5 Ways to Incorporate the Internet of Things into Your Store

The Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer just a buzzword – it’s a living, breathing technology that’s making a splash in retail stores around the world. By 2020, it’s estimated that there will be over 30 billion IoT devices!

IoT offers great benefits to the retail industry. In fact, 77% of retailers believe it improves the customer experience, 89% report that it provides increased insights into customer preferences, and 77% say that it helps them work with partners to deliver quality products and services.

How will IoT devices impact stores’ bottom lines? By reducing inventory error, optimizing supply chain management, and decreasing labor costs, it’s estimated that the potential economic impact of IoT in retail environments will range from $410 billion to $1.2 trillion per year by 2025!

So, how can you take advantage of IoT? Below are five ways to incorporate this new wave into your store.

1. Personalized Discounts

Did you know that nearly half of consumers are willing to share their personal data in exchange for exclusive benefits? One of the biggest benefits shoppers are looking to receive is personalized promotions. By installing connected sensors around your store, you can send loyalty discounts to customers when they stand near certain products.

You can also use IoT to track what items a customer has looked at online, and then give them a personalized discount on that specific item when they visit your physical store. Another great way to use customer data to promote sales is through Star Micronics PromoPRNT, a value-add program that works with your existing receipt printer to deliver promotions directly on printed receipts.

2. Smart Shelves

Smart Shelving in a Kroger Store. (Source: Microsoft News)

Soon retail shelves as we know it will be completely different, thanks to smart shelves. This next-generation shelving includes electronic labels, personalized advertisements, RFID technology, and IoT sensors. One popular use case for smart shelves is supermarkets – grocery retailers are expected to increasingly use smart shelves to quickly update product prices, as well as display promotions, nutritional data, coupons, videos, and more.

Smart shelves can also interact with apps on a customer’s phone and do things like show shoppers where to find all the items on their grocery list, and enable each item to be scanned by a robotic checkout.

3. Beacons

Beacons – or small wireless sensors that can be attached virtually anywhere – work with customers’ smartphones to collect locational and contextual data (if they have downloaded your app). These sensors can be used to track shoppers when they’re in your store and send them personalized content, coupons, and more. In the age of online shopping, this level of exclusive, tailored content is just what stores need to keep drawing customers into their brick and mortar establishment.

The truth of beacon success is in the numbers: approximately 75% of shoppers provided with beacon content say it increased their chances of making a purchase, and over 60% said they’re willing to spend more money on holiday shopping at brick-and-mortar stores if they’re sent special offers.

4. Digital Signage

An Example of Digital Signage. (Source: Sophatar)

Any way you cut it, digital signage is huge in both helping boost a store’s attractiveness, as well as pushing data-driven content to strategically targeted customers. Digital signage can truly unify your IoT efforts by collecting customer data from beacons, sensors, and smart devices, and then display commercials, product information, and personalized promotions – at just the right time.

Curious how big of a market digital signage is? Hint: huge. The global market value for digital signage is expecting to grow to $32.84 billion by 2023! If you’re looking to make the most of your digital signage, consider using a tool such as Sales Receipt Viewer & Analytics. The tool provides web-based receipt data and allows you to download digital receipts, analyze sales trends, discover sales anomalies, and more.

5. Supply Chain Management

Simply put, IoT is redefining supply chain management across the globe. Here are three examples:

  • Asset Tracking: RFID and GPS sensors can track products from factory to store. This not only makes asset tracking much easier, but it can also provide important information such as what temperature a product was kept at and how long it took to sell.
  • Inventory: Using IoT sensors, retailers can instantly check inventory levels and proactively receive alerts when a product’s inventory is low. The sensors are also very helpful in tracking purchasing trends, making inventory management a more efficient process.
  • Maintenance: IoT sensors can also be placed on manufacturing equipment to keep on top of scheduled maintenance, preventing expensive and untimely break-downs.

Did you know that valuable connected data can be provided by your receipt printer? Learn more about how to boost your business with Star Micronics Cloud Services!

