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Power Revenue with Reward Programs 

Reward programs are making a comeback. While many are yet to see their benefits or are still skeptical, more and more small businesses are investing in them. With the rise of social media and big data, a reward program has become an essential tool for small businesses to stay relevant. A 2021 report by Clarus Commerce places reward programs above lower prices as 9 out of 10 consumers indicated that they would purchase from a retailer that offers the former!

Since we love small businesses, we have developed some great solutions to maximize customer retention. Offering a loyalty program is a great way for businesses to show customers that they are valued. Reward programs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but most deliver discounts or rewards.

This blog will look at ten reasons why reward programs are an excellent opportunity for SMEs.

The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Reward Programs 

One of the most challenging conundrums that we, as small business owners, face is achieving business growth and increased profitability on limited resources and budgets. That is we have to retain as many customers as possible. 

And one of the best strategies to achieve that is reward and loyalty programs. But how do they work? 

Reward programs are premised on two facts: 

  1. It is more economical to engage existing customers and prompt them to re-avail services rather than to spend on courting new customers.
  2. A business’ most loyal customers are also its most profitable.

Small businesses that offer reward programs have a great ROI because it shifts the emphasis from the brand to curating customer experiences that resonate and leave a mark – thus, making it more desirable for people to join, engage and even, promote the business’ brand! 

Importance and Benefits of Reward Programs 

Encouraging Repeat Business and Boosting Revenue 

Studies show that the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, whereas a new prospect buying a product or availing a service from our business is barely 5% to 20%. In other words, the small business would be 40% more likely to convince an existing customer to make more purchases than a prospective customer. 

With exciting reward programs in bonuses, discounts, and previews, customers would be encouraged to do more business and boost revenue!

Establishes a Loyal Customer Base 

A loyal client base provides a small business with stability and ongoing revenue even during snags in sales, allowing it to grow and prosper. Implementing a loyalty or rewards program at the point of sale will establish a loyal repeat client base and improve customer retention. 

Another study shows that 4 out of 10 people are willing to spend more on food orders if there is a loyalty program!

Boosts Customer Lifetime Value 

Studies estimate that a 5% increase in the customer retention rate can have profound business implications, with at least 25% up to 95% increase in profitability being recorded!  

This means two things in terms of metrics:  

  • Decreased customer churn rate.
  • Enhanced customer lifetime value (LTV). 

These metrics relate to lifecycle management, which concerns aligning a company’s marketing approach with the business goals of enhancing LTV and boosting sales! 

Increasing Customer Lifetime Value 

According to research, customers that have an emotional connection to the business’s brand have a better lifetime value than the ordinary customer. 

The reasoning is quite simple: these clients already spend more money on the brand and must be compensated for it. This is where reward programs come in handy for fostering consumer loyalty! 

Reward programs incentivize customers who already believe in the brand and purchase products to spend more while being rewarded for it! 

Improves Customer Relations 

The most crucial factor that influences brand sustainability, in the long run, is customer engagement. Brands that fail to connect with the target audience have a low recall value and fail to establish a trustworthy brand image.

Fosters Brand Advocacy 

Reward programs in refer-a-friend or free perks upon referrals are perhaps the most effective reward program plan. This is because they hinge upon “trust” by turning current customers into marketers. This is because 90% of people trust brand recommendations from friends, family, and peers over all other sources. 

Differentiate from Competitors 

Customer reward programs are now emerging as a must-have for businesses at the point of sale. Studies show that customers are 40% more likely to buy from brands that offer some form of rewards/loyalty program! 

In this way, small businesses can gain a competitive edge over competitors who don’t! 

Generates Leads 

Studies show that 9 out of 10 rely on word-of-mouth referrals from family and friends over other sources. Moreover, by rewarding the current community to recommend friends to the particular brand or product, marketing costs would be reduced while also boosting outreach!

Additionally, reward programs that rely on feedback also prove to be successful organically growing a customer base. 

Revenue, Profitability, and More! 

Bond Brand Loyalty’s The Loyalty Report found that 66% of customers change their expenditure to optimize loyalty point accumulation and thus, increases the average order value. In this way, reward programs help grow a business’ transaction volumes and boost revenue. 

Builds Brand Awareness 

A reward program is akin to the persistent promotion and helps keep the business relevant.  

Small businesses open up new avenues for targeted email marketing and other marketing content to the most loyal customers with reward programs. This enables a sophisticated client interaction and helps strengthen the brand’s link with the customer. 

Conclusion

More than 50% of customers do not even return to buy from stores after the first visit. Now imagine the revenue that could be generated if customers loved coming back to buy. That is what Octopos is here for!

Curating a rewards program is not just for big corporations but also small businesses. It helps build a strong relationship with customers and boost sales and revenue for small to medium businesses. With Octopos’s Point of Sale and built-in reward feature, customers have all the more reasons to prefer stores that have Octopos POS over other competitors! Once a customer, always a customer!

Building the right kind of reward program that matches business goals will help businesses reap its benefits without the need for heavily discounted sales.

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Payments

Fixed-Rate Payment Processing vs. Interchange Plus

Payment processing plays a crucial role in every small business, especially with the decreasing use of cash. Nowadays, almost 56% of consumers use credit cards, and 52% use debit cards for payments. But with the market offering an abundance of alternatives, getting confused is natural. Every option comes with different perks, and on top of that, we also have to consider their pricing models.

Choosing the wrong option can add high costs to our routine business proceedings. As business owners, we all know how even a slight rise in costs can hinder our revenue and market performance. That is why we must assess two crucial aspects when choosing a payment processing model – the processing rates and pricing model.

Given such settings, the two most popular options that emerge in front of us are interchange plus and fixed-rate payment processing – while the terms seem straightforward, understanding their differences and knowing which to choose can be excruciating.

