In the time of the novel coronavirus outbreak, hairstylists, makeup artists, nail technicians, and salons in general are all in a really, really tough spot. Many state and city governments have mandated closures of these types of businesses. Some states that have ordered the closure of salon businesses include Minnesota, Ohio, Kentucky, and Nevada—and the list is sure to grow. Salons in some states are still open for the time being, but business has slowed to a trickle.
In this article, I’ll offer you some useful advice on how your salon can adapt and survive during this incredibly trying time.Â
Why The Beauty Industry Is Going To Be Hit Hard By Coronavirus
Given the current state of things with social distancing guidelines and mandatory closures of nonessential businesses, hair salons, makeup artists, barbershops, spas, and other similar businesses are all suffering. Salons, their employees, and independent contractors who rent space will all be affected.
Even if your business is still legally allowed to remain open, you might have to make the difficult decision to close temporarily due to the pandemic. Salon workers have a job that requires close physical contact with people, putting both the customer and the worker at risk. Worse still, many salon workers are contractors, who have to build their own business from the ground up and keep a book of clients—and many of these workers don’t have health insurance.
4 Things You Can Do Right Now To Protect Your Business
Here are some actionable steps you can take to limit the spread of coronavirus and protect clients and workers if your business is still open:
Relax Cancellation Policies
Obviously, many customers are going to be canceling right now, and for good reason. Although there’s no rule or law that says you need to waive cancelation fees or refund down payments right now, there’s a good chance that if you don’t, the customer will not return to your salon once the current crisis is over.
Revisit Sanitation & Hygiene
Make sure your business in compliance with the CDC’s sanitation and hygiene guidelines re: COVID-19 (see CDC: Interim Guidance for Businesses & Employers). If you operate a medical spa that employs doctors and/or nurses, you should also follow the CDC Guidelines For Healthcare Professionals.
Revisit Attendance Policies For Employees
Now is the time to encourage sick employees or workers who may have been exposed to the virus to call in sick—with or without a doctor’s note. This may require you to relax your current attendance policy. Specifically, here’s what the CDC is recommending right now:
Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4Â° F [38.0Â° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines.
Communicate With Clients
Remind customers to not come in if theyâre sick or have been exposed to someone who might be carrying the virus. You should also communicate with your clients about whether or not your location is still open, if your hours of operation have changed, and information about your sanitation policy. You can use email and social media for these communications.
6 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Business Going In Hard Times
Here is a list of things you can do today to help keep your business afloat during this time of extreme uncertainty.
Analyze Cash Flow
Take a look at your bank account, your bills, and your income. How much money do you have, and how long will it last you? Can you survive a closure or reduced business? How long can you reasonably afford to close for? Interest rates are at rock bottom right now, so it could make sense to invest in a small business loan that will help you bridge the gap during this temporary lack of cash flow.
Add Gift Cards
Selling gift cards allows clients to buy services now and redeem them later. Some POS systems, including Square, Shopify, and Clover, allow you to sell digital gift cards, which makes things even easier during this time of social distancing. Depending on your setup, you may be able to sell gift cards on your website or on social media. Once you’re all set up, send a text or email to customers with a link to buy a digital gift card from you, perhaps at a discounted rate.
In addition to gift cards, an eCommerce website allows you to sell merchandise, such as beauty products, “home spa” kits, or anything else that relates to business. And again, you can use text or email marketing to advertise whatever it is you’re selling. If you don’t have an eCommerce-enabled website, you can look into options offered by your salon POS system or use a web builder such as Wix or Squarespace to set one up.
Look Into Business Interruption Insurance
If you have business interruption insurance, find out whether your insurance policy includes disruptions from communicable diseases. If you don’t have an insurance policy that would cover a closure related to COVID-19, find out if you can get one before it hits your area. It may be too late to get a policy to help you with COVID-related business losses, but it doesn’t hurt to check, or to protect your business for the next crisis.
Talk With Creditors
Stay in communication with your landlord, creditors, and vendors to whom you owe money or have contractual obligations. They may be willing to work with you and will appreciate that you’re making an effort rather than just dropping off. Some relief may be available to help you meet your obligations or pause some of your bills—for example, governments in some states and cities are prohibiting evictions and utility shut-offs.
Look Into Unemployment Benefits
Even if employees are not fully laid off and are on reduced hours, they might be able to claim for time off during the outbreak. Put together some resources to provide unemployment information for your employees. As a business owner, you should be able to file for unemployment if you were paid a normal salary that had unemployment taxes taken out. Self-employed individuals and independent contractors are not generally eligible to receive unemployment benefits, but it is possible that states may expand unemployment benefits to these types of workers as the epidemic progresses.
Coronavirus Resources For Small Business
Here are some additional resources for beauty/wellness professionals and small businesses in general:
What SBA Disaster Loans Are & How To Qualify For One
The Fed Has Cut Interest Rates To A 12-Year Low: Hereâs What It Could Mean For Your Business
Small Business Outbreak & Pandemic Guide: Coronavirus Edition
How To Implement A Gift Card Program For Small Business: What You Need To Know & How To Get Started
Social Distancing For Small Business: How You Can Adapt & Survive The Coronavirus
Coronavirus Payments Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Switching To Online & Phone Payments
If you need funds for your salon right now, I would head straight to the SBA’s disaster loan assistance hub, as the SBA has made disaster relief funds immediately available for businesses suffering economic injury due to COVID-19.
Being Proactive Is The Best Safeguard For Your Business
Now is the time to act. Even if your business is still doing okay, you need to get on top of this now and start making plans before the epidemic hits your area. If all you do today is send out emails to customers, you’re still taking action to keep your business going, even if your salon’s doors are temporarily closed.
For more advice, be sure to check out our complete collection of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guides & Resources where you can find more helpful advice about coronavirus and small businesses. We’re adding to this information hub every day, so keep checking for more small business advice and updates.
The post Salon Survival Guide: Coronavirus Edition appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The COVID-19 (or coronavirus) pandemic has changed the world we live in. This global emergency is all that anyone’s talking about, whether you flip on your TV or log onto social media. One thing that has been circulating throughout the news in recent days is the term “social distancing.” For consumers, social distancing may be an inconvenience that ultimately helps slow the spread of the virus. For business owners, on the other hand, social distancing has a much bigger impact. With states putting restrictions in place and the majority of consumers opting to self-isolate, many businesses are shuttering their doors. It may feel like too much for you and other small business owners to handle.
It is a scary time for everyone. And while we don’t know what the future holds, there are a few things you can do starting now so that your business can adapt to and survive the coronavirus. In this post, we’re going to take a look at social distancing. We’ll talk about what it means, how it may affect your business, and how you can adapt and grow closer to your customers during this challenging time.
What Is Social Distancing?
Social distancing is a strategy designed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. On March 15, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that events or gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled for the next eight weeks to slow the spread of the virus. If you do go out in public, it’s important to stay at least six feet away from other people, as one of the ways that the virus is spread is through close contact.
It’s also recommended to limit going out in public unless necessary, such as when buying groceries or receiving medical care. Travel bans are being put in place by countries around the world, and unnecessary travel should be canceled or rescheduled.
What Does Social Distancing Mean For Small Businesses?
Many businesses are also taking steps to protect their employees and customers, either by law or simply by choice. In states like Illinois and Ohio, all bars and restaurant dining rooms have been required to close. Other states may follow suit, while some businesses are choosing to close their doors before it’s even required. This includes retail stores, gyms, daycares, movie theaters, hotels, and casinos. Others aren’t completely shutting down but are closing public spaces, such as restaurant dining rooms and hotel conference rooms.
Unfortunately, social distancing means that most small businesses will see a downturn in their business. Reduced operating hours, closures, and fear and uncertainty among the public all equal a reduction in customers. The good news, though, is that there are ways that you can better connect with customers and continue to bring in revenue — strategies that we’ll discuss a little later.
With all that’s going on in the world today, there’s no better time than right now to evaluate your business policies for now and the future. For starters, take a look at your staffing policies. It’s a good time to inform employees that anyone that is sick should stay home to protect themselves and others. Not only does this apply to the coronavirus, but also to other contagious illnesses such as the flu.
Next, reevaluate your cleaning and sanitation policies. It’s likely that you already have some in place, but are you doing enough? In addition to your typical cleaning and disinfecting routine, consider cleaning more frequently. Many businesses are changing their hours so that employees have extra time to clean and sanitize surfaces before opening again the next day. Taking the time to clean and sanitize your business helps protect you, your employees, and your customers from the potential spread of the coronavirus.
Another thing to take a closer look at is your payment policy. Will this remain the same, or will you only accept payment cards? If you’re now taking orders online or by phone, do you have a way to do that securely? If not, it’s time to explore your options to make payments safe and convenient for customers. Learn how to get started by checking out Coronavirus Payments Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Switching To Online & Phone Payments.
No matter what you choose to change within your business, there’s one thing that you must do: keep your customers in the loop. Send out emails, post signage (if your business is still open), or use social media to provide updates, such as new hours, online ordering options, and measures your business is taking to protect customers.
4 Ways You Can Adapt To Social Distancing & Keep Your Business Afloat
The coronavirus has already made its impact on the world, and there’s no predicting what will come next. Instead of sitting around and waiting, it’s time to take initiative and find new ways to serve your customers and keep the money flowing. You may have to get creative, but there are options that can help keep your business operating despite social distancing. And the best news? Many options don’t even require a huge financial investment!
Unsure of the next steps for your business? Consider adopting one (or more!) of these strategies:
Self-ordering kiosks & checkouts
Online ordering & carryout
Selling on social media
Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these strategies to help you determine which is best for your business.
Adding Self-Serve Kiosks & Checkouts
If your business is a retail shop or quick-service restaurant, consider adding self-serve kiosks and checkouts. Implementing this technology into your business allows your customers to scan products they’re buying, place orders from your menu, and even pay for their purchases all through a kiosk or checkout terminal.
How does this benefit your business? There is less interaction with other people, so this strategy can mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. If you’ve reduced your staff due to illness or expenses, self-serve kiosks and checkout terminals help ease the burden that falls on your remaining staff.
However, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider. First, not every business will be able to use this tech in their business. Retail stores and quick-service or fast-food restaurants would benefit the most from the addition of self-serve kiosks and checkouts. And while these conveniences can lighten your load, you’ll also need to remember that your equipment must be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly, and often.
Another drawback is the expense. Installing self-serve kiosks and terminals can get pretty expensive, and businesses that were struggling prior to the epidemic may want to look at more cost-effective options. However, it may be well worth the cost for a number of small businesses. Adding this technology to your business can help you better compete with your competitors — and in some cases, even give you a leg up. More businesses are moving to the latest point-of-sale (POS) systems and terminals, so now could be the time for your business to get set up.
If pricing still has you on the fence, know that there are options. Some POS providers provide financing, allowing you to make affordable payments over time. You can also write your equipment off come tax time.
If the concept of self-serve kiosks and checkouts is foreign to you, learn more about this technology and why it could be right for your business by checking out, A Basic Guide To Self-Service POS Systems.
Adding Online Ordering, Delivery, & Carryout
Many governments around the world are ordering the closure of restaurant dining rooms. Whether a closure is mandated in your area or you simply choose to close the dining room on your own, there are still ways to bring in revenue. Many restaurants are now offering online ordering, delivery, and carryout services.
If this sounds like a lot of work, in many cases, it’s hardly any work at all. In fact, you may already have everything you need to start serving your customers in new ways. Before you get started, determine what strategies will work best for your restaurant. For example, do you have an unused drive-thru window? Do you have servers and bussers that you could keep on staff to deliver orders or box up takeout options?
Now is a good time to get really creative, too. For instance, if you plan to shorten operating hours in the evenings, consider offering “take and bake” meals that customers can heat up at home for a quick and tasty dinner. Or you could take a load off of your fatigued customers by offering curbside pickup — they place an order, park their vehicles, and one of your staff members brings their order right to their car.
How do you get started in offering these new options to customers?Â It may be easier than you think. Here’s how to get started.
How To Accept Call-In Orders
Some customers may not have access to the internet or simply prefer to call in their orders. Call-in orders can be used for delivery, in-store pickup, or curbside carryout. There’s a good chance that your restaurant’s POS system already offers this feature. If you’re unsure of how to do this, contact your POS company to learn if this feature is available.
