Welcome to the digital age, where Point of Sale (POS) software and similar applications have become the new norm. Not surprisingly, these have changed the way consumers shop – in a radical way – over the past five years.
It has also meant that the retailers, particularly small businesses, have had to adapt in order to retain and/or grow their share of the market. For small businesses, the willingness and ability to embrace POS software and apps is even more important, not just for its myriad benefits, but in order to compete with the big boys.
The customer now has an expectation of the way they can browse and shop
Remember how excited people got when the “plastic fantastic” credit cards became the norm? (Okay, many of you probably don’t.) The option of not only cashless but also “delayed” payment altered the spending habits of shoppers across the globe.
After the global financial crash, consumers had to become more spending savvy. The rise of Internet banking apps has allowed us to be in better control of our spending by giving us instant access to our bank balances in real time and statements of accounts.
However, online shopping, shopping apps and even POS apps and software have made it easier than ever for us to shop till we drop from wherever we are in the world, provided we can get a link to the largest marketplace in the world, the Internet. No Internet connection? No problem. Some apps and software programs available out there allow us to browse and “shop” for items offline, as they automatically sync our orders when we get back online.
Tailored sales operations
Instead of getting down to the shops, you can now shop how and when you want to, from your iPad or Mac, from your mobile phone or PC. Typing a question like “Where can I buy a pair of Nike in Melbourne?” into your Internet search engine will give you links to online stores, forums and websites such as reddit.com, which will give you all the information and advice you need from shoppers just like you.
Click and buy online if you like, or allow your location to be known to Google or a similar search engine so you will be signposted to the nearest vendor that has the very item you want.
POS software and applications mean vendors can set up shop online practically overnight, and consumers never have to leave the comfort of their sofa to search for and buy what they need. They also no longer have to drive to stores to collect goods ordered because delivery is included in the online shopping experience and easily arranged. Shopping as a 24/7 operation has now become our expectation, and vendors have to keep up or risk being left behind.
Groceries on the go
Online shopping is hardly limited to clothing and accessories. Woolworths is a great example, having embraced online ordering across the business. Food shopping has never been quicker, with consumers able to create and save their shopping lists, have their groceries delivered to their door, make community donations, track their orders and much more.
Consumers are rewarded for shopping online, recipes are available so that menu planning does not become a chore, and the prices are the same online as they are in store so the days of needing to pile into the car and head off to do the weekly big shop are over for many consumers.
In order to save on delivery costs, neighbours are also “group shopping” so that costs can be shared, along with the delivery window. Like in store shopping, payments made online also earn shoppers Woolworths dollars and benefits such as fuel discounts.
The retail and wholesale market needs to place themselves where their customers are, and today this is online and messaging. Social media and social networking sites are the places where we shop, but messaging apps are beginning to take over as the place where customers are spending their time.
The most popular global mobile messenger apps (as of April 2016) are WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. These free apps, along with Pinterest and others, are used by businesses to visually and verbally promote their stores, products, services and lifestyle, and to start up a messaging conversation with current and potential consumers.
Through collation of data, record of likes and conversations tracked, retailers can build a picture of your shopping habits and use this to predict or pick out items that would suit your needs.
This means that consumers don’t even need to browse the web because every time you log into an app or open up a conversation, you are met with a list of goods or services “recommended for you”. You have a personal shopper in the palm of your hand or in your handbag, which for brands and marketers is an incredibly powerful marketing tool. A consumer doesn’t have to think about their next purchase because it is done for them!
Pay using messaging apps
In the United States, Snapcash, created by Snapchat, is a way to exchange money with other Snapchatters. You can pay for items, goods or services by linking your debit card to the app and then sending Snapcash to those of your contacts who are eligible to receive it.
Standard US issued Visa or Mastercard debit cards can be used, and there is an initial weekly limit of $250 when you first begin to use it. Upgraded Snapcash accounts have a weekly limit of $2500.
This peer-to-peer payment system in effect cuts out the mainstream retailer, and has allowed the free market economy to grow. It can be used between friends for small cash loans, or as the vintage or “pre loved “clothing market continues to grow, consumers can pay for items using this messaging app. It may also be a way for the smaller op shops or fundraisers to sell items to the local community, effectively cutting out a number of middlemen.
The trends that are driven by the digital revolution, and which have given us all the benefits and technology as highlighted above, have changed our demands and our behaviour as consumers. We don’t even have to type or text our requirements as we have Siri, Cortana or other similar digital “helpers” who can listen to our vocal demands and provide us with immediate information.
Then, as our behaviour has changed, technology has had to keep apace. We are becoming more informed about the products and services out there. This means ownership of this knowledge has shifted from the company to the customer. We have become less loyal to our brands and traditional providers, and we can switch very easily to a new provider or facilitator of what we want.
We can let the whole world know if the service we have received is shoddy or if the goods are overpriced, and in turn we use information from social networking on which to base our decisions. We are not prepared to wait for our items, as instant gratification has become the norm.
Blog and flog it
We all want a guru, and to have one online who can do all the research and hard work for us has got to be a boon. Consumers are busy people, so following a top blogger is an easy and interesting way to gain tips and hints on lifestyle, fashion and beauty. Top Australian bloggers such as Nadia Fairfax on Pinterest or Chloe Morello on YouTube demonstrate how and what to wear, and consumers can see the product in action before they buy.
Application development is something that is generally available at a reasonable cost to anyone, and many bloggers are tapping into this resource. This means that consumers can not only read their favourite bloggers online, they can actually download apps by those bloggers for more enhanced engagement. In the UK for example, Manchester based shopnsocial.com has also developed an app that is designed to be shared through social network to promote the best possible consumer experience and make it fun.
To say that a lot has changed in the way that consumers shop and spend would be a gross understatement. And while POS software and apps have been responsible for much of the changes that we’ve seen over the past five years, the steady advancement of technology and new applications only ensures that more changes are on the horizon. No doubt the next digital driven consumer revolution is just around the virtual corner – are you ready for it?
About the author
Peter Ling is the director of POS system and App Abacus.co. With 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry and a Masters degree in Business Systems, he makes it a point to keep abreast of all the latest technological developments in the retail and hospitality industries. His background also means that he is uniquely positioned to understand the needs of small business owners and how technology can meet those requirements.