That is why we have prepared a detailed guide to understand the two and find the best option for small businesses.

What is Fixed-Rate Payment Processing?

Fixed-rate or flat-rate merchant processing is a popular payment method known for its simplicity. As the name suggests, fixed-rate payment processing charges a fixed fee regardless of the wholesale rate and card type. This means we have to pay the same fee, making it simple to understand and calculate.

But does it makes the option ideal for every transaction or even business? Definitely not. The option has its downsides, especially compared to its alternative, interchange plus, which we will talk about later.

What Is Interchange Plus Pricing?

Interchange or cost-plus pricing is a popular but complicated payment method used for merchant processing. For example, credit card processors use the model to calculate the per-transaction cost, making it the opposite of fixed-rate processing.

It consists of two components – a markup selected by the credit card processor and an interchange fee calculated by the card network. The model offers a balanced and fair pricing scheme due to its transparency. But how does it fare against fixed-rate payment processing? Let us find out.

The Difference Between Fixed-Rate Payment Processing and Interchange Plus

The primary difference between fixed-rate and interchange plus lies in their charges evaluation. The former charges a fixed amount on every card a small business comes across, irrespective of its type. Conversely, the latter charges a different amount on every transaction, depending on the card and payment type.

The second most notable difference between the two lies in the amount they charge. This is also where most small business owners lose a grasp of which option is better. To put it in numbers, an average fixed-rate transaction costs around 2.90% + $0.30. The numbers are applicable on the two most popular payment models – Square and PayPal.

On the other hand, interchange plus charges are much cheaper on most cards. For example, swiping a Visa Debit card generates average interchange fees of 0.8% + $0.15. What if we keyed the card instead of swiping? The charges surges to 1.650% + $0.15. While the charges are higher than swiping, they are nowhere near the amount incurred through fixed-rate merchant processing.

Even a card with charges on the higher end of the spectrum, like the Visa Credit Retail Rewards Signature, costs 2.300% + $0.10. The charges hike to 2.700% + $0.10 if we key the card. Further, we should not forget to add the markup fees associated with interchange transactions.

On average, an interchange payment will cost us somewhere between 0.1% – 0.5%. However, even after accounting for the markup fees, any rational business owner can understand which payment model seems more appealing.

But if it was that simple, why do many small business owners use the fixed-rate method? Because it is simple to calculate and implement. The best thing the fixed-rate payment processing method has going is its simplicity, as a result of which we do not have to make any complex calculations to formulate the charges.

On the other hand, interchange plus charges a different amount for every card type. That is the sole reason many business owners refrain from implementing the interchange payment model. However, the perks it offers far outweigh the efforts it requires to understand it.

While the model is not impenetrable, it is ideal for small businesses, especially if they primarily deal with debit cards. If that is the case, there is no second-guessing while choosing the payment processing method.

Is that all supporting the case of fixed-rate processing? No, other than being predictable and simple to understand, the method also accepts elite cards without any extra cost. Of course, we cannot do this with interchange plus, but the method has several additional benefits to make up for it.

With fixed-rate payments, we cannot comprehend the interchange rate and markup fees. It restricts our grasp of the charges we are paying to the card processor. This is where the interchange payment model shines as it tells us exactly what we are paying for with every transaction. It makes the transaction fair and helps us find the best price.

Closing Thoughts: Which Payment Processing Model Suits a Small Business Best?

One can make arguments for both methods, seeing how they offer certain benefits of their own. However, if we conduct some research and calculations, interchange plus appears as the best option for small businesses. While the fixed-rate method comes with simple perks which can entice any business owner, it falls in multiple crucial aspects.

Many modern businesses opt for the fixed-rate model, but more ventures have started to realize the efficiency of interchange plus processing. As our revenue increases, so does the benefits offered by the interchange method. That is why fixed-rate merchant processing is suited for micro-businesses but not small businesses.

Any small business owner can understand the differences between fixed-rate payment processing and interchange-pluswith the information given above. Once we understand the core benefits offered by these methods, the choice becomes substantially simpler. Visa and MasterCard also show the latest interchange rates to help us make an informed decision about which method to choose. 

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Small Business

The Costs Involved in Starting a Coffee Shop

Coffee is the black gold that powers up our mornings and fuels us through the day. As the second-highest sought-after beverage (with water being the first), the demand for coffee has grown by many folds in the past few years. This trend is expected to continue as the global coffee shop market is slated to touch a valuation of USD 237.6B by 2025!

Given the lucrative nature of the business, one may be keen on knowing the cost of starting a coffee shop. While there are many moving parts involved, let’s try to demystify the process of calculating the cost of starting a coffee shop, especially as a small business.

Cost Components of Starting a Small Coffee Business

Source

Before getting into the meat of the matter, here is a quick overview of the types of expenses involved in running a small coffee business:

  • Startup Cost – This is the initial cost solely associated with the capital investment required to kickstart your business. 
  • Operational Costs – These correspond to the routine day-to-day or month-to-month expenses that are necessary to keep your small business in operation. Operational costs are broadly classified into two portions:
    • Fixed Operational Costs – This value is mostly constant with frequency. It could include rent, salaries, and wages, taxes, insurance premiums, security payments, etc.
    • Variable Operational Costs – Quite often, these are regular and recurring expenses related to consumable items like coffee beans, sugar sachets, tissues, etc. These are proportionate to the product and service you offer.

For simplicity’s sake, we will be focusing on the fixed components of the overall cost of starting a coffee shop.

Factors That Will Affect the Cost of Starting a Coffee Shop

The cost of starting a coffee shop primarily depends on your business plan. It answers critical questions like are you operating a mobile coffee food truck or running a cafe that offers seating? How diverse is your coffee selection? Do you also offer food? Are you taking over an existing small business or starting one from scratch?