If your POS system doesn’t have this feature, it’s possible to do this manually. Have someone man the phones, take down orders and relay them to the kitchen, and ring up each customer.
How To Accept Online Orders
During the pandemic, many people will be at home placing restaurant orders online. The easiest way to offer online ordering is by seeing if your POS system integrates with third-party services such as GrubHub, Postmates, or DoorDash. Customers can easily place online orders for pickup or delivery, and you won’t have to add extra staff to handle your deliveries.
If you want to keep your employees busy, consider adding in-house delivery services. While this will require more work on your part, you can utilize current employees to take on this task. The benefits of this option are two-fold: you’re providing a needed service for customers while allowing your employees to continue to work and get a paycheck. Like the other strategies in this post, this is also one that you can maintain after restrictions have been lifted and life begins its return to normalcy.
If you’re in the restaurant industry, this time can be a challenge. Keep serving your customers and bringing in revenues by checking out our Coronavirus Survival Guide For Restaurants.
Expanding To eCommerce
If you are a retailer, you’re in luck. Even if your doors remain closed during the pandemic, you can still provide your products to customers that shop online. If you’re new to eCommerce, making the switch can seem long, difficult, and expensive. But you’d be surprised at how easy this is for may retailers.
This option will be easiest for retailers with limited inventory. If you’re a larger business with a lot of inventory, setting up an online store isn’t impossible but may take extra time and effort.
While you can certainly set your web store online manually, first look into the capabilities of your POS system. Many systems already integrate with popular web store options and even offer automated features like importing inventory.
New to eCommerce? Learn how to get started in just five easy steps.
Selling On Social Media
If you’re unable to easily set up a web store or you have a large online following, you can put social media to work for your business by selling on selling on Facebook or using Instagram Shoppable Posts. The advantages of selling on social media are that it’s quick, easy, and inexpensive. This is a great option for any retailer that doesn’t want to set up a full eCommerce site but still wants to reach customers and bring in revenue.
The Best Ways To Stay Close To Your Customers (While Practicing Social Distancing)
Social distancing may mean that your business sees fewer customers. Even when the pandemic is over, it may take some time for business to return to normal. This doesn’t mean that you have to drop off the radar of your customers. Use these strategies to continue to connect with customers while practicing social distancing.
Use Social Media
Many people are stuck at home right now checking their social media. Why don’t you let your posts be among those that they see? Use your social media pages to keep customers updated on what’s happening with your business. Post updated store hours, closures, and any other changes to your regular operating schedule. You can also use social media to announce new services (such as your new online store or delivery services), post current and upcoming promotions, and keep your customers excited for what you have to offer during and after the pandemic.
Use Email Lists
Not everyone uses social media, so make sure to keep all customers updated that have signed up for your email list. If you don’t already have an email list set up, make sure to add a sign-up option on your website and social media pages. Just as you did on your social media pages, you can update customers on changes within your organization. You can also use your email lists to offer exclusive promos to subscribers.
Offer Gift Cards
Now is a fantastic time to offer gift cards that can be purchased now and used later. This is a great way for customers to plan future purchases or even provide a quick and simple gift for their loved ones. E-gift cards are easily purchased online and sent right to the customer — no plastic cards or in-store pickup required. Many POS systems, payment processors, and online stores integrate with gift cards, so check with your provider to learn more. You can also read our post How To Implement A Gift Card Program For Small Business to learn how to get started.
Promote A Good Cause
While you want to remain top-of-mind for your customers, don’t just think about the hardships of your own business. Instead, spend time encouraging your community to give back in any way possible. Donations to food banks or local organizations and volunteering are just a few options that can bring the community together during these difficult times. You may even consider launching a fundraiser or directing customers to other fundraisers, events, and news in your area.
It’s a scary time for all of us out here, so try to remain positive and keep your customers in good spirits. There is enough negativity throughout the news and social media that can raise fears and anxiety. Don’t pretend that nothing is happening in the world around us, but instead, put out positive and encouraging messages. There’s no better time than right now to connect with your community and offer your support for your followers and customers.
Adapt Your Business To Social Distancing To Weather The Storm
People are dealing with a lot of fear and uncertainty worldwide, and business owners are no exception. Your health, the health of those around you, and maintaining your livelihood can easily overwhelm you. But just know that there are options available that will help keep your business afloat. While you may have to dedicate your time and may even need to consider a small investment, these efforts can boost sales and help your business come out on the other side. Good luck!
For more resources on surviving the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus, check out our COVID-19 hub for small businesses.
The post Social Distancing For Small Business: How You Can Adapt & Survive The Coronavirus appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
It’s no secret that owning and operating a restaurant can be one of the riskier small business ventures you can undertake. Trendy “It” spots in seemingly ideal locations open and shutter rapidly, and even a seemingly successful establishment with a consistent customer base can find itself struggling to stay above water. It goes without saying that operating with peak efficiency is of the utmost importance. According to a 2019 survey by point of sale company Toast, 52% of restaurant professionals cited operating and food costs as their No. 1 challenges. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; the costs of ingredients can be volatile, and if not properly tracked and monitored, may literally be the difference between success and failure.
Many restaurants operate with margins as low as 2-3%, meaning that if any area of your business is leaking cash, it could drop you into the red. And food costs are often a likely culprit. There are a number of reasons why you may be spending too much on ingredients while not getting back an appropriate return. You may be offering the wrong sized portions, certain menu items may be priced wrong, or you may be buying too much of an ingredient and letting a percentage of it go to waste. This is why it’s vitally important to be able to accurately calculate your food costs.
In this article, we’ll let you know what percentage of food cost you should be targeting and how to make sure you’re hitting that goal.
What’s Included In The Food Cost Formula?
Now let’s get to the good stuff. How exactly do we calculate food costs? It’s actually a fairly simple equation — with a catch. The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out your actual food cost.
Easy enough right? So, as an example, let’s say that you value your inventory at the beginning of the week at $10,000 (because we love the Base 10 system). You then make $3,000 in purchases. At the end of the week, your inventory is valued at $12,000. Using the calculation, we see that the first number would be $1,000. If you also had $3,000 in food sales, then you would divide $1,000 by $3,000 for an actual food cost of 33.3%. Make sense so far?
$10,000(starting inventory)+ $3000(purchases) – $12,000(ending inventory) / $3,000(sales)= 0.333(an actual food cost of 33.3%)
Industry standards vary slightly, but generally, an actual food cost percentage of roughly 30% should be your target. If you’re coming within a couple of percentage points on either side, you’re probably doing something right. Now, if you’re math-averse, unfortunately, that’s not the only calculation you should be making. There’s also the ideal food cost.Â In a perfect world, this percentage would match up directly with your actual food cost total, but nothing is ever that simple. The difference between these numbers is what helps you detect where you may be losing profits, either through waste or potential theft.
Ideal Food Cost Formula
Ideal Food Cost = Cost per menu item / Sales per menu item
To go off of the above example, if your total inventory cost each week for the ingredients in a dish is $900 and your sales on that menu item add up to $3000, you are left with an ideal food cost of 30%.
$900(cost per menu item)/ $3,000(sales per menu item)= 0.30(an ideal food cost of 30%)
Exactly where you want to be, right? However, let’s look back at the actual food cost we calculated earlier. There’s a 3.3% discrepancy in your actual and ideal numbers. Now you can start trying to figure out the reason behind that gap. Keep in mind that, although the goal is for those numbers to be as close as possible, you’re likely never going to cut down on waste entirely.
Download Our Food Cost Calculator For Restaurants
Restaurant owners (and managers) are busy people! We know. Sometimes you just want a tool that will do the work for you, with minimal time or effort required. I mean, honestly! Who wants to spend hours totaling up inventory purchase orders just to see how much you’ve spent?
(Spoiler alert, if you’re doing this manually it’s time to invest in a better system.)
To that end, we’ve put together a handy food cost calculator for you. This downloadable file will help you calculate both your ideal and actual food costs and highlight the difference between the two.
Get Our Food Cost Calculator Google Sheet
Or Download The Excel File
Strategies To Manage Your Food Costs & Increase Your Profit Margins
In the above scenario, a difference of 3.3% between ideal food costs and actual food costs probably isn’t going to make or break you. However, if you find the gap to be higher than that, you should probably try to lock down the culprit as quickly as possible. Left unchecked, a food cost discrepancy could bleed tens of thousands of dollars from your bottom line over the course of a year.
Here are a few reasons why you may not be getting an optimal return on your food costs.
Menu Items Mispriced: Menu pricing can be tricky, and restaurant owners often make choices based on gut instincts. But even micro-adjustments, particularly to popular items, could make a significant difference in bettering your food cost percentage. You can also try to redesign your menu to increase profitable items’ visibility. Keep your customers in mind and stay on top of current food trends; if you have seasonal items on your menu, make pricing adjustments accordingly.
Overspending On Ingredients: It’s important to shop around to make sure that you’re getting the best value for the items you include in your dishes. Buying in bulk can be a cost-saver, but you can offset those savings if you’re purchasing too much and letting ingredients go to waste. Carb-heavy items like breads and pastas are usually cheaper, so implementing more of those menu options could increase your profits. If your ideal and actual percentages are off by a large margin, you may want to hold back on giving away items at tables (like bread or chips).
Dishes Portioned Incorrectly:Â One easy thing to check that may end up making a big difference is simply whether the dishes you’re serving are too large. If you see the same dish coming back half-eaten again and again, that may be a sign that you need to adjust your recipe. Make sure that all of your cooks are on the same page. Even one lone cook with a penchant for adding more sauce or dishing up a larger portion can affect the bottom line.
Not Utilizing Your POS:Â If you’re running a full-service restaurant, chance are good you have a strong point of sale system. If any of the above measures seem too daunting, a strong inventory management and reporting system can do the bulk of the heavy lifting. A POS with strong inventory can help you keep precise counts of ingredients and can tell you what items sell best and if there are things like seasonal trends that you can utilize to your advantage.
Find A POS System That Helps You Control Your Food Costs
That last bullet-point above is of particular interest to us because helping you find the perfect POS system for your business is kind of what we do. Most POS systems will have some form of inventory management, but they are not all created equal. If inventory management is going to be crucial for your restaurant, there are some areas where you’ll want to make sure your system excels.
First, if you have a large number of SKUs, having a system that can import and edit items in bulk is going to virtually be a necessity. Most good systems, but not all, will allow you to import via a CSV file and some will even let you import existing barcodes. Features like this in the back end that cut down on how much you’ll need to input manually will save you countless hours. Along those same lines, having a system that allows you to create and print your own purchase orders is a huge benefit. While this is a common feature, it can occasionally be a time-consuming process depending on the POS, so be sure to utilize a free trial or demo when you’re shopping around.
Raw ingredient tracking could be the feature in inventory management that will help you cut down on food costs the most. And again, while most restaurant POS systems worth their salt will have this feature, some are more robust than others. Make sure your system provides real-time alerts to let you know if stock is running low. You can also usually set levels to automatically place a new purchase order when an ingredient is nearly out. Other systems automatically track waste, which can save you time when trying to calculate your ideal food cost. It’s also nice if your inventory syncs with your reporting, giving you detailed numbers on how much of a certain ingredient is selling and how much profit individual dishes are turning. In short, your POS can (and should) do a lot of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to calculating your inventory to make sure you’re running at peak efficiency.
The Bottom Line: Managing Food Costs Is Key To Improving Your Profit Margins
If you’re running a restaurant, you’re already aware of how volatile the industry can be. When you’re working with narrow margins, you need to find ways to cut costs anywhere you can. And while food costs are one of a restaurant’s biggest expenses, the good news is that it’s possible to shave down those costs if you’re vigilant. Calculating your actual food cost and your ideal food cost may seem like a tedious and perhaps arduous process. However, a POS system with a robust and easy to use inventory management system can make things much easier. In the process you might find some key areas of waste or some simple fixes that could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
Get Our Food Cost Calculator Google Sheet
Or Download The Excel File
The post How To Calculate Food Cost For Your Restaurant appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Cloud technology is at once powerful and versatile. When applied to point of sale, the cloud enables business owners to not only sell, but also to optimize their sales using the data these systems effortlessly collect. In just a day’s worth of transactions, your POS has the potential to collect a wealth of information about your sales, your employees, your customers, and the trends that can make or break your business.
