How Small Businesses Can Stand Out on Social Media

Owning a small business can make it difficult to compete with the big brand names that everyone already knows. The advantage that SMB retailers have compared to “big-box” retailers is their opportunity to create an authentic and unique experience for each of their customers.

While you may feel like even on social media you’re being overshadowed by the big guys, here are a few ways to stand out, and how to do it.

Start a Vlog

Benefits:

Video is taking over the way people consume information. A fun way for small businesses to showcase their products and expertise about their business is to start a vlog, a.k.a, a video blog. Video blogs can cover topics from a new clothing line you’ve just started carrying, to fashion tips, to a personal entry about the success of our small business.

Vlogs are also great for promoting events and one-time sales. Aside from that fact that online videos now account for more than 80% of Internet traffic, a vlog creates a better sense of authenticity than your standard blog. This gives you a better opportunity, not just to increase the foot traffic in your store, it allows you to create a community with your frequent shoppers.

How to do it:

The great thing about vlogging is that it doesn’t need to be filmed in a fancy production studio. All you really need to start a vlog is a smart phone and an idea of the type of content you want to share with your viewers.

A great starting point for a vlog is to film an overview of your business, what inspired you to start it, and a tour. This introduction is a perfect way to create loyal viewers and customers who are interested in learning more from your vlog. And if you’re camera shy, try asking a friend, employee, or business partner to take the lead with your creative input!

Run Seasonal Campaigns

Benefits:

For retailers, you may find yourself needing to update your store for every season. This is especially true for clothing stores. By creating seasonal campaigns, you are not only letting your audience know that you are all set for the upcoming season, but showing them that you know what will be trendy for the upcoming season.

Seasonal campaigns are beneficial because they allow you to get very visual in your social media posting – which is great since Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images, and as of June 2016, there are more than 500 million Instagram users.

How to do it:

In order to announce your brand new stock of inventory for the upcoming season, you’ll need to create a visually appealing seasonal campaign. There are a few ways to do this.

In addition to the aforementioned vlog, try creating some promotional videos to help promote the new inventory coming in. Capturing visuals of outdoor seasonal scenes will trigger your audience to visit your store for a new winter coat. In addition to video content, Instagram and Pinterest are the perfect platforms to look to when promoting a seasonal campaign.

According to Shopify, 93% of Pinterest users use the platform to plan their next purchase. Hootsuite found that 75% of Instagram users are taking action, such as visiting a website, after viewing an Instagram post. By visually promoting products that are appropriate to the season on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram, you’re much more likely to turn those “likes” into sales.

Leverage User Generated Content

Benefits:

User generated content is a great way for small businesses to stand out on social media because it means that people are paying attention to and care about your business! By definition, user generated content includes any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements and other forms of media that were created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.

Put in more simple terms – user generated content is content posted by your customers about your business. This can include anything from an Instagram user posting a photo of them wearing an item from your latest clothing line, to a shopper writing a blog article about your business. Not only does user generated content often result in free advertising, but it helps you reach a wider audience through your customers’ network.

How to do it:

I know what you’re thinking – how do I encourage my customers to create content about my product? There are a number of ways to push that content out of your shoppers. The easiest way to do this is simply to use social media to interact with their audiences. If someone tags you in a post, make sure to leave a comment! There are also a number of social media monitoring tools that will help you scan for posts that mention your business but don’t tag your page. Surprising one of your frequent shoppers with a comment on their Instagram photo is almost guaranteed to increase customer loyalty and stand out to all of their followers.

If you’re looking to boost your user generated content, try hosting a contest. Photo contests are probably the most popular way to get see more user content. For example, if you are the owner of a fashion boutique, try holding a photo contest on Instagram asking people to pose with their latest store purchases. You can create a hashtag for users to post along with their photos; that way, you can easily track who is participating in your contest, and choose a winner! People will notice the hashtag and it will help you stand out to a wider audience than you initially started with.

Competing with large retailers doesn’t have to be a ton of work. Social media has allowed retailers to connect with their customers on a more personal level, and will continue to advance in favor of business owners. Sometimes all it takes to stand out is the initial interaction.

Seatninja and Star Micronics Empower Full Service Restaurants to Deliver VIP Diner Experience

PHOTO CREDIT: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With the increase in popularity of fast casual and fast-fine dining establishments, full service restaurants are under increasing pressure to provide top-notch dining experiences. Each diner’s experience begins the moment they step through restaurant doors and approach the host stand.