Based on such questions, even the fixed elements, such as the startup cost, may vary depending on:

  • Coffee shop concept
  • Items on the menu
  • Equipment and serving wares
  • The physical location or online presence
  • Branding and marketing costs
  • Furniture and fixtures
  • Labor costs
  • Legal and administrative costs
  • Point of Sale System and pos software

Calculating the Cost of Starting a Coffee Shop

The following is a step-by-step breakdown of the process of calculating the cost of starting a coffee shop:

Step 1: Formulate a Business Plan

Writing a formal business plan should be the first line of action to make cost predictions for your small coffee business. It will quantify the total financial liability, budget for fixed expenses, possible overheads, break-even point, and profitability trajectory – all of which will determine your ROI. It will help you track your expenses and ensure that you stick to the prescribed budgets. The business plan will also help you raise funds, if necessary.

Step 2: Determine Your Coffee Shop Concept

Source

Now that you have successfully committed to the business in pen, you will have greater clarity on the business model according to which you will operate. View the concept from the customer’s perspective and identify the core elements that will translate into its success. Remember, for a small business to gain traction, it must resonate with the local community or target audience. 

For example, you would not want a layout with copious seating space if your target customers are those picking up their coffee on their way to work!

Step 3: Decide Your Menu

While every business owner may want a rich and diverse menu, each item can accrue to the cost of starting a coffee shop. And before you know it, the unassuming add-ons in the menu could be the ultimate money-guzzlers that add cost-inefficiencies to how you operate your small business!

To prevent that from happening, put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Understand their preferences and price sensitivity to outline a menu that would appeal to them. Additionally, your menu also influences the raw material and equipment that you will have to purchase. This decision will impact the upfront capital cost, space required, installation and maintenance, and operation costs.

In a nutshell, the menu can have far-reaching effects on the cost of starting a coffee shop, so choose your menu wisely.

Step 4: List Out the Equipment Required

Source

Equipment will account for a bulk of the startup costs. Even if you finance these expenses or lease out the equipment, you would still have to make monthly payments on them. Create a list of the coffee shop equipment that is an absolute necessity, and focus on them. Consider the cost of consumables as a component of equipment-related expenses, at least in the initial stages when you will be working on building an inventory.

A coffee shop POS system can be particularly handy in managing inventory. Based on the insights on the consumption patterns that you derive from it, you can make smarter decisions regarding the perishable or consumable items and later phase them out as variable expenses.

Just like your menu, you can expand on these capabilities at a later date.

Step 5: Find an Appropriate Location

While real estate carries enormous weight in the cost of starting a coffee shop, it also determines the expected footfall and the subsequent ROI. As a rule of thumb, your rental expenses should not exceed 15% of your annual sales.

Settle on square footage that accommodates your coffee shop concept while also factoring in the overall design and layout. You will have to pay for utilities, a security deposit, rent, maintenance fees, and other expenditures listed on your lease based on the property. Some commercial properties also demand a percentage of the gross sales.

Step 6: Factor in Your Legal and Administrative Costs

The legal and administrative costs may be nominal but important costs linked to setting up a formal business. Plan your budget as per your requirements, such as the cost of hiring a lawyer, setting up an LLC, obtaining permits and licenses, inspections, etc.

Step 7: Calculate Your Miscellaneous Startup Cost

By this point, you must have already accounted for the high-priority startup costs. However, you must also count other miscellaneous one-time costs, such as the cost for POS system, signage, interior designing, menu boards, furniture and fixtures, security system, website development, etc.

Step 8: Set Aside a Budget for Staff

Source

If you plan on running a small coffee kiosk or a cart, you can pretty much manage your operations single-handedly. However, for a larger setup, you may have to hire servers and baristas. Apart from the hourly compensation, you will also have to extend certain benefits as mandated by the state, such as worker’s comp, medical leave, insurance, etc. Plus, hiring itself can contribute to the cost of starting a coffee shop.

Step 9: Carve Out the Marketing and Promotion Costs

Now that the skeleton of your business is all set and ready, you need to work on spreading the word and attracting a loyal clientele. Whether you go the digital route or market your business using leaflets – include these costs in your budget.

During the initial stages, the marketing will have to be more aggressive, which you can later curtail to 10% of your net revenue. Setting up a POS that integrates with your digital marketing tools can shave off some of the expenses related to marketing to existing customers. 

Estimated Total Cost of Starting a Coffee Shop

As per the rough estimates of the individual expenses listed above, the cost of starting a coffee shop can range around:

  • USD 80,000 to USD 300,000 for cafes with seating space.
  • USD 80,000 to USD 200,000 for drive-thrus only.
  • USD 80,000 to USD 300,000 for drive-thru and seating.
  • USD 60,000 to USD 105,000 for coffee stands.
  • USD 50,000 to USD 154,000 for a mobile coffee food truck.

In Conclusion

Calculating the cost of starting a coffee shop is just the tip of the iceberg. You will also have to find ways to streamline and regulate these expenses, which will be possible after some amount of experimentation and trial and error.

Even though the minimum investment of USD 50,000 can be quite daunting, you get the opportunity of earning a significant profit margin with a high potential for returns.

Categories
Small Business

Retail Dictionary: Over 40 terms everybody in retail must know

If you are working in retail industry, or just thinking about to start, you may be discouraged by all the strange lingo and terminology that you never heard of. Or you kind of know it, but you are not sure. Do not worry any more. In this article we have selected over 40 terms that will get you familiar with all the concepts of classic or modern retailing.