There’s a good chance you’re not taking full advantage of even your POS system’s basic data reporting capabilities. Or if you’re shopping around for a new cloud POS, you may be having a hard time sussing out the reporting features of each different POS app.
In this article, I’ll discuss how you can use POS reports to make better decisions concerning your business. Read on to learn how to harness the power of the cloud so you can sell smarter.
Why Your POS Data Is One Of Your Most Valuable Assets
The POS system is a central hub for most brick-and-mortar businesses. Using web-based technology, your POS gathers data about your sales, customers, employees, inventory, and more, and assembles all this information into digestible reports. The business owner or store manager can then access these reports online. POS reporting data can (and should) be used to make important decisions about things like staffing, which products to sell, and when to restock.
The importance of POS reporting becomes abundantly clear when you start shopping for a POS and you see that most systems charge extra for advanced POS reportingÂ capabilities.
With that said, you need to know how to interpret and apply your POS data in order for it to benefit your business.
Let’s dig a little deeper into how you can go about doing this.
How To Effectively Handle POS Data Analysis
POS systems organize raw data about your business into reports, which are typically pretty user-friendly. Still, you need to be organized and methodical about checking these reports in order to make them actionable.
Here are tips for checking your POS data:
Pull End-Of-Day Sales Report(s) Daily: In your daily sales reports, you can typically view things like your total sales, which items sold most, your busiest selling time that day, and other metrics for the day. The exact type of daily sales reports vary by POS, but your POS should have at least some kind of general daily sales or closeout report you can check to get a general overview of how the day went.
Pull “X” & “Z” ReportsDaily: The “Z” report shows a more detailed breakdown of your daily sales and is run at the end of each day; the “X” report shows that same data but can be run at any time of day to show a current snapshot of the day’s sales so far. These reports show detailed sales breakdowns by category, tender type, employee, as well as taxes, gratuities, gift card spends, voided items, and more. Importantly, the Z report will let you know how much cash should be in your register at the end of the day.
Pull Employee Reports Daily: See who worked that day and what they did. Checking daily will help you spot any discrepancies or suspicious patterns, and also make sure all employees have clocked out by EOD.
Check Payments Report Daily: You need to send your credit card transactions to your merchant services company daily in order to get paid. POS systems with integrated payment processing should automatically batch your transactions each day, and you should be able to view this information in some kind of daily payments report. It’s a good idea to check each day to ensure the batch was sent, and also check daily to make sure your bank deposits are matching your batch totals.
Check Other Reports Periodically & As Needed: POS software offers various other reports, including reports on order histories, stock counts, customer behavior, returns & exchanges, gift cards, discounts, comps, and more. While you don’t need to necessarily check all of your reports every day, it’s good to have this data at your disposal so you can dig deeper when you need to solve a problem—for example, if there is a discrepancy in your daily “Z” report, you might check your comps and discounts reports to see who might have issued a discount and why. Another example is checking your batch history for a certain day if a customer complains they were double-charged.
Pull Your ReportsWeekly, Monthly, & Annually To Identify Trends: In addition to pulling key reports daily, looking at sales and other metrics over longer time periods such as weeks, months, quarters, years, etc., will provide important insights about your business’s performance and help you identify trends over time.
With multi-location businesses, the manager at each location should have access to reports, and there should be a system in place for regularly sharing reports from each branch with other managers and/or the business owner.
POS Web Reporting VS Mobile Dashboards
In recent years, more POS systems have embraced mobile POS reporting, which lets you run reports on a dedicated mobile app. These apps may even show a live view of your sales in real-time. Mobile reporting apps make it convenient to quickly access key information about your business’s performance when you’re at home or anywhere else.
However, POS reporting apps often have a somewhat pared-down version of the reporting suite you’ll find on the web dashboard that you log into from your browser. When evaluating POS systems, find out if it offers mobile reporting, and if so, see how the mobile reporting suite differs from what you’ll see in the web portal.
A couple of examples of POS systems that offer strong mobile reporting apps are ShopKeep and Square, which offer the mobile reporting apps ShopKeep Pocket and Square Dashboard, respectively.
How To Optimize Your Point of Sale Data Collection
To generate accurate reports, business owners need to make sure their POS is accurately gathering data. While POS systems generally make it quite easy to collect data, you’ll still need to do some setup to optimize your data collection. This setup process can be tedious if you just want to get up and running, but it’s super important for data and analysis purposes. Trust me: you’ll thank yourself later.
Implement A Strong Inventory Management System
Inventory reports will only be accurate if you have a good inventory management system in place. For example, all of your inventory must be properly tagged by category. To gather information, you need to generate reports on your business’s profitability, and you’ll also need to enter the raw cost of each item.
Depending on your needs and the strength of the POS system’s inventory tracking feature, it may benefit you to also use an outside inventory management software program that integrates with your POS. Which brings us to the next item…
Make Sure Your POS “Talks To” Your Other Business Software
Whether you use software for inventory management, accounting, email marketing, or any other business function, it’s important that this software integrates seamlessly with your POS. Otherwise, you won’t be able to transfer data between systems. For example, many businesses use QuickBooks and thus need a POS that integrates with QuickBooks. Or, you may operate a Shopify online store and need a POS that integrates with Shopify to sync your in-store and online sales.
Sometimes, you may have to pay an extra fee for POS software integrations, especially if you need to hire a developer to create a custom integration. Depending on cost and other considerations, you might consider switching to a POS system’s in-house add-on for accounting, eCommerce, etc. (if they offer an add-on for that function).
Customize Your Reports To Track KPIs
Your business should have key performance indicators (KPIs) that relate to your goals for your company. Measuring and tracking these KPIs helps you focus on the data that matters most for your business. For example, if you have the goal of increasing the amount each customer spends, you’ll have a KPI for average spending.
Some POS systems let you create custom reports which can be helpful for tracking your unique KPIs—Square is one example of a POS with this capability. Even if your system doesn’t let you generate custom reports, you may be able to customize your reporting dashboard to show the reports that relate to your KPIs, or modify your reporting settings to send you those reports at your preferred frequency.
Train Employees On Best Practices
Not just cashiers, but everyone on your team needs to be trained on best practices to accurately collect data using the POS. This could mean making sure your sales team is trained on how to onboard customers to the loyalty program, training warehouse workers on how to properly tag inventory, etc.
The first step of training your staff is for the manager themselves to become well acquainted with all POS functions and how it collects data. Once you know what data the POS collects, you’ll be able to advise your staff accordingly.
6 Clever Ways To Use Your POS Data To Firm Up Your Bottom Line
What can you do with reports to actually increase sales or lower operating costs? Here are some ways to put that data to work:
Get Smart About Staffing: Check employee management reports to see if you’re adequately staffing for busy times or overstaffing during slow times. You can also gauge the performance of individual employees to see who earns the most commissions, who comps the most items, and other key metrics.
Optimize Your Outlets: Even if they’re only across town, two locations of your store or restaurant can have very different customer bases, so it makes sense to individualize your offerings at each location. With multi-location POS reporting, you can compare data between different locations to customize inventory and staff to meet each store’s needs.
Stock Only What Sells: Run reports to see what hasn’t sold and what’s selling like hotcakes. Then you can clear out the non-selling product for a more popular item. You can also use reports to see what items may sell best during certain times of the year and make stocking decisions based on that data.
Retain Your Customers: POS systems with CRM reporting help you maintain relationships with your customers. For example, you might check reports for lapsed customers and offer them a coupon to win them back. Or, identify your top customers and reward them with an exclusive offer. If your POS has a loyalty program, you can also track the success of any offers and coupons you send out.
Find & Fix What’s Gone Wrong: Theft, errors, and mismanagement are all problems that can be detected using POS reports. When you encounter a problem, there’s a good chance that the solution lies in the data. For example, if you see a lot of voids, this may indicate that your staff needs more training on how to use the POS system.
Motivate Your Team: Sharing information from your POS reports can be a useful motivational tool in a team setting. For example, you might have a meeting to show everyone how much sales increased last month — and then provide an incentive to sell even more this month! The employee insights from your POS reports can also prove useful for individual performance reviews, as they provide information on what the employee is doing well, and perhaps things they can improve upon.
Your Point of Sale Data Can Make Your Business More Successful, So Use It!
Point of sale data can tell you a lot about what’s going on at your business. From employees’ daily activity to inventory stock counts and long-term sales trends, POS reports put actionable information right at your fingertips. To better acquaint yourself with the different types of POS reports, I recommend reading the Top 5 Standard POS Reports and POS Reports: Getting Beyond The Basics.
If you’re ready to go get yourself a fancy new POS system that has better reporting tools, we have a plethora of information on the best POS systems for your buck. Here are some additional resources to help you find a POS system with excellent reporting:
Best Retail POS Systems
Best Restaurant POS Systems
Best Salon POS Systems
Best POS Systems For Bars & Nightclubs
Best POS Systems For Food Trucks
Best Coffee Shop POS Systems
Best Liquor Store POS Systems
Have a question about POS data or point of sale systems with strong reporting? Leave me a message in the comments and I’ll get back to you.
The post Why Point Of Sale Data Is The Secret To Understanding Your Business And Making More Sales appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Clover is a big name in small business point of sale and if you’re currently in the market for a POS system, it’s likely that Clover is on your radar. But with so many different entities selling Clover, it can be difficult to gauge how much you should pay for a Clover system or what’s a good deal (and what’s not).
There are three aspects to Clover pricing: one-time hardware costs, monthly software costs, and ongoing credit card processing fees. In this article, I’ll break down how much you can expect to pay in each of these areas, and where you can find the best prices for Clover POS.
Who Sells The Clover POS System?
Many different entities sell Clover, ranging from national banks and merchant services companies to even retailers like Sam’s Club. The following are some popular Clover POS system vendors:
Bank of America Merchant Services*
Dharma Merchant Services
Leaders Merchant Services*
Sam’s Club Merchant Services*
Wells Fargo Merchant Services*
*Not a recommended Clover reseller
Generally, we recommend purchasing your Clover system directly from Clover.com or from a high-quality Clover reseller such as Payment Depot, Dharma Merchant Services, or National Processing.
How Much Does A Clover Credit Card Machine Cost?
As with the cost of POS systems in general, Clover hardware pricing depends in part on where you purchase it, as well as which pieces of hardware you want to include in your POS setup.
A Clover Station is the largest, most complete Clover POS setup, and includes 14″ swiveling POS screen, cash drawer, and receipt printer. The Clover Mini has a smaller swivel-screen and can be used by itself or with a Station. The Clover Flex is a handheld smart terminal with an even smaller screen that can also be used by itself or as part of a larger Station setup. Finally, the Clover Go is a mobile credit card reader that connects to an app on your iOS or Android device.
All Clover devices sync together so you can pretty much mix and match them however you like. For instance, you could have a Clover Mini with a cash drawer as your main terminal, while also using a Clover Go for occasional mobile sales. Or, you might just use a Clover Station and nothing else, or a Clover Flex with a Clover Mini, etc.
The following prices are what you can expect from Clover.com directly. Other Clover vendors vary in their pricing, and we recommend you do your research to compare prices to find the best options out there.
Clover Station for any business: $1,399. Includes Station, cash drawer, and receipt printer with customer-facing display and NFC. Including Clover Mini: $1,749.
Clover Station for full-service restaurants: $1,349. Includes Station, cash drawer, and standard receipt printer (kitchen printer sold separately). Including Clover Flex: $1,699.
Clover Mini: $749. Has built-in scanner and receipt printer but does not include cash drawer.
Clover Flex: $499. Has built-in scanner and receipt printer but does not include cash drawer.
Clover Go: $69. Includes Micro USB charger. Charging dock sold for an additional $29.
Additional hardware add-ons, such as scales, barcode scanners, kitchen printers, and debit PIN pads can drive the price up further.
Various vendors may offer lower prices on Clover hardware (Clover.com hardware prices are MSRP), but those lower prices may come with a catch, such as having to sign to a long-term merchant services contract for payment processing. Many Clover vendors also offer the option to lease your Clover POS, but we never recommend leasing your POS system. It’s always a much better deal to buy your system outright, or pay for it installments if the vendor offers 0%-interest financing.
