Top Retail Blogs to Follow this Holiday Season

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With Thanksgiving and Black Friday behind us, retailers are in “holiday season” mode with special promotions, seasonal marketing campaigns, long hours, and hectic customer requests. Now more than ever, retailers need to pay attention to the holiday retail trends, and look for any tips they can find on how to make this season a little bit easier for everyone.

SMB retailers require actionable insights that are retail-centric for the nitty gritty of the daily management of their stores. In our years of working with hundreds of ISVs, VARs, POS providers, and retail stores themselves, we’ve come to also appreciate the retail influencers, insiders, and thought-leaders that inspire us to perfect our craft. Star took a look at some retail blogs and put together this list of the best retail blogs to follow this holiday season.

Here are just a few that we recommend checking out:

1. Vend

Aside from the fact that Vend is one of the best blogs for retailers to follow, they have dedicated an entire series of blog articles to holiday retailers with their “Vend’s 2016 Holiday Retail Boot Camp” series. The twelve-part blog series includes tips on how to improve your store and increase sales during the holiday season, all while answering of the what, how, any why on where to begin!

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2. Retail Geek

For a non-traditional holiday retail blog, be sure to check out the Retail Geek. This site hosts weekly podcasts with hosts Jason “Retailgeek” Goldberg and Scot Wingo. Their last two podcasts have focused on the holidays with a holiday preview and cyber holiday recap. Many of their podcasts also feature reputable guest hosts as well.

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3. Shopify

Shopify is another point of sale company that is killing the holiday retail blog game! Shopify boasts tons of great blog articles for retailers that vary from retail tips, to management strategy, to inspirational posts. This holiday season, they are helping out retailers with articles like: Seasonal Staffing 101: How to Prep Employees For the Holiday Shopping Rush and How to Cater to Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers.

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4. Signal

The holiday season is the perfect time to capture customer data because store traffic is generally increased. But, what do you do with data once the sleigh bells stop ringing and the holiday hype is over? Signal offers tons of articles that focus on data capture, sharing, and onboarding for the SMB retailer.

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5. ShopKeep

ShopKeep is the perfect blog to follow if you are an SMB retailer looking to compete with “big-box” retailers this holiday season. ShopKeep offers tons of tips and guidance on how to boost those retail sales. With the holidays underway, this is the best time to check out their blog and see how you can exceed your sales goals and increase traffic to your store.

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6. Square

While the holiday season usually brings in the highest profits of the year for retailers, there is still a ton of work that needs to go into an effective seasonal marketing plan. Square’s blog has tons of articles to help retailers with their holiday marketing plans. From email marketing, to trendy window displays, Square can help you get the most bang for your buck this holiday season.

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7. Lightspeed

Lightspeed takes holiday blogging to a whole new level! Like most retail blogs, Lightspeed’s holiday blogs offer tips and guides for retailers on how to get through the holiday season with the most ease as possible. Including articles for inventory management and Holiday tax treats for small business, Lightspeed has something for any retail business.

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Time is ticking! Visit any of the recommended blogs above to start gathering tips and pointers on how to get the most out of this holiday season for your retail business.

 

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4 Ways Digital Receipts Can Help You through the Holiday Season

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Whether you are an SMB or a “big-box” retailer, the holiday season can present a busy and challenging time for retail store owners, operators, and employees. While challenging, the holiday season usually also brings the highest sales of the year for retailers. It is important to ensure that you are operating your retail store at utmost efficiency and that you are upholding excellent customer service during the chaotic season. Star Cloud Services wants to make your job easier by offering a seamless solution for digital receipts and customer engagement for your retail store. Here are 4 ways digital receipts can help you through this holiday season:

1. Create Omnichannel Opportunities

By offering customers the option of digital receipts through Star’s receipt printers, you are building a connection between their brick and mortar shopping experience and their digital world. When using Star Cloud Services’ digital receipt solutions, you have the ability to offer much more than just a digital receipt by using the Engage Now feature. With Engage Now, you engage with your customers through all channels and give shoppers an easy way to access either your website or social media pages.

