Black Hop Burns is…? Well, actually, it's a beer, hot chile sauce and vinyl record store…obviously. In Dulwich - London, England. It's owned and run by a couple of kiwis and it is booming. The London Evening Standard just rated it a one of the city's great shops. Not bad for a fledgling business that seems to defy any kind of convention. Really, if a management consultant had prognosticated on Jen & Glenn's business plan they might well have advised 'concentrate on one of the three legs of their business stool, or maybe drop the hot sauce because that's just…weird…what's your core business?' I know, I nodded off writing it too. Beware of management consultants. Go with your gut.
But this post is about point of sale systems. One of the things I notice in dealing with small business owners, specifically shop owners - it's that they are run off their feet with the sheer number of things they have to take care of. From stock management to marketing, sharing their wares and experience with customers to make them insanely happy and even cleaning the place every day. Then there's dealing with suppliers and doing the accounts. You can't just concentrate on the fun, sexy things. Growing takes time and massive amounts of energy. Note I didn't say massive amounts of money?
Most small stores rely on cash flow, rather than investment from 'angels' or venture capitalists. It's the life blood of your business. A healthy business has good cash flow that is the product of getting the parts of the business iceberg below the waterline right - product selection, pricing, promotion, staffing, merchandising sorted so that when the doors open every morning new customers and returning fans are presented with an experience they love and products that satisfy their needs and wants. They show their pleasure and gratitude by exchanging their hard-earned cash for your goods and services and you process the transaction through your till…
Wait…your till? Remember Arkwright, the corner shopkeeper who's till had a mind of its own? Times have changed. Cash has given way to EFTPOS, debit cards and credit cards. The idea of a transaction has changed and with it how transactions are handled in store. One of the most important decisions you can make that will positively effect most other parts of your retail business is the choice of point of sale management systems you choose. Stock management and ordering, building your customer database and integrating with your accounts will all be made so much easier if you commit to a system early on. The best time to decide is when you are planning to open your store - but any time after that is fine too.
You have plenty of things to do and the more streamlined your business is the more time you will have to spend attending to the needs of your customers. And let's be honest, if you are anything like the people I work with, the more time you will have to enjoy life outside of trading hours.
The video about Hop, Burns & Black was produced by Vend, a New Zealand based point of sale system that is growing very quickly with small and growing retailers around the world. I recommend you have a word to them. Their site has a number of case studies of retailers in a wide range of categories you might find useful.
J.Crew are a catalog retailer in the US. Michelle Obama wore their kit at her hubby's first inauguration bash and set the tone for a presidency that was styish but not so so much Jackie O prêt-à-porter as a Yo! to go .
Something happened the other day that is worth noting. A blogger for New York magazine wrote an open letter to the company asking them to bring back a discontinued swim suit. The retailer responded - taking out a double page spread in the magazine to announce that the togs were back in all their scoop backed glory.
The blogger acknowledged the acknowledgement online and the story loop closed.
Bloggers can be influential - it pays to listen to what is being said about your products. If they are super-fans (raving fans as Tom Peters famously labelled them) then they may be incredibly influential…'mavens' - as we are throwing around the nomenclature of big-name commentators.
Be human - even if you're a big brand. Nobody cares about faceless corporations anymore. We all know that there is someone in a cubicle or a corner office pulling the levers that make things tick…don't be too slick.
If your customers ask for something - there might be value - not just at the cash register - but also as evidence your brand is responsive and fleet of foot.
This ad for the Waitrose supermarket chain is very nicely made. It uses the talent of a big name director Tom Tagholm (who proved his chops convincingly with work for the 2012 Paralympics, taking the tape for Gran Prix gold at Cannes with Superhumans). Three things strike me about this ad:
A young boy researches gardening and makes the decision to plant his own crop in the back yard. His mum obviously supports his endeavour - but doesn't interfere, except to bring him in out of the rain. He tills the soil, plants the seeds, scares the crows and is no slug on pest control. When the bounty of the harvest is revealed and he proudly serves his assembled family a feast of roast veg.
The commercial is beautifully shot, edited and matched to a music track that evokes empathy without stretching too far into schmalz (even if it is a bit too Coldplay for my taste). Avoiding the temptation to show the family as loving supporters gazing on in admiration (or any other layer of unnecessary emotion to prove some communal bond or interpretation) and neither is the kid shunned or neglected. He's just doing his thing.
The segue is to Waitrose's produce aisle. A young employee is restocking the carrots and the voice over announces: "When you own something you care a little more - everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose.". When I realised what the ad was for I half expected an obvious pronunciation that the produce was as good as if you'd grown it yourself, or a condescending - we grow it better than you could yourself. But no. It is a simple statement about the one thing that makes Waitrose different from, say, Tesco - implied, not stated - human scale and humanist values.
The story, the technique and the point are all are neatly and economically interwoven - though the sotto declamation at the end clearly signifies that this is an ad.
There are conventions in categories. They just evolve and become universal truths - it's marketing entropy - everything ultimately migrates to the black hole of the centre of the positioning grid.
Beware of universal truth - your ads should project something of your brand that no-one else can claim. That might be something oddball - the classic VW ad - it's ugly but it get's you there - comes to mind.
Waitrose are part of the John Lewis Partnership in the UK. The staff are called partners and are participants in a cooperative scheme that grants bonuses to employees based on their pay scale and discounts on goods. The claim in the ad is completely aligned to their practice.
Heard of BetaBrand? Neither. But they have some interesting ideas such as crowdsourcing garment concepts - like these crossover yoga pants that do double duty as dress trousers for work. So you can salute the sun or downward dog at your desk. The brand also engages it community with Model Citizen - offering a discount if customers take a picture of themselves wearing BB kit and it appears on their home page.
I like the Think Tank "This is the place to purchase upcoming products, help us develop new prototypes, and even submit ideas of your own. At Betabrand, you create the future of fashion."
Seems the whole brand is about engaging its customers in a conversation not only about what they sell but also what they should sell.
Obviously their constituents (a term I've been using for many years now - because 'consumers' is to narrow a definition and implies a passive grazing - like sheep), their constituents are active in all dimensions of their daily lives. Who would have thought there would be a category of clothing for people who cycle to work? I like the idea of a blazer with reflective details when you flip the collar or lean over the handlebars.
1. Don't make/sell the same shit as your competitors. The world has too much same/same already.
2. Don't just 'listen' to customers - engage with them, conversations are two-way - especially if your brand is in a particular niche and its all 'us', rather than 'us and them'.
3. Have some fun with it - disrupting convention (cycling and yoga work wear?) see where things that seem nutty will spill.
Do they ship to New Zealand? - Looks like they do.
There's an interesting profile of BetaBrand here on The Verge
As a footnote: Here's a video about production progress of the crowdsourced yogapants - if you have been thinking of developing video for your business - don't over think it - just get going.
Have you encountered BetaBrand? What do you think