To learn what each of the Clover hardware devices can do and which ones you need for your business type, I recommend reading our dedicated reviews of the Clover Station, Clover Mini, Clover Flex, and Clover Go. My post on The Best (And Worst) Companies To Get a Clover Credit Card Machine From also has more information on the different Clover hardware options and how much you can expect to pay from different vendors.
Understanding Clover Fees For POS Software
Clover charges monthly fees for its software, letting you choose from several different plans that offer different features. You can also purchase additional software features from Clover’s App Store.
Here are Clover’s monthly software plans:
Register Lite Plan: $14/month
Best for businesses with credit card sales of less than $50,000/year
Flat-rate processing at 2.7% + $0.10 (if plan is purchased directly from Clover)
Accept all credit and debit cards, including chip (EMV) cards
Accept contactless (NFC) payments
Track cash payments
Process payments when offline
Send paperless receipts
Accept on-screen signatures & tips
Ring up items, discounts, & tax
Charge taxes at the item level
Theft protection (set employee permissions)
Employee management (payroll, shifts)
Export basic reports (sales, tax, payroll)
Liability protection up to $100,000 in the event of a data breach
Access to 200+ apps and integrations on Clover app market*
Monitor activity, sales, & refunds remotely
Track sales with item-level reporting*
*Available on Flex, Mini, & Station only
Register Plan: $29/month
Best for businesses with credit card sales of more than $50,000/year
Flat-rate processing at 2.3% + $0.10 (if plan is purchased directly from Clover)
Pre-authorize credit cards (for bar tabs, reservations)
Build your mailing list automatically*
Read customer feedback, and reply with coupons*
Create a simple, custom loyalty program*
Fire orders to a kitchen printer or other stations
Add gratuity to checks
*Available on Flex, Mini, & Station only
Dining Plan: $69/month
Best for full-service restaurants
Flat-rate processing at 2.3% + $0.10 (if plan is purchased directly from Clover)
Includes everything in Register plan, plus:
Floor Plans app: Build dynamic floor plans that match your layout
Orders app: Set up order types and categories; move or transfer orders; fire orders directly to kitchen or prep stations; add items to partially paid orders
Apply service charges to large parties
Split checks in any proportion
Run reports per revenue center (patio vs. bar)
Other bundled that come pre-installed: Bar Tab Auths, Tips, Shifts, Discounts, Happy Hour
As you can see, the Register Lite plan is best for very light, low-volume users who don’t need to do things like process exchanges, manage inventory, or accept tips. For most retail or quick-serve businesses, the Register plan is best, especially considering the lower rate for payment processing. Full-service restaurants may benefit from the Dining plan, but it depends on your needs; you might be fine with just the Register plan. Note that Clover used to offer Payments Plus, which was free and more limited in features. However, that plan has been discontinued.
Still, $14/month to $29/month is pretty affordable for a POS, especially since Clover doesn’t charge extra for additional registers or devices. Of course, Clover apps might add to the cost if you need specialized features. But again, most businesses will find everything they need in the $29/month plan.
Note that while most Clover providers sell Clover software services, those companies often charge their own markup on top of Clover’s monthly fees.
How To Navigate Clover Credit Card Fees
Clover is always offered in conjunction with a merchant account, whether you buy it from Clover.com or elsewhere. Clover.com offers a flat-rate pricing structure, whereby you pay 2.7% + $0.10 or 2.3% + $0.10 for all card-present transactions (and 3.5% + $0.10 for card-not-present transactions, regardless of plan).
Clover’s flat-rate pricing scheme is straightforward and doesn’t include any extra merchant services fees. Generally, flat-rate processing works great for small, low-volume businesses. The processing fee on the Register plan (2.3% + $0.10) is quite competitive, especially compared to Square’s rate (2.6% + $0.10). (Note that Clover merchant accounts are still subject to underwriting and approval—make sure you read the fine print as you sign up.)
Not all Clover sellers offer flat-rate processing; some providers like Payment Depot offer interchange-plus rates, which might work better for higher-volume merchants processing more than $10K/month. Other less-desirable Clover vendors offer tiered pricing or enhanced billback pricing, which are both confusing and expensive. And still other vendors offer flat-rate processing, but at rates higher than what Clover.com offers. For example, Bank of America sells the Register plan with 2.7% processing.
How Much Should You Pay For Cloverâs Point Of Sale System?
All in all, most businesses can expect to pay somewhere around $1,400 for a complete Clover Station setup, with a $29/month software fee, and credit card processing fees of 2.3% + $0.10. As mentioned, Clover.com is a good place to buy your Clover devices and your system’s associated software and payment processing account. However, choosing one of the top-rated Clover providers could also be a good bet.
Whatever you do, beware of sub-par resellers offering expensive leases and tiered pricing. If you don’t buy directly from Clover.com, make sure you shop around and understand what fees are being absorbed or passed onto you in other forms.
Finally, if you’re not 100% sure whether you want to use Clover as your POS, you might also want to evaluate some of theÂ best Clover alternatives.
The post How Much Does Clover POS Cost? Everything You Need To Know About Clover Pricing appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
It’s a beautiful spring day, the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping. Out in the fresh air, you’re surrounded by vendors selling the freshest local produce, natural products, and unique handmade gifts. No, this isn’t a dream — it’s a trip to your local farmers’ market.
Farmers’ markets are growing in popularity across the nation, so it’s no surprise that farmers, artists, and other local vendors are capitalizing on this money-making opportunity. Perhaps you’ve even pondered the idea, or maybe your family and friends have suggested you make some extra cash by selling your handmade or homegrown wares.
In this guide, we’ll explore how to become a seller at a farmers’ market. While it may seem as easy as grabbing your goods, setting up a table, and bringing in customers, there are actually tips and strategies to keep in mind to improve your odds for success … and increase your profitability. From selecting your products to marketing to buyers, we’ll cover it all to help you get started on the right foot. Read on to find out how you can start selling your goods at your local farmers’ market.
Why Are Farmersâ Markets So Popular?
From small towns to big cities, farmers’ markets are quickly popping up everywhere and attracting people of all ages. What makes a farmers’ market so appealing? It might be easier to ask what’s not to love about these local stops!
There are a number of reasons that more people are frequenting farmers’ markets. One of the top reasons is that these are places where you can purchase fresh local produce, most of which is organic and isn’t genetically modified. Compare this to your local supermarket where you aren’t sure of when the produce was picked and shipped or how it was grown. Farmers’ market produce is the freshest, and often the healthiest, that you can find.
Buying locally isn’t just good for your body — it’s also better for the environment. Produce at farmers’ markets usually comes from small family farms, which use fewer pesticides and chemicals. Because these products aren’t being shipped around the country, shopping at your local farmers’ market also conserves fossil fuels.
When you shop at your local farmers’ market, you’re supporting small businesses, whether it’s a small family farm or a local artist peddling paintings, pottery, or other handmade art that you won’t find in your local department store. In addition to supporting your local economy, attending a farmers’ market is a great way to meet new people. Farmers’ markets are family-friendly (and sometimes, even pet-friendly!) events that let you meet and socialize with people in your community. Some farmers’ markets even offer live music, classes, and other special events that only add to the fun. Add in local food trucks serving delicious meals and treats, and it’s not hard to see why farmers’ markets are truly the place to be.
Now, it’s pretty easy to see why you would visit a farmers’ market, but what are the benefits for sellers? In a 2015 survey, the USDA found that over $700 million of goods were sold at over 8,000 farmers’ markets around the United States — and the majority of that money is being funneled directly back into local economies. The USDA also found that farmers and ranchers make less than 16 cents for every dollar when selling to retailers. On the flip side, they can retain nearly 100% of their profits when selling locally through farmers’ markets.
10 Kinds Of Products You Can Sell At A Farmersâ Market
Despite its name, you don’t have to be a farmer to sell at a farmers’ market. There are lots of ways that you can connect with the community while earning a profit. Items to sell might include:
Sure, you don’t have to be a farmer to sell at a farmer’s market, but if you are, you can certainly bring your freshly grown produce to sell to your customers. Seasonal local fruits and vegetables really sell, but don’t forget about unique products you won’t find in most supermarkets (think colorful heirloom tomatoes or purple cauliflower). No matter what you bring, make sure that you only provide the freshest, highest-quality produce for your customers.
Don’t feel stuck to just fruits and vegetables, either. Mushrooms and fresh herbs that you’ve cultivated yourself are also big sellers at farmers’ markets, providing you with additional opportunities to earn some extra cash.
Milk, Meat & Eggs
If you raise cattle and chickens, it’s a no-brainer to bring your milk, meat, and eggs to the farmer’s market to share with your community while making a profit. These are popular items at farmers’ markets because of freshness, but also because many people prefer buying from small farms that treat their animals humanely, as opposed to large factories that may have questionable practices.
Not a rancher, but you enjoy hunting? Venison, bison, and other wild game can be sold at the farmers’ market. And it doesn’t stop at fresh meat, either. You can always sell your dried meats and jerky that you’ve marinated, cured, and dried yourself.
Your family and friends think you could be the next Betty Crocker, so why not bring your baked goods to the masses? If you love to bake, there are endless possibilities and a whole lot of money-making potential at your local farmers’ market. Bake your homemade cookies, cakes, pies, scones, and cinnamon rolls and sell them to customers during your free time. Again, you can think outside of the box to boost your profit potential by selling unique items such as dog treats or treats for customers with special dietary needs (i.e. vegan or gluten-free).
Flowers, Plants & Seedlings
From season to season, people spruce up their homes inside and out with colorful flowers, outdoor plants, and houseplants. From flower baskets that add a touch of color to your front porch to common and unique species of plants, many customers bypass big-box home improvement stores and instead purchase from local growers.
You don’t even have to wait to have fully grown plants and flowers. Some shoppers may prefer to buy seedlings that they can plant and grow themselves. Succulents and herbs are also popular options to consider.
If you grow roses, tulips, lilies, or other beautiful flowers, you can also create unique arrangements that shoppers may snap up for weddings, prom, Valentine’s Day, or even “just because.”
If you’re a beekeeper, cash in on the benefits of your (and your bees’) hard work by selling your delicious honey at the farmers’ market. Customers can purchase high-quality honey for use as a natural sweetener, but there are also additional benefits of eating local honey. Local raw honey is often marketed as a natural home remedy used to help with seasonal allergies, soothe sore throats, kill bacteria, or even help you get a good night’s sleep.
Want your honey to stand out from the rest? Switch up the way you process your honey to create creamed honey, or consider adding natural flavors to make your own unique honey blend.
Also, don’t overlook the value (for health and your wallet) of pollen granules. These tiny pellets contain a mixture of nectar, saliva, and pollen and are rising in popularity due to their perceived health benefits. Pollen granules are used for treating inflammation, strengthening the immune system, reducing stress, and other ailments.
Soap & Skincare Products
As we learn more about the chemicals in everyday household items, more people are stepping away from these potentially harmful ingredients and going a more natural route. If you’ve created the perfect recipe for homemade soaps, lotions, or other skincare products, set up a display at your local farmers’ market to peddle your natural concoctions.
As more people move to natural products, the farmers’ market in your area gives you the perfect platform for selling your goods. There are lots of opportunities in this space, from creating your own natural (and great smelling!) bug repellent to homemade sugar scrubs and natural deodorants.
One thing to remember is that you can be multi-dimensional at a farmers’ market. For example, if you keep bees, not only can you sell honey and pollen granules, but you can also sell natural beauty products made from pollen, honey, or beeswax.
Need some inspiration for what to sell at the farmers’ market? Look no further than the neighborhood kid with a lemonade stand. And the great news is that you aren’t just limited to lemonade, although selling freshly squeezed lemonade to hot shoppers is an easy way to make some extra cash.
If you make your own local wine or mead, brew your own craft beers, or even make a mean cup of hot apple cider, selling beverages can help draw in customers. Your booth or display can serve as a showcase for your homemade brews, or you can sell beverages in addition to other products. Many people that frequent farmers’ markets are looking for products that are unique and can’t be found in the local grocery store, so think outside the box. Flavored lemonades made with freshly squeezed lemons and natural flavorings, kombucha, and other tasty beverages can be sold by the glass, bottle, or jug.
