Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The New Technology Revolution

On June 29Th 2007, just a little over 4 years ago, with lots of fanfare Apple Released the I Phone to a very large & waiting mass of technological hungry people. It was introduced by Steve Jobs just 6 months earlier and described as a mobile device that would revolutionize the mobility landscape as it was known. Little did anyone know at the time that the technology behind the iPhone would spur new products like the android, I pad, and Tablets and create technological revolution unlike any other in the history of mankind. These devices can function as a video camera, a camera phone, a portable media player, and an Internet client with email and web browsing capabilities, can send texts and receive visual voicemail, and has both Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity.

In a relatively very short period of time these devices have embedded themselves into our culture and every aspect of our personal lives and are growing in popularity and increasingly changing our day to day patterns from shopping to socializing. When you consider that they have already replaced the need for cameras, radios, phone books, maps, portable CD players, desk top computers, laptops, printed books and magazines, even guitar tuners you start to realize the impact on a variety of manufacturers. And in the near future they will replace your car radio, home DVD players, your keys, the post office and even your plastic credit card. They have put at the fingertip of every user any and everything imaginable by bringing wireless Internet activity to a mobile device. combined with over 50 million applications that currently exist, these mobile devices are seemingly unlimited in functionality If there is something that a person wishes there mobile device could do chances are there is an app for it or somewhere someone is developing one. It has changed and will continue to change life as we know it far more then the invention of the computer or even electricity. and where it is headed no one knows yet because we are only at the beginning of this technology phenomenon

Unlike other technology advances which were primarily developed by the space program and then driven by business in the Private sector, this revolution was developed by the privet sector and is driven by the consumer and has for the most part caught the business community as a whole off guard. But that is changing quickly as smart business CEO's and owners are scrambling to tap into this monster before it’s too late. It’s clear that businesses and especially retailers who do not embrace this quasar will fall by the way side and quickly cease to have customers. This is because consumers have adopted the technology and are learning to take advantage of the simplification and immediate gratification they bring to a hectic, in motion lifestyle. They are letting their devices guide them and it is up to businesses to insure that it guides them into their doors

Retailers need to understand that the concept of marketing to consumers hasn't changed, it simply has gone digital, and become very personalized. Printed ads and junk mail are wasted expenses and should be replaced with email and text databases, customer loyalty/reward plans and custom mobile apps that can be downloaded by the consumer and guide them to your door and keep them coming back. Every business should have a budget for not only an e-commerce website but also a down loadable mobile app that will add value to the potential customer.
Businesses also need to realize that these devices in the hand of an unhappy customer can have serious consequences. they bring a whole new meaning to "the customer is always right" This was displayed recently when Actor Alec Baldwin , minutes after a nasty confrontation with a airline stewardess tweeted from his mobile device to hundred o thousands of followers a comment about the confrontation and nowonderamericanairlinesisbankrupt. This one simple text caused a media storm and a nightmare for American Airline s marketing division.

Regardless of the pros and cons, these devices are here to stay and it appears where they are headed is where ever the imagination of software developers take it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Twittlbit About Twitter and Marketing

