pre-packaged.

4) Encourage Social Distance In Store by increasing the space in the checkout area between cashiers and where shoppers are waiting to pay. It’s as simple as adding tape on the floor to clearly show where shoppers need to stand as Walmart has done. Costco has famously used pallets to enforce social distance requirements in an orderly fashion.

Walmart Canada, Peter J. Thompson/National Post
Costco Canada entrance, Toronto, Canada

5) Merchandise for fast retail as most shoppers will be shopping for necessity versus discovery. Keeping in mind the social distance required for safety, you will want to consider moving fast-moving goods in an easier to access location.

6) Put up transparent barriers wherever possible to minimize transmission while protecting staff.

Colemans Foods, Newfoundland, Canada

7) Encourage “Contactless” Payments (e.g. tap or Apple Pay) and discourage the use of cash to protect your staff wherever possible. You may even want to increase your “contactless” limit with your merchant processor but remember that you are liable for any potential chargebacks on “contactless” payments.

8) If you are an essential business that is still sourcing, pay special attention to your supply chain. Anything sourced from areas dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases will need alternatives in place. If necessary, even look at your suppliers’ suppliers for critical products.

9) Minimize Any Processes that Require Touch such as loyalty programs that require a tablet or credit card terminals that require optional prompts. Print out a QR code or signage for your web site and encourage users to sign up on their own phones.

10) Review Receipt Management Procedures to train staff to put receipts directly into shopping bags instead of handing them to customers or, even better, ask if they are ok to receive their receipts by email. Remember that privacy regulations require that you get positive customer consent to save their emails for future use so use an integrated email marketing tool to capture consent that will allow customers to unsubscribe themselves.

11) Sell In Store Gift Cards with an Incentive (e.g. extra $15 for every $100 gift card) to encourage shoppers to come back to the store when things are back to normal.

12) Offer Free Pens to shoppers who don’t have their own. It’s a cost-effective gift that discourages the use of public pens and helps customers remember you. Remember to minimize touch when offering them.

13) Communicate Proper Treatment Procedures when staff are sick. Make sure all managers and staff know what to do when they are sick. There is a lot of information out there – be sure to refer to the most credible medical sources in your country. In Canada, that will mean the public health authorities for your province or territory. In the US, the CDC is a reliable authority for guidance. For further details, you can also review the steps to prepare worksplaces for COVID-19 published by the WHO.

14) Minimize the Number of Shoppers In-Store to protect your own employees and make sure that shoppers are both comfortable and safe while in your store.

15) Encourage or Support Donations of Essential Supplies to local hospitals to protect frontline healthcare workers where supplies are short. This is one of the local PPE (personal protective equipment) drives for the Toronto GTA area.

16) Limit Stock Quantities for any essential household and medical products to avoid stock outs. #WeAreAllInThisTogether


For more information regarding government grants and relief programs, click here.

12 Helpful Features You Should Look for in a Retail POS System

12 Helpful Features You Should Look for in a Retail POS System

Owning the right POS system is essential to the success of any retail business. Today, a retail POS system can do much more than just handle payments and record sales – innovative POS technology now functions as a complete retail management system. 

In other words, a feature-rich retail POS system acts as a tool that enables you to both manage and grow your store.

But with so many different retail POS software in the market, how do you find the right one for your retail business?

Whether you’re looking for your first ever POS software or looking to upgrade to a new one, finding the right solution for your retail store doesn’t need to be difficult. 

In this article, we’ve broken down the most important features to consider when choosing a retail POS system. 

12 Key Features to look for in a Retail POS System

 

Point of Sale Features

Let’s begin by discussing all of the features needed in the sales portion of your retail POS. This covers all of the functionalities and features needed for a fast and easy checkout experience. 

grocery store checkout

1) Easy to Navigate Salesscreen: In order to ensure a fast checkout experience, it’s important to look for a POS system that is user friendly and designed for minimum clicksCashiers shouldn’t have to leave the salesscreen in order to complete a transaction.

2) Fast Barcode Scanning: Your retail POS system should be designed for quick scanning speed while giving you the ability to quickly recall your last search. It’s also important that your POS software can handle multiple barcodes per SKU (an internal code, a shortcode, a vendor code(s), and a manufacturer code). 

3) Advanced Inventory Search: Besides handling a high volume of inventory and transactions (read inventory features below), your retail POS software needs to have smart search functions. This will allow you and your employees to search for products by keyword, description, barcode or tag in case labels fall off or are not scannable. 