Spending a long time at the farmers’ market can leave shoppers feeling famished. Why force hungry customers to drive to restaurants when you can bring the food right to them? If you operate a food truck, consider bringing your tasty fare to the farmers’ market. If you have openings in your schedule, a partnership with a local farmers’ market can fill your weekends with customers and the profits they bring with them.
Arts & Crafts
Whether you’re a professional or just an amateur artist, locally-made arts and crafts are big sellers at farmers’ markets. No matter what type of art you make, a farmers’ market is the perfect platform for selling your creations.
Paintings, drawings, embroidered items, crocheted blankets, hand-painted t-shirts, pottery, wood carvings, sculptures, and homemade greeting cards are just a few of the arts and crafts you can peddle at your local farmers’ market.
Other Unique Goods
Don’t see anything on the list that appeals to you? Then tap into your own unique talents. The great thing about the farmers’ market is that there are relatively few limitations when it comes to what you sell. While you can’t sell anything illegal or dangerous, you can let your creative flag fly and bring something truly unique to the table. What can you offer that is different and unique? Exotic spices, ethnic goods, homemade candles … the list goes on.
One way to be a successful seller is to think about what your customers want or need. For example, if you live in an area known for its tasty barbecue, consider selling your own dry rubs or barbecue sauce. Whatever you decide to sell, make sure that it’s unique to attract the most customers. Homemade, natural products are popular, but items like vintage clothing and shoes may also sell quickly. Whatever you do, just make sure that what you’re selling is allowed by your chosen market.
7 Ways To Prepare For Selling At A Farmers’ Market
Once you’ve decided that you want to sell at your local farmers’ market and you’ve decided what products you’ll be offering, the hard work is over, right? Not exactly. Whether your goal is to sell on occasion to earn some money on the side or you dream of bringing in a steady income by selling your goods to the community, there are some steps you need to take to help boost your chances for success.
Find Farmers’ Markets In Your Area: Once you know what to sell, the next step is to figure out where to sell it. And just like the unique products you’ll find from sellers, not all farmers’ markets are the same. Get a good idea of the culture, people, and products at each farmers’ market by visiting them yourself. Keep your eyes open for markets that have a need for what you’re offering, but don’t forget to find a farmers’ market that’s a good fit for you. For example, if there are no other artists and you’d feel uncomfortable selling your art, keep searching. If you’d like to bring your four-legged friend with you, look for a dog-friendly market. You can also turn to the internet to learn more about the farmers’ market in your city and surrounding areas. Look for official websites and social media profiles that feature pictures, posts, and information about each market. Finally, you should get an idea of the registration process. While this process varies across markets, you need to be aware that vendor registration windows aren’t always open, and you may have to sign up weeks, months, or even longer in advance to secure a spot. You can find this information online or talk to a manager in-person to learn more about signing up as a vendor.
Research Local Ordinances & Health Regulations: Nothing can bring your business to a halt faster than getting shut down by the health department or local authorities. Do your research to learn about local ordinances and health regulations, such as how produce and prepared food must be stored or how baked goods are prepared. Laws and regulations vary, so contact your local health department to learn more.
Make A Business Plan: Even if selling at a farmers’ market feels more like a hobby than a business, it never hurts to create a business plan before you get started. This business plan can be used to outline your goals, how you plan to finance your business, and your marketing plan. If you’re panicked at the thought of a business plan that’s an inch thick, don’t — a one-page plan is sufficient for keeping you on track. Don’t know where to get started? Learn how to create your one-page business plan in no time.
Get Startup Capital & Set A Budget: While selling at a farmers’ market can certainly be one of the more inexpensive ways to make money off your homemade goods, there are still some expenses to consider. One of the most common expenses is a booth rental fee. You need to consider other expenses, too — think signage for your booth, tablecloths and other items to spruce up your display, price stickers, and the cost of materials and packaging for samples. It sounds like a little, but these small expenses can add up quickly if you don’t watch out. Determine if you need to get financing before you start selling, set a budget, and stick to it. Want more tips? Check out our guide, How To Start A Side Hustle.
Look Into Business Registration: Depending on local regulations, you may be required to register your business before you take part in a farmers’ market. Some farmers’ markets require you to provide an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) when you register as a vendor. If an EIN is required, it’s easy to obtain one for free from the Internal Revenue Service. Contact the farmers’ market you’re interested in to learn more about the requirements for sellers.
Research Business Insurance: Some farmers’ markets require their vendors to have their own business insurance. Even if this isn’t a requirement, though, you still want to research your options to protect yourself from liability. If you’re unsure of how to get started, check out our article on general liability insurance for your business and contact your chosen farmers’ market to determine if insurance is a requirement. They may even be able to recommend local insurance companies that other vendors use.
Get Accounting Software: Even if you’re just making a little extra money on the side, do you really need accounting software? Yes, you do, and though it may seem like a pain now, you’ll thank us later. No matter how much you’re bringing in from your sales at a farmers’ market, it’s important to keep track of your finances. The best way to do that? Accounting software. The good news is that there are many options available that are low cost (or even free!) and easy to use, even if you have no prior accounting experience. Tracking your finances will help you see how much money you’re making, as well as where you’re spending it — allowing you to determine where you can make changes to increase your profits. You’ll also be glad that you kept track of finances when it’s time to pay your taxes. If you don’t know where to get started, take a look at some of our top accounting software choices for small businesses.
Should You Accept Credit Card Payments At Your Farmers’ Market Booth?
In a world where paying with plastic is quickly becoming the standard, you might be wondering if you should accept credit cards at your farmers’ market booth. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer, but here’s what you should consider before making your choice.
Mobile point-of-sale (POS) apps make it easier than ever to accept credit cards. With your smartphone or tablet and a card reader provided by your chosen provider, you can accept debit and credit cards with ease without a bunch of heavy equipment and complicated systems. Some credit card readers are even available for no cost, and you could even score extras like stickers that advertise that your booth accepts debit and credit cards. There are lots of POS apps to choose from, so do your research on top choices like Square, SumUp, and PayPal Here.
On the flip side, though, you don’t have to accept credit card payments. Many farmers’ markets are prepared for customers that are paying with plastic, so they allow customers to purchase tokens which can be used to buy products from vendors. At the end of the day, these tokens can be redeemed so the seller gets their earnings. If you’re thinking of going the cash-only route, check out our article, Can You Really Run A Cash-Only Business?
If the farmers’ market you’ll be attending does not offer this service, you definitely want to consider getting a POS app and card reader so that you can serve all customers, regardless of how they’re paying. Mobile POS apps come with additional features that may be beneficial to your business, such as inventory tracking and sales reporting.
Another consideration to keep in mind is whether or not you’ll be taking larger orders or custom orders. If this is the case, you’ll need to have the ability to create invoices for tracking your orders and getting paid by your customers. Let’s say that the holidays are coming up, and you’ve been commissioned to make baked goods for a Christmas party. Before you invest your time and money into fulfilling the order, you can make sure you get paid by sending your customer an invoice that can even be paid online. Some mobile POS systems like Square Invoices allow you to create and send invoices, or you can use your accounting software if that feature is available.
Can You Accept Food Stamp/SNAP Benefits At A Farmers’ Market?
Statistics show that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helped 40 million Americans each month in 2018. This program — formerly known as food stamps — provides benefits that allow low-income households to afford food. SNAP participants are provided with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which is used like a debit card at participating retailers. This includes grocery stores, convenience stores, and, yes, even farmers’ markets. This system makes it easy for you to accept EBT without having to jump through hoops.
Most farmers’ markets have a system in place that allows SNAP participants to purchase tokens with their EBT cards. These tokens can then be used to make purchases. Many states even reward SNAP participants for shopping at farmers’ markets with “double-up” programs. These programs match each dollar spent (up to a certain amount), allowing these households to receive more healthy and nutritious food using their benefits.
5 Clever Marketing & Promotion Tips For Your Farmers’ Market Stand
You’ve decided what to sell and where to sell it — now, it’s time to sit back and wait for customers, right? Wrong! While you won’t have to have a huge (and expensive) marketing campaign for your farmers’ market stand, there are some steps you need to take to make your business more appealing to shoppers.
Business Cards: A customer that isn’t interested in what you’re selling now may become a customer in the future, or you might have a customer that wants to spread the word about your business. Make sure that they can get in touch with you by passing out business cards. You can easily create business cards online and have them shipped to your door for a low price. Make sure to include critical contact information, including your name, the name of your business, your email address, social media or website links, and any other relevant information.
Email List: Allow your customers to sign up for an email list. There are lots of options for the emails you send, including new product announcements, upcoming sales, or your schedule if you attend multiple farmers’ markets and events. Mailchimp is one good option that’s free for small businesses.
Social Media: Social media isn’t just for connecting with overseas relatives and old classmates. Social media is a great outlet for advertising your business. Create a social media profile for your business and provide contact information, photos of your products, customer reviews, and important updates. You can also join groups in your area that allow you to interact with customers, take preorders, answer questions about your products, and more.
Dress Up Your Display: You can’t just throw your products on a table and expect them to sell. Sure, you may make a little bit of money, but to maximize profits, it’s time to pimp out your display. For this technique, you’ll have to invest a little bit of money, so make sure you budget and plan before implementation. Use signs, tablecloths, and decorations to make your space stand out. Arrange your products neatly and make sure that everything is labeled and priced correctly. This is your chance to really show off your personality, so take advantage of the opportunity to attract customers.
Offer Free Samples: Nothing in life is free — unless you’re a customer and businesses are giving out free samples. While providing samples of your products does come with some expenses, allowing your customers to try before they buy is a good way to get them interested … and have them reaching for their wallets. Provide small bites of your baked goods or testers for your natural lotions and body products. Before distributing your samples, make sure that you’re aware of all health regulations to keep your business in operations and provide a sanitary shopping experience for your customers.
Are You Ready To Start Selling At Farmers’ Markets?
On the surface, selling at a farmers’ market seems easy, but as you can see, there’s actually quite a bit of work that goes into planning, prepping, and selling your products. While it may take a lot of hard work and expense to sell your products and make a profit, there are many benefits to peddling your goods at farmers’ markets, including low costs, more personalized interaction with your customers, and creative freedom.
It’s up to you to determine if selling at a farmers’ market best fits your business goals. Once you’ve made the decision to move forward, we offer plenty of great resources to help you launch and operate your small business. From learning how to apply for a small business loan to choosing the right accounting software and POS systems, you’ll find everything you need to make your business dreams a reality. Good luck!
The post How To Sell At A Farmersâ Market (Plus 7 Clever Tips To Succeed Before You Even Get Started) appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
What if there was a way to reduce wrong orders, increase customer trust, and make your restaurant feel trendy and modern? Well — lucky you — there is! The solution: rethink your restaurantâs ordering system. With a modern restaurant ordering system, you can have online orders sent directly to your kitchen display system, servers can send orders from the floor with handheld tablets, and dine-in customers can pay at their table without having to wait for the server to go run their credit card. And those are only a few of the many cool things you can do with a good restaurant ordering app.
What Is A Restaurant Ordering System?
A restaurant ordering system includes any and all features that allow you to accept orders in person, over the phone, or online. As such, there can be a lot of moving parts and several different ordering processes, depending on your setup. Ideally, your ordering system should be as streamlined as possible and linked through your point of sale system. Sometimes, online ordering is separate from the main POS, supported via a third-party app like DoorDash, Postmates, or Grubhub—though many restaurant POS systems offer seamless integration with these apps.
A key aspect of the POS in a modern restaurant ordering system is that it should be tablet-based. At the very least, the POS should work with tablets in addition to a traditional terminal. Why is that? Tablets mean mobility, and they put powerful technology at the disposal of your servers—and your customers. The optimal configuration varies according to the restaurant type; for example, a casual quick-service restaurant system might include self-ordering kiosks or even just a single tablet register equipped with a credit card processing app, while an upscale bar and restaurant setup might have servers use handheld tablets to take orders and payments.
12 Features That Take Your Restaurantâs Ordering System To The Next Level
Now that you’re considering a revamp of your ordering system, it’s time to decide which features are important to you.
The most basic tablet POS consists of a cloud-based POS app installed on an iPad/touchscreen register. But even with a lightweight, single-iPad setup, you might be surprised at all the features a cloud-based system can offer, from online menu management to targeted email marketing campaigns. Your system may also include other additional hardware and accompanying functionality, described in more detail below.