Seatninja Host is a low-cost solution that allows full-service restaurants to connect with guests and consistently provide a VIP Diner Experience. The digital seating system was created to emulate the paper tools that 90% of restaurants still use for managing walk-ins, waitlist parties, and reservations. Seatninja Host is a complete front-of-house system that will enable your staff to interact with guests via SMS or mobile application, gain visibility into where all seated guests are in the dining cycle, identify tables with VIPs and special occasions, quote accurate wait times by party size, manage and follow server rotations, quickly look up guest’s dining history, and more.

THE SITUATION

As a result of the growth in fast casual and fast-fine dining establishments, guests are becoming more and more intolerant of mistakes in lost reservations, long wait lists, and misquoted wait times. Guests are also starting to expect automated and seamless reservation and waitlist procedures at the front-of-house within a modern and up-to-date full-service restaurant. To appease unhappy and impatient customers, restaurants lose hundreds of dollars in revenue each month to guest comps or freebies to avoid bad press and poor Yelp reviews.

THE SOLUTION

Seatninja Host organizes and automates most of the host stand functions, such as taking and managing reservations and waitlists, managing seating, wait time estimates, and server rotation. The solution automatically suggests tables for guests, accurately estimates wait times, and organizes the guests into a seating line. The solution uses a two-way texting system to communicate with guests to let them know their table is ready and allows guests to disperse to other nearby areas and thus removing the pressure from small, over-crowded lobbies. In this way, it never loses a reservation or waitlist party, maximizing restaurant seating, without overbooking.

For easy server reference, the integrated Star Micronics TSP100III printer prints out a reservation or waitlist “chit” that includes each guest’s visit details including, name, number in party, visit history, permanent guest notes, current visit reservations notes, table number and any party flags assigned, i.e. birthday, anniversary, high chair required, etc. For additional server management, each server’s schedule can be printed from the system as well. The schedule includes the name of the server, the tables assigned to each server and his or her’s scheduled time in. This further ensures that each guest receives a VIP customer experience delivered not only from the front-of-the-house stand, but also their server as well.

THE RESULTS

The Seatninja and Star Micronics solution deliver an immediate ROI on the monthly subscription. Setup takes, on average, less than an hour. The solution is paired with an iPad tablet upon deployment. Training is quick and easy, completed in an hour or less and staff typically and staff typically reaches proficiency with the solution within two shifts or less.

Full service restaurants who deploy the solution may see some or all of the following results:

  • fewer table checks ($75 per month in savings)
  • additional table turns ($400 per month in additional revenue)
  • decrease in reservation no shows ($400 per month in savings)
  • decrease in walk outs on waitlists ($400 per month in savings)
  • no lost or damaged paper replacements ($100 per month in savings)
  • reservations can be taken automatically during off hours ($1500 per month in additional revenue)
  • reduced comps for mistakes ($100 per month in savings)
  • automatic table assignments for reservations ($124 per month in savings)

3 Must-Have Restaurant Back-of-House Technologies

A restaurant’s “back-of-house” generally refers to three parts: kitchen (the largest component), offices, and staff break room/rest area. A restaurant with a well-run back-of-house operation increases customer satisfaction, empowers staff to provide a higher level of customer service, and prepares the consistent, quality meals your customers expect at every visit.

Essential restaurant back-of-house technologies like a kitchen display system, durable receipt printers, and an all-in-one point of sale system help your kitchen run more smoothly so the front-of-house doesn’t suffer from long waits for a table, poorly timed service or incorrect orders.

Here are three restaurant back-of-house technologies that your eatery should implement right now:

  1. Kitchen display system (KDS)

A kitchen display system streamlines food preparation. This critical restaurant back-of-house technology helps manage customer expectations by preventing kitchen backups, monitoring prep times and alerting staff when things start to go awry. The KDS also lists out cooking directions/ingredients to ensure that diners have the same delicious experience every time they visit your restaurant.

A kitchen display system connects to the point of sale terminal and consists of software, a monitor that can resist moisture and heat, controller, and a bump bar to scroll through the orders. When the customer is finished ordering, data is sent through the kitchen controller to the appropriate location, either to a single screen or multiple ones at different food prep stations.

Selections are time stamped, labeled with the customer’s name and sent to the appropriate prep area at different times to ensure everything will be finished and served to the proper person simultaneously. This means diners will never have to wait for their friends to be served while their meal gets cold or receive their appetizer with their dinner being served immediately after.

  1. Fast, tough receipt printer for orders

Receipt printers are an integral part of your restaurant back-of-house technologies. However, an immaculately well-run kitchen is full of hazards for electronic components. Overuse, heat, spills, particles and steam can harm a restaurant kitchen printer, causing expensive work slowdowns, bottlenecks, and mistakes.