4) Inventory Management: Inventory is the most important asset you have as a retailer which is why it is necessary to track and keep an accurate count of all of your merchandise.

retail employee doing inventory check

The inventory management component of your retail POS will help you replace tedious methods of inventory control resulting in time, money, and effort saved.

5) Mobile AccessibilityMore and more retailers are recognizing the benefits of cloud technology and consequently, cloud POS adoption is growing at a significant rate. Cloud POS software stores data in the cloud giving you the benefits of remote accessibility, cost-savings, and real-time data accuracy. Click here to learn more about the benefits of cloud POS technology.

You’ll also want to make sure that your retail POSis completely mobile-friendly and can be run on any device. This will enable you to ring in sales anywhere in your store (e.g. on an tablet or mobile phone) which means a faster checkout experience for your shoppers.

6) Cross-Platform Access: Having a POS software that is compatible on any device is important for emergency instances when your store’s internet connection goes down. In the past, it was assumed that offline capability is the best alternative when internet access is down. But the fact is, credit and debit cards are the most popular payment methods for shoppers today, and PINpads won’t work without an internet connection.

Some systems offer the ability to store credit card details in the device until internet is back up but not only is it riskier to shopper payment details, you’re taking the chance of the stored payments not getting approved.

In today’s market, offline capability is not as useful as a smart POS platform that can be logged in from any device. When internet goes down, it’s as simple as securely logging in with a mobile device with data to continue ringing in sales.

7) User Access Rights: It is likely that you will have multiple people working in your business. Which means that your retail POS will need to be able to identify different users and give them tailored access to the system based on their role. User access rights also enable store owners to limit permissions on certain features in your POS (for ex: reports, etc.).

8) Scalability: Look for a POS software that will grow with you as your retail operations scale. Your retail POS should have the following features: the ability to handle high transaction and inventory volume, international tax settings, multi-currency handling, unlimited stores, selling zones and multiple stock allocations. 

These features will allow you to grow and scale with your POS software. Some cloud POS software have limits on the number of users and stores – meaning if you eventually outgrow your existing system, you will need to invest a considerable amount into upgrading or switching to another POS altogether

9) Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

customer relationship management

The CRM component of your retail POS software stores shopper information and allows you to better manage your customer base. It can generate huge benefits for your store – including better customer relationships, sales reports that allow you to make better business decisions and more efficient operations. These benefits ultimately lead to more sales.

10) Bulk Item Import: For fast POS onboarding, you will want to select a retail POS that can import all of your inventory and customer details. Otherwise you will be stuck manually uploading your inventory – which is an extremely tedious and time consuming task.

11) Built-In Training Tools: Smart POS systems today will have self-service functions such as built-in chat support, online knowledge portals and even step-by-step guided products tours. Not only does this minimize your onboarding costs, it ensure that staff can quickly learn how to use the system at their own convenience.

12) Marketing Integrations: Traditional point-of-sale systems are essential to retail operations management but modern cloud POS systems are data-driven which means you can now use your retail store data to drive digital marketing. A POS that has built-in marketing tools will allow you to streamline your marketing efforts so that you can sell more. For example, a POS that integrates to Google will help your retail business appear higher up in search results – resulting in more local foot traffic and sales.


TAKU Retail POS is designed for high traffic retailers looking to increase foot traffic to their physical stores. Join our beta waitlist here

#POSfeatures #retailPOS #retailpointofsale 

How to Actually Improve the Retail Checkout Process in 5 Steps

How to Actually Improve the Retail Checkout Process in 5 Steps

Let’s face it, no-one likes long line-ups. Slow checkout process almost always leads to frustrated shoppers and poor customer satisfaction, which can mean lost sales in the process. 

While the brick-and-mortar checkout experience has long since evolved from the standard cash register, shopper expectations have also risen along with it. Today’s retail shoppers expect a fast and easy checkout experience because of the rise of e-commerce. With convenience at their fingertips, shoppers want what they want and fast.

That’s why we’ve put together the following tips to help you speed up your in-store checkout. Keep reading to find out how you can provide a frictionless experience that will keep your shoppers smiling while you ring in more sales! 

1) Accept different payment methods 

Today, shoppers pay with a lot more than just cash or card. That’s why accommodating different payment methods can go a long way in reducing lineups and speeding up the checkout process. In fact, the more payment options you accommodate, the easier it is for shoppers to check out efficiently. 

To speed up your checkout process, consider enabling the payment types below. 