Keep in mind that even if all of these features are available, you only have to use whatâs relevant.
Kitchen Display System
A digital kitchen display system, or KDS, is a lot better than kitchen ticket printing. This allows servers to send orders directly from a tablet to the kitchen, with the ability to prioritize orders, check on cook times, and so much more. The result is a fast, accurate, streamlined ordering process. What are some more advantages of a kitchen display system? Read What Is A Kitchen Display System? for a more in-depth breakdown.
Online & Phone Ordering
With phone orders, the operator may manually key in payments, noting the type of order (call in for pickup vs. delivery) and other transaction details. A smartphone ordering system can save these details for easy re-ordering the next time the customer calls in.
With an online ordering and delivery system, online orders are sent into the queue with the rest of orders (again, this is where KDS comes in handy). Note that online ordering and delivery functionality can be a built-in function of your POS that integrates with your restaurant website, or your POS might support third-party online ordering apps like Grubhub, Uber Eats, etc.
Modifiers & Prompts
A POS system with a menu that allows for modifiers allows for easy order customization. Even better is a POS that prompts servers to ask for choices instead of assuming the customers want the default meal. A handheld tablet ordering system can prompt servers to upsell on the spot, and input the customers’ choices for sides, dressings, level of spice, etc. All of this information is relayed to the kitchen via a KDS or ticket, with no need to ask for a special order.
Seat & Table Management
Using a POS with seat and table management, you can easily assign orders, split items, reassign items to different people, and more. Table management can also include support for reservations, via an add-on or integration (more on reservation management below).
Menu management makes adjusting menu items easy and keeps your offerings up to date. Usually, you can do this with a back-office function online. You might also update your menu to include special time-sensitive offers and daily specials, or manage several different menus for different locations or days of the week. With integrated raw ingredient tracking, menu options stay in sync with ingredient availability.
An emerging trend flips the traditional restaurant payment system on its head, bringing the POS to the customer at their table. Servers simply swipe/dip the card in front of the customer and voila! The customer can sign their receipt on-screen, or the POS may have a mobile receipt printer. The system can also prompt customers to leave an on-screen tip, with percentage suggestions.
Clover Flex and Square TerminalÂ are both examples of mobile POS devices that allow customer payments at the table. These nimble, cordless terminals include both a card reader and receipt printer.
It can be a big investment, but some POS systems give you the option to place tablets at every single table. This lets customers enter their own orders, summon servers, and even split the check themselves. This is typically seen at casual dine-in setups. For example, Chili’s and several other casual restaurant franchises use self-ordering kiosks at tables. Some fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s and Wendy’s, also offer self-service ordering, from touchscreens located at the front of the restaurant.
Customer Relationship Management
Have a takeout restaurant with regulars? A good CRM system keeps track of what they order so if they want to call in âthe usual,â you can plug it in without having to remember it. Customer data can also be used for targeted marketing—for example, sending emails about discounts, promotions or events. Additionally, CRM can include a loyalty program for in-person transactions, which rewards frequent customers with discounts, free entrees, etc.
Server & Customer Notifications
A POS system can include different types of notifications for both servers and customers. For example, some restaurant POS systems can alert servers when orders are ready with an in-app notification sent to their handheld device, or even with a text-message— SMS alerts are probably more effective if servers use a smartwatch to receive these notifications. Customers can also receive texts letting them know when their takeout order is ready, or alerting them that their table is ready. Again, the best way to use notifications all depends on your restaurant’s setup.
Mobile Payment Support
More and more restaurants accept contactless NFC (mobile) payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay. Mobile device payments require the customer to be present, so you usually see this at casual eateries where customers pay at the counter. However, a sit-down restaurant can also accept mobile payments, if you opt to bring the POS to the customer with pay-at-table functionality.
Giving customers the option of email receipts for their orders is beneficial for both you and your customer. Customers can track expenses and past orders, and you can reduce receipt paper costs. Email receipts can also contain CTAs customers can click on, such as surveys or prompts to follow you on social media. Once you have a customer’s email address, you can additionally send them promotional offers in the future.
Depending on the POS system, you use, you might not even have to ask the customer for their email address. For example, Square lets you send automatic receipts to any customer who has already opted into receiving Square email receipts from another vendor.
Online Reservations & Waitlist
When your waitlist and reservations are automated, your staff is freed up to focus on the bread and butter of your restaurant: food orders! While not too many POS systems offer native support for reservations, many restaurant POS systems now integrate with a reservation or waitlist app, such as Waitlist.me or OpenTable, which also serves as a marketplace where new customers can find your restaurant online, similar to Yelp.
Yelp also now has an online waitlist app that, when integrated with your restaurant management system, lets customers hop on your waitlist before they even leave the house. Customers can view their approximate wait time, see how many parties are ahead of them in line, and receive a text when their table is ready.
4 Ways The Right Restaurant Software Will Improve Your Business
Okay, we’ve covered the features to look for in your POS—but we haven’t discussed why these assets to businesses. What are the high-level impacts and how will they change your business? Let’s delve in!
Tableside Ordering Means Fewer Errors
Back to modifiers and promptsâif servers enter orders at the table, they are less likely to forget or make a mistake. This improved accuracy results in less waste and fewer unhappy customers. Even if mistakes are made, they are quicker and easier to fix with a digitized system that allows for easy modifications and instant reordering.
Pay At Table Means Better Data Security
A card leaving a customerâs sight is a liability due to the possibility of credit card skimmers and identity theft. In some cases, you can reduce this risk with a pay-at-table feature and also with mobile payment acceptance. Additionally, the option to pay at the table means no waiters walking away and taking forever to bring the card/check back.
Better Efficiency Means Faster Turnarounds & Happier Customers
All of these features ultimately lead to one thing: a more efficient restaurant. Less time transpires between orders being taken and orders being placed, and less time is needed to complete payment transactions. Tables turn faster, resulting in more customers. And even more important than the faster turnaround is that you’ll have happier customers who arenât stuck waiting. This should also lead to better tips and happier servers!
Updates & Integrations Add Even More Functionality
All of the popular tablet POS systems integrate with other apps. This gives you the potential to extend your system’s functionality ever-further with each new integration that comes out. For example, there are restaurant apps for liquor inventories, tip tracking, social media management, and much more. Web-based systems are also updated frequently to add and improve features, meaning that the system you buy today could be even more powerful with next month’s update.
Cost Is The Biggest Hurdle To A Good Ordering System For Restaurants
There isnât really a disadvantage to having a POS with a solid ordering system. But there is an obstacle: the cash investment required. Some cost considerations for investing in a new restaurant POS:
You need multiple tablets so servers can use them.
You need the space and equipment to charge tablets.
You need additional card readers if you offer pay-at-table.
You need a reliable internet connection, either with cellular data plans or WiFi that reaches across the entire premises. Some POS systems set up local networks as a backup to keep the system functional during internet outages. No matter how you approach it, your internet infrastructure is going to cost money.
Depending on your setup, there are also additional hardware costs such as a KDS, kitchen printers, self-service kiosks, even a digital menu board.
Monthly POS software costs can add up if you have a lot of add-ons or third-party software integrations, e.g., $50/month add-on for loyalty program, $99/month add-on for delivery management, etc.
Whatever you do, donât try to cut costs by leasing POS/credit card processing hardware. This ultimately costs way more and involves contracts. Buy the equipment outright instead. Also, when choosing a restaurant POS system, make sure any system you’re considering offers competitive pricing for payment processing (if in-house payment processing is included) or integrates with a merchant account that offers interchange-plus pricing.
If you need to finance your POS system, this is possible with small business loans. Make sure you research the best options for small business loans for restaurants.
Is It Time For You To Upgrade Your Restaurantâs Ordering System?
Your existing restaurant POS might already support some of the tech-forward ordering features I’ve described in this post. Are you using them? If not, it might be time to consider trying them out. If your POS doesnât support these features, but they sound interesting, it’s probably time to switch to a new POS system. Start shopping around!
So what are the next steps toward implement a faster, more efficient, mobile restaurant ordering system? Talk to your POS provider and learn how to implement existing features you haven’t taken advantage of yet. Or, check out some top restaurant POS providers to find a system that does support the modern ordering features you want and need to make your restaurant all that it can be.
The post Modernize Your Business With A Good Restaurant Ordering System appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Here at Merchant Maverick, we try to stay on top of the latest trends in point of sale technology and present that information to you, the reader. This, however, will not be one of those blogs. Instead, we’ll be looking at a device from another era that still stubbornly holds onto a small niche in contemporary face-to-face retail.
That’s right, we’re talking about the good old credit card imprinter.
Why, you might ask, would anyone want to look into something so… well, antiquated?
Power outages and internet outages happen. When they do, your business can be left without a way to process payments — turning customers away, and possibly ensuring they never come back. Having a backup can be very important.
In addition, some businesses still operate in locales that don’t support power or internet. At your friendly local Renaissance Faire, for example, you’ll likely see several of the artisans and merchants who accept “Lady Visa” & “Lord Mastercard” use a credit card imprinter. The old-fashioned vibe still fits with the event but allows businesses to make sales to customers who might have run out of cash or come unprepared to step back into a truly low-tech world.
What Is A Credit Card Imprinter?
If you’re over 35, you’ve probably seen one and would recognize its distinct two-part pop-swish sound. If you’re younger: this is what credit card processing used to look like in the bygone analog days.
There are a few design variations, but the most common one, lovingly dubbed “the knuckle-buster,” looks like flat metal slabs with a raised plastic or metal grip that slides over the slab on rails. There’s another version that looks a bit more like a pump or a cross between a stapler and paper cutter.
Regardless of the design, the purpose of these devices is to take a (you guessed it) physical imprint of the customer’s credit card for further processing later. The imprinter captures all the vital information on the card, and much more quickly than you could by copying it by hand. These things were all the rage in the 70s and 80s.
You may have noticed the raised numbers and letters on most credit cards and wondered why they were designed this way when ink would serve just as well for the human eye. Turns out, those little nubs allow credit card imprinters to work their magic. It also means that some modern cards that don’t have bevels may not work with imprinters.
A credit card imprinter essentially uses a miniaturized version of printing press technology. Your card is secured in place along with a paper of some kind; carbon paper can be used, but isn’t always necessary. Typically three papers are imprinted at once, allowing you to provide a copy to the customer and card issuer while keeping a copy for yourself. Old school card imprinters usually came with a custom plate with your business’s information on it, which would be imprinted alongside the card information.
Depending on the model, you will then either slide the roller across the slab, paper, and credit card twice, or press the pump down until you hear a confirming click.
What Do You Need To Process Payments With A Manual Credit Card Machine?
You need three things, at minimum, to process credit cards with a manual credit card machine:
The machine/imprinter itself
Paper for receipts and imprints
A way to process the transaction — that is, a merchant account with the appropriate software or hardware.
The machines aren’t that hard to come by, even today. Credit card imprinters are still being made and they’re not particularly expensive. The knuckle-buster models start around $16.50 and mostly top out around $60. Pump-handle imprinters are bit more expensive, running from around $60 t0 $120. Such is the cost of protecting your knuckles. If you’re really fancy, there are even electric ones that come in at over $200. Your best bet for buying one is probably online. They’re easy to find on Amazon or through sites like POS Supply Solutions.
Since these are mechanical devices with moving parts that can wear out with heavy use, make sure to read the user reviews to make sure you’re buying a durable model. You’ll also want to take size into account for portability and storage.
Credit card sales slips for imprinters vary widely in price, ranging from $4 or $5 for 100 to around $40 for 100. The only point of caution here is that you’ll want to get papers that align nicely with your machine’s dimensions for easy imprinting.
When you’re ready to process the transaction, you’ll have to key it in through a terminal, gateway, mobile POS, or virtual terminal.
Will Manual Credit Card Payments Cost You More?
Not if everything goes well.
If your business takes credit cards, you may have noticed that certain transactions incur a higher processing fee than others. When you take credit card information over the phone, or through the internet, it’s considered a card-not-present (CNP) transaction. The higher cost reflects the greater fraud risks associated with processing a card payment without directly capturing that card’s information, as well as a higher risk of human error.
Normally, processing a transaction as card-present (CP) involves POS hardware reading a magnetic strip or an EMV chip to capture the card’s information.