Restaurant owners looking for a quality printer for their kitchen should consider a durable receipt printer that can withstand this harsh environment. To guarantee a healthy ROI, the receipt printer chosen should be spill-proof and insect-proof. Additionally, consider a compact model that won’t take up much valuable back-of-the-house counter space. Ensure that the printer you choose is flexible and able to connect with future hardware by selecting one with a multi-interface. For example, the mC-Print3 fills all of these requirements, plus grants access to a suite of free value-added Star Cloud Services.

  1. All-in-one point of sale systems

All-in-one point of sale (POS) systems are exactly what the name implies: POS systems that include all the important components in space-saving configurations. The best all-in-one POS systems will give end-users the ability to add peripherals, upgrades, and new options as they come to market.

All-in-ones typically include a touchscreen, printer, cash drawer, and magnetic stripe reader, with the option of adding other peripherals such as a scale, bar code scanner, additional security options, and displays. In addition to the mC printers, Star’s mCollection includes 1D scanners, 2D imagers, customer display, and three NTEP-certified scales.

All-in-one POS systems can save a business money, time, and counter space. These systems have a much smaller footprint then a stationary terminal which frees up space for taking orders and impulse purchases. Purchasing an all in one POS means the components are equally rugged and designed for the environment you’re working in. This will also eliminate any headaches and runaround from different vendors when it’s time to make repairs to the system.

Take a Wholistic View of Your Operation

Restaurant back-of-house technologies can be just as important to profitability and customer service as solutions your restaurant uses in the front of the house. Evaluate your entire operation for areas that can operate more efficiently and find solutions that can address those issues, helping you save time and money.

Amazon Expands AmazonGo Stores and Hits New Milestone

Written by Michael K. Spencer

It was a big month for Amazon in September, 2018. Amazon has become the 2nd company to hit the $1 Trillion dollar market cap. This is significant since Amazon, according MKM Partners, could reach a whopping $2.4 Trillion valuation by 2024.

AmazonGo is billed as the cashierless stores of the future and Amazon is ready to expand them to new locations. The latest location is its third overall and third in Seattle, where it’s headquartered. The 2,100 square foot store sits on the corner of Boren Ave. and Thomas St. and is its largest yet.

While expansion to San Francisco and Chicago remains imminent, Cate Trotter of Insider Trends recently did an article on these new, more automated kinds of stores. The AmazonGo concept has been embraced by many retailers across the world with various initiatives from smart kiosks, to what appear to be more like vending machines that operate on AI, to mobile stores ;  the idea of more seamless retail and customer experiences is growing.

A report on Kiosk and Retail by USA Technologies and PYMNTS.com predicts that the interactive kiosk sector in the US will be worth more than $1 billion by 2020. AmazonGo isn’t at Alibaba’s level in China for retail experiences, but it certainly does re-conceive how the physical stores work for convenience. While E-commerce is growing faster in China, in the U.S. even the likes of JD.crew have started selling on Amazon.

Amazon is Fueling Retail Innovation

The Amazon Prime value is incredible and is beginning to scale into entertainment (Prime Video), AI (Alexa), Grocery (WholeFoods) and many other segments. There’s been talk about Alexa Smart Glasses and an Amazon home robot, both likely to appear before 2021. However for physical retail experiences, AmazonGo may be the most tested and innovative feature in the evolution of retail we’ve seen for quite some time.

Amazon’s profitability of AWS, Alexa, and future advertising revenue means it will be able to perfect in-store technology. Walmart is testing a new feature called Spark delivery, that uses crowdsourcing to find drivers to make grocery deliveries and will include a partnership with Delivery Drivers, which manages such workers, because the race to automated grocery delivery is also fairly lucrative. JD.com, Kroger, and many others are all looking at this service very carefully.

AmazonGo has been slow to expand its cashierless grab-and-go experience. However, the concept is clear—this is using LiDAR and other technologies to create a faster experience that is uniquely made for urban shoppers. The point of sale is, for all intents and purposes, virtual. Checkout is completely eliminated, there’s only a kind of mobile check-in with QR codes.

In the evolution of what physical stores might become, there are lessons for brick-and-mortar retailers to look into:

  • AmazonGo
  • BingoBox
  • Auchan Minute
  • JD.com’s “X” chain
  • Alibaba’s TaoCafe
  • The robotic CafeX
  • Stockwell (Bodega)
  • Moby Mart

The Future Store is Late, but is Arriving in the 2020s

For the future of commerce, the marketplace, and the local store, these are not isolated incidents. These represent a trend towards increased retail automation, logistics, and consumer fulfillment that will change how GenZ interacts with stores, restaurants, and the future of mobile in-store as well. 5G mobile, the IoT and blockchain will all power the smart store in new creative ways.