8 of the Coolest Food Halls in America

Say hello to food halls, the food court’s trendy, eclectic cousin. A food hall is defined as “a commercial space with communal seating populated by a variety of curated, high-quality local food purveyors.” Run by entrepreneurs, celebrity chefs, and creative next-generation cooks, these food bazaars are immensely growing in popularity. In 2010, there were just 25 American food halls, but by 2020, it’s estimated that 300 will call the United States home. Before we explore eight of the coolest food halls in America, let’s quickly review some food hall features:

  • They’re Everywhere – and for Everyone: Realty-wise, food halls are popular among mall operators and real estate developers who see them as part of an experiential retail strategy. While some food halls are owned by the city and some are privately owned, they’re becoming a key feature in commercial, residential, and mixed-use buildings. On the consumer side of things, those who enjoy dining out – and eating authentic, delicious dishes – are an ideal food hall customer (in other words, almost everyone!).
  • They’re Cost-Efficient and Successful: Startup costs for restaurants are huge and a hard pill for many to swallow (it takes an average of $250,000 to open one). For many entrepreneurs, food halls are a far less risky, month-to-month rental option. Although the cost per square foot may be higher in a food hall than a standalone location, entrepreneurs get the added benefit of more foot traffic, a shared economy with other restaurants, and an aggregated social media following from the food hall – all which boils down to a better chance at succeeding. And the success of food halls certainly shows in the numbers: out of over 100 halls that have opened in America, only three have failed.
  • They’re Playing a Part in Urban Renewal: Food halls aren’t just good for restaurateurs – they’re great for their respective communities, too. In fact, they’re becoming a key element in revitalizing inner-city areas. One prime example of this is the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, which accepts more food stamps than any other place in the city. Food halls are also being planned for smaller urban areas like Plano, Texas, Greenville, South Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • They’re Experiential: From incubation kitchens and event spaces to live music and art installations, food halls are the definition of experiential. When it comes to theme, some food halls share one theme (for example, one entire hall is French -themed). On the other hand, some contain a large, diverse variety of food and beverages to choose from. There’s a food hall for everyone!

Now on to the fun stuff – let’s take a look at eight of the coolest food halls in the U.S. (in no particular order).

1. Midtown Global Market – Minneapolis, Minnesota

“An Internationally-Themed Public Market with Great Food, Cultural Experiences and Unique Gifts”

Source: Eater.com

  • Opened in 2006 with the backing of four non-profits
  • 50+ shops, stalls and purveyors of international cuisines
  • Interesting Features: Indian burritos, camel burgers, cooking classes, live music, indoor farmers market

2. Eden Center – Falls Church, Virginia

“Washington DC’s Premier Destination for Vietnamese Cuisine and Specialties”

A Year of Dog Celebration at Eden House. (Source: Falls Church News Press)

  • Houses the highest concentration of Vietnamese-owned businesses in America
  • 100+ shops
  • Interesting Features: authentic pho, fried tofu bites, caramelized freshwater prawns, various cultural events

3. Ponce City Market – Atlanta, Georgia

“A Vibrant Community Hub Housing the Central Food Hall, Various Shops, Flats and Offices, All While Pointing Back to the Roots of its Inception”

Source: Eater.com

  • Located in the historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building
  • Interesting Features: Crispy fish sandwich (with a different fish each day), edible cookie dough shop, old-fashioned candy store, carnival amusements and refreshments

4. East End Market – Orlando, Florida

“Central Florida’s Food and Culture Hub”

Source: Yelp

  • Showcases Central Florida’s top food entrepreneurs, tradespeople, artists and chefs
  • Home to 12 merchants, an event space, a demonstration kitchen, an incubator kitchen, offices, retail shops, a caterer, and a full-service restaurant
  • Interesting Features: food business startup classes, customizable cooking classes, in-house meal delivery service

5. St. Roch Market – New Orleans, Louisiana

“A Destination for the Culinarily Curious”

Source: St. Roch Market

  • Located in an 1800s farmers market
  • Home to 11 dining options, centered around an award-winning craft cocktail bar
  • Interesting Features: Haitian street food, Vietnamese street food, after-dark game nights

6. 1-800-LUCKY – Miami, Florida

“A 10,000-Square-Foot Food Hall in the Style of a Hip, Asian Market with Indoor and Outdoor Seating and a Booming Soundtrack of Hip Hop”

Taiyaki Ice Cream at 1-800-LUCKY. (Source: Yelp)

  • Industrial setting
  • Home to seven restaurants, two bars, a karaoke room, and a convenience store/record shop
  • Interesting Features: Chinese BBQ, poke bowls, taiyaki (fish-shaped cake), dim sum, cultural parties