1. Anchor store

Probably the biggest retail store in the mall or shopping center. It can also be the most famous brand store in the mall. Because of the high volume of customers that such stores attract they are increasing overall number of customers that visit the mall, increasing the number of customers for other retailers in the same mall. Because of that they often have special deals with the mall owners such as low rent, free facility management or similar. Such stores also attract other, smaller retailers to lease a space in the mall, which are hoping for increased foot traffic. Because of that anchor stores are sometimes called anchor tenant or draw tenant stores.

2. Average Transaction Value

Average Transaction Value or AVT is average money amount that customer spend for each purchase. The goal is, of course, to increase ATV, which can be done by influencing customers to buy more products or to buy more expensive items.

3. Augmented reality

Augmented reality or AR adds or combines physical world with virtual objects. Just remember Pokemons all around you in Pokemon Go game. In retail setting AR can be used to show the customer the catalogues or to give the customer info about the product when he points his phone at the product. There is even a possibility for customer to try clothes without using fitting room and trying the item, using only camera and software.

4. Bar code

Bar code is a set of black and white bars, representing alpha – numeric code. It is machine readable and is most often used to represent universal product code (UPC). Using bar code and machine readers retailers can quickly track inventory going in or out of the store.

5. Beacons

Beacons are devices that can recognise and transmit data to other, Bluetooth connected devices such as mobile phones or tablets. In retail you can used them to send tailored messages their customers’ mobile phones. So, if a customer comes back to the previously visited retail store retailer can send them special offers, alerts, or similar messages, based on previous purchases. Beacons are also used to collect different data about customer behaviour such are the time spend in the store, number of customers, most visited parts of the store and so on. Such data can be later used for analytics.

6. Big Box Store

Big box store is, like a name says, big store placed in a box shaped building. It is a usually part of big national chain.

7. Big data

Big data is just that: a massive set of data contained in a database. For analyse of such set you would probably need data scientist or special software. In retail setting is used mostly in marketing to analyse customer demographic and behaviour.

8. Brick and click

Brick and click is a term for retailers which are using and combining both brick and mortar and online stores. When properly integrated brick and click solutions offer easy web to store services, such as buying online and pick up in stores.

9. Bulk

Originally, term bulk was used for commodities such as sugar, salt, coal etc. In retail setting the most usual meaning is buying large quantities of some item (buying in bulk) and selling those items individually.

10. Bundle pricing

Bundle pricing is when retailer offers lower price for buying two or more items together then he would charge each of those items separately.

11. Cashwrap

Cashwrap is the area where customers are paying for their bought products. This is an area where all the cash registers and POS terminals are located.

12. Chargeback

Chargeback occur in situations when customer disputes some transaction on their credit card and retailer must reverse transaction, thus giving the money back to the customer.

13. Click and collect

Click and collect occurs when customers buy the product online and then pick it up in the store. It is a win- win situation for both customer and retailer because of the lower costs and even convenience, when comparing with delivering the item.

14. Clienteling

Building a relationship between customer and retailer by offering personalized offer experience. It is usually done by using Customer relationship management software. Next time you get special offer from some store on your birthday think of Clienteling.

15. Cloud POS

Cloud POS is Internet based Point of sale solution which offer retailer the possibility to collect payments online, without using local servers or other solutions.

16. Contactless payments

Contactless payments are done by using NFC and that allows customers to pay without touching the paying terminal. Payments are made by waving or tapping credit or debit cards or by mobile phones.

17. Cost of goods sold (COGS)

COGS are costs that represent the total value of sold products. Except the purchase price from your supplier COGS also includes costs such as transport, storage, salaries, etc. which are allocated to every product using different accounting principles.

18. Customer relationship management – CRM

CRM is a marketing software solution for collecting and storing data about the customers, as well as for delivering specialized offers to those customers.

19. Cross – merchandising

It is a retail practice of putting connected products from different categories into one selling space or shelf to increase additional purchasing. For example, if you are in a wine section and see wine glasses or wine openers next to the actual bottles of wine that is cross – merchandising.

20. Dead inventory

Sometimes also called dead stock, dead inventory is part of your inventory that is selling very slowly or is not selling at all. It can be because the product is seasonal, or the price is to high.

21. Drop Shipping

Drop shipping is heavily used in online sales and allows the retailers to sell products without holding inventory. When retailer gets and order it passes on to his supplier and pays his price. Supplier then send the purchased item directly to the customer.

22. Electronic Point of Sale – EPOS

In its most essential form is a combination of hardware and software designed for recording your sales. More advanced EPOS solution line www.octopos.com can also help retailers to track inventory, generate reports and drive marketing actions.

23. E-tailing

Another term for e-commerce. Selling your merchandise online.

24. FIFO (FEFO)

FIFO is abbreviation for First in First out. It is an accounting practice that assumes that first units of stock sold are the ones that are sitting on the stock the longest.

FEFO is abbreviation for First Expired First Out. It is inventory management technique that prioritize selling the items that have the shortest expiry date.

25. Flash sales

Marketing technique of selling products with huge discounts for a limited, often very short, time frame. Time frame can be from several hours to couple of days. If it last for one day only sometimes is called daily deals. Flash sales can be very effective in dealing with the dead inventory.

26. Green retailing

Any action from retailers that promotes more eco-friendly practices. These can be sourcing products from local suppliers, switching to re-usable packaging, using energy from renewable sources and similar.

27. High speed retail

Actions by retailers to speed up purchasing experience for the customer. The most common way to do that is getting the products closer to the customers using pop-up stores, mobile stores, food trucks. For such retailing reliable mobile POS solution like Octopos is very important.

28. Integrated Supply Chain

Integrated Supply Chain is a close network of different business and their business systems. For example, every time you sold some product your inventory management system sends an automatic order to your supplier for the same product. It gets much more complicated than that when you put distributors, shipping companies, manufacturers etc. in the mix.