Just as point of sale is evolving, our entire concept of what a “store” is, could change considerably in the next decade. According to Nielson and many retail analysts, we’ll be doing 70% of our grocery shopping online by 2024. In China, Meituan is about to go IPO in Hong Kong, it’s one of the leaders in “O2O”—online to offline—and represents the ultimate in convenience for consumers, though it’s burning cash.

As impressive as Amazon is to the future of convenience and giving consumers various “upgrades” in customer experience and fulfillment, a lot of the interesting stuff in retail is happening in China, where mobile penetration and eCommerce are both higher and where there are more total consumers and digital natives.

  • 7-Eleven Signature
  • Suning Biu
  • Alibaba’s “smile to pay”
  • Bianlifeng
  • Alibaba’s Hema supermarket

It turns out having a cashless society with QR codes and an app-of-everything (WeChat) is a huge advantage for China in terms of retail innovation. China’s integration of facial recognition is also very advanced in retail, financial and services generally.

AmazonGo might be just the tip of the iceberg in how physical retail innovation occurs globally. The future of automation in retail is occurring not just in eCommerce, but in restaurants, grocery, cafes, local stores, convenience stores, and syncing with the values of the new consumer.

The Future of AmazonGo

The further expansion in Seattle makes sense as the newest store reportedly is the largest Amazon Go location yet, at about 2,100 square feet, according to the Seattle Times story.

AmazonGo tech, perfected in Seattle, does not stay in Seattle. An AmazonGo store is heading to New York. Here’s how it works:

  1. When entering the grocery stores, shoppers scan their phone using the Amazon Go app. (The virtual POS is essentially sign-in only)
  2. As you shop, cameras, LiDAR, and motion sensors track what you pick up from (and put back on) shelves.
  3. You can “grab and go” with just-walk-out technology. There are no lines, checkout, or cashiers to worry about.
  4. There’s less staff and typically no grocery carts or baskets. Shoppers are encouraged to use their own bags.

AmazonGo is rumored to launch in places such as New York, San Francisco, and Chicago first, before spreading to more cities. So if Seattle was phase one, this is phase two.

Considering how long AmazonGo’s concept was in R&D and testing, this is a pretty huge deal. Amazon’s footprint in brick-and-mortar stores is still pretty small even with the Whole Foods acquisition. Nothing compared to its rival in China, Alibaba, or even JD.com.

However, AmazonGo is the torch bearer for being a prototype of the “smart store”. As such, many physical retailers are watching closely to see what Amazon accomplishes with AmazonGo and how consumers will respond. Surely it’s an upgrade in what we might term convenience and customer experience in-store. With 7-Eleven integrating Apple Pay recently, it’s only a matter of time before Amazon becomes more aggressive in its brick-and-mortar strategy.

As for AmazonGo in NYC, Amazon is seeking members for its staff and roles such as:

  • Store Manager
  • Assistant Manager
  • Trading Lead Associate
  • Prep Ingredients Associate
  • Shelves Stocking Associate
  • Customer Success and Help Associate
  • Food Prep Associate
  • Security Associate

It’s important to note, these stores won’t need as many regular staff due to their unique technology.

Seattle, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago seem to be the early birds to enjoy semi-automated AmazonGo shopping experiences in 2018 and early 2019. While Amazon is expected to choose Washington D.C. as its next HQ site, it appears to be in no hurry to launch AmazonGo too quickly.

Later in September it was rumored Amazon will open 3,000 AmazonGo stores by 2021. Amazon also opened an Amazon 4-Star store in New York.

Sophatar Launches Sales Receipt Viewer in Partnership with Star Micronics

Download sales receipt images and obtain sales insights, with a brand new service from Sophatar for retailers using Star printers!

  • Are you a retailer looking for an easy web-based sales receipt re-print solution?
  • Or find out at which time of day, or day of the week you consistently generate more sales so you can plan employee shifts effectively?
  • Or find out when your first and last sales of the day happen?
  • And be able to do this from anywhere, not just while at your store, without extra software to install or change your POS?

Then we have THE solution for you!

Sophatar is improving the sales IQ of retail locations with a Sales Receipt Viewer and Analytics dashboard that is targeted to customers of Star Micronics.

No software to install. No need to change your point-of-sale software.

It is a web-based service with downloadable images of your sales receipts showing in a browser and downloadable for re-print or email.

The service also includes extracting the data from your sales receipt images and turning that into actionable information via an interactive graphical sales analytics tool so you can explore sales trends.

It only costs $20 USD per month after an initial free 3-month period. No credit card is required during the trial period. This extended-time trial period is only offered for a limited time, during the introduction of this brand new service.

 

What do I need for this to work?

