Marketing and E-commerce
‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted’, said the American merchant John Wanamaker in the early 20th century. ‘The trouble is, I don’t know which half.’
Today, marketing has changed. Email, search engine ads, banner ads, social media posts – what these have in common is the ability to measure whether people click on them or not. We also know a lot more about the people we market to. This means you can target the right people more accurate – either by their specific demographic, or by their intention to buy.
However, the move online poses a tricky issue for physical store owners. Things like accounts, databases, and email marketing, are all designed for people whose interaction with their customer is, to some extent, online.
But don’t despair! EPOS marketing features add an online dimension to your relationship with your customer, and there’s exponentially more marketing features available as your relationship moves online.
That’s why we’ve put e-commerce and marketing into a section together; and why we’d expect e-commerce platforms to come with more marketing features, and to be pertinent to more marketing integrations and plug-ins, than in-store EPOS.
EPOS – Basic Loyalty & Marketing Features
Gift cards are a form of store credit which can be bought and sold as cards. They give the buyer the purchase value in store credit. They’re available with some EPOS systems, and are great if you sell the kind of thing people would buy as a gift.
Discounts & Deals
As ever, one great way to attract customers is to offer discounts and deals! We normally think of discounts as front-end features of an EPOS – so more on them in that section. watch out here for the way an EPOS can set discounts, which might be flexible or not. Generally speaking, manual discounts are nearly always possible; whereas automatic discounts in specific formats (“buy X get Y free”), aren’t.
In this section, we’re generally referring to discounts accessible and unlocked via marketing codes – so check whether it’s possible to measure the success of different codes which customers have cited to unlock your deals.
It costs a lot more to bring in new customers than it does to retain existing customers. Reward customers for showing loyalty towards your shop or hospitality business (buy four coffees, get the fifth one free). This will encourage repeat visits from customers.
Your EPOS can be configured to work with your loyalty programme software. It might be that your loyalty card allows shoppers to earn points. Staff can enter the customer’s ID number or scan a loyalty card so points from a purchase are instantly added to the customers’ account.
Some EPOS are designed such that you have a stamped ticket. That’s fine – but where possible, we’d recommend using some kind of data which you can store on your EPOS. We’ll hear a little more about this in a moment, but this can be the start of a CRM in which you track individual customers – with their preferences, habits, and communications.
Custom Receipts Layout
If it’s good enough for McDonald’s… Some systems will allow you to print your discounts and deals on receipts. This is a great way to add codes for deals to encourage people to keep coming back!
Your customer may wish to have receipts emailed to them. For instance, iZettle will let you send out email receipts, which you could customise to show your opening hours and website address, and include deals to keep bringing customers back.
This has the side effect of taking their email address – and could be the start of a beautiful direct marketing relationship. (But as we’re about to learn – there are rules here.)
Customer Data – Before you Start
The measures listed in the first section generally have two advantages. The first is that they persuade the customer to return via a discount offer. The second is that they persuade the customer to give you their data.
Data is useful for two reasons. The first is for our reporting – if we’re most popular with e.g. forty-five year old men, that could be useful when we’re planning how to target our customers. The second is reaching out to previous customers for retargeting – the most valuable bit of information we can get from customers is contact details, because then we can retarget our customers directly.
However, data comes with some rules attached to it – both cyber security best practice, and laws which you must follow.
There’s one big bit of legislation you need to have heard of – that’s called GDPR. (“General Data Protection Regulation”) We’re not placed to give legal advice, here – so this is not legal advice – it’s just pointers on what to look for when you’re coming to understand this. Here’s three things you need to know:
First, you need the customer’s opt-in consent before sending them a load of emails. That means you can’t just email them the moment you have their address – they need to check a box beforehand saying “I am happy to be emailed”, or words to that effect. The box shouldn’t be pre-checked. Customers will often choose to use their data as part of a value exchange. They give you their email with consent to reach out; you give them a discount – this is the kind of exchange which has become commonplace. You can’t withhold things like the receipt or the purchase itself in exchange for their consent.
Second, you can’t share data. If you’re storing customer details in a CRM, you’re not allowed to pass those details on unless you have the specific consent of the customer. This means that if George Clooney is a regular shopper at your store, you shouldn’t be telling people! That still counts as passing on his personal details (name) to third parties, even if it’s a conversation.
Third, you need to tell your customers if you get hacked. Unfortunately, hacking is commonplace – such as in the case of the Marriott Hotel group, after which 500 million guests had their details leaked. If you’re smaller, this is another great argument for cloud EPOS software. Your data is in the hands of a technology giant and is less vulnerable to being hacked.