2. Promote Seasonal Sales and Discounts

Another great way to connect with shoppers through digital receipts is Star Cloud Services’ Flip feature. Most digital receipt applications only allow the customer to store a digital copy of the front of their receipt. With Flip, retailers can fully utilize the back side of the receipt for store promotions and coupons. This is perfect for holiday promotions! While shoppers are busy trying to find the perfect holiday gifts for their friends and families, digital receipts offer a quick and convenient way to already have discounts and coupons right on their smartphone. No more sifting through email promotions and mailing coupons to find a great deal!

3. More Convenience for Shoppers

While the holiday season is always the busiest for retailers, the post-holiday season tends to bring a different type of chaos – returns. After the holidays are over and everyone has sorted through their gifts, there comes the time for returns and exchanges to be made. Rather than relying on shoppers to save their receipts during the holidays, offer them digital receipts instead. Now, whether it is the gift giver or the gift receiver who misplaced the receipt, there is always a safe and secure copy stored on the buyer’s smartphone in the AllReceipts™ app.

4. Build Post-Holiday Season Loyalty

Let’s not forget about the post-holiday season. While the holidays are great for retailers in terms of increasing sales, it is still important to keep sales up during the remainder of the year. Stay relevant to your customers! Star Cloud Services digital receipt solutions allow retailers to continue to engage with customers for months after the initial transaction has been made.

Make the hectic holiday season a little bit easier this year by using Star Cloud Services to offer an easy digital receipt solution to your shoppers.

Learn more about Star Cloud Services at www.starcloudservices.com.

How Digital Receipts Can Boost Omnichannel Retail

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In the world of small to medium businesses (SMBs) in retail, we hear the word “omnichannel” being used quite often. Retailers are working to improve and grow their omnichannel strategy in order to better satisfy and engage with their customers. Today, there are so many channels for purchasing, it is important for SMB retail stores, especially brick and mortar, to utilize these channels to increase their engagement with customers and customer loyalty.

First, what does omnichannel mean?

Omnichannel is a multi-channel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a brick and mortar store.

Now the question is  – what does this mean for SMB retailers?

The answer seems very obvious – expand business by creating buying opportunities for customers through multiple channels. In order to do that and see an actual ROI from creating purchasing options from all channels, retailers will need to also develop a strategy for using these channels to increase customer loyalty and omnichannel marketing opportunities. Luckily, the two go hand-in-hand.

One important thing to consider about omnichannel retail is that you are not only giving your customers the option to choose which channel to purchase from, but you are giving them the flexibility of seamlessly moving between channels during their purchasing. For example, your customer finds the perfect dress for her friend’s wedding, but you do not have her size in stock. You will be receiving another shipment at the end of the week with her size included, but she is afraid that she may not make it back to the store in time. By offering the option to purchase through multiple channels, the customer can simply go online and pre-order the dress right from her smartphone, making it a win-win for both parties involved.

The tricky part here becomes marketing through the different channels in which customers are purchasing. Should you be investing in more digital advertisement to target your online buyers, or do in-store shoppers still make up the bulk of your total customers?

An easy way to bridge the gap between the digital channel and your brick and mortar store is to offer the option of digital receipts to customers. By offering the AllReceipts™ digital receipt application to in-store shoppers, you are automatically gaining access into their digital world, making the customer more likely to make future purchases through an alternative channel such as an online desktop or mobile device.

Since Star Cloud Services offers AllReceipts™ in-app marketing tools like Engage NOW and Flip, retailers can increase their omnichannel marketing strategies without any additional cost, and by targeting customers through all channels.

Star Cloud Services’ digital receipt solutions works to connect the retailer to the customer through IoT technology and uses the smartphone application, AllReceipts™, to help retailers engage with their customers through all purchasing channels, whether in-store or online.

With the growing adoption of mobile payments and mobile wallets, digital receipts are going to continue to grow in the retail space. By offering multi-channel purchasing options and using omnichannel marketing strategies, such as digital receipt applications, to engage with customers, you are opening your retail business to endless possibilities.

To learn more about Star Cloud Services and AllReceipts™, please visit www.starcloudservices.com.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to POS Software and Systems

POS Buyer's Guide

Investing in a point of sale (POS) system is one of the best things you can do for your business, but with so many options on the market, how do you determine which POS hardware and software best suit your business needs and your budget?