  1. Contactless Payments: Contactless payments are a faster alternative to chip and pin transactions. In fact, tap-and-pay technology has been adopted by many major credit card companies and is a popular payment option for in-store shoppers. 
  2. Mobile Payments: According to a survey done by Blackhawk Network, three out of five U.S. smartphone users have a mobile wallet. While this is a large chunk of consumers, enabling mobile pay can also help retailers capture sales when shoppers leave their wallets at home. 

Expert Tip! Check your processing contract to see if you are liable for any chargebacks on contactless payments. Though the increase in speed may still be worth the risk of possible chargebacks, you will want to minimize your exposure by encouraging the use of digital wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.) which have secondary authentication. You can also consider having CCTV coverage in your checkout area to deter would-be fraudulent shoppers.

retail checkout

2) Offer a buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) option

Customers value convenience over many things in retail. Checkout is one of the main parts of the shopping experience where convenience is most valued. In fact, 40% of in-store shoppers state that check-out is when convenience is most important to them

One of the best ways provide immediate shopper convenience is a BOPIS option. Physical stores are important because shoppers may not have time to wait for products to ship and are looking for something for immediate usage. BOPIS solves several problems that have increasingly discouraged today’s customers from shopping in-store by:

  1. Optimizing the customer experience by ensuring that shoppers are never disappointed (e.g. products are out of stock) when they get to the store.
  2. Saving shoppers time when they are in the store – everything is already ready for pick-up. Retailers can streamline the process even further by dedicating certain checkout lines and POS stations to BOPIS shoppers. Don’t forget to merchandise around these areas with high-margin “snackable” products to capture any last minute impulse purchases!

According to an article by the Business Insider, almost 70% of US consumers use BOPIS. Buy online pick-up in-store options significantly increase checkout speed because all shoppers have to do is come to the store and pick up their orders. In some cases, 50% of shoppers state that they decide where to buy based on whether they can pick up their orders in-store.

At the same time, BOPIS also boosts sales and profitability for merchants by improving cashflow with prepaid orders, encouraging more impulse buys in-store, reducing overall delivery costs and minimizing returns compared to e-commerce.

It’s important to remember that BOPIS is most effective when used with a retail POS that can handle “unified commerce” as real-time stock levels are key to product availability. Unified commerce is just another way of saying a total retail management platform that offers a single view of inventory, sales, and customer data across an entire business in real time. As expected, the need for real-time data grows as sales volume and transaction complexity increases.

buy online pick up in-store

3) Upgrade to a line-busting POS

One of the best ways to speed up your checkout process is to choose the right POS system. With so many different options out there on the market, it’s best to choose a POS that is designed for checkout speed. Particularly, look out for the following features in your POS software:

  • Cross-platform capabilities that let you turn any device into a station. You’ll want to ensure that your POS is mobile-friendly and that it can be run from any device. Choose a system that lets you ring in sales from anywhere in your store when lineups get too long. This means you can speed up the checkout process for your shoppers based on real-time demand.
  • Easy to navigate salescreen. Look for a POS software that is user friendly and designed for minimum clicks. Ideally, cashiers shouldn’t have to leave the salescreen in order to complete a transaction. 
  • Fast barcode scanning. To ensure a fast checkout process, it’s necessary to choose a POS system that is designed for fast scanning speed. It’s also important that your POS software can handle multiple barcodes per SKU.
  • Advanced inventory search. In addition to the features mentioned above, your retail POS needs to have smart search functions and the ability to quickly recall your last search. This will give you and your employees the ability to search products by keyword, description, or tag in case labels fall off or barcodes are not scannable.
line busting retail POS

4) Train your staff effectively

Having the right POS technology and hardware in place is not enough. Retailers need to consider the people who are actually operating the technology (sales associates).

Staff are a crucial part of checkout optimization. Which is why store owners must allocate adequate time and resources to adequately train them. To make things easier, think about adopting a POS system with built-in training tools. This will boost employee productivity and encourage self-service while significantly reducing training costs and time.

training retail staff

5) Enable self-checkout

To speed up check-out processes, one of the options that retailers can give to customers is a self-checkout section. This is especially so for small independent grocers or pet stores. Allowing customers to checkout themselves means that there are more staff that can help out other people browsing in the store — whether it is buying one item or topping up their baskets.

6) Email Receipts at Checkout

While digital receipts are environmentally friendly, they’re also useful in cutting checkout lines. For one, shoppers won’t have to wait for their receipt to print out. And your employees won’t have to waste time refilling the receipt printer – risking the chance of aggravating customers who are already waiting in line.