29. Inventory management

Usually a software solution for tracking inventory. It can be a simple spreadsheet if the retailer is stocking only few products, but progress of retailing is asking for more advanced solutions. Inventory management can be a software solution on its own or can be a part of POS solution. Good inventory management system must provide info about every product such as: how many items are in stock, what is the location of every item, recommendations for minimum and maximum stock level etc.

30. Layavay (or Lay By)

Layaway is a deal between retailer and the customer in which customer pays for the product in instalments and pick up the item from the seller once the full item price is paid. After receiving the first instalment the seller is obligated to hold the item for the customer.

31. Lead time

Lead time is time frame from sending a purchasing order to the supplier until receiving the purchased item.

32. Leveraged buy out

Is practice of buying a company with borrowed money using companies’ assets as a collateral. Borrowed money is then repaid using company’s own cashflow.

33. Loss leader

Loss leader is an item that retailer is selling at a loss in hope of increasing foot traffic and attracting more customers into the store. The idea is that once customers are inside, they will also buy other products, which will offset the loss of the loss leader.

34. MOQ

MOQ is short for Minimum Order Quantity, or the smallest number of pieces the supplier is willing to sell with standard terms of sale. Some suppliers will go below MOQ but will ask for additional surcharge.

35. Mystery shopping

The practice of sending “undercover” customer to the store to review the product, service, or compliance to some rules. Mystery shoppers can be hired by other companies, consumer protection groups or even the management of retail stores.

36. PCI compliance

It is a requirement from major credit card companies to process and store cardholder data according to their rules. For getting PCI compliance retailer must pay PCI compliance fee, or that fee can be included when paying for their POS software.

37. Planogram

Planogram is a photo, or a drawing of how certain items should be put on store shelves to get more attention and sales. Most of the suppliers are constantly launching new products or are paying to get extra shelf space, so the planograms are constantly changing.

38. PLU number

PLU or Price look up number. It is a system that shows price and other info about the product when PLU number is entered or scanned into the POS software.

39. POS System

POS or Point of sale system is a software solution for running your whole retail business. It’s handling everything from ordering the products, across the marketing actions and inventory management, to the final sale of the product, tracking payments and new ordering. Quality POS system should incorporate both store sales and e-commerce.

40. Private label

Private label is a brand owned by the retailer, and not by manufacturer. Manufacturer only acts as a subcontractor in producing items branded and owned by retailer.

41. Shrinkage

Shrinkage is negative difference of a stock you have in your inventory management system and actual stock you have in your stores and warehouses. The name comes from “legit” loss of stock quantity such as rotting of fruits and vegetables, evaporation of water etc. But most shrinkage today comes from the mistakes in inventory management and thefts by customers or employees. User friendly Inventory Management System and increased security are ways to avoid shrinkage.

42. Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)

SKU is short for Stock keeping Unit and it is a every unique product that retailer is selling. SKU represents all the individual characteristics of a product, including name, brand, packaging type etc.

43. Stock keeping unit number

SKU number is an individual alpha numeric code for every SKU. SKU number is not same as a bar code or UPC, but it is designed by the retailer in a way that is meaningful to him.

Categories
Small Business

Shoplifting in Business – Minimize Risk and Prevent Profit Loss

Shoplifting has affected business’s bottom lines as the early days of commerce. For very small companies who frequently walk a thin line of profit, shoplifting becomes an even more prominent issue. With inventory shrinkage numbers topping $50 billion in the United States, it stands to reason that one of the most important tasks of independent shops like yours is preventing inventory shrinkage and theft.

As an independent retail store, coffee shop, or restaurant, you undoubtedly experience issues with customers trying to avoid paying on a frequent basis. In a regular store setting, this may involve unscrupulous people tucking product into their pockets or purses. They may also change price tags to pay a lower amount for a more expensive item. In an eatery, thieves dine and dash or make off with everything from coffee mugs to condiments.

In these digital days, the concept of shoplifting and theft extends to your point of sale inventory management and payment processing hardware and software. You can lose profits through cybercrime, credit card fraud, and errors and issues created by an out of date or inefficient POS system. The high-tech cash register or other point of sale system you use will identify discrepancies in inventory and revenue immediately so you can take decisive action against theft. Mobile systems allow shop workers to walk around and prevent sneaky behavior.

The absolute best way to protect your business from this type of inventory and profit loss is to recognize the signs of shoplifting and minimize the opportunities for thieves to get their hands on your goods.

Look Out for These Signs of Shoplifting in Business

Before learning how to identify telltale signs that someone may steal from you, it is of the utmost importance for you to recognize any internal biases and get rid of them. Retail criminals are not a specific race, gender, age, or from a socioeconomic group. Instead of profiling, pay attention to behaviors that often go along with shoplifting.

Remember Past Troublemakers

As a very small independent shop or eatery, you have the right to refuse service to anyone. If someone has stolen from you before or has attempted to and you caught them, post their photo or other identifying information near your point of sale system, cash register, and in the break room. You should get an image of them from your security camera system. Make sure that all employees know they are not allowed to come into the store anymore and are banned from the premises.

While you may be willing to give people a second chance in your everyday life, you cannot take risks with the profitability of a business you own.

Customers With Unusual Behaviors

The average shopper or person stopping in for lunch at your café pays attention to the products of interest or the menu. They glance around with interest from time to time, but generally focus on what they want to buy or the meal they have in front of them. The only time they will look at shop assistants or waitstaff is when they want service directly. Of course, as a quality business, your employees will provide excellent customer service.

People who intend to steal something or get away without paying for their meal focus on staff more than necessary. Instead of looking at a rack of T-shirts, for example, they will shift their gaze to see where the retail associates are standing and if anyone is paying attention to them.