This guide can help you get on the right path to finding the perfect POS system for your business.

Step 1: Define Business Needs

No one wants to waste time and money on a POS solution that lacks needed capabilities, or has unnecessary features that increase the price. To avoid purchasing a system that isn’t right for your business, you need to identify the specific challenges that you will need your new POS system to address.

Start by asking yourself:

  • Is business suffering because customers must often wait in long lines at the POS?
  • Do shoppers frequently leave your establishment empty-handed because you don’t have the merchandise they want?
  • Are you spending too much time managing employees or trying to find out why your sales volume often doesn’t jibe with your inventory levels?
  • Do you want to attract new customers?

Once you have clearly identified your business needs, research which POS functions address them. The list of functions you need your new system to provide will help narrow the field of choices when you shop for a new POS system.

Step 2: Set a Budget 

Decide how much your business can afford to spend on a POS system. By most accounts, the average industry investment in POS systems total 2 to 3 percent of retailers’ annual volume, and 1 to 1.5 percent of restaurant operators’ annual volume. Consider ongoing costs, such as software maintenance/updates, hardware maintenance, and technical support.

Step 3: Shop for Software

As you consider your options, you will find that not every software solution is compatible with all POS hardware. Selecting your software first will prevent you from being limited in functionality.

There are different types of software you can choose from:

  • Native. Native POS software is installed on your POS hardware. It is easier to customize then cloud-based software.
  • Cloud-based software (Software-as-as-Service, or SaaS). In a SaaS model, software is delivered via the cloud, and you pay for it on a monthly subscription basis. Also, cloud-based software can be accessed from anywhere there is an Internet connection, giving you enhanced visibility into, and control over your operation. Customizing this type of software may be difficult.
  • Hybrid software. This software can be run online in the cloud or offline.

Step 4: Find Compatible Hardware

The POS software you choose will dictate the POS hardware that you can use. In many cases, however, there will still be a number of options to choose from. Some of the choices you must make are related to how your employees will use the system. For example:

  • What is the preferred input method? Some operators favor keyboards or a scanner interface for POS data input, while others prefer a touchscreen interface that facilitates faster data input and easier training for new employees.
  • Will you use mobile POS? POS functionality on a tablet or other mobile device can give you line-busting, in aisle assist, and pay-at-the-table capabilities that can greatly enhance customer experiences. Your options include adding mobile POS to a traditional, stationary system, or using mobile POS alone.
  • Which peripherals are needed? You need to consider printers, cash drawers, PIN pads, payment card readers, and barcode scanners, and select the model that best suits your needs.
  • Will you accept all forms of payment? Make sure your new system gives your customers the ability to pay by their preferred method. Now that the U.S. is migrating toward EMV payments, all new POS systems should have the ability to accept chip card payments. Failure to do so can result in bearing liability for fraudulent payment card changes. Also consider trends that indicate emerging payment types. Mobile wallet use, for example, is gaining ground. To accept payments of this type, you’ll need POS solutions that include near field communications (NFC) technology.
  • Which terminal design do you prefer? A traditional POS terminal design may work well for your business. If space at the checkout counter is limited, however, you may want to consider a more ergonomic solution with a smaller footprint, such as an all-in-one configuration that incorporates basic peripherals (e.g., printers, cash drawers, credit card readers, PIN pads, and customer displays) or a tablet POS system. You will also find options that are aesthetically pleasing and don’t detract from a store’s dècor or restaurant’s ambiance.

For more information on choosing a POS system, download our POS Software and Systems Buyer’s Guide eBook.

3 Ways to Market Your Small Business for Less

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When you’re an independent retailer or a small business owner, marketing funds tend to be limited. Not only are you already competing with the big franchise retailers, but reaching and engaging with your target audience can be especially difficult because you may not have the tools and budget available to develop a massive marketing campaign like your competitors.

All is not lost! Big box or even online retail marketing will not kill your business just yet. We now have the technology right at our finger tips to reach and connect with large audiences for little, to no cost. Here are three easy ways to market your small business and engage with customers without breaking the bank!