7. Shirokiya Japan Village Walk – Honolulu, Hawaii

“A ‘Theme Park Village’ in the Image of Monzen-Machi, a Town Built Adjacent to Shrines and Temples with the Guardian Spirits Sanctuary at its Core”

Source: Yelp

  • Sprawling food hall with an array of Japanese dishes, a French restaurant, and an indoor beer garden
  • Interesting Features: a soft service ice cream shop from Harajuku, a café specialized in siphon coffee, a spirit sanctuary, a radio studio

8. The Barn – Lexington, Kentucky

“Kentucky’s First and Finest Artisan Food Hall—Bringing the Best of Lexington’s Culinary Scene to the Heart of The Summit at Fritz Farm”

Source: Yelp

  • All local, all independent lineup of restauranteurs
  • Interesting Features: craft ice cream, a superhero-themed ramen shop, whiskey bar

Whether or not your restaurant is located in a food hall, the Star Micronics mCollection can modernize your space – learn more now.

What to Look for in a Retail Space

When you operate a retail brand, your storefront is everything. And when you consider that the average real estate lease term length is 3-5 years, it’s important to choose your space wisely. That’s why we’re here to discuss the three key things to look for in a retail space – before you sign your next lease. Read on!

A Prime Location

Location, location, location! One of the most important features to look for in a retail space is its location. The area’s foot traffic and demographic makeup should be two of your top considerations. What sort of shoppers stroll the area, and do they align with your target customer?

Another important thing to consider is the climate of the local business community. Are the businessowners supportive of each other? Do they collaborate? A supportive group of entrepreneurs will help you succeed – and an ultra-competitive environment most likely will not.

In addition to your customers and fellow businesses, you also need to keep your employees and contractors in the forefront of your mind. What local amenities will be available to your staff? From nearby restaurants to convenience stores, the more you accommodate for a healthy work-life balance, the better talent you’ll attract. You must also keep in mind the parking and public transportation availability – for your staff, contractors, delivery trucks and more.

The Right Price

The price should absolutely be right in your new space. Ideally, your lease payment should amount to 3-8% of your gross revenue, depending on your industry. For example, a store with lots of big-ticket sales (like an electronics store) usually has rent that is about 2% of its gross revenue. On the contrary, clothing stores typically average rent that’s approximately 8% of their gross revenue. Curious what your target rent is? Below are sample amounts by industry:

Industry Percentage of Sales Allocated for Rent
Clothing and Apparel 7.66%
General Merchandise Stores 3.86%
Furniture and Furnishing Stores 5.98%
Food and Drink Establishments 5.81%
Electronics and Appliance Stores 2.09%
Books, Hobby, Music, Sporting Goods Stores 3.30%
Health & Personal Care Stores 3.37%

Source: fitsmallbusiness.com

And don’t forget about your down payment, and other expenses like utilities, property taxes, insurance, and common area maintenance (CAM)!

Properly Sized and Equipped

Once you’ve found a space that’s in a location that fits your target demographic – and your budget – it’s time to take a deeper look at the store’s features.

First, you need to make sure the space is the right size for your business. To calculate your target square footage, add together the sizes of the different areas in your store: for example, your sales floor, inventory storage, office, kitchen, bathrooms, and dressing rooms. Not sure how big your sales floor should be? Here’s a handy formula: Planned sales volume / average sales per square foot in your industry = sales floor space

If you’re just starting out, consider a pop-up shop, or a “store within a store.” These are more affordable than standalone shops, can help familiarize your target market with your brand, and helps the storeowner offset the high cost of rent. When your goal is to grow your baseline brand awareness, it’s worth doing some research and finding a complementary store in your target area to partner with!

Next, make sure the space has the features you need to make your store shine. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Lighting: Can the lights be dimmed? Can alternative lights be brought in?
  • Loss Prevention: Are there cameras (or other tactics) to prevent theft?
  • Emergencies: Is there adequate fire and police presence in the area?
  • Sales Restrictions: For example, are there restrictions on Sunday sales (blue laws)?
  • Wi-Fi: What’s the Wi-Fi availability like? This is extremely important so that you can process credit card transactions on your mPOS system.