Other unusual behaviors that may reveal a shoplifter include spending excess time in the restroom, dressing rooms, near the exits, or in any one particular part of the store that does not offer enough interest to warrant the time. For example, if a person at a clothing boutique spends 15 minutes looking at a small rack of plain T-shirts, it still insists they do not need help, your suspicions may arise.

Bags, Bulky Clothing, and Other Tools of Theft

Long or fluffy coats are normal to see in the depth of winter, but if someone enters your establishment wearing one in warm weather, keep an eye out for things disappearing underneath it. People who shop at multiple stores may carry in bags, but your suspicion should grow when someone with a backpack or huge handbag displays other odd behaviors.

You cannot notice a utility knife or small scissor in a pocket use to snip off price tags or security sensors. It is difficult to spot the bolt of a piece of jewelry in an ordinary pocket or purse. However, you may prevent some shoplifting if you keep a close eye on the ones who make it more obvious.

Any Attempt to Distract Attention

Shoplifters frequently travel in groups. One or two people will cause a distraction while another tucks merchandise into their pockets or bag. This process may involve spreading out to the store to divide your attention, asking questions or complaining about a minor issue, or actively creating a point to focus by knocking things off a shelf or spilling their drink all over the restaurant table.

Seasoned shoplifters have perfected these techniques so unaware salespeople or waitstaff will not even notice anything wrong. After all, if someone in the store approaches you ask for help, you want to give excellent customer service every time. It is difficult to do so while still paying attention to someone else on the other side of the store.

How to Minimize Shoplifting Risks

Now that you recognize things to look out for, you need a strong plan and a robust POS system to help you minimize inventory loss and decreased revenues and profits. Prevention matters more than your response in many cases. After all, if someone does steal an item off your shelf, you cannot chase them down through the streets and make a citizen’s arrest. While you should report crimes like this, the chance of a relatively simple shoplifting case resulting in a conviction is quite slim.

Therefore, it is up to you and your trusted employees to stop shoplifters before they have the opportunity to ruin your profit margin. These methods will help you succeed with your small business.

Effective Employee Training

As most of the shoplifting indications are visual or behavioral, it is important to train all your employees to take notice of how people act when they walk into the shop, if they linger excessively, carry large bags, or attempt to create distractions. You can instruct them in quality customer service techniques that reduce the opportunity for thieves to grab something or run out the door without paying. Shoplifters want to avoid attention, so simply asking if they need help with anything can frequently stop their plans.

Always make sure your employees know about any repeat offenders by pointing out their photos or other information. However, also ensure they understand that they should never confront or physically try to restrain anyone who is shoplifting or suspicious. Their safety matters more than your profits.

Point of Sale Inventory Management

An old-fashioned cash register may add a touch of vintage style to your shop or restaurant, but it will not provide the information you need to keep track of inventory and revenue. Modern systems benefit businesses in numerous ways, but one of the most important involves real-time knowledge of potential theft. With a few taps on the screen, you can determine if your revenue matches your inventory levels. If not, you may have an issue with shoplifting.

Point of sale systems also minimize the chance of loss due to employee theft, mismanagement, and things like credit card fraud. Unfortunately, all of these problems plague businesses of all sizes. When it comes to ensuring long-term profitability, data collection and analysis can help you transform how you approach everyday business and keep things more secure.

Security Systems and Video Cameras

Although a top-of-the-line security system complete with continuous use video surveillance may cost too much to consider for a young small business, it does provide a lot of protection against shoplifting and other issues. Sometimes, the presence of visible cameras and signs that state the premises are protected by security are enough to deter would-be thieves.

In most cases, these are useful after the fact to catch and prosecute criminals. Also, they let you get still pictures of the troublemakers you can post by the checkout counter or in the break room. Without video proof, it is very difficult to get the police department to do anything to get your merchandise back or arrest the shoplifters.

Merchandise Tracking Tags

Another way to stop shoplifting directly is to use those clamped merchandise alarm tags or what is called electronic article surveillance (EAS). You need to attach one to every product you want to protect. This coincides with sensors at the exits so if a shoplifter tries to take a product out of the store, and alarm goes off. Unfortunately, many savvy thieves find ways around these types of systems. Some even have the tools to remove them hidden in their pockets. Others use small blades to cut the fabric or packaging to remove the tracking tags.

What to Do If You Spot a Shoplifter?

For everyone’s safety, the most important thing to do if you spot a suspicious person or someone actively shoplifting is to keep your distance and engage in a safe manner. When you hire employees, also teach them these response techniques to minimize not only the chance of danger but also possible legal issues going forward.

The first step in the process is always to practice good observational skills and figure out what is really happening before you move in and contact the person directly. Remember not to let your biases affect your judgment. Instead, look for nervous behavior, avoiding eye contact, lingering your exit doors or in hidden places in the shop or restaurant, and other behaviors mentioned above. If you are still suspicious that the person may be up to no good, follow the steps below.

1 – Take a Customer Service Approach

Approach the person in question as you would anyone else in your small retail store, coffee shop, diner, or other business. Smile and ask if you can help them with anything. Sometimes, an approach that lets them know you notice them is enough to stop a potential theft.

However, remember that not all shoplifters work alone. While you are assisting one person, remain aware of the other people in the area and what they might do. In the case of professional thieves, the group working together will enter your business at different times and not interact with each other at all to throw you off their trail.

2 – Use Your POS Mobile Unit as a Tool

If the suspicious person is holding a piece of merchandise or sitting down at the counter to get a cup of coffee or meal, bring your point of sale tablet or other mobile gadget with you to engage them further in the customer service activities. Talk about what they are holding and show them options on the screen if you have that type of inventory management. You may even offer to check them out right there under the guise of saving them time and offering more convenience.