But wait! Aren’t you capturing the card’s information with the imprinter? As it turns out, yes, an imprinted transaction counts as card-present and should be processed at lower cost. Be aware, however, that most POS service providers don’t see a ton of these transactions these days and probably won’t assume you’re working with an imprinter when you enter the information.
You’ll want to make sure you’re working with a reputable processor, and one that has policies in place to give your old-school efforts their due. If they won’t, it may be time to switch processors.
Other Concerns With Credit Card Imprinters & Manual Credit Card Transactions
Making a nearly complete copy of a customer’s credit card information introduces some security concerns you normally don’t have to worry about.
There are no fancy encryption and two-factor security features here. You’re literally making a physical copy of the customer’s credit card information for later processing. You won’t have to worry about your slips being hacked, but they can be stolen or copied by hand. Any security involved in the process will need to be directly provided by your business practices. You’ll need to store the slips securely until such time as you can process them, making sure only authorized personnel have access to them. To ensure you and your customers are protected, you should adhere to the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). As we touched on earlier, imprint-captured transactions can be considered card-present even though the information isn’t immediately being transmitted, but check with your processor to be sure.
You’ll likely want to hold onto the receipt for the 180 days or so during which the customer can dispute the sale. When the receipts are no longer needed, make sure they’re promptly and completely destroyed.
And, of course, when it comes time to process the slips, you’ll be dependent upon the security features of whatever program or medium you’re using to submit the information. You also need to make sure that you are keying in the transaction properly — both the card number and the transaction amount. An incorrect amount could cause a dispute, while an incorrect card number could be a failed transaction.
You should also be aware that using an imprinter means you won’t know if you’ve accepted a declined card until you attempt to process the transaction. The imprint does provide precious evidence in your favor should a chargeback investigation be conducted, but it can’t do much with a failed transaction. That does mean you’re at risk of losing the cost of any inventory associated with the sale as well.
Alternatives To Using Manual Credit Card Machines
Still not excited about going back to the 20th century when the internet goes down? Fair enough.
POS service providers like Square allow retailers to process transactions in “offline mode.” Assuming your service offers this feature, you may still be able to capture card transactions with your local terminals and mobile devices. When your connection is restored, you can process the backlog. If you’re using a cellular-data-ready mobile device to process the payments, you may not even need to wait; services like Square allow you to transmit data over the cellular network.
Be careful, though. You’ll want to have an idea of the number of transactions your POS service allows you to cache; if you’re doing a lot of business with your connection interrupted, you could run into problems.
Now, if you’re unlucky enough to have your power go down as well, and you’ve drained your battery-powered devices arguing about the election on Facebook, you may need to go cash-only (or if your customers are adamant, throw up your hands and break out the manual processor). That, or just take the day off.
Do You Really Need A Credit Card Imprinter?
With the ability to process transactions in offline mode, most businesses probably can sleep soundly at night without a credit card imprinter in their closet. That said, there are outlier cases where certain businesses may find them useful. If you do a lot of business at markets, fairs, or outdoor flea markets where you don’t have easy access to electricity and/or make occasional credit card sales, a knuckle buster can fill the gap. Just be aware of the risks — and be prepared to do a little bit more work.
The post Everything You Need To Know About Using A Credit Card Imprinter appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
We at Merchant Maverick like Square. Itâs a great service that opens up the ability to process credit card payments to many small businesses, and weâve written a lot of articles about Square’s point of sale, payment processing, inventory, booking, and invoicing features. These articles can be prohibitively in-depth to the uninitiated, however, so you might want to read this quick overview of Square for a summary before digging into the details.
A Brief History Of Square
Square was founded in 2009 when Jack Dorsey (also of Twitter) tried to help his friend Jim McKelvey take a credit card payment of $2,000.00. Squareâs first product was a magnetic stripe credit card reader that could be inserted into a smartphoneâs headphone jack to take credit card sales.
Square became a public company in November of 2015, and its stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SQ. While Square does bring in a lot of money ($3.3 billion for the year 2018), it still has not made a profit. For the moment, the company seems to be more focused on growing by adding new services for its customers.
While Square’s main focus continues to be helping small businesses quickly and easily set up taking credit card payments, it has also expanded its services to point of sale, inventory, and employee management — giving small businesses the ability to run more like large ones (more on these services below). To this end, it has bought the food delivery business Caviar, the catering service Zesty, and the website building service Weebly. It also owns a consumer-centric digital wallet called the Cash App, where users can send money to each other and even buy from any store with the money in the app.
In the span of about ten years, Square has grown from a startup focusing on one aspect of helping small businesses grow to a large business providing a suite of services that help small businesses expand. With so many additional services, what exactly does Square do these days?
What Does Square Do?
At its heart, Square is still a credit card processing aggregator (also sometimes called a third party payment processor or a payment service provider (PSP)). We have a great article on the difference between a merchant account provider and an aggregator, but below is a quick explanation.
Square’s Credit Card Processing Services
Traditionally, if you want your business to take credit card sales, you would work with a provider to set up something called a merchant account. To get a merchant account, you typically undergo a long application process and provide a lot of financial information before you are approved. These providers want to make sure that, based on your businessâs existing history, you don’t present a huge financial risk.
Credit card processing aggregators take more of a see-as-we-go approach and assume financial risk for bad accounts. Aggregators merely need to verify the identity of the applicant before authorizing a new account, and generally don’t ask too much more information. They have more freedom on who they sign up and how they do business with those they sign up.
While this means aggregators can quickly set your business up to take credit card payments without needing an established history, they tend to be cautious afterwards. These types of payment processors have advanced systems in place to analyze each transaction for any red flags. Suspicious transactions can cause the processor to hold funds until it has more information. Worse, third-party processors often have a clause in the contract that says they can terminate your account if they see fit. Usually, this happens to businesses that have high numbers of chargebacks or fraudulent transactions.
Square is an aggregator, so essentially the above is its business model. You can sign up for Square within minutes and without providing detailed financial information. In addition, Square gives you a basic set of free hardware and software so you can start taking credit card payments almost right away. The free items include:
Square Point Of Sale Software: Square’s free POS software is incredibly advanced for being free, though it’s certainly not a full-fledged POS. Still, for most small businesses it is more than sufficient. Square also offers premium iPad POS systems for a monthly fee if you need more advanced features.
Credit Card Reader: You can get a basic magnetic strip reader for free, but if you want support for chip cards, you’ll have to upgrade to another reader, which will cost you.
Invoicing: For those businesses that bill a larger amount but less often (e.g. lawn care services), Square offers an electronic invoicing function. The invoices are free to send, but you will pay a transaction fee when your customer pays with their card.
Square’s Value-Added Services
As mentioned earlier, Square has been adding more services to its core credit card processing business. Some of these services are for free, but others are available for a small fee. These services include:
Employee Management: With this service, you can manage your employees from anywhere. You can add new employees to the system, track their hours, track their register/sales (at either single location or multiple locations), edit and close employee timecards, and give selected employees selected access to various parts of this software (e.g. so they can enter their own hours but not see your weekly sales numbers).
Payroll Services: This service imports data from the employee management software so that you can easily pay your employees and contractors. Square will handle tax filings and withholdings, and they can handle the payments to other employee benefits such as health insurance and 401(k). You can even offer direct deposit to your employees.
Inventory Management: Square offers basic inventory management in its Point of Sale app for free, but the premium iPad POS systems offer a more detailed system that can track and analyze your business’s inventory across multiple stores and multiple registers. You are notified when inventory is low, and items are automatically removed from inventory when they’re sold, whether at one of your physical locations or online.
Business Debit Card (Square Card): When you are paid by your customers through Square, the money goes to an account kept by Square. Rather than moving the money to your bank, you can use it immediately with the Square Card. The Square Card is a debit card sponsored by Mastercard, and you can request it from Square for free. Check out How Does Square’s Instant Deposit Work?Â for more information about how to access your funds.
Appointments: Square provides a booking calendar for professional service businesses (like hair salons). The calendar not only tracks and moves appointments, but it can also send appointment reminders to customers. The POS and booking system is free for a single user, but if you have multiple users you’ll need to pay a monthly fee.
Square Online Store: Pretty much every business needs an online presence, and Square can help you build a professional-looking website even if you’ve never done it before. Square provides tools that can help you track your inventory sold through your online store and helps you with shipping (printing labels, discounted rates). Best of all, when you sell out of state, it tracks all the different sales taxes that you might owe. There’s a basic free webstore, but if you need more advanced features, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the other plans.
Other Services: Square offers many more services designed to make a small business owner’s life easier. For instance, Square offers marketing software to help you build email and social media advertising campaigns. It has an installment payment service for certain businesses so that a customer can buy a big-ticket item and pay Square in installments while you get paid right away. Square can help you build a loyalty program where customers can redeem goods or services with points. You can get your own branded gift cards to sell to your customers. Square even provides online store owners with a product photography service so that the items sold through webstores are presented in their best light.
As can be seen above, Square is well on its way to offering an entire suite of software and services that not only help you take credit card sales, but also help you manage your entire business’s operations.
What Are The Advantages of Square?
Every successful business has a few things it does extremely well, and Square is no exception. Square basically provides you with a free, fast, and easy-to-get-out-of way to start taking credit card sales. To elaborate a bit, the following are some advantages for signing up with Square:
Fast Setup: You can sign up for Square within minutes and get a credit card reader shipped to you very quickly.
Easy Termination: If you sign up and find that you don’t like Square, you can stop working with Square any time you want. There are no penalties for leaving, so you can sign up without fear. (There may be loose ends to tie up, but you can still terminate the services at will.)
Easy To Use: Square is focused on small businesses that are just starting out. They provide a simple piece of hardware and intuitive software to help you run your business and help you grow.
Simple Fee Structure: Compared with other pricing models, Square has an easy-to-understand flat fee structure so you can better predict your profits.
Fast Payment: With Square, you can get paid almost right away after a customer makes a charge. You can instantly deposit these funds into your outside account or use the funds directly with the Square Card debit card. In contrast, traditional merchant account providers typically hold the funds for at least 24 hours before releasing it to you. For a small business with tight cash flow, Square’s fast payment can make a difference to the business’s survival.
No Minimums Or Monthly Fees: A small fee here and there might seem insignificant, but they can add up in the long run. Square’s credit card processing service (and a lot of their other services) have no minimum or monthly fees, so a small business doesn’t have to worry about paying for anything other than the transaction processing costs.
These are just some of the advantages for signing up with Square. Of course, no business is perfect, and neither is Square. Under some circumstances and for some types of businesses, Square is not the best option.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Square?
No business can be everything to everyone, so Square is not suitable for every type of business. One of the biggest complaints we see about Square is that Square sometimes withhold funds in a merchant’s account, with or without warning. Sometimes, you never get paid. If you fit into one of the categories below, you might want to think twice before signing up with Square:
Not Suitable For High-Risk Businesses: A “high risk” business is usually defined as a business that deals with guns and ammo, tobacco and vaporizers, pharmaceuticals, gambling and financial services, and similar — anything highly regulated or prone to chargebacks and disputes. If you deal in any of these, Square is likely not the right business partner for you. Specifically, in its Terms of Service, Square reserves the right to terminate service if you violate any export control regulations (for example, sell military-grade items to specific countries) and money laundering laws, sell weapons or devices designed to cause physical harm, or “use the Services except as otherwise allowed” under their agreements.
Not Suitable For Business With Many Chargebacks: If you have a business that causes a high rate of dispute or chargebacks (even if it’s not otherwise a high-risk business), then Square is probably not the right company for you. Going back to Square’s business model, it fronts you the money that you take from your customers so you can collect right away while it waits for the banks to settle the charges. So, if Square can’t eventually get the money from the banks, it might stop fronting you the money (put a hold on your account) or stop working with you altogether.
Not The Best Pricing For High-Volume businesses: Despite its transparent pricing, Square might not be the cheapest service provider for your particular business. If your business is mature, you have an established financial history and are doing a consistently high volume of card payments, and you know how your customers tend to pay for your goods or services, then you might want to shop around a little more to find the merchant account provider that can offer you interchange-plus pricing and volume discounts. (That said, Square does negotiate custom rates for high-volume businesses, but you should absolutely shop around all the same.)