Last but not least, don’t forget to keep in mind your target shopper – what do they look like? What is their occupation? Where do they live and what do they do for fun? When you boil it down, you need your retail space to match your target audience. For example, if your customers typically have small children, make sure you build in extra aisle space to accommodate strollers. And if you are selling trendy items, you’ll need a clean, modern, easy-to-manage space to match.

We hope these tips are helpful while navigating retail space leases. Looking for more retail know-how? Browse our Small Business Tips!

Millennials’ Eating Habits: How They’re Changing the Food Industry

If there’s one generation that makes headlines, it’s millennials. According to the 2015 U.S. Census, there are 75.4 million millennials living in the country, officially making them the largest generation in the States. If you operate a restaurant, it’s worth paying attention to what millennials do and want – especially when you consider that they spend more dining out than they save for retirement. Here are the top four things millennials are seeking when it comes to dining out – and how these changes are affecting the food industry.

They Want Convenience

The first meal kit service started in 2007 – and now, 12 years later, it’s a booming industry estimated to hit $10 billion in revenue by 2020. Who’s to thank for that? Millennials, of course – they’re considerably more likely to subscribe to these services than non-millennials.

That’s just one example of the importance convenience has to millennials. Other popular (and booming) examples are grocery delivery services, food trucks, heat-and-eat options available at grocery stores, and online ordering (millennials are the most likely to get home delivery from restaurants). In fact, according to the 2017 Food and Health Survey by the International Food Information Council, 55% of millennials say convenience is a top driver when buying food.

They Want Transparency (And Responsibility)

Don’t be mistaken: just because millennials value convenience doesn’t mean they don’t also take healthiness and sustainability seriously. The trend is just the opposite, actually.

First and foremost, millennials are redefining what it means for a food to be considered “healthy” – instead of low-fat being a top priority, they now put natural, organic, locally sourced, and sustainable foods at the top of their list. Did you know that millennials eat 52% more vegetables than baby boomers and 52% of organic consumers are millennials?

This generation also wants to know where their food is made – a whopping 80% of them want to know more about where their food is grown – and they value how it’s made (you may have noticed the terms “locally sourced” and “farm-to-table” popping up on menus in recent years).

Avocado toast, a trendy meal popular among millennials. Source: pexels.com

They Want Trendiness

Gone are the days of steak and potatoes – instead, unique, customizable items are making a splash with millennials. “Build-your-own” quick service restaurants (like Chipotle) are growing steadily, and for a good reason: 72% of consumers expect customization! Some examples of recent unique trends are food bowls, food mashups/hybrids (hello, cronuts), and avocado toast.

So, are unique meals actually popular with millennials, or do they just make headlines? The former is true: 40% of millennials report they like to order different things every time they eat in the same restaurant, and they don’t shy away from vegan and cultural cuisines. They’re also described as open-minded and curious. Besides adopting a creative menu, it’s a good idea to also create a unique, modern vibe in your restaurant – from your light fixtures to your point of sale.

They Want an Experience

If you have a social media account, you know that photos from users experiencing a satisfying meal are popular. In fact, 75% of millennials report they value the experience of eating food more than the nourishment. And social media is a huge part of the dining experience: 41% of millennials log in to Facebook every day, 29% use Instagram regularly, and 25% use Snapchat on a daily basis. To top it off, 20% of millennials say that they receive food news from peers on Facebook.

To help make your restaurant “Instagram-worthy,” consider adopting a modern and aesthetically pleasing menu design, ambiance, and décor – and don’t forget to create social media accounts for your restaurant if you haven’t already!

Looking to modernize your restaurant for today’s largest demographic? Discover how Star Micronics helped a restaurant operate efficiently, provide excellent service, and incorporate online ordering.

Star Micronics Scales: For More Than Just Cannabis

When you think of Star Micronics scales, you might think of cannabis retail use cases. To be fair, our mG-Scales series – including the mG-S322, the mG-S1501, and the mG-S8200 – is authorized to sell cannabis in Washington, Alaska, and California. But did you know that Star Micronics scale uses extend way beyond cannabis? Star’s mG-Scales boast the the following features:

  • NTEP certification, which is required for all U.S. retail sales
  • Included water- and dust-proof cover
  • Software support for Windows, iOS, and Android
  • Bluetooth BLE, USB, and Serial interfaces
  • Can be powered through an outlet or by battery, enabling portable use

Star Micronics scales are great for cannabis retailers – but check out six other industries that are also a perfect match for our scales:

1. Delis

As every grocery shopper knows, deli items like meats and cheeses are almost always sold by weight. Many large-scale delis, such as those in grocery stores, use specialty scales that are high-performing and large in size, but come with a hefty price tag. On the contrast, smaller delis don’t need such a big footprint, and most importantly, they need a more affordable integrated scale option. Star Micronics scales fit that bill perfectly, with their compact design, affordable price, and protective and easy-to-clean cover.