3 – Ask Questions Instead of Making Accusations

When you start out with a simple, “Is there anything I can help you with today?” Or whatever customer service questions you tell your employees to ask, it may disarm the thief and stop them from their plans. However, experienced shoplifters may respond calmly and simply delay their attempts until you seem satisfied with their answers and leave them alone again.

If you strongly feel like the person has already shoplifted something, ask more pointed questions like, “Can I help you check out those products you’re holding?” If you own a restaurant or a service-related business, and a person attempts to leave without paying, it makes perfect sense to redirect them to the POS with a friendly comment about processing their payment.

In most cases, it is an awfully bad idea to boldly approach the thief and accuse him of stealing directly. Make sure your employees know that you do not expect them to do this ever. Although you may be tempted to restrain shoplifters verbally or even physically, this can escalate the problem and increase the chance of violence or property damage.

4 – Let Them Go and Contact the Authorities

If you decide to accuse them directly, stay calm and simply state something like, “The security video recorded you putting an item into your bag. Could you please come to the office with me?” The mention of video surveillance may convince them to cooperate. The calm question may help defuse the situation.

Any sign of aggravated emotions or a physical response that either puts your establishment or other people in danger needs immediate de-escalation. Step back, let go, disengage, and let the shoplifter leave. It is better to experience inventory loss than injury. Call the authorities, hand over the videotape and your statement, and leave everything to them.

Every state has its own shoplifting laws. They may include theft or larceny charges but are generally considered misdemeanors unless the thief makes off with exceptionally expensive merchandise or has repeated charges against them. If you have security footage and a quality police force, the chance of the criminal getting in trouble increases. The chance of merchandise recovery is unfortunately slim. In some places, it is possible to bring civil charges against the thief for monetary compensation. This is especially true if the person also damaged your property during the commitment of the crime.

Unfortunately, inventory loss and the associated profit loss due to theft happens for every retail business out there. No matter how well you train your employees, what security alarms and cameras you install, and the point of sale system you use, you will not be able to catch every shoplifter. However, making wise choices can greatly minimize the money you lose every year.

Besides paying attention and discouraging suspicious behavior through quality customer service practices, your POS hardware and software is one of the most important tools you have in the fight against shoplifting. You need information about your inventory and revenue updated in real time, so you always know exactly where your business stands. This helps you identify potential issues and minimize the risks going forward.

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Payments

What Is a CVV Number and Why Is It Important to Merchants?

Ever wonder why online merchants ask for your CVV? Now that you are a merchant yourself, it’s important to understand what the CVV is exactly and how it works.

CVV stands for Card Verification Value. It is typically a three to four-digit number located on the back of a credit card. Most major credit card companies began requiring CVVs for card-not-present transactions in 2018 because it is meant to be a two-factor authentication layer of protection against fraud.

How a CVV works?

In addition to asking for a credit card number and expiration date, most merchants should ask for a CVV as a third layer of protection. CVVs are usually only found on the physical card, so if a customer can give it correctly, they most likely have physical possession of the card. If the input CVV does not match up with the card number, then the transaction will cancel.

While a CVV does not completely prevent against identity theft if one were to lose their card or a thief found another way to obtain the number, it does provide that extra layer of security. It is specifically useful in card-not-present transactions, since it is otherwise hard to verify a customer’s identity and possession of the card without swiping, chipping, or scanning it.

How the CVV helps merchants?

The CVV is not only meant to be a useful tool to keep customers safe, however. It protects merchants as well. Fraudulent purchases have continued to increase, especially online, which is why credit card companies began requiring CVV usage in the first place. Currently, the cost of fraud is up 7.3 percent in 2020 from 2019 in the United States. On average, every one dollar of fraud costs retailers $3.36. This can get pretty expensive for businesses.

Asking for the CVV helps protect against such fraudulent activity. It nearly proves that the card is in the physical possession of its owner. This can lower your chances of dealing with frauds and losing money on the deal.

CVVs also help prevent chargebacks, which is the transfer of funds in the opposite direction when requested by the buyer or the card issuer. This usually happens because a purchase was unauthorized, or the issuer notices something unusual about the transaction. A CVV code can’t prevent all chargebacks since they happen for many different reasons, but it eliminates a popular one, which is fraud suspicion. It also helps protect you from “friendly fraud,” which is when the customer claims they didn’t purchase from you, but in fact did—which you can prove thanks to the CVV code.

When you should ask for the CVV?

The CVV is a great security tool when it comes to safeguarding against fraud. However, it is not necessary for all transactions. Any time you have the ability to swipe, scan, or tap a credit card, you don’t need the CVV because the card is right there. The magnetic strip or the EMV chip is able to confirm the card. You’ll need the CVV in transactions called “card-not-present” transactions. There are two main types of transactions that fall under this category: manually entered transactions and eCommerce transactions.

Manually Entered Transactions

If you have to enter a person’s card information manually, one of the sections you will have to fill out is the CVV number. This will often happen if you are accepting payment over the phone. Most payment processing systems, including ours, is PCI compliant, meaning it follows the Payment Card Industry regulations. These systems will already have a spot for you to fill in the CVV code.

eCommerce Transactions

If you have a presence online, it is vital for you to have a PCI compliant processor that requires a CVV code. Online sales are the most common forms of card-not-present transactions, and without being able to verify the cardholder’s identity, the CVV comes in handy to protect against fraudulent activity. Small businesses in particular are the biggest targets of frauds and identity thieves because they look for vulnerabilities within their online presence.

What to do with the CVV once you have it?

Now that you know you should be requiring a CVV code for any card-not-present purchases, it is important to note what to do with it once you acquire it from a customer—or more accurately, what not to do with it. Once a customer has provided their card information, including the CVV, you plug it into your payment processor. After that, your processor should NOT be storing the CVV code, even if it stores, or remembers, other information. This also means that you cannot write down or record someone’s CVV code, even if the customer is a returning one.

