Point-of-Sale Software: Even Smallest Shops Benefit - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell
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The program also enables the kind of personalized service that goes along with offering a fully customizable product. If a customer calls and says she wants another basket the same as the one she ordered for her mother-in-law two months ago, Kennedy can, with a few key strokes, pull up that customer’s order history and see exactly what was in the original basket.

She can also include notes in customer profiles to remind her if any regular recipients have nut allergies, for example, or if the customer wants to always exclude or include certain items.

Kennedy has experimented with proactive marketing – sending out postcards or coupons to customers at the times of year they have ordered baskets in the past. It’s clear she’s wary of annoying customers with unsolicited mail and she only does it with those she’s sure won’t mind, usually her most frequent customers. QuickBooks can be set up to routinely generate alerts of such opportunities.

Despite customization and personalization being the shop’s main modus operandi, QuickBooks’ innovative gift card functionality has been a small but not insignificant business builder.

Sometime customers simply don’t know which items their friend or relative might like. So they buy a Silver Basket gift card and charge it up with a set amount of money. Kennedy can ring it up, and it’s shown on the books as a regular sale.

When the recipient comes in to order a basket, Kennedy puts the gift card in a special card reader that works with QuickBooks to automatically debit the card by however much the person ends up spending. She can also recharge it with funds if the customer wants.

“It’s a small percentage of our sales, but in a town of 10,000 people, I think customers really appreciate the option,” she says. Sales of cards – sometimes to businesses or the local hospital to give away or auction – have increased steadily. They’re on track to be up 12 percent this year over last.

Automating the Back Office
The point of sale functions are crucial, but QuickBooks also looks after the back office, automating inventory management and product ordering among other things.

It’s a small store, so Kennedy usually knows what she needs just by looking around. But when she generates monthly inventory reports, QuickBooks flags items on which she’s running low so she’s less likely to miss something.

Monthly and quarterly inventory reports also show selling trends and seasonal patterns in demand for particular items or types of items, which makes it easier to do long-term planning.

Reordering is simple. She scans an item’s barcode, and it automatically appears in a new purchase order along with the sellers information. She only has to enter the quantity, add any other items from the same wholesaler, and the order is ready to e-mail or print.

And when the order arrives and she keys in the actual unit prices charged, QuickBooks will alert her if the wholesale price as gone up.

“Before you print barcodes for the chocolate bar or whatever it is, it will tell you you’re now paying 50 cents more a bar for this item – do we need to adjust our [retail] prices? Which is nice.”

It’s these small grace notes that make Kennedy so enthusiastic about QuickBooks. It was also crucial that whatever program she bought be easy to learn and use. QuickBooks has been that.

Ease of Use
“Everybody who has worked for me has found it very easy,” she says. “It basically asks you questions and you fill in the blanks. It’s very human friendly.”

Her computer reseller handled installing and configuring the software and gave her a tour to show her how to use it. It’s mostly self-explanatory, though, and there is always pop-up Help information to guide her if she forgets.

The only slightly hard part was initially entering all the wholesaler and item information and printing the first batch of barcode labels. “But I don’t remember it being really hard or pulling my hair out over it or anything,” she adds.

Now it’s just a question of occasionally entering a new supplier and new items, and printing barcode stickers for newly arrived shipments – which is a lot easier than hand printing prices, Kennedy points out.

All of this just goes to show that it doesn’t take a lot for even a very small business to operate with all the sophistication of much bigger companies. And the pay-backs – the time and labor saved and the business intelligence a program like QuickBooks provides – keeps delivering a return on the initial investment for years.

Based in London, Canada, Gerry Blackwell has been writing about information technology and telecommunications for a variety of print and online publications since the 1980s.

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This article was originally published on March 20, 2008
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