Payments Data & Tokenisation
The more sensitive data you’re collecting, the more laws there are governing it.
In stores, we come into contact with one very sensitive type of data – payments data. Customer card numbers and bank details are sensitive for obvious reasons, and it’s illegal to store such data in your systems unless you comply with the mountains of regulation which payment processors do.
However, EPOS systems still use customers’ card details in order to track customers who come through your store. This is the only real way you can track if somebody comes to your store twice. This takes place through a technical process called “tokenisation”. That’s the exchange of the actual data – the card number – for a token which represents that data. You can know that a customer has come into your store twice because your system will store a token representing their card.
Data and the cloud
You’re using a cloud-based system, your data is being stored on servers owned by a tech giant like Amazon Web Services. This is going on even if you don’t know the name of the provider of the cloud you’re using. Don’t worry – this doesn’t count as sharing the data – and Amazon, Google, or IBM, are likely to boast the kind of modern cybersecurity practices which are required to stave off data breaches.
If you store a server, you’re liable for the protection and upkeep of that data, and liable in the case of a breach. Remember, you’re obligated to inform your customers if your data has been breached.
Finally, some related advice – use a password manager! And anybody with access to login details which could find sensitive data or worse, access to levers from which they can conduct scams.
Here’s how passwords hacks generally happen at the time of writing (October 2019): first, a website on which you have an account gets hacked and a series of account logins are put for sale on the internet. Second, somebody buys your password, and they begin to systematically try it on all the accounts which are associated with you. Once they have access to a couple , they can use it to unlock more and more sensitive stuff – like so.
This means that a key vulnerability is repeated passwords. If you have too many passwords to remember, don’t ever reuse the same ones. Here’s more info.
EPOS & CRM
OK – now we’re gemmed up on what we need to be aware of before we start collecting data on our customers, we can start thinking about the strategic advantages and how to go about doing it.
CRM refers to “Customer Relationship Management” software; software designed to manage relationships with your customers & potential customers. It’s a big database of all your customer details and your previous email exchanges and correspondence.
Some EPOS systems already include basic CRM features, where you can record customer contact information such as their email, date of birth and phone number.
You can set up a unique code which can access an in-store discount, in exchange for an email address to which you would then measure how successful you’d been. Or on your EPOS, you could access the customer tab and you can “add” new customers directly at the point of sale. If a customer has a loyalty card which is more sophisticated than a simple stamp system, then they already have some kind of account – what’s missing is their email address or anything which identifies them as them. A CRM is about building on this.
When choosing your EPOS, watch out for whether the system is set up to hold any customer data at all. The main things which EPOS systems handle are products, not customers; and even at the top-end, CRMs which are available as modules in EPOS systems are limited. With a fully integrated software ecosystem, you could integrate your CRM with your EPOS, where your EPOS contributes valuable data to the CRM.
Available in EPOS CRM modules
The moment you begin storing unique identifying information of specific customers you could characterise them as having an “account’ with you. Generally, that’s as far as we’d go for in-store EPOS – the majority of “account”-based features, including preferences and in-account rewards, start to become interesting when you have online accounts. But the first element of what we’d characterise as a “CRM” is that there’s a space where an account is. An account might come with a limited number of attribute cells in which you can input data.
We mentioned visit tracking in payments data tokenisation – that refers to visit tracking, which can identify when customers are coming back without having to use things like loyalty cards to encourage them to re-identify themselves as returning shoppers. Then, you know each time a customer enters your store, and it can be added to their account.
These layers begin to build on top of each other.
If we’re tracking a customer’s purchases via tokenised payments data, and we have an account login on our online site, we might be able to thread together an identity – and know when someone logs in from device Y that they just bought something in-store because they used card X. This is useful for reports, and when we begin personalising experiences (a bit advanced for beginners!).
Favourite Purchase Rewards
On the most sophisticated EPOS systems, you can code rewards for customers whose preferences you’re beginning to learn and track.
For example, “I know you love plums, so I’ve thrown in a plum with your regular order” might be something you could think about doing. Remember, caring can be creepy with some personalisation efforts, and you need to think carefully and be self-aware about what your relationship with the customer actually looks like.
If you’re a luxury good whose brand your customers love and they’re saving up to buy; they might be more receptive to more invasive forms of marketing than, say, if you sell loo roll.
Email / Text Management
Let’s say you’re a bike shop and you need to send a text to customer to inform them their bike is ready for collection, you’re likely to need to send a large number of pre-written messages to the right customer at the right time. It’s really useful to be able to hit a button to send a message which is used in a business process.