2. Candy Stores

Because many candies are sold in bulk and high-end candies, such as truffles, are sometimes sold by weight, scales are a must for candy retailers. With their bright and modern design, candy stores are also a perfect environment for sleek, tablet-based point of sale solutions – but there aren’t a lot of scales on the market that can integrate with tablet point of sale. That’s where Star Micronics scales come in to play: our scales’ Bluetooth connectivity – combined with iOS and Android software development kits (SDKs) – enables them to work easily with modern tablet-based solutions. How sweet!

3. Spice Shops

Like candy, spices are also generally sold by weight and with certain spices like saffron costing up to $10,000 per pound, it’s extremely important to accurately weigh them. Star Micronics scales combine high accuracy with a small footprint – perfect for a spice shop! Our scales also have the ability to be battery operated, meaning that items like spices can be sold at a farmer’s market with no power – without sacrificing accurate measurement.

4. Jewelry Stores

Speaking of expensive items, Star Micronics scales are a great match for jewelry stores. Jewelry is another high cost-per-weight industry, and precious metals and gems must be measured extremely accurately. Star’s most sensitive scale, the mG-S322, can measure to 0.01g accuracy and the units can be switched to carats for measuring materials like diamonds. And thanks to the scale’s included glass enclosure, air movement doesn’t move the jewelry or affect measurements.

5. Frozen Yogurt Shops

Taking a step back to modern, sugary industries, frozen yogurt is another business category where tablet-based point of sale is becoming very popular, making it critical to have an iOS/Android-compatible scale, like Star’s. Additionally, frozen yogurt shop counterspace is at a premium, making Star scales’ small footprint a must. In terms of actual measurements, Star Micronics scales can measure in ounces, the industry’s most popular unit of measurement, and with lots of potential for messiness in the shop, the scales’ protective and easy-to-clean covers certainly come in handy.

Star’s TSP800IIRx Thermal Printer is also perfect for pharmacies

6. Pharmacies

Candy is delicious and jewelry is beautiful, but in the pharmacy industry, accurately measuring items can be a matter of life and death. In fact, there’s no industry where it’s more important to reliably measure to a high degree of accuracy. Connectivity to software is also important, as measurements are often validated by software to reduce errors. Star Micronics scales have all of that and more – they also include a counting function that’s useful for counting pills. And with an accompanying pharmacy thermal printer, Star is truly one of the most functional, reliable, accurate options on the market for pharmacies.

Looking to up your retail scale game? Learn more about Star Micronics scales now!

Why Guest Wi-Fi is an Important Asset for Small Businesses

If one thing is true about today’s consumers, it’s that they are constantly (or nearly constantly) connected. With the rising trend of omnichannel retail experiences, it’s more important than ever to provide an easy, free way for your customers to connect to the internet. Implementing a guest Wi-Fi network does more than connect your shoppers to their favorite apps and websites, though – it can also improve your business in many ways! Here’s how:

Enhance Marketing

Speaking of omnichannel marketing, having a guest Wi-Fi network is an excellent way to expand your omnichannel strategy. One way to do so is to engage in Wi-Fi marketing, a method where you use your network as a channel to communicate with your shoppers. Using Wi-Fi marketing, you can promote campaigns of your choice, which can serve as a part of your in-store marketing strategy.

When guests log on to your Wi-Fi network, their phones will redirect to a splash page where they’ll view a branded message, as well as details about the network and its terms of use. On the page, users will enter credentials such as their email address, which can help you build customer profiles and gather leads. With this additional insight into shoppers’ demographics, you can further tailor your marketing tactics to better suit them, and that can help create more sales. For example, a Deviscape survey found that half of businesses report that customers spend more money now that they have a Wi-Fi network!