Most Star Micronics printer installations have the unique capability that they can upload receipt images from your printer to the Star Micronics Cloud Dashboard each time a receipt prints. Check with your Star sales rep to find out if your install can. Once your image is uploaded and you sign up for this service, your receipt images will automatically be parsed in the cloud, and both the receipt images and parsed data is made available to you via a web dashboard and an interactive sales exploration graphics tool.

Multi-Dimensional Sales Analytics in the Cloud

Explore your sales receipts to uncover trends and actionable insights in a variety of ways. Simply click on the interactive graph in the browser and select one or more dimensions to turn your sales data into insights. Graphs update automatically to filter and analyze your data:

  • by calendar date range
  • by day of week
  • by time of day
  • by payment method
  • by employee
  • by sales receipt total $
  • etc.

Furthermore, you can filter to only see those receipts with discounts applied, or detect duplicate receipts. Use this to uncover ‘sweat-hearting’ by employees (discounts given to friends) or print receipt fraud (multiple prints of same receipt given to different customers from a single transaction on the POS, mostly seen in environments with a limited number of SKUs, such as QSR).

As retail stores must compete in today’s world with e-commerce and online shopping, physical retailers are increasingly in need of more data and analytics. Sophatar’s partnership with Star Micronics means receipt data at the POS can deliver new insights for retailers to improve their marketing strategy to boost sales at key times.

Besides this receipt viewer and analytics tool, Sophatar also offers other services based on sales receipt data from Star printers, such as its POS-transaction driven digital signage.

How do I sign up?

The service is offered by Sophatar but fully integrated with Star Micronics. Star customers can login to their account at https://starmicronicscloud.com/ and subscribe to the ‘sales receipt analytics & viewer service’ in the Star Marketplace. We will then reach out to you to complete setup and activate your subscription.

Now any retailer can keep an eye on their business, even from a remote location.

Download the PDF leaflet about this brand-new Sales Receipt/Analytics Service, check out our 2-minute video demo, and signup today to take advantage of this no-risk limited-time no credit-card required introductory offer of $0 for the first 3 months!

How to Choose a POS System for Salons and Boutiques

Retailers that make a living helping clients look and feel gorgeous need to look amazing themselves, so electronic clutter and outdated technology doesn’t fit the bill.  Choosing a point of sale (POS) system for salons requires extra attention to style, whether it’s hardware design or an installation that needs an added level of detail.

However, don’t choose a POS system based on looks alone. Think carefully about the software: do you need inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), reports, or time keeping? It seems like common sense, but don’t paint yourself into a corner by selecting a package that leaves out important features.

Once you’ve made a list of what you need, it’s time to shop around. Choose a POS system for salons that includes these six necessities.

1. Functionality: POS systems for salons should be easy to learn and use and allow employees to complete a transaction in as few clicks as possible. If you cater to repeat clients, select software with an integrated CRM. This allows you to track customers’ buying habits and preferences. You can use this information to make recommendations based on past purchases or send clients coupons and incentives to make a purchase or schedule an appointment.

2. Employee management: Employee management is an important, multifaceted function of a POS system for salons and boutiques. Labor schedulers make it simple to schedule employees for work, swap shifts or duplicate a previous week’s schedule. They also help you make informed decisions about scheduling, so you are not caught under or overstaffed. Depending on the software, employee management functions give you a bird’s eye view of how many employees are working and what jobs they are performing that day.

3. Printed promotions: Very few receipt printers come with cloud software that allows you to create and schedule printed promotions for free. Choosing a Star Micronics printer for your salon POS system will grant you access to a full suite of Star Cloud Services, including PromoPRNT. PromoPRNT will empower salon owners to create custom promotions, manage them remotely, and schedule them to run at a pre-determined time. Increase customer retention with a limited time 20% off brow wax offer. Boost customer retention with a monthly 15% off of a cut and color.

4. Sales and inventory reporting: Many POS systems for salons allow you to see sales and inventory information in real time, so you can keep tabs on business throughout the day. These systems also include a variety of reporting options that give you the opportunity to see sales by the shift, hour, day, week, month, or year. Running sales reports help salon and boutique owners identify which styles and product lines customers can’t get enough of and which ones are ready for markdown. Knowing what the top selling items are helps ensure they’re always in stock and in prime position on the sales floor.

5. Inventory control: Knowing which items are hot helps you manage inventory levels so you aren’t overloaded with unsold products while running out of the ones customers want. POS systems for salons and boutiques can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend searching for items that are in stock, so choose one with the proper inventory control functions. A multilocation business can use its POS system to determine which locations have the items available and arrange for shipping.