Things you’d need a CRM for
Previous correspondence management
The most useful instance of this is when things have gone wrong. When a customer is frustrated with a lengthy process which has taken four or five interactions to sort out across a few staff members, it’s great to
How many attributes do you need to hold on your customer? Probably only the stuff you want to measure! Like EPOS product libraries, CRMs are customer libraries, and you can always add more.
Sophisticated Consent Management
Eventually, we begin to get into things like communications preferences with customers. If you have email marketing software, and you’re sending weekly or daily newsletters, you’re obligated to unsubscribe customers upon their request – this should be written
EPOS & E-commerce
What is e-commerce software?
E-commerce platforms allow you to buy and sell products online. Opening up an online space for your business can feel like you are running two separate businesses at one time. However, depending on which EPOS system you choose, you’re able to handle both at the same time.
“E-commerce software” at its core refers to software which sorts products on your website. More expansive and inclusive e-commerce software will include things like content management systems and data hosting – narrower definitions will refer solely to the sorting of products, where the other bits plug-in to that as part of an ecosystem.
Choosing e-commerce software
You’ll need to think about how complex or basic your e-comm needs are. This will determine whether you choose a “hosted” e-commerce platform or an “open-source” platform. “Hosted” software means a monthly fee, in exchange for an e-comm design that’s easy to use and set up yourself. Examples include: wix.com, squarespace.com, and Shopify.
If you choose open-source e-commerce, here’s everything you’ll need to get started:
- To buy a domain from domain names seller (e.g. godaddy)
- Data hosting form a data hosting company (e.g. bluehost)
- A content management system (e.g. wordpress)
- An e-commerce platform (e.g. BigCommerce)
- A payment gateway provider (e.g. SagePay)
- An online payment processing contract/provider (e.g. Stripe)
You may also want:
- Email management (e.g. Mailchimp)
- A CRM (e.g. Hubspot)
If you choose hosted, one provider will usually do all of that:
- Hosted e-commerce platform (e.g. Shopify)
As you can see, it’s a lot easier to go for hosted! That does mean that they charge a premium. Not only do they have to pass on costs from the data hosting they’re buying on your behalf, but they charge extra for making things easier for you. Because they have preferred providers on things like payments, they take a cut.
EPOS systems with an E-commerce module / Vice Versa
Some EPOS systems, like Airpos, already come with an e-commerce platform along with an EPOS solution for your bricks-and-mortar store. Airpos online and Airpos in-store come ready-integrated; so if you choose one of these, you wouldn’t have to worry about an integration. Conversely, some hosted e-commerce providers, like Shopify, have added an EPOS module to their e-commerce software. This might be the way round you prefer to do it.
What does an integration with EPOS mean?
1) Centralised reporting. Reports of business figures can be viewed and managed from one central dashboard, and they will account for all of your selling channels. Online purchases are tracked in much the same way as sales from your physical shops, and generate all the same sales data.
2) Inventory Management. You need to make sure that all your inventory, across your online and physical platforms, is constantly up-to-date. This means that an online customer won’t be disappointed if they order an item from your store and you’ve just sold the last of them to a shopper in-store. With Lightspeed Retail, a good option for large scale retailers, you can order more stock directly from your EPOS and make sure you’re never overselling.
3) CRM. This means integrating your EPOS’ customer database with your loyalty rewards. You can get your EPOS to take advantage of your customers’ online experiences, offering discounts to customers who sign up for your emailing list, or download your app. Retailers such as GAP, for example, offer exclusive discount codes for newsletter subscribers. A customer can bring in an email receipt with an offer.
With a cloud-based system, you can easily glance at all your business data from one screen (What is the cloud?). You can also access your dashboard from any device, and log in from all your terminals in-store or your laptop at home.
If you haven’t got any in-house tech skills or a web developer on your team, “hosted” is a fast and hassle-free way of getting your online store set up.
If you consider e-commerce to be a big part of your business, you may already have Shopify, which produces a basic EPOS software along with their famous e-commerce platform. It could be that that does everything you need – an all-in-one solution.
But there are two downsides to Shopify. The first is that they’re primarily an e-comm store (and the POS offering comes second) — though they started in 2004, they only moved into the physical EPOS side of things in 2013. The second is that they push you towards their preferred payment processors so could be more expensive than they appear. E-commerce payments can involve some complex pricing. Watch out for sneaky payment processing rates. They charge between 1.6% + 20p and 2.2% + 20p on every online transaction. This is lower than Paypal’s 3.4% + 20p fee, but higher than Stripe’s flat fee of 1.4% + 20p. That being said, it’s a convenient option for businesses with an ecommerce element and complex inventories.