Merchant: M Chocolat
Location: Alpharetta, Georgia
Platforms: NCR Silver, Facebook
Bottom Line: Businesses want simplified tools that they can use to process transactions and manage inventory at off-site locations.
Having a product as small and portable as chocolate candy gives M Chocolat owners Maritza Pichon and Marlena Snyder the freedom to sell outside their brick-and-mortar store. The sisters often use food festivals, local races, wine shops, and gourmet specialty stores as venues to sell their products and also find new customers who will continue purchasing from their store in the future. However, the benefits of off-site sales were often dwarfed by the downsides of being limited to cash transactions.
“When we sell off-site, we establish relationships with new prospects and grow our customer base much faster than we could solely selling in our brick-and-mortar location,” says Pichon. “Off-site events also provide an opportunity to work with partners and show them our new ideas for chocolates and other products.”
Selling their products at off-site locations also made it difficult for the business owners to manage their inventory, which is ultimately what led Pichon to begin researching mobile inventory management solutions.
Although the time Pichon spent manually handling inventory issues varied by season, she estimates that she was spending two days once or twice each month manually figuring out where M Chocolat stood. Other times, she’d have to call in outside IT support for help. Pichon says that signing up for NCR Silver’s cloud-based product has saved her time and money, and it gives her the ability check-in and update her inventory remotely.
“We also can more accurately predict which items we’ll sell faster, which helps us plan better and make sure our customers’ favorite treats are always in stock,” she says.
Like many business owners, Pichon says she was overwhelmed by the number of options and features available through the various mobile POS solutions. She wanted to use a product that was simple, basic, and easy to understand.
“We didn’t need or want every single feature out there, because we don’t have time to deal with managing a complex, expensive system,” she says.
Aside from reaching customers at off-site locations, Pichon has also had success acquiring customers through email marketing and digital coupons. Visitors to M Chocolat’s website are encouraged to enter their email addresses for news and coupons, and Pichon frequently sends emails reminding customers that M Chocolat products make great birthday presents.
Pichon says email marketing is the most successful way she has found to reach customers and trigger visits. Although she hasn’t transitioned her email campaigns to NCR Silver just yet, she plans to integrate the two systems at some point in the future.
More immediately, Pichon is hoping to find new ways to integrate social media into M Chocolat’s marketing strategy. M Chocolat has accounts with Facebook and Twitter, however the shop’s Facebook page is much more active, with 1,777 ‘likes’ versus 164 followers on Twitter.
Pichon says she monitors the conversations that people are having about her business online and tries to show appreciation to customers who take the time to share their experiences with friends on their own social media pages. The time she spends on social media management varies from “a few minutes one day, to several hours another,” however using a more automated system could save Pichon time in the future.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.