6. Aesthetics: When it’s your business to make people look beautiful, you need to keep up appearances. Choose a stylish POS system for salons that fits with your business’ reputation. Appearances matter, so you can’t afford to have wires hanging around or dated hardware. The checkout is a customer’s last stop before they leave, so a fast transaction on beautifully designed hardware leaves a positive, lasting impression as clients depart.

The term “salon quality” has come to mean top of the line. Insist on the same standard for the technology you choose for your business. A purpose-built POS system for salons and boutiques will give you the features that meet your unique business needs, allow you to provide great customer service, and equip your business to operate successfully.

The Five Ways Retail is Changing Forever

By Michael K. Spencer

Retail will never be the same. Consumer preferences are constantly shifting, technology is advancing, and commerce is dynamic. The marketplace is on the front-lines of new experiences, and there’s nothing shoppers crave more than new retail experiences. Is a retail renaissance occurring for small businesses?

On the front lines, independent retail stores must constantly reinvent themselves. Small business owners as entrepreneurs are essentially creators now, in an age where the marketplace is converging with a new reality.

1. It’s the Age of the Consumer

Retail experiences and customer journeys are now frictionless and customer-focused. Advertising, commerce, and smartphone trends now have to keep up with the quickly changing consumer, whose values and new habits are creating the new paradigm of retail.

Customer experiences must be the focus to appeal to audiences and personalize experiences for them that are radically in sync with culture, community, education and entertainment. In other words, the age of the consumer means stores must impact these — and not simply sell “stuff”.

2. Always Easy Path to Purchase

In an era of multi-channel and always online commerce, stores must make it easy, because for the new consumer, convenience wins. What’s easy and convenient is different for a diverse group of your shoppers.

However being mobile friendly, having great return policies, smooth customer service, a store design that’s easy on the eyes, and having a great loyalty program—that’s facilitating an easy path to purchase.

3. Educate and Entertain Customers

A retail brand isn’t what it used to be. The new consumer demands a fully immersive and interactive brand and product experience. Shoppers don’t just want great products with unbelievable discounts, you have to offer them the full experience.

In 2018, the full experience means does your commerce stand for something — does it bring your local community together? Does it entertain and educate you seamlessly about the product and the people who bring those products to life? Influencers, community, and sustainable causes can really help a retail brand reach the next level of customer interaction.

4. The Power of Digital Influence

For a small business it’s great to have your physical store, but your work is never done. For in 2018, digital influence takes many forms. From AR to digital signage in the store, to good-old email marketing, and being quick to answer customer inquiries online, the impact of digital influence on commerce is undeniable.

Is your website and store optimized for search and local search; have you covered your bases on social media; have you implemented the very best POS and software integrations that’s right for your store? Everything counts, from the printer you use, to the kind of marketing you do.

5. Be An Authentic Entrepreneur — Live your Commerce

Independent retailers are families, stories, and sometimes even inter-generational. Retail stores with rich stories and who portray themselves as real entrepreneurs appeal to the human side of shoppers.

Being authentic in physical retail also means you care about your customer at every point of their journey. You sweat the details and create holistic and exquisite experiences. You inspire with the positive impact you have on the community, not just as an outlet of merchandise, but a small businesses that’s approachable, experts in their domain, and people that sync with the values of your best customers.

Retail might never be the same. As big apparel and retail chains go bankrupt (think Sears & Toys R Us), independent retailers recognize they have a huge advantage, they are pillars of the community and excel at putting people first. Retail might be changing forever, but there’s never been a more exciting time to be a small business owner, or a shopper.

 

PromoPRNT is the Easiest Small Business In-Store Marketing Tool

By Michael K. Spencer

What is the cost of receipt paper? It’s $1.25 per 1000 receipts. The true cost of PromoPRNT is just owning a Star Micronics receipt printer and the time to customize receipt messaging to your audience. Any small business or retail store can be doing in-store POS ads with this tool. PromoPRNT has Promo Builder and Promo Scheduler, making it the easiest way for retailers to do in-store ads at the time of purchase. Offline marketing is severely underestimated in 2018, and PromoPRNT works on the valuable real estate where it’s easiest to get eyeballs—the physical paper receipt.

In the first half of 2018, a slew of retailers have been busy trying this brand-new service added to the popular Star Micronics Cloud Service platform.

Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive or yield uncertain results such as with Facebook or Instagram ads online. PromoPRNT is immediate, physical, and ends up, literally, in your shoppers’ hands.

It allows small businesses to build rapport with customers where it matters most — at the physical location. Having the ability to do campaigns in-store, that are easy to set up and practically automated and very inexpensive, obviously has incredible benefits.