In addition to streamlining the checkout process, digital receipts also come with significant business benefits, including:

  • Giving retailers an easier way to build email lists and gather customer data
  • Helping reduce fraudulent returns 
  • Decreasing overhead costs by eliminating printed receipts
  • Driving future interaction when you include links to the store website and social media
  • Allowing retailers to include personalized marketing message on receipts boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty

Expert Tip! Privacy is an increasingly important customer expectation. If you are collecting email lists, make sure that your POS system gives you the ability to legally collect consent for marketing directly from your customers.

email receipts

We hope you found this article helpful!

Join our beta waitlist here. In the meantime, you can subscribe to our blog for more helpful retail tips and strategies!

Cash flow Management: 4 Cash flow Tips for Retailers

Cash flow Management: 4 Cash flow Tips for Retailers

Every store owner knows that cash is king in retail. For obvious reasons, good cash flow management allows retailers to survive and thrive. It gives them the ability to purchase stock at the right time, negotiate better payment terms, deal with an emergency, hire more engaged employees, improve store merchandising, and generally reinvest back into the business.

But due to the complexities associated with running a retail store (inventory, seasonality, competitive promotions, etc.) unexpected costs can arise – and when this happens, many retailers find themselves in a cash crunch. A cash crunch can be defined as a situation in which a business does not have enough money to operate efficiently. 

If you find yourself in this position, don’t panic. Below are some steps you can take to get back on track and free up cash in your retail business!

What is cash flow?

Cash flow refers to the money going in and out of a business. For a retail store, cash inflows (incoming money) include product sales while cash outflows (or expenses) consist of payroll, marketing, inventory, rent, operating expenses, etc.

If you have more money coming in than out, then your business has a positive cash flow. If the opposite is true and you have more money going out than coming in, that means you have a negative cash flow.

It’s important to remember that a business’ cash flow should not be confused with profit – cash flow represents the amount of liquidity that is available to a business at any given time. Profitability is an accounting concept which, if you are using accrual accounting methods, may not be in sync with your cash flow. For example, it is possible for you to be profitable (and therefore owe taxes according to the way you incur sales) but still be cash flow negative. As you can imagine, negative cash flow will quickly cause problems for a business if there are no financing options available for you to pay ongoing overhead costs such as rent or payroll.

cash flow management definition

4 ways to improve cash flow

1) Stay on top of customer invoices

Getting your customers to pay you on time is key to increasing your cash flow. While it is easier said than done, here are some practical invoicing tips:

  • Give out incentives to pay earlier: Many business owners offer their customers discounts for paying before a certain date. This helps incentivize customers to pay faster which means better cash flow for you. Along the same lines, you can also charge a late payment penalty for those who do not pay on time.
  • Make it easy to accept immediate payment: More and more businesses accept credit cards for even high value or B2B sales now. While there can be fairly high processing fees to accept electronic payment, cash in hand is often still worth the fees as it reduces the risk of non-payment or late payments. Similarly, you can utilize payment services such as After-Pay, Klarna, Sezzle, Affirm, etc. These so called “lay-buy” services allow shoppers to buy now and pay in several interest-free installments. The benefit for the merchant is that the service will pay you upfront vs. a traditional “layaway” where the customer picks up the item at the end of the term once the entire purchase is paid off. As expected, deferred payment for the shopper generally increases overall sales, particularly with those that don’t have credit cards, and it will allow you to book the sale much earlier, but remember that as the merchant, you are paying a significant fee for this service (usually slightly higher than credit card processing) so make sure to shop around as different companies offer different rates and terms.
  • Send invoices right away: If you don’t send invoices, you can’t get paid. So make sure you stay on top of on-account sales and any unpaid invoices. Remember – the faster you send invoices out, the faster the cash comes in.
  • Send customers invoice reminders: It’s good practice to send friendly email reminders to your customers a week before the invoice is due, the day it’s due, and a few days after. If they still haven’t paid, it may be time to give them a call. But always make sure to include a copy of the invoice and the payment options in your email to make it easier for customers to pay.
customer invoices

2) Review payment processing fees

While electronic payment is important to increase convenience for shoppers, retailers should regularly examine their credit card service fees. Payment processors operate in a very competitive marketplace. It’s a good idea to do your due diligence, understand your contract terms and get estimates and quotes for your processing rates. This way, you can ensure that you are not paying more than you need to. If you process a decent volume of card transactions monthly (e.g. over $100,000 worth), make sure that you negotiate for better rates before signing any contracts.