1. Social Media

Social Media is crucial for any small business. According to Digital Trends, “people in the U.S. check their Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts a staggering 17 times a day, meaning at least once every waking hour.” With people spending that much time on social media, it is almost a guaranteed way to gain business exposure.

Since there are now so many different social media platforms available with almost all of them offering a free sign up, social media is an excellent strategy for engaging with customers and building a larger audience for your business. Social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are great for engaging with people because it allows your customers to tag you in Tweets and Instagram photos, or post directly to your wall on your business Facebook page. These social media platforms are also effective at encouraging potential shoppers to visit your website or even better, initiating conversation with customers because it allows you to integrate “call-to-actions” such as clickable links, photos, polls, lead-generation cards, and more right into your posts. This is especially great for retail because you can create social media posts about a special product, and then lead shoppers right to the website to purchase; and it’s free!

If you’re struggling to gain a good social media following, remember to communicate with your customers that you are active on social media. Utilize your social media pages to advertise sales, contests, and special promotions. If people have a reason to follow you, they will!

2. Create Content

When owning a small business, whether that be a clothing store, coffee shop, or salon, it can be tough to compete with big name franchises that already have such a large base of loyal customers. How can you help your customers be confident in the fact that your coffee tastes better than Starbucks, or that you have the scoop on the next big fashion trends that Macy’s has yet to start selling? Create content!

Owning a website or blog for your business is the best way to communicate your knowledge with customers and increase the amount of customers visiting your store. Your website or social media page is usually the first thing a person looks to when taking interest in your new business or product, so why not fill them with your abundance of knowledge for what you do?

Creating content or having a blog is a great way to communicate what’s new and trendy with your customers. For example, if you own a clothing boutique, starting a fashion blog is the perfect way to draw consumers to your website. It shows shoppers that your store not only has the best new clothes and accessories, but that your store knows what fashion trends are going to be the ‘next big thing’.

3. Digital Receipts

It seems so simple, right? Every customer is going to receive a receipt at the point of purchase. Now think about how you can use those receipts as a marketing tool!

We’ve all seen the surveys that big box retailers tell you to fill out at the bottom of the receipt to win a $500 shopping spree, and we’ve all ignored them and thrown those receipts away at one point or another. Today, with your shoppers armed with smart devices, you have a better chance at engaging with customers by going digital. There are a number of digital receipt solutions, but Star Micronics’ AllReceipts® offers a free, convenient digital receipt app that is beneficial for retailers and for shoppers.

While many digital receipt solutions require the customer to give up personal information such as their email address or phone number, AllReceipts allows the retailer to directly connect with the customer without needing any of their personal information. AllReceipts has features and tools such as Customer Survey, Flip, and Engage NOW that allow retailers to receive instant feedback from shoppers, provide their customers with promotions and coupons by utilizing the back side of the receipt, and encourage customers to visit their website or social media page. AllReceipts is a great marketing tool for retailers and allows them to offer their customers a digital receipt option, all while engaging with customers and encouraging them to come back to their store. What’s more, AllReceipts is free for retailers to install with any Star Micronics receipt printer.

Bottom line: Competing with large franchises can be difficult to do when you’re an independent retailer or a small business, but there are tons of free tools out there to market your business. Star Micronics recognizes this and that is why we want to help you be a better retailer!

For more information on AllReceipts®, please visit www.starcloudservices.com.

Sunshine Daydream Offers Groovy Digital Receipt Solution to Customers with Star Micronics’ Help

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Sunshine Daydream Hippie Shop is a psychedelic shopping boutique, located in St. Louis, Missouri. Sunshine Daydream offers an array of merchandise from clothes, to home décor, to smoking accessories, and more. Already a user of Star Micronics TSP100 LAN printers, Sunshine Daydream has decided to implement Star’s AllReceipts™ digital receipt app in all four locations, allowing customers to store and manage their receipts digitally on their smart phones.

Sunshine Daydream, already a user of Star’s TSP100 thermal printers with Microsoft RMS, was looking for a way to better connect with their customers. After seeing a live demo of the AllReceipts app, they immediately saw the value to the solution. Allowing customers to view their receipt digitally was a feature that Sunshine Daydream was previously looking for, but was very expensive to add to their Microsoft RMS platform. AllReceipts free digital receipt app was the perfect solution.