PromoPRNT is also a great way for resellers of retail hardware and software to gain a recurring revenue stream. Meanwhile for retail store managers, this is an easy way to communicate with customers, to implement a customer retention program and gain traction on campaigns, discounts, and seasonal offers. Small businesses are using it to implement the following:

Communicate Easily with Customers

  • A discount offer or time-limited promotion
  • Quotes & branding keywords
  • Hiring notices

Build Rapport with Customers

  • Event reminders
  • A positive thank you message
  • Driving traffic online

Create Customer Experiences

  • Customer feedback surveys
  • Seasonal campaign sale (e.g. Back-to-School deals)
  • A funny message for brand awareness

Build Customer Loyalty

  • Mention of a charity or community initiative
  • A point-of-purchase message designed for customer retention
  • Seasons greetings messages

PromoPRNT Costs Only a Star Printer

PromoPRNT as an automation tool for retail stores only costs the price of a Star Micronics Printer. With a library of templates and the built-in Promo Builder and Scheduler to create and schedule receipt ads, it’s very easy to set-up.

PromoPRNT takes no time at all. To connect your printer, it takes under 3 minutes. To make your first promotion from a template, it takes under 5 minutes. So, in about 10 minutes, you are up and running.

How to Set Up and Use PromoPRNT

All a small business requires to on-board PromoPRNT is to own a Star Micronics receipt printer and to sign-up on Star Micronics Cloud.

In an era of mobile and eCommerce, it’s refreshing for retailers to have such a simple tool that can be so valuable for building customer experiences. Customer experiences and an entire brand’s reputation live in memories made in the brick-and-mortar store. The physical store is the centerpiece of the retail brand. So why not augment it?

PromoPRNT supports any printer that works with windows PC. We support USB connected printers, with the most common printer being the TSP100III series. We also support the TSP650II series, TSP700II, and mPOP and the new mC-Prints under windows.

To get started simply sign up here.

We recently crafted a short how-to video to show just how easy it is for retailers and small businesses to implement. Try PromoPRNT today.

4 Ways to Streamline Restaurant Kitchen Operations

Well-run kitchen operations mean perfectly timed food prep, faster table turns, and few mistakes. However, no restaurant is perfect and in these high-pressure, non-stop work environments, sometimes mistakes are unavoidable. Errors that aren’t quickly contained can trickle down and cause kitchen backups, longer wait times and fewer table turns, which means less profit and lower tips for staff.

If your kitchen operations could use a refresh, or if you want to integrate new technology for greater efficiency, choose a system that will help you achieve your current goals as well as keep your restaurant humming in the future.

  1. Assess your hardware

Evaluate your technology components from top to bottom, including point of sale (POS) hardware and front- and back-of -house printers. Overuse, heat, spills, food particles, and steam can harm point of sale hardware and printers, causing expensive work slowdowns and inviting mistakes. Even the cleanest, most organized kitchen operations can lead to electronics damage, especially the moving parts and printhead of a printer. Choosing a model protected from splashes and designed for use in your kitchen environment will ensure your investment will last.

  1. Consider tableside ordering and payment processing

Mobile POS is a must for restaurants that want to increase throughput and boost profits. These systems allow servers to take orders tableside and transmit them directly to the kitchen, so the kitchen staff can prepare them without delay. It eliminates the time spent writing down the orders, walking back to the POS terminal and waiting if someone else is using it to input an order.  Taking orders with a mobile device also eliminates costly mistakes that can occur when trying to remember an order or deciphering handwriting on the way to the POS terminal. In addition, using mobile POS, staff can process credit card payments tableside, which eliminates the need to bring the check to the table, take the credit card to the terminal and swipe it, and then bring the receipt back for the customer to sign.

  1. Floorplan mapping

An entire restaurant can be monitored from the tablet POS or stationary terminal with just a few clicks. If one section becomes too busy, the floor plan can be shifted around to incorporate more staff. And if a backup slows down the pace or a server becomes overwhelmed, it’ll be easy to identify and adapt kitchen operations before it becomes a larger issue.

  1. Real-time cloud-based reporting

Cloud-based point of sale systems enable you to review sales and inventory information in real time, so you can monitor your business throughout the day. These systems also include a variety of reporting options that give you an in-depth look in to every shift, hour, day, week, month or year. Running sales reports help restaurant owners and managers identify which menu items are most popular and which result in ingredients taking up shelf space in the kitchen. Identifying best-selling menu items also ensures the right stock is available to make them, maximizing profitability and increasing customer satisfaction.

Kitchen operations can make or break a restaurant, but the right technology can help keep them on track. The most successful eateries have the tools they need to succeed—mobile POS, kitchen technology, real-time reporting and the ability to monitor the restaurant floor right from the POS. How do your kitchen operations stack up?