Expert Tip: Make sure you check and understand the chargeback policies for your processor. Chargebacks (reversals on charges by the processor based on claims by the shopper) can quickly add up if you are not protecting yourself (e.g. have CCTV at your checkout till as evidence to dispute a chargeback) or using methods of payment that minimize your risk (e.g. only EMV-compliant chip & PIN terminals protect you from chargebacks).

payment processing

3) Take a look at your operating expenses

Cash flow management isn’t just about getting more cash to come into your business. A big part of good cash flow management is reducing the amount of cash that is going out of your business.

For retailers, the largest monthly expenses tend to be payroll, rent, insurance, and inventory. A failure to properly manage any of these cash outflows can pose a serious threat to a retail business. Below are some tips for reducing these operating expenses:

Payroll: You don’t ever want to pay your staff to sit and watch people pass your front door. If you have a few years of sales history, make sure to keep an eye on your peak and slow periods. Make sure to create your employees and assign tasks (marketing, outbound sales calls, cleaning, repair etc.) based on the expected needs of your business, not simply ease of scheduling.

Insurance: Insurance can represent a big chunk of your expenses in a given month. Due to the competitive nature of the industry, it would be wise to seek out comparative quotes and consider larger deductibles (whatever you can reasonably afford in an emergency) to reduce your ongoing premiums.

Inventory: As the largest asset for a retail business, many retailers have their cash flow tied up in inventory. Even if you are a guideshop or an online business, unless you’re only dropshipping, you will have to draw from your store inventory or warehouse stock. That’s why careful inventory tracking and management is key to good cash flow management for every retailer or wholesaler. For a good overview of inventory management essentials for retail click here.  While it’s possible to use back office software just to manage inventory, it’s always ideal to use a retail POS system with built-in inventory management features that can help you ensure that the inventory you are buying is actually selling and therefore make smarter buying decisions moving forward.

operating expenses

4) Have a cash reserve

There comes a time where every business experiences a cash flow shortfall. It may be due to a delayed payment of a large invoice, an unexpected personal emergency, or it could just be bad weather affecting your sales. Whatever the case may be, it’s imperative to have financial resources in place in case your business experiences a cash crunch. 

While some say it’s good practice to have two months of expenses saved up as a cash reserve, the fact is, you don’t want to have funds sitting in a regular bank account, not earning you any return. If you are able to set aside some cash, it’s always best to look at higher-interest savings accounts or short-term investments that will still allow you to withdraw funds if they are needed suddenly. Make sure to check with your tax accountant to make sure it is worthwhile though – various countries, states and provinces tax business investment or interest income differently.

If it’s not possible or you don’t want to put aside such a large cash reserve, you can also consider financing options such as line of credits (LOCs) or small business loans. While the idea of owing money may make some retail owners nervous, it’s important to remember that you may not be able to qualify for a loan when you actually need it. Most LOCs or SMB loans don’t charge interest until you actually draw on the funds so as long as you only keep these options for emergencies, these can be good tools to smooth out cash flow fluctuations. Similarly, always check with your local business association to see if there are any government programs available to help with small business financing. Generally speaking, low risk financing programs to support small businesses are available at all levels of government.

cash flow reserve

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What Is The Total Cost Of A Retail POS System?

What Is The Total Cost Of A Retail POS System?

So…you’re on the hunt for a new point of sale system for your retail business to improve your store operations. But what is the cost of a retail POS system today?

Maybe you’re unhappy with your current POS software and looking to upgrade to newer technology. Or, perhaps you’re still using pen and paper to manage your retail operations. 

Whatever the case maybe, we’ve got you covered!  

In this post, we’ll explain how much a typical POS system costs and the different factors that make up that cost. We’ll cover everything from software, hardware, and payment processing fees. But before we dive into how you can find the best and most cost-effective solution for your store, let’s get started with the two main types of POS software for retail on the market today.

Legacy vs. Cloud Software

The price of your POS system will depend heavily on the type of software you choose. Traditional, on-premise systems usually require an upfront investment of $4,000-$7,000. While you own continued access to use purchased licenses with this upfront payment, remember that you usually only have access to the version that you purchased. This means that you will need to pay some type of fee to get access to software upgrades or support services. While upgrades are not as important in the beginning, they will eventually be required to match the security upgrades of the operating system (e.g. Windows, etc.) or integrated tools.

