Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Platforms: ShopKeep, Google AdWords, Bookeo, Facebook
Total Spend: $300 per month
Bottom Line: Mobile POS systems allow merchants to keep an eye on real-time sales results and analytics, even when they’re outside the office.
When Tara Koenig first began researching mobile point-of-sale systems for her Virginia cupcake bakery back in 2011, her interest wasn’t driven by the lack of upfront costs or tablet integrations. It was driven by necessity. The location Koenig had chosen for her new bakery was a 500-square-foot garage with no telephone lines (a feature that’s typically necessary when installing a hardware-based POS system). “We knew from the start when we took on our space that it was always going to be temporary,” says Koenig.
Rather than investing thousands in the equipment necessary to get a hardware-based POS system running — and then tearing that equipment out when her bakery moved to a larger location one year later — Koenig started looking for a mobile solution. “I went online and I started Googling ‘iPad POS systems,’” says Koenig. “When we started two years ago there were only actually about two or three out there.”
Koenig ultimately chose to work with ShopKeep because it was the “clearest” and “simplest” system to use. While cost wasn’t the primary factor in Koenig’s decision to go mobile, it did play a role. The total startup budget for her business was less than $2,000, which meant she needed a POS system with minimal upfront costs.
Now, two years later, she believes that the analytical data that mobile POS vendors provide is just as valuable to small business owners as the lack of upfront costs. Koenig looks at the sales reports generated by ShopKeep every day, and makes split-second business decisions based on what she finds. “Let’s say I’m planning to go into the shop today at noon. If I’m on my iPhone and I see sales jumping really, really fast and really rapidly, that might give me a cue to call into the shop and say ‘Hey, I noticed you guys are really busy. Do you need me to come in?,’” says Koenig. “Alternatively, if I see that sales are significantly under, like perhaps we’re having a quiet day, that might prompt me to post a Facebook special.”
Facebook is just one of a handful of online tools that Koenig uses to drive customer acquisition and loyalty. In addition to posting specials and offers (and occasionally sponsored content) on Facebook, she also uses Google AdWords to drive business. “We do local cupcake delivery, and probably 50%, if not more, of the deliveries that we do are actually from out of town people who know nothing about us,” says Koenig. People who Google terms like “Charlottesville gifts,” will ultimately find SweetHaus’ Google AdWords ads, prompting them to place orders for business associates or loved ones who live in the Charlottesville area.
Koenig also accepts online bookings for her in-house birthday parties through a platform called Bookeo, and says online scheduling is especially useful for busy parents. “A lot of the bookings come in at midnight or five in the morning, times that moms have,” says Koenig. “[Online scheduling] removed all of the involvement that we had to have on our end, and completely eliminated the possibility of double bookings. Plus, it makes customers happy.”
All told, Koenig estimates she spends approximately $300 a month on digital tools. She spends $100 per month on Google AdWords, $50 per month on ShopKeep, $60 a month on her website (which features e-commerce capabilities), and around $90 combined for all her other online marketing tools. Koenig views the investment as money well spent, since it allows her to provide the “ultimate convenience” to customers and also “streamlines all the operations through the store.”
The advantages of a mobile POS system for merchants are clear. Business owners can reduce startup costs and gain insight into their companies using real-time analytics. What has been surprising to Koenig is that digital marketing tools are beneficial to customers, as well. Adopting an online booking system allows busy moms to schedule birthday parties at SweetHaus during late night hours, after most businesses have typically closed for the day. The advertising SweetHaus runs through Google AdWords helps out-of-town customers find the shop’s website when they’re searching for deliverable gifts to send business clients, friends, and loved ones. Business clients have also told Koenig that they prefer digital receipts (emailed through the ShopKeep platform) to paper receipts because they are easier to keep track of for expense reimbursement.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.