We have an article that gives more details on why Square is not suitable for high risk and high chargeback businesses. If you have an established business and wish to shop around, here’s some information on where you might be able to get a better deal.
What Are Square’s Fees?
Business owners like having predictable operating expenditures every month. Because credit card fees usually have a percentage component and a flat fee component, the cost of allowing credit card sales tend to be less predictable. Compared to traditional credit card processors, however, Squareâs fees are easier to predict.
With Square, you usually only have to worry about just one fee, expressed in a percentage form. Right now, if you use Squareâs free credit card reader and free Point of Sale software, you pay 2.75% of the sale. Thatâs it. If your customers choose to pay online, your rate is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.Â Having only to keep two numbers in mind makes it easier for you to figure out your markups so you can make a profit for your entire business.
Note, though, that if you use Squareâs premium hardware or software, the charges can get a little complex. Here’s an article giving a more detailed breakdown of Square’s fees.
How Do You Use Square?
When it comes down to it, it’s fairly easy to start using Square’s services. You can do it in four steps:
Sign Up For A Free Account. This only takes a few minutes, and we even have an article walking you through the process. You wonât have to provide a lot of financial information, and they wonât do a credit check on you at this stage (they will later, after youâre all set up).
Get Your Free Square Reader. Youâll have quite a few hardware choices–some of which you will need to pay for–but thereâs always one thatâs free for either iOS or Android.
Download The Free Square App. The app is called Square Point of Sale, and you will need this app to process payments through a mobile device.
Log In To The Free Square Dashboard And Explore. This is a fairly robust piece of software that manages all your credit card charges. You can customize reporting in a centralized hub, and do much, much more (some of which cost extra). Here’s a Merchant Maverick article on the details of the dashboard.
As mentioned above, Square wants to help you run your business. There are a lot of value-added services they offer, so once you’re all set taking credit card sales, you might wish set aside a little time to explore these additional services to see how they can help you run your business.
What Kinds of Businesses Is Square Best For?
Square isnât right for every business, but if your business is small or new, Square is very likely the best bet for you. With Square, youâll get lots of free software, hardware, and add-ons to get you up and running very quickly. You can use Square on the web, at a brick-and-mortar store, and even at mobile locations such as food festivals.
We’ve compared Square with PayPal and Clover Go and believe Square really does offer the best value for the price for a start-up business. As long as youâre not one of the âhigh riskâ businesses, you should have no problems getting payments from Square or with your account being abruptly suspended or terminated. Best of all, if you use Square and then after a while decide you donât like them, you can stop using them at any time.
Is Square right for you? This more in-depth article can help you decide.
The post What Is Square And How Does It Work? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you’re reading this article, chances are that some of your customers have recently asked whether you accept Apple Pay or Google Pay. Your preliminary research has yielded the terms digital wallet and mobile wallet, but while you may have heard of these forms of payment before, you don’t yet know many of the details.
What do these terms mean? Is there a difference?
The short answer is that digital wallet is a broad term covering software that electronically stores credit card numbers, debit card numbers, loyalty card numbers, etc. on your laptop, tablet, phone, or the cloud. A mobile wallet is a type of digital wallet that lives only on your phone and allows you to “tap to pay” in stores, often using NFC technology.
Below is a more detailed explanation of what these wallets are, as well as how they might affect your small business.
What Is A Digital Wallet?
A digital wallet is an electronic method for storing payment information. It is a broad term covering many types of functionalities, and not every wallet offers every type of functionality. Below is a list of major functions typically found in digital wallets.
Store Credit & Debit Card Information: All digital wallets can store credit and debit card information. Some, like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, will allow payment directly from the card. Others, like PayPal, draw funds from a stored credit or debit card but pay out through the service itself.
Pay At A Store: Many digital wallets will allow a user to pay for purchases made at a brick-and-mortar location. Apple Pay and Google Pay both allow this type of payment when an NFC-capable point-of-sale terminal is available.
Peer-To-Peer (P2P) Payments: Most digital wallets allow users to transfer funds to one another. Typically, these payments are small amounts used to split a lunch bill, pay a babysitter, or even pay a share of the rent. The Cash app, Venmo, Zelle, Apple Pay, and Google Pay all allow users to transfer money this way.
Online Payments: Digital wallets can be used to pay for online purchases. At checkout, a merchant who takes digital wallet payments will display the appropriate button for the appropriate wallet. PayPal is the most well-known wallet having this type of pay with button, but Apple Pay and Google Pay have similar buttons.
Hold Funds: A digital wallet can store cash in the same way a gift card can hold cash. The funds are held in a cash account, and a user can link a bank account or a credit card to this cash account to cover shortages. Square’s Cash app and PayPal’s Venmo are examples of digital wallets that hold funds, and they even provide their users with physical prepaid cards (Visa for Square and Mastercard for Venmo) so the cash can be used at brick-and-mortar stores.
Hold Coupons & Loyalty Cards: Many digital wallets can hold coupons or loyalty cards so a user can be given the appropriate credit or discount for using a particular card or for shopping at a particular store. Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung pay all hold coupons and loyalty cards.
Store ID: Some digital wallets will allow a user to store IDs. For instance, Apple Pay will allow a college student to store a student ID and use it to access various buildings or even pay from a student account.
Store Transit Tickets: A number of digital wallets allow users to store transit tickets. Users can tap the phone (or a wearable linked to the phone) on a reader to enter subway or bus stations in an increasing number of cities in the US and abroad.
Security: All digital wallets have security features that keep the stored information safe. The information is not only protected by password or biometrics (fingerprint scan, iris scan), but is also encrypted in many ways. Credit card information, for instance, isn’t even kept on the phone. Only a token that represents the information is kept on the phone.
Given that digital wallet is an overarching term that includes all the above features, is there a meaningful difference between a digital wallet and a mobile wallet?
How Is A Mobile Wallet Different From A Digital Wallet?
An easy way to distinguish mobile wallets from mere digital wallets is that mobile wallets let the user make a payment at a storeâs point-of-sale terminal. The payment is usually pulled directly from a credit or debit card rather than from a cash balance kept in the digital wallet.
With a mobile wallet, a user typically pays by tapping on a credit card terminal with a smartphone or a wearable device like a smartwatch or a fitness tracker. The device then transmits the payment information from the phone to the terminal via Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Other mobile wallets (e.g. Dunkin’ Donuts, Walmart) send payment information through QR codes that a merchant can scan or the user can import through the phone’s camera. A third technology proprietary to Samsung (Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST)) mimics a magnetic swipe and transmits payment information that way.
As a side note, the popularity of NFC technology for payment processing has a lot to do with security. In the US, NFC is favored because it transmits the information only over very short distances. This way, there’s less likelihood that a snooping device can steal the payment information. In comparison, QR codes are less secure because a user can innocently scan a rogue code and be tricked into sending money to the wrong destination.
In this article, we try to draw a distinction between digital wallets and mobile wallets, but, in truth, the nature of these wallets is still in flux. When most people speak of mobile wallets, they tend to only be thinking of Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay. While digital wallets like PayPal and Cash can be loaded onto smartphones as apps, they cannot make NFC-based payments, so they are technically not mobile wallets. (PayPal can be linked to Google Pay and Samsung Pay, so it is still possible to pay at a store with PayPal, but the app itself is not capable of handling NFC payments.) However, Google Pay and Apple pay do let users make P2P payments and send cash, and these features tend to be major functions of pure digital wallets. Google Pay and Apple Pay, therefore, blur the line between digital wallets and mobile wallets.
If the line between digital wallets and mobile wallets is blurry, is there even a reason to draw a distinction between them? For a consumer, the answer is likely “no,” but for a merchant who wishes to take these payments, the difference can be significant.
What Mobile & Digital Wallets Mean For Merchants
For a merchant, there is a subtle but meaningful difference between a mobile wallet and a digital wallet. If you operate an online store or sell through a mobile app, then you can take digital wallet payments, but likely it will take a little work because you must add new code to your web store or your app. If you can’t handle coding yourself, you’ll need to hire a developer to implement these payment options. This is a bit different than some other online payment options that allow you to accept credit cards with minimal setup.
If, however, you operate a brick-and-mortar store where your customers pay through a point-of-sale terminal, then you can probably take mobile wallet payments without doing anything extra. If you have an NFC-enabled terminal, then you are all set to take Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay. If you are still using an older terminal that only takes a magnetic stripe card, then you can still take Samsung Pay because it has that the proprietary MST technology that mimics a magnetic strip card swipe.
Below are some of the additional advantages of taking digital and mobile wallet payments.
Digital and mobile wallets are secure. Digital wallets store payment information on a specialized, super-secure environment called the Secure Element (SE). Apple uses an SE chip embedded in the phone while Google and Samsung use one in the cloud.
When a customer makes a purchase, instead of the real credit card number, only a tokenized number is sent to the merchant. Hereâs a more detailed explanation of credit card tokenization, but for quick reference, a credit card token is just a random number with the same number of digits as a real credit card number. Only the credit card company has a way to match that random number to a customerâs real credit card number. So, if a token is stolen, the credit card company simply issues another token and disallows payment requests made with the stolen token. The real credit card number is kept safe and other purchases made with the real number (or other tokens) can continue.
From a merchantâs standpoint, the explanation above just means that tokenization takes you out of scope for PCI compliance (meaning less work for you) and you won’t be held responsible for fraudulent charges made with a stolen credit card. Thatâs a great reason for taking digital or mobile wallet payments.
Digital and mobile wallets make checking out faster. Whether you operate online only or have a brick-and-mortar store, faster checkout typically translates to more sales.
If you have a webstore or an app that takes in-app purchases, digital wallets often can populate all the payment fields with the push of a button. This means your customer wonât have to dig out a credit card, enter a long series of numbers, triple check to see the number is entered correctly, enter in their email twice, etc. etc. Being able to pay easily and quickly makes a better overall purchasing experience, and that means a better chance of a returning customer.
At a brick-and-mortar store, payment with an NFC enabled phone or wearable also makes checking out faster. Tapping a phone or a smartwatch over a point-of-sale terminal takes a mere second or two. Compare that to digging out a card from a wallet, dipping a card into the reader, waiting for the reader to approve payment, and making sure the customer does not forget to retrieve the card, you can see the time savings right away. Whatâs more, all the customers behind the one making the payment can see their time savings as well. The more happy customers you can move through your checkout, the more sales you can make.
In line with faster checkout, taking digital and mobile wallet payments offer additional conveniences to your customers. These days, most people pay for their purchases with a credit or debit card, and mobile wallets are increasingly being used to store these cards, especially by the young and/or tech-savvy. Millennials and Gen Z’ers transfer cash between friends using mobile wallets without a second thought and never seem to carry actual cash on them.
For these customers, it would be convenient to consolidate spending into one wallet, so they can easily keep track of their cash, credit, and debit spending. Most digital and mobile wallets also allow users to pay faster by approving a purchase using stored information. PayPal has a one-touch feature that allows a customer to instantly approve a payment with stored data. Google Pay allows a user to approve a purchase by just unlocking the phone and hovering the phone over the payment terminal without ever opening the Google Pay app.
Of course, digital and mobile wallet users won’t stop patronizing your store just because they can’t pay with their mobile or digital wallet. But, if you do allow it, they might come back to you more often because you take payments in the way they prefer to pay.
Do You Need To Accept Mobile & Digital Wallet Payments?
You probably do not absolutely need to take digital and mobile wallet payments, but allowing them might bring you more sales. If you have an online store, then you might have to invest some time or money to connect up to the wallet services. However, if you own a brick-and-mortar store, you likely already can take them. In fact, if your customers tend to be tech-savvy and/or young–or you want to attract more such customers–the ability to pay with digital or mobile wallets will offer them the convenience they want and induce them to do more business with you.
Whatever you do, if you decide to take digital and mobile wallet payments, be sure to advertise it properly. You can request signs and stickers from the wallet providers and of course download logos and the appropriate buttons for your webstore. Once this is done, you are on your way to taking digital and mobile wallet payments.
If you already take digital and mobile payments, what has been your experience so far? Have you increased your sales? Have you gotten positive comments from (hopefully pleasantly surprised) customers that you have improved your technology to allow for this new way to pay? Leave us a message in the comments!
The post Digital Wallets VS Mobile Wallets appeared first on Merchant Maverick.