Whenever I ask a Business acquaintance if they have a twitter account, the #1 response I get is “YES BUT!” Followed by a guilty smile and usually an “I don’t twitter “ or “I don’t have time”. I was one of those people in my early stages of social media who found Twitter a big waste of time. But now I am a tworn again tweeter! I love the fact that I am 1 tweet away of possibly making the most important tweet in my life. You never know how your thoughtful 140 characters may hit a chord with someone who retweets it through the cyber galactic network that delivers it the blackberry of someone who could change your world forever. Not only that but, how cool is it when celebrity and world figures send their witty twit thoughts directly to my den,
Seriously, the truth is Twitter is an anomaly whose true value has not been fully realized yet. The more I learn about its ability to find and reach people whom share my interests and or interested in reading what I share, the more I see the value in this revolutionary social experiment. 125 million people are currently on twitter and are checking there accounts on a regular basis and to make it easier they are Using # (Hash) tags to let everyone know what they are interested in. HELLO!!!! In 1995 Company’s spent huge advertising dollars in the hopes reaching people, Finding out their interest, and hopefully spark their attention, and now it’s at my fingertips for FREE.
I find most people just don’t know how to use Twitter as a business-marketing tool. It’s not about soliciting people about your product or services. Which is a huge mistake I see many make. It’s about suggesting something to them that will be of benefit and be valuable to them. An article, or a website, or blog, a coupon, or maybe just a bit of learned wisdom. You are guiding them to be solicited. So it’s where you guide them that can make the payoff. If your smart that website or blog will be yours and that inspirational wisdom? Consider it your cyber handshake or smile. However, like any social interaction not everything should be about you. Suggest other areas where they can find enrichment. That will make their following you a worthwhile investment for them. Hopefully it will make them want to retweet your tweet. This is the ultimate compliment and the key to growing your followers. You may find that your follower has added you to a LIST, which simply means they are grouping you with others for sorting purposes. Unless that list is called “scumbags’ don’t fret. A list is simply a way to categorize whom your following. Typically this will be by topics or by shared interests. Lets say you’re a shop owner and you are following several of your supplier/vendors along with your aunt Karen. Creating a list title called VENDORS and attaching them to it will allow you sift through all your incoming tweets and just look at what your vendors or saying and skip your aunt Karen’s "bad hair day" post. It’s a must as you follow more people on Twitter.
This brings up an important thing to remember. On Twitter you can be a business and an individual, so make sure you separate the 2. Make a business account and a personal account and keep them separate. Just like you wouldn’t wear your favorite holy jeans to the office, you don’t want to tweet to your professional followers “your having Ice cream in your pajamas”. And it's doubtful your close friends and Aunt Karen are interested in the latest break through in coated copper wire.
Whatever your personal feelings about Twitter, its important to recognize that it is inevitable that it will soon be one of the most important business marketing innovations of our lifetime, so the sooner you embrace it and harness it the twetter.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Company Check-Up

Do you give your business an annual check-up?

Running a retail business can be rewarding yet also very stress full, especially in this economy. One mistake business owners make is when times are good, they tend to let operations stagnate with the excuse "If it ain't broke, don't Fix it". But when the economy slows and business is harder to find, that is when most business owners frantically start looking at what is happening in their business. Out of desperation they begin to explore costs and inventory, they revisit employee policies and desperately look for waste and inefficiency. Remarkably, they will find all sorts of ways to reduce costs and add black to the bottom line. Its what I refer to as kicking the tires. But why do they wait for lean times to take such a serious approach to their profitability.

The truth is that it is these little expenses and wasteful habits that keep businesses from growing and achieving bigger success. Remember the old saying "A penny saved is a penny earned". In a small business it is these collection of pennies that can make the difference. Small businesses don't have the large Cash flows of big corporations to afford the luxuries that the big boys can afford. It is by keeping there operations efficient that they can have success and longevity. Sure you get your monthly statements and you know were you stand. But they don't tell the whole story. They simply present a picture of where you are, based on what you did. But what if you did something different?

In my 24 years as a small business owner I have found that it is wise to follow the same practice with your business as your health. An annual complete physical or Check up is essential to insure that your profits are not slowly eroding away. Check your key monthly expenses, Insurance, Phone, Utility, fuel. have they slowly risen? if so why? what has changed? is it time to get competitive bids or lower the thermostat, or tune the vehicles.

For most small businesses the largest expense is people. Take a good look at your pay rates and your benefit plans. Are your labor costs staying within their designed percentage. Are your policies and operations creating unnecessary overtime. I have found that for most businesses payroll is the hardest factor to control and deal with.

When it comes to inventory, you should have a mechanism to insure that your margins are checked with each delivery. But even the most savvy business owner can't control every piece of inventory, and you can't change prices daily. Inventories get old, they get lost and sometimes even disappear and all of this adds directly to your Cost of sales. Purchasing habits change and and that can have a big effect on your cost. Vender's change policies and personnel, and with that, shipping and delivery can easily increase and erode away profit. Get rid of old inventory even if at cost. It is costing you to sit on your books and you can use the money for new inventory. If your food inventory is turning to waste, find out why and change your buying quantity. If old inventory is unsellable try donating it to charity. They can give you a receipt that will reduce your taxes.

