Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Impact of Mobile on the Retail Industry

By Charles Edge

One of my first jobs was installing Point Of Sales (POS) solutions. Back then, even a smaller retail organization might expend tremendous resources, with weeks of professional services, to get a solution that allowed them to move their old cash registers into computers that were not user-friendly and provided little value above the traditional ways of completing transactions.

Today, retail stores using Vend, Square, and other flexible technologies are popping up left and right. Everything from small yoga studios to juice bars to boutique shoe stores are experiencing enough initial success to open dozens of locations in months rather than years. This trend seems to be increasing, partially due to how easy the technology is to integrate. While you can still bring consultants in to help you get your technology sorted out quickly, you can also simply create an account on a number of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, install an app, and be selling in a matter of minutes.

As your perspective matures, you’ll learn a few important lessons. Someone will inevitably lose a device, and you’ll have to react swiftly. You’ll want to make it quicker to set-up the devices that people use to swipe credit cards. You’ll get requests for people to pay you in different ways. And hopefully, you’ll get big enough to want to buy things using a volume account (if that’s what you want).

Here are 10 tips to help guide you along the way:
  • At first, use a single platform. This allows you to keep costs down. Supporting one type of device gives you the chance to learn more about that type of device and rely on outside help less. If your organization is oriented towards apps that run on Android, then go all Android. If you have easy access to Apple devices, go all Apple. And P.S. Try to stick with mobile devices; they’re easier to support!
  • Keep in mind that ease of use will trump the initial cost of a device in the long run. Not having to bring in a third party to help you maintain devices can have massive savings for your company you’ll feel right away.
  • Buy your devices using a company account: with Apple, this means getting set-up with a Purchase Order. Devices you order are then shipped with a technology called DEP (Device Enrollment Program). Devices that are in Apple’s DEP program allow you to automate the enrollment process.
  • Use an MDM (Mobile Device Management) solution. At first, you might only access its ability to wipe a device should it fall out of your control. Later, you’ll want to make use of tools like Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP) which allows you to buy apps en masse and to deploy free and paid apps without having to setup an Apple ID for what could be devices used by multiple people. I’m partial to this one, as a member of the team that makes Bushel (, a solution built specifically with small businesses in mind.
  • When you hire your first employee, get a time-tracking solution. One of the easiest SaaS solutions is Deputy (
  • Choose an accounting package that both your POS system and your accountant can support. This will help keep your accounting and tax fees low and keep the time you invest getting data to the right people at tax-time to a minimum. Check out QuickBooks (, Xero (, or FreshBooks (
  • Keep all your money in one place—at least until you have multiple charts of accounts. You can easily see everything under one hood using a simple banking app, like Mint (
  • Get social now! Go ahead and claim your names on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The sooner you start posting content, the quicker you’ll find that content driving traffic to your site (and ultimately your store). Make content, and don’t regurgitate too much. Be interesting and appropriate to your target audience. But most importantly, be authentic. People like to interact with the people behind brands, so make sure to brand yourself and your employees in the right light.
  • Keep your documents in the cloud. Consider,, or other file sharing services to help you put menus, product descriptions, contracts, and other information in an easy place that you can share from. Don’t bother with a server at first (if ever), as this will simply drive costs up.
  • And one of the most important tips: make sure you can export your data from every service you invest in. On the POS side, this will keep your transaction history, customer list, and other important data within systems you own. Don’t worry about paying for a few apps to test; in the long-run, making sure you have the features you need will save you a lot more than the $20-$30 you might spend picking the right app!
Overall, starting a business was one of the most rewarding and crazy things I’ve ever done. There are so many lessons you learn along the way. Keeping these 10 in mind should help get you through those first few months, at least as far as your tech is concerned!

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