Safeguard Internet of Things (IoT) Devices

Better marketing and more sales are nice, but did you know that implementing a guest Wi-Fi network has security benefits, as well? If you incorporate IoT-connected devices into your store, such as automated checkouts and smart shelves, you probably already know that they’re more vulnerable than traditional devices. If you connect those smart devices to your main network, the chance that hackers can access your other devices – like your main server or physical security system – is increased.  By connecting your smart devices to a guest network instead, you create an additional layer of protection against attacks; Even if a cybercriminal hacks into one of your devices, they won’t be able to penetrate your main network, where your most valuable information lies.

Improve Customer Experience

Last but not least – and this probably goes without saying – guest Wi-Fi networks greatly improve the customer experience. Depending on your store location and your customers’ cellular provider, providing shoppers a guest network saves them data and gives them a potentially faster network. And there are stats to back it up – nearly 62% of businesses with free Wi-Fi report their customers stay in the store longer, which likely means they’re having a better shopping experience, spending more money, and are more likely to return.

From boosting sales to securing your sensitive data, there are many reasons to utilize a guest Wi-Fi network. Looking for even more ways to improve your retail store? Click here to read more of Star’s Small Business Tips!

5 Irresistible Valentine’s Day Marketing Ideas

It may feel like we just celebrated the holidays, but already another holiday is upon us: Valentine’s Day!  Historically, the romantic holiday has been a big money maker – in fact, the National Retail Federation has predicted that U.S. consumers will spend a near-record $19.6 billion this year on Valentine’s Day alone. So how can retailers take advantage of this? Today, we have five irresistible Valentine’s Day marketing ideas for your small business:

A PromoPRNT Two-for-One Example

Promote Two-for-One Deals

What better time to promote a two-for-one deal than Valentine’s Day? If your business is in the hospitality industry, consider offering two meals, or two desserts, for the price of one. If you are a boutique shop, consider offering two accessories for the price of one. You could also simply offer a specific discount, like 14% off a customer’s entire purchase (to honor February 14). To ensure your customers have plenty of time to become aware of and plan for your sale, promote it at least one week ahead of time. A great way to practice Valentine’s Day marketing on your current shoppers is to promote the sale on your printed receipts.

Leverage Seasonal Branding

No one can ignore well-planned seasonal branding. Whether you choose to do your branding in-store or online, creating a festive vibe can get your shoppers in the mood to spend on their loved ones (or treat themselves). Examples of online branding could include Valentine’s Day-themed social media posts and email campaigns. In-store branding can include everything from decorating with flowers and balloons, to offering gift wrapping services and having your staff wear pink or red outfits. Don’t forget to showcase any holiday-themed items at the front of your store.

An Example of Promoting Your Gift Guide via PromoPRNT

Take Advantage of Pop Culture

Thanks to the television show Parks and Recreation, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on more days than just February 14! The hit show coined “Galentine’s Day” during its second season in February 2010. Since then, many women have started to celebrate the holiday, which focuses on the love they have for their female friends, on February 13 each year. Don’t believe us? A quick Google search of the term, “Galentine’s Day” yields a whopping 1.5 million results, including news articles, gift guides, party tips, and more. Another example of a Valentine’s Day-related holiday (that isn’t Valentine’s Day) is Singles Awareness Day, which takes place annually on February 15. So many holidays to take advantage of in your Valentine’s Day marketing strategy!

Create a Gift Guide

You know your product (or service) best. There’s no one better to provide a Valentine’s Day gift guide! You can create a guide that is tailored to your specific products and allows you to clearly pitch your selling points. You can even create “his and hers” versions, and versions specific to someone’s interest (e.g. cooking or fashion). Gift guides are a great way to flex your omnichannel marketing muscle – offer your guides in person, online, or both by pointing your customers to your online store via a printed receipt.

Source: Buzzfeed

Send Valentine’s Day Cards

Last, but not least, is a tried-and-true favorite: Valentine’s Day cards. Whether you deliver them in person beforehand with a coupon attached, or deliver them digitally day-of (via social media or email), an eye-catching greeting card is sure to capture your shoppers’ attention. Valentine’s Day cards are also a great way to show your brand’s personality or sense of humor – click here to check out some inspirational “punny” cards.

PromoPRNT, Star Micronics’ value-add tool, can help you with Valentine’s Day marketing – using your existing receipt printer! Click here to learn more and get promoting today.