Another area to scrutinize is your internal policies and procedures. All policies are made for a reason but businesses are not static, they are dynamic and in constant flux and change. the policy you made last year to insure quality may be out dated and costing you time and money today. Most business managers train there staff to follow policy and routines. Smart business owners should allow and reward employees to challenge or at least improve policy as the the business evolves.

Don't be afraid to step into the various roles of your business and give your operation a thorough checkup. Spend some time in their shoes. the results will put money back in your pocket, keep your business purring and give you a new renewed vision and interest into the business operation. It may be just what it needs, even if it appears to need nothing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Marketing Your Business in 2010

In today’s technology savvy and socially connected society, it is important to have a marketing strategy that introduces your business too and takes advantage of all of the technological marketing options that are available today. Marketing a retail business has taken a new direction in recent years. With the Internet, and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, combined with today’s Smart Phones, reaching your existing and potential customers has never been easier. Smart Retailers are taking advantage of these marketing options and using them to connect directly to there target markets. They Entice them into their business with direct communication, special offers, gift cards, special discount cards, and loyalty cards which track their visits and purchases and reward them accordingly. This new age of marketing is sweeping the cyber world and is slowly becoming the success factor of any modern marketing campaign. The days of expensive printed ads, coupons and yellow pages designed to randomly capture people’s interest are gone. Today’s “I Want it Now” Society prefers a more personal touch with detail information at there finger tips. They don’t want to visit your establishment to find out what it offers. They want to know in advance and feel like they have a relationship and an interest and reason to visit.

Along with this new technology marketing the importance of branding your business becomes a primary factor in the success of your efforts. Branding has always been an important factor in marketing, but today’s branding is much more comprehensive. This entire media relies on pictures and graphics and so must your marketing efforts. They must share a common theme that is identifiable and interesting and relates to your product.

Of coarse the most important thing is your product and the experience they have once they came through your door, and nothing will change that. But consider the fact that the customer has had a complete personal experience with your business before he or she has ever set foot in your door. Their first impression started with the interaction you created with your overall marketing strategy and campaign. You did not invite them in so you could engage with them and win their business. You engaged with them and won their visit through your marketing. Now in your door it’s up to you’re products, service and continued marketing plan to keep them coming back.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ACRONYM Exercise

Posted By: Steve Petty
Retail Project Manager

As I sit down at my PC, the thought of using an XLS or a MDB as a method of collecting FAQ from the WWW, was eclipsed by the realization I didn’t so much need a hard copy of a DB as I needed a DOC. As a VAR, I was trying to track past, present and future characteristics of the Cash Register. The ECR has evolved to using an OS with applications like RMS or CP. Enterprise versions like HQ connect CPUs together via IP. The DOS commands are not all gone; but SQL has our minds soaring. Coming from KB to MB to GB to - it just keeps on going! We are an ISV; IRC used to be the only COM. Now we can FTP with SSL; our selection of TCP/IP is our main line choice of TLS. MS has created Windows; SP after SP has perfected it. The ID required to sign-on has provided security.

Now POS seems to hover over the horizon requiring a PIN to process an EDC transaction. The DAT files created in these types of transactions don’t just execute carelessly via TFTP or UDP, but are carefully delivered using TCP. These creative computers built to manifest as a Cash Register, use an Application Software as a conductor of an orchestra of peripherals, The Industry Standard of OPOS Drivers are made available from the manufacturers of the peripherals. This allows the devices like the Cash Drawer, the Receipt Printer, the Pole Display, the Scanner, the MICR reader or the MSR reader to communicate easily with the computer.

If only I knew how to text!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why Aloha You Ask?

Posted by Jennfer Langston
Hospitality Project Manager

There are so many added benefits to using the Aloha POS system for your business that I find it hard to believe that anyone would ever consider any other. I personally have worked with every POS out there on the market as a manager, trainer and server/bartender. From my own personal experience I have found that Aloha is the most user friendly. From an order entry point of view it is very easy to navigate through modifier screens and also easy to use the split check function. Working in a fast pasted restaurant requires speed and diligence. Having the right POS system is important to productivity. It reduces time spent at the terminals so your staff can spend more time taking care of your guest. It can also increase table turns and reduce wait times.

From a manager point of view the Aloha system saves a lot of time where other systems don’t. The easy to use BOH software makes training new managers a breeze. Adding items, modifiers, employees and changing prices of menu items can be a big task on most systems. With Aloha after little training with a certified Aloha trainer you’ll be a pro. The export feature for reports makes it simple to email your reports or to have a copy in an excel or word format. This saves time with doing payroll and daily balancing. The audit report is another tool in the Aloha system that is very helpful in lose prevention. You can audit anything anyone does on the front and back of house computers.

Aloha also offers add on features that make life a little easier on the manager and the order entry employee. Aloha restaurant guard is a great tool, it works with your audit report and generates reports to help with lose prevention. It will look for trends and common scams according to the book Burning Down the House. This book was written to teach people how to scam restaurants. Aloha Delivery/Frequent buyer helps to keep up with your customer database. It is a great to for restaurants that do a lot of take-out and or delivery. You can set up bonus plans to give your customer rewards for choosing you. Like spend $100.00 get free dessert. It will keep track of all this information. It will also store your customer’s data for future marketing

As a Project Manager For Cardinal and The Aloha System I feel that I represent the Best of the best and I look forward to every new challenge and working with the great Restaurants in the St Louis Market. I hope some day I can Help you see the advantages of Using Aloha Software.

Cardinals Professional Services Team is the shining star within our service organization and offers service that is second to none. Jennifer is just one example of the dedicated staff that is available to our Existing and future customers.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cardinal and Credit Card Data Security information

As a leader in Point Of Sale Technology, we take pride in the products and services we offer to our customers. We believe our products represent the best in the industry and we insure our staff are fully trained and certified on there set up and operation. We also take the security of our customers systems, networks, and data as well as our own, very seriously. Our staff is not only versed on current data security requirements but we also proactively attempt to educate our customers and insure that their systems remain secure as computer hackers become more savvy.

Recently there has been press coverage surrounding an incident involving credit card theft in a few restaurants in Louisiana Who use the Aloha System. A law suit has been filed alleging that The Local Aloha dealer and Radiant Systems are responsible for these Restaurants falling victim to credit card theft. The Theft took place when criminal hackers loaded malicious software on the system which captured data prior to it entering the Aloha software. This incident took place 2 years ago and does not involve Cardinal Business Equipment or any of our customers.

Recently Radiant released the following statements in response to the allegations

• Radiant’s POS software was not compromised during these incidents.
• Radiant’s products were among the first POS technologies to be validated against VISA’s initial set of data security requirements in 2005. Since the inception of these requirements, Radiant has continuously maintained payment industry validation (now called PA DSS) when releasing our software.
• There are twelve requirements for a business to achieve compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Radiant helps support compliance with these requirements by developing secure payment applications.
• In addition to meeting payment industry standards, Radiant has invested in product innovations, resulting in our customers having the best arsenal in the industry to fight criminals intent on stealing personal credit card information.

Credit Card theft is becoming a malicious industry as criminals all over the world attempt to hack computer systems and steal active credit card numbers. Credit card company's along with the industry are creating and implementing strict policies and procedures to insure credit card numbers remain safe. These practices rely in part on everyone involved from Banks to Credit Card companies to POS Vender's to Retailers all the way down to consumers. Radiant, Aloha Software, and Cardinal are committed to keep technology as secure as possible.

Retailers also have responsibilities to insure there customers are safe. To learn more about Data security and CISP Compliancy we encourage our customers to contact our Professional services representatives who can help you maintain a secure system. For more information on Aloha Data security visit the Radiant Web Site at www.radiantsystems.com/datasecurity

Together we can work to insure a secure environment for our retail customers.