AllReceipts digital receipt app provided Sunshine Daydream with a way to engage with customers and receive their direct feedback on their shopping experience. The app also allows Sunshine Daydream to manage their POS directly through the app, seeing receipt recalls, printer status, and if the cash drawer had been left open for too long. What’s more, the AllReceipts app came at no additional expense for Sunshine Daydream, and the installation took less than two minutes; they were able to go live with the app instantaneously!

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“Star’s AllReceipts app was the perfect digital receipt solution for Sunshine Daydream. Aside from it costing us nothing, the install was easy, and it allows us to receive direct feedback from our customers, and manage our devices digitally through the app, which was a huge plus!”

– Jay Trudeau, Owner of Sunshine Daydream

Download the full success story here: Star_Sunshine-Daydream_Case-Study

3 Ways to Retain Customers Using AllReceipts™

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More often than not, when you walk into a store to buy something, chances are, you’ve been there before. Customers tend to return to their favorite stores when looking for particular items for a number of reasons. Perhaps the location is convenient for the shopper. The store always happens to have what the shopper needs. Maybe the shopper just likes to stick to what they’re comfortable with. Whatever the reason may be, there is a reason that shoppers continue to return to the same few stores for their particular shopping needs.

With AllReceipts™ digital receipt app, you can ensure that your store always retains its shoppers and builds customer loyalty!

AllReceipts™, digital receipt app from Star Micronics, allows customers to digitally store and manage their paperless receipts. But what’s more, AllReceipts™ also allows for retailers to personally engage and communicate with their shoppers to give them a unique and personal shopping experience. These three great features offered by Star Cloud Services, a subsidiary of Star Micronics, allow retailers to better engage and connect with their shoppers to retain customers and build shopper loyalty.

  1. Engage NOW and Messages. Engage NOW and Messages allows retailers to better engage with their customers by giving them the ability to communicate relevant information whether that be promotions, discounts, new arrivals, coupons, or taking the customer directly to their website or desired social media page. With Engage NOW and Messages, the customer can simply tap on the store name, and the retailer’s customer message or website will then appear on the screen.
  2. Receipt Flip. With Receipt Flip, retailers can take full advantage of the entire receipt space by customizing the back. Yet another way to engage with customers, receipt backs can be used to display terms and conditions, store policies, watermark, promotions and marketing material, and more. Simply upload your content into the dashboard to start getting the most out of your receipts.
  3. Customer Survey. The Instant Customer Satisfaction Survey feature allows retailers to receive real-time feedback from customers. When claiming a digital receipt in the AllReceipts™ app, customers are prompted to provide feedback on their experience, which is relayed to the retailer’s user-friendly survey dashboard, allowing them to see how many customers have claimed receipts and the satisfaction level of the service received.

To learn more about the AllReceipts™ digital receipt app, visit www.starcloudservices.com or www.allreceipts.com.

NRF 2016 Recap

 

NRF 2016

Star Micronics would like to thank all of those who visited us at NRF Big Show 2016! We had an amazing time interacting with our customers and partners, building new relationships, and sharing information on our newest products and technology. We’d like to share some of the highlights from the show for anyone who might have missed it.

For Star, trade shows are a way to connect with our customers and partners on a more personal level. We were fortunate enough to have not only a number of partners featuring Star products in our booth, but all over the show floor. With both traditional POS and new mPOS technology and solutions being displayed, Star was able to reach a wider audience and show off both our classic, and our most innovative solutions for the POS and mPOS technology industry.

mPOP mPOP microsoft interview

Our new all-in-one POS solution, the mPOP, was the star of our show this year! The mPOP, Mobile Point of Purchase, is Star’s first hybrid for tablet POS that combines a cash drawer and printer peripheral. Along with the number of mPOPs showcased in our own booth with our partners’ software and tablet mounting cases, we found them across the entire show being featured at Intel, Microsoft, MagTek, Celerant, Armor Active, and more!

TSP100III TSP100III NRF video

For the first time, Star Micronics showcased our newest POS thermal receipt printer, the TSP100III, at NRF 2016! Star anticipates the TSP100III to be one of our hit product of 2016. The POS thermal receipt printer is perfect for retail and hospitality with simple “Push ‘n’ Connect” WPS set-up, WLAN connection, USB power source for tablet or mobile device charging, high-speed printing, and tons of other great features.

AllReceipts AllReceipts NRF

Star Micronics is also expecting big things for AllReceipts in 2016! From Star Cloud Services, AllReceipts, is a free digital receipt solution available on all Star Micronics printer models. With complete demos and free giveaways, people flooded the AllReceipts stand to learn more about how to digitally manage their receipts.

 

Star Micronics also had the pleasure of welcoming our Latin America team to the show. It was a great opportunity for us not only to connect with our own team, but to meet the many partners and customers that they have been working closely with as well.

Overall, it was the wonderful combination of our customers, partners, and our own Star Micronics team that helped to make NRF 2016 a successful show. Thank you again to everyone who attended and we look forward to seeing you all next year!

 

Brianna Moriarty

Marketing Communications Associate

Bluetooth and mPOS, A Perfect Pairing

Have you ever made a hands-free call in your car or listened to music on a wireless headphone? If so, then you probably used a device running on Bluetooth technology. These days, almost any personal electronic device comes with Bluetooth – from your laptop to your mobile phone. Named after 10th-century King Harald Bluetooth, who was temporarily able to unite several warring Scandinavian tribes, Bluetooth is a protocol for short-range wireless communications.

PORTABLE BLUETOOTH PRINTERS

When two Bluetooth enabled devices connect to each other, this is called pairing. The structure and the global acceptance of Bluetooth technology means any Bluetooth enabled device, almost everywhere in the world, can connect to other Bluetooth enabled devices located in proximity to one another.

The key features of Bluetooth technology are its ubiquitous use in consumer electronics, low power consumption and low cost. The Bluetooth Specification defines a uniform structure for a wide range of devices to connect and communicate with each other.

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Bluetooth technology offers an easy way for businesses to set up a wireless point of sale solution operating in an mPOS ecosystem. Star Micronics has an extensive catalog of Bluetooth supported products ranging from desktop receipt printers, portable receipt printers, impact kitchen printers, label printers, wide format printers, secure medical prescription printers and secure wireless cash management solutions. All Star Micronics Bluetooth receipt printers and Bluetooth cash drawers are dual chip Apple MFi certified with Bluetooth iOS support for iOS and all Apple iDevices as well as Bluetooth 2.1 support for Android and Windows based mobile devices.

 

To learn more about Bluetooth solutions from Star visit http://www.starmicronics.com/printer/technology/bluetooth

Finding your mPOS

Buzzwords such as “showrooming” and “webrooming” have been keywords associated with the mPOS trends in retail and hospitality. As the adoption of mobile devices rise, customers are embracing the BYOD culture and bringing their personal mobile devices into their favorite retail stores when they shop. Rather than fighting the customers, retailers are now embracing mPOS and creating a more mobile friendly environment for their patrons. Many merchants have upgraded their infrastructure to provide free WiFi to encourage their customers to shop with their mobile devices. Many retailers and hospitality providers are also jumping in on the action by leveraging technology to close the service gap. “Clienteling” is now the buzzword that trumps “showrooming” and “webrooming.”

The best definition of clienteling was summarized by RedPrairie as:

clienteling

As a result of clienteling, many retailers and hospitality providers are turning to mPOS technologies to better engage their customers in-store. By engaging customers on the same platforms and devices, the salesperson can provide individualized shopping experiences for each customer based on their preferences.

When choosing an mPOS solution, both software and hardware considerations must be taken to ensure the solution fits the store’s business objectives and its physical infrastructure. While mPOS software can be implemented on an application level, choosing matching mPOS hardware can present a challenge. For instance, the mPOS hardware in question must be coordinated with the IT infrastructure of the store. The mPOS hardware must also be compatible with the platform and mobile devices used by staff and even the customers. To further complicate things, the mPOS hardware must not only be integrated with the mPOS software but it must be physically integrated into the layout of the brick and mortar store.

Help is on the way! At Star Micronics, we understand your concerns. To help simplify the process of successful mPOS integration, we have come up with a free white paper for download on our website to help retailers and hospitality providers choose the best receipt printers for their mPOS solution.