A retailers ascent into the cloud

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Last updated on October 17, 2016

Passport Surf in Devonport is a traditional bricks and mortar store, founded almost 30 years ago by my husband. It's grown over the years and has held its own against online consumer spending. Around eight years ago, we looked into online marketing.

We got serious and contracted a web designer to provide an e-commerce solution. We had an issue, in that our online point of sale (POS) was unable to adjust our store's inventory in real time. In short, the website wasn't successful, as the online POS failed to integrate with our bricks-and-mortar POS.

It was time for us to take control and develop a clear understanding of what the systems and processes for both outlets should look like.

Why the need for change?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that Australians spent $15.5 billion on online retail in the 12 months to June 2014. This is equivalent to 6.6% of spending at traditional retailers (to create a like-for-like comparison with our store, this figure excludes cafes, restaurants and takeaway food) in the 12 months to May 2014 (from the NAB Business Research and Insights 31 July 2014).

But first, we had to update our POS!

Point of sale system – making the right choice!

It's important to have a clear vision, so we listed everything we wanted our POS to deliver in functionality and add-ons. As well as helping us track our inventory, it had to integrate with our e-commerce and accounting systems, allow us to order and manage stock in various categories, provide real-time reporting, be accessible anywhere as a 'pop-up' shop, incorporate a loyalty and gift card system, be easy to navigate and update, and – importantly – be cost effective.

Make sure you do your research to understand a system's integration capabilities. I'd also advise you to develop a flow chart of your retail processes, from placing a stock order to reaching the customer, and to take your suppliers and accountant on the journey with you.

Why the cloud?

I admit I had reservations about a cloud-based POS, in relation to security and internet disruptions, but the system we chose met all our needs, for a minimal investment. You can also take advantage of free trial periods.

Cloud-based POS systems allow you to gather data to develop strong category management systems. This will improve your understanding of the right product mix and offers the ability to react quickly to your customer's wishes. I believe category management is the foundation on which a retail business is built.

As a result of adopting our new cloud-based POS:

*    we no longer have to perform daily backups or maintain a server
*    processing can be done anywhere there is an internet connection
*    we're okay if the internet connection goes down, because it also works offline
*    we have access to real-time reporting and a talented support team
*    we've been able to choose from a range of integrations and add-ons
*    we're fully integrated with our e-commerce platform
*    we can move to a more advanced system with minimum fuss and expense.

We're on track to a seamless process, but regardless of when we reach our goal the benefits of our new POS are making us happy.    

Julie Foster Portrait

This article has been written by Julie Foster. She has over 25 years' experience in corporate finance, working in senior management, sales, HR and marketing. In 2013, Julie started her own consulting business, assisting small business owners in a range of disciplines. She's also a director of a family-owned retail business, Passport Surf, which she talks about in this article.

We'd like to thank Julie for writing this blog for Digital Ready.

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