In comparison, modern cloud-based (SaaS) software requires little upfront investment – instead you pay a monthly subscription fee. While this fee is ongoing, it’s important to remember that the monthly cost of cloud software is often less than on-premise software once you include the reduced cost of technical support (e.g. technicians on-site, support plans, upgrade fees) and you don’t need to worry about lost data as your information is always backed up to the cloud. The monthly cost of cloud POS software varies but to really figure out how much you can expect to pay, you’ll need to consider several factors such as the number of users, stores, features, the size of your business, etc. On average, it ranges from $80-$200 per station per month.

To learn more about on-premise vs cloud POS software, click here.

Hardware

Next, you’ll need to consider your hardware costs. Remember – POS software and hardware are not universally compatible. So once you’ve decided on a software, you’ll need to have the right hardware in place to support your POS system.

With that being said, the amount you spend on your POS equipment depends on your industry needs and how you operate. Are you planning on ringing in sales with tablet devices? Are you issuing digital or printed receipts? Does your inventory volume require you to scan items at a fast pace?

A small store owner may only require one or two tablets to operate while a mid-sized retailer may need several monitors, receipt printers, and barcode scanners. 

Payment Processing Fees

Arguably the most overlooked cost to a merchant are payment processing fees which can end up costing a lot in the long run as they are also an ongoing cost of business. This is why you should take your time to research your options.

For those who are not familiar with payment processing, every time a customer uses a credit or debit card, you will need to pay a fee to process that transaction. Payment processors such as Bambora or Global are the third-party service providers who process credit card transactions in exchange for a fee.

Some POS vendors act as their own card processors (Square, etc.) while others offer integrated payments. Depending on the size of your business, you can expect to pay at least 2.6% + a small transaction fee per transaction. Similar to your hardware, it’s best to go with a payment provider that integrates well with your POS system. Many POS companies offer special pricing if you opt to go for one of their preferred payment processors.

What to Consider Before Purchasing a POS System

Finding the right POS system for your retail business depends on your unique business needs. A POS software that works extremely well for one retail business (e.g a clothing store) may not work well for another (e.g. a high-traffic grocery store). 

So, we’ve put together a checklist to help you find the right POS for your store. Here are some additional cost factors to consider when hunting for a new POS system:

1. Size of your retail operations: Most POS vendors will charge per location or store. Meaning the larger you get, the larger the cost to your business. Which is why it’s important to think about scalability when you make a decision about your POS.

Merchants that wish to scale their retail operations should opt for a POS system that is built for multi-location and high growth stores. This can help you save a significant amount of time and money down the road. Look out for the following features:

  • Unlimited stores, selling zones, and stock allocations
  • Multi-currency and multi-language features
  • The ability to handle high transaction and inventory volume

2. The quality and complexity of features: It makes sense that a more complete and useful system would cost a store owner more. While smaller retailers may not need to pay for robust features, mid-sized and larger merchants may have to.  

Most POS systems come with tiered pricing plans. If you are looking for basic features (salesscreen, basic inventory etc.) then you can go for a lower-tiered plan. But if you require more advanced features (pricebooks, accounting integration, advanced inventory etc.) then you’ll have to go with a higher-tiered plan.

3. Open API access: If you are a growing business or already use other tools that you need to integrate with your POS, you will want to make sure that the POS system you’re looking at has an open API. Essentially, this is what allows merchants (with their own developers or marketing agency) to access backend data to integrate to or even enhance other applications they are already using. This is particularly important for a merchant looking to create or add innovative tools that improve their ability to compete. Examples of this include retailers looking to integrate their own custom e-commerce site, existing ERP system or even integrate to RFID devices to manage shrinkage.

4. Device Compatibility: As noted above, you need to consider compatibility with your existing devices when purchasing a POS. You don’t want to invest even more money and time in new hardware devices. This is more than simply whether your POS can run on certain devices, it includes whether the system you’re looking at can work with your existing credit card terminals, barcode scanners, etc.

5. Training and onboarding costs: Another important yet overlooked cost is the price of onboarding new POS technology. A POS solution that is inexpensive but difficult to use can cause your business a lot in the long run – this is especially true for high-traffic retailers that deal with long line-ups and peak periods. It is also important to consider if you are a retailer with a high turnover rate or seasonal peaks. If you are constantly training new staff members, it would be best to select a POS system with built-in training tools.

Remember – the proper POS software will not only help speed-up store operations, it will help you increase sales and can result in happier, more productive staff members.

onboarding cost of pos system

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