According to the Payment Card Industry-Data Security Standard regulations, businesses are prohibited from storing the CVV number at all. This even counts for card-on-file transactions. If you or your business record or store a CVV number in any way, you could be liable in a data breach.

Bottom line for business owners

While the CVV code is marketed as protection for credit and debit cardholders, it is important to acknowledge its role in protecting business owners as well. The CVV number is an added layer that can protect against fraudulent purchases that end up costing merchants a lot of money. The CVV is not entirely foolproof and frauds still have ways of obtaining information and exploiting customers and merchants, but it is one more hoop they would have to jump through. That’s why it is crucial for your business to have a PCI compliant payment processor to not only protect yourself, but also your customers. Check out our available POS software—which includes PCI compliant payment processing—to find a safe system perfect for your business.

Categories
Small Business

How to Find Reliable Employees: A Guide For Small Business Owners

Running a small business isn’t easy. While CEOs of large companies have enough employees and funds to get by, small business owners like you must don several hats to get things done. From playing accountant to marketing head to recruiting manager, you end up doing many things by yourself. However, with the economy opening up and consumer demand slowly rising, you’ve perhaps reached a point where to grow and remain competitive, you’ll need to onboard some helping hands. Yet, even as your business slowly recovers from the pandemic, another large obstacle looms ahead: finding workers. 

The Crunch is Real!

According to the data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 9.3 million job openings in the US at the end of April. This was also the second time in a row that the labor market saw a record number of job openings in addition to a relatively high quit rate of 2.7%. 

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) also reported that nearly half of America’s small businesses couldn’t find workers. Additionally, about a third of people who quit their jobs in April were retail workers, as reported by the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. One of the primary reasons for this attrition was perhaps the reluctance on employers’ part to pay more and cut down their profits that sent employees on a lookout for greener (better paying) pastures. To prevent this attrition, 34% of small business owners reported raising compensation in the NFIB survey, and 22% said they plan to raise compensation in the next few months. Yet, finding qualified employees remained problematic for 93% of small business owners looking to hire employees. Additionally, over a fourth of business owners cited labor quality as their top business concern. 

Surprisingly, this labor shortage exists despite a high unemployment rate in the country.  This also means people are looking for work but perhaps they’re not finding suitable conditions to work, which is keeping them on the sidelines. By understanding the reasons behind the labor shortage, you can improve your hiring process to find reliable and qualified employees for your small business. 

Reuters shared six reasons why people are still staying out of the job market: 

  • Parents, especially mothers, are unable to work because of closures or shortened hours at schools and daycare.
  • Many workers are fearful of returning to work owing to health risks.
  • Stock market gains have given older workers the cushion to retire.
  • Younger workers are finding jobs in other fields, which has shrunk the labor pool for the industries they have left behind. 
  • Many employers need to fill jobs requiring skills that sidelined workers may not have.
  • Some employers have also complained that enhanced unemployment benefits and other government aid are keeping workers on the sidelines.

The expiration of various unemployment benefits is going to bring the workers back into the market, as is widely believed by experts. Yet, some workers are likely to continue feeling fear and mistrust, which might keep them away from actively seeking work. Some individuals may also be anxious about returning to their desks after working remotely for more than a year.

Happy Employee makes customer happy!

Tips to Find & Retain Qualified Employees For Your Small Business

Now that you know what’s driving the demand-supply gap for workers, here’s what you can do to find and recruit the people you need to keep your small business running profitably.

1. Offer Higher Wages

Many employers, especially restaurants, are offering signing bonuses to people who’ve been unemployed for a while. While this is a good move for attracting workers who are in immediate need of money, offering to pay them more than the minimum wage standards can be a better hook. Even a few additional dollars over the minimum wage rate can make employees feel valued and consider your job offer more seriously.

2. Make Arrangements To Get Women Back to Work

Women have been particularly hit by the pandemic, with one-in-four thinking of leaving the workforce or scaling down their careers. Working mothers with small children have been worst affected as they must remain home due to childcare and at-home learning requirements. According to experts, this situation is expected to ease up as schools start reopening in September. In the interim, you can make your job offer more lucrative by offering flexible work arrangements or childcare benefits that will enable women to return to work.  

3. Build A Solid Employee Benefits Plan

In these uncertain times, providing your employees with high-quality benefits like life, medical and dental coverage can help attract good and reliable workers to fill your vacant positions. You can also consider giving employment guarantees to your new workers to relieve their anxiety. The massive lay-offs and pay cuts of the past year have led workers to distrust their employers. Giving no-layoff guarantees to your new hires, perhaps after a compulsory probation period, can boost performance and loyalty both. 

4. Create A Safer Workplace

Many workers are reluctant to return to in-person jobs for the fear of contracting COVID. Thankfully, you can invest in various technologies to create a safer workplace, which is an important criterion for workers looking for jobs. For grocery store and retail store owners, this could mean putting in place systems that make it safer for employees to carry out their daily business. We are all aware that grocery and retail store workers were some of the most overworked people during the peak of the pandemic as they kept the shelves stocked and lines moving. By integrating hardware like Octopos, you can improve your employee and customer experience by accepting payments through any mode with a contactless payment terminal that keeps things sanitary and moving swiftly.

The Bottomline

It’s a fact that worker shortage is slowing the recovery of small businesses post-pandemic. As a small business owner, it’s time for you to get creative once again and offer prospective employees something they will find hard to refuse. Clearly, it’s going to take more than just money to fill up the vacant spots in your business. Besides higher salaries, advertising flexible work arrangements, job guarantees, and other possible incentives will increase your chances of finding good and reliable employees in these challenging times.