The Cannabis Industry: What Lies Ahead in 2019

As more states and countries continue to legalize medicinal and recreational cannabis use, one thing is clear: the cannabis industry is here to stay – and it’s rapidly growing. This new industry doesn’t just affect cannabis users – it affects countless markets. So, what’s to come in 2019, in terms of cannabis? Here are four key predictions for this year:

Cannabis-Infused Products Will Thrive

If you only think of dry leaf marijuana when you imagine cannabis, you are missing out on a ton of the market’s hottest products. Non-leaf CBD-infused items have a very high profit margin. Derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant, but without any psychoactive properties, hemp products infused with CBD are a great way to introduce cannabis to a larger crowd. Cannabis-infused beverages, in particular, are slated to be a huge hit in 2019, but other infused products include oils, beauty and skin care products, pain relief ointments, chocolates, nuts, gummies – and even dog treats. These alternative forms of cannabis are expected to spread across North America, thanks to the recently passed U.S. Farm Bill which legalized industrial hemp. Many of these products (minus the dog treats) also come in psychoactive THC-infused forms, and are experiencing widespread popularity, thanks to medical and recreational marijuana bills being passed in several states, as well as Canada’s recent legalization of recreational usage.

The Key Players Will Emerge

Until now, it’s been tricky figuring out who the top players will be in the cannabis industry. However, with consumer spending expected to jump 40% this year, those who are executing successful cannabis business plans should get a big boost this year as sales continue to grow. Strategy in this rapidly-expanding market will be key, and by the end of the year (or before), we should have a good idea of who the top dogs are. However, because interstate commerce is denied and it is currently difficult to create any sort of national brand, we will likely not see any nationwide dominators – yet. In the meantime, it will be of utmost importance for cannabis retailers to successfully promote themselves and maintain a tight business plan.

Legalization Will Continue

2018 was a big year for legalization – in fact, it was arguably the biggest one yet – and that trend is expected to continue into 2019. At least six more countries are slated to legalize medicinal marijuana usage, and at least one is expected to legalize recreational use. In terms of the U.S., at least three states have plans to legalize medicinal or recreational usage, with Illinois, New Jersey, and New York being the biggest possibilities. Even more traditionally-conservative states like Texas could change their current marijuana regulations.

(More) Research Will Be Conducted

Cannabis research has already been taking place, but it will pick up speed even more this year. Because of the more open regulatory environment, more research will be conducted, which is expected to spark even more innovation within the cannabis industry. The Farm Bill has opened the CBD market this year, and will support overall marijuana consumption, meaning more knowledge will soon be uncovered on each specific cannabinoid’s (the chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers) powers. For example, therapeutic uses include treating and managing obesity, anorexia, emesis, pain, multiple sclerosis, neuroprotection, inflammation, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, asthma, cardiovascular disorders, glaucoma, cancer, and more.

The cannabis industry is booming. Are you looking to cash in on cannabis point of sale? Download our e-book now!

Why You Should Create Instagram Stories for Your Store

The influence that social media has in today’s society is undeniable. Life is now about documenting every experience, whether it’s a trip to a new country or what you ate for dinner. Instagram Stories allows Instagram users to share multiple experiences through images and videos for a 24-hour period until they disappear (very much like a Snapchat story).

As Instagram Stories has grown to be more popular, it is becoming an important tool to help businesses increase brand awareness and engage with their customers. But first thing’s first – how do you create Stories, and why should you use them?

How To Create An Instagram Story

Although Instagram Stories has existed since 2016, here is a brief tutorial to get you started:

  1. Open your store’s Instagram account and tap either the camera icon or your store’s logo in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Next, either:
    1. Take a picture or video, or
    2. Choose an existing picture or video from your phone’s gallery.
  3. Upload your picture/video to your Story by tapping “Your Story” in the bottom left corner.

Once uploaded, your image will remain on your Story for 24 hours.

Why Use Instagram Stories?

Over 400 million people use Instagram Stories. That’s a lot of people, and it’s more than double the number of Snapchat users! One huge benefit of using Stories is that because you can add public hashtags to your Stories, even users who do not follow your business can discover your content.

Besides making your business more discoverable, Instagram Stories now allows the use of outbound links, meaning you can include links to your website or blog. Stories is also an excellent way to build your business’ community by tagging partners and brand influencers.