This is How Big the Cannabis Retail Sector is Going to Be

By Sarah Jane Callendar

Within the next 10 years, the legal cannabis industry is likely to boom around the globe, according to Arcview Market Research and its research partner BDS Analytics.

Spending on legal cannabis is expected to reach $57 billion by 2027. The adult recreational market is predicted to reach 67% of the spending and the remaining 33% will be taken up by medical marijuana.

More states are recognising cannabis

Take the U.S. for example, where it looks like more states are likely to legalize cannabis. Thirty states plus the District of Columbia now allow the legal use of medical marijuana. Nine of these states plus D.C. have also legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Two more states, Michigan and New Jersey, seem to be on the path to legalization in 2018. In April, The Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved an initiative to put recreational marijuana legalization on the ballot paper later this year. They needed to gather 250,000 signatures and ended up with more than 365,000 signatures of support.

Meanwhile, Democrat Phil Murphy, Governor of New Jersey, voiced his support for the legalization of recreational cannabis and is promoting a bill that would legalize recreational use of marijuana in his state.

Cannabis sales could even eclipse beer

The cannabis market is even putting pressure on alcohol sales and could out-sell beer.

Binge-drinking rates have fallen 9% below the national average in states that have legalized marijuana, and 11% in states that allow the recreational use of the drug, according to Bloomberg reports. Adults in states which have legalized marijuana binge drink on average 13% fewer times per month than those in states which have legalized recreational usage.

Other estimates show that the market for cannabis could even eclipse the sales of soda.

According to investment bank Cowen, if marijuana is legalized nationwide in the US by 2030, the legal weed industry could generate $75 billion in sales by that year. Soda consumption, on the other hand, is declining. Per capita, soda consumption fell to a 31-year low in the US in 2016, Bloomberg reports, with $76.4 billion in sales in 2017.

Having said this, even though the US decriminalization of cannabis is likely over time, there are still legal challenges for the booming market. Marijuana is still considered illegal and a Schedule I substance by the federal government and therefore cannabis-based businesses don’t have access to traditional banks and so cannot open lines of credit. And around the globe, the adult recreational cannabis market remains hampered by the United Nations and its 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

A Canadian Perspective

Meanwhile in Canada the cannabis industry is expected to soar as the recreational use of marijuana will be legalized on October 17, 2018. The market is due to increase drastically as Justin Trudeau announced the long-awaited date after months of speculation in Ottawa, confirming that Canadians will be able to purchase and consume the drug.

Of course, no one can know for sure what the retail environment will look like once marijuana stores are legal. But according to Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Market, if businesses are allowed cannabis shops and to compete in the same way other retailers do, then Canadians could be buying as much as $10 billion worth of marijuana products per year.

To put this in perspective, Canadians bought around $9 billion worth of beer in 2015, according to Statistics Canada.

Further promises of the booming market come after the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) announced that it has partnered with 26 licensed producers for its online retail platform, which is the province’s only retailer for recreational marijuana this fall.

The store says that supply agreements with these Health Canada-authorized producers were extremely competitive and will allow for a variety of products to be sold when pot becomes legal on October 17th.

The Picture of Legalization

The online store plans to sell various products including dried flowers, cannabis oil and cannabis seeds to customers 19 or older and plans to expand the selection over time.

Ontario has also announced it will allow recreational pot to be sold in retail stores while the province will handle online sales.

With this plan, the OCS will not operate any storefronts, but will provide an online channel that will include an age-verification system to ensure safe home delivery of cannabis products. This means the OCS will act as a wholesale supplier for private retailers.

Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli says that the government will propose an official Ontario Cannabis Retail seal which will help consumers identify retailers that sell federally qualified products. “Consumers can look to this seal to confirm they are buying from a legal channel,” said Fedeli. “This is an assurance that the illegal market simply cannot match.”

The full regulatory framework for the private sector will be designed in consultation with stakeholders, including municipal governments, indigenous communities, law enforcement, public health advocates, business and consumer groups. Fedeli assures sceptics that the government’s priorities are ensuring public safety and eliminating the black market. “The Government of Ontario will not be in the business of running physical cannabis stores,” said Fedeli. “Instead we will work with private-sector businesses to build a safe, reliable retail system that will divert sales away from the illegal market.”

So what does this mean for the future of cannabis retail? Although the exact outcome is unknown, the $57 billion spending on legal cannabis predicted by Arcview Research is extremely promising. We are already seeing positive steps in the US and Canada, where legalization is becoming increasingly common and is arguably filtering into mainstream law. This is fantastic news for the marijuana retail sector.

The cannabis retail store definitely shows huge potential and only time will tell just how big the market will really be.