Making seasonal content a focus can be very successful on Instagram. Source: pexels.com

Ways to Use Instagram Stories for Your Business

As you’ve now learned, Instagram Stories is a great way to reach your target audience, no matter what industry you are in. In fact, agencies report 2-3 times more engagement with Stories than with regular content. With a plethora of features just one tap away, Instagram Stories can be a valuable part of any small business marketing strategy. Here are some ideas to help get you started:

  • Use location tags to inform users where your store is located
  • Start a poll to get valuable customer feedback
  • Use Stories to highlight product teasers
  • Use the tagging feature to give partner and/or customer shout outs
  • Leverage the “Swipe Up to Read” feature (if you qualify) to give quick access to your website or blog
  • Post motivational quotes
  • Share client success stories

If you’re looking for even more inspiration, click here to learn about eight content tricks used by top brands, from sharing an experience to focusing on seasonal content.

How One Fashion Store Made the Most of Instagram Stories

Utilizing online marketing to drive in-store sales is a huge part of the omnichannel retail experience, and Instagram Stories is a great place to do just that. For example, one footwear and fashion company which recently opened retail stores hoped to raise brand awareness among young women, its target audience. The company created eye-catching Stories video ads, and the Insta-effort really paid off: the ads boosted brand awareness by 11 points among young women! Click here to learn more about how the store leveraged Instagram Stories, or click here for even more Stories ideas.

Good luck and happy “storytelling!”

NRF 2019 Recap: The Point of Sale of the Future

Last week, we had the pleasure of attending and exhibiting at NRF 2019 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. The Star family was set up at booth #3601, and also took some time to explore the show floor and learn even more about the latest trends in retail. Here’s a look back at what we demonstrated in our booth, as well as some of the key trends we noticed around the show.

The Star Booth

Our booth this year was one of our best yet! We chose to create a mock shopping mall, complete with a candy store, apparel boutique, and even a sports stadium. In our “mall,” we demonstrated:

The mCollection:

One highlight of our NRF booth this year was our latest line of mPOS products, the mCollection. Built with the latest technology, the mCollection features sleek and modern printers, scales, and peripherals to offer the full hardware solution, for a variety of industries. The mCollection now also features its very own stand that unifies all of the peripherals and even hides all clunky cables. The lineup’s clean, sophisticated look (and high-end scales) lends itself perfectly to cannabis and confectionery markets, so that’s what we demonstrated this year at NRF!

PromoPRNT:

In-store marketing and customer retention are always hot topics that retail brands want to improve upon. To assist, Star created PromoPRNT, a value-added tool that allows retailers to engage and reengage customers where it matters the most – in the store! By offering printed promotions and information, you can encourage loyalty among customers, with the printer you already use. To educate NRF visitors on PromoPRNT, we set up an “In-Store Marketing” booth, and it was a hit.

The pioneer of PromoPRNT, David Salisbury.

Our Brand-New Coreless Rolls:

On Monday, January 14, we released new coreless paper rolls! It was great timing, and we were able to show off our eco- and budget-friendly rolls at Retail’s Big Show.

Our new coreless paper rolls.

Our Partners:

We were very happy to host some of our best partners in our booth this year. On the software/point of sale side, we demonstrated with Appetize, Apptizer, Evoke, Mad Mobile, SuiteRetail, Vend, and Veras Retail. And when it comes to hardware, we proudly displayed ArmorActive, BOX IT, Elo, Heckler Design, Innovative, Mimo Monitors, nClose, and SpacePole.

A kiosk example from our partner, Evoke.

Trends from Around the Show

Self-Service Kiosks:

Self-service kiosk technology was everywhere at NRF! The need for kiosk printers is quickly expanding as consumers prefer a more fast-paced experience. Star offers printing solutions to fit any kiosk – whether it be for ATMs, lottery, self-ordering, or retail.

Smart Displays:

Smart displays that incorporate dynamic data were another trend we spotted at NRF. An interesting example of this was a demo featuring electronic grocery shelf labels that displayed featured recipes, country of origin, competitors’ prices, and more.

Experiential Retail:

From a bar demo where you created your own drink, to a session focused on architecting an immersive customer environment, experiential retail was a hot NRF topic. Today’s consumers are looking for an authentic, hands-on shopping experience, and that trend was very clear this year at the show.

We had a blast at NRF 2019 and can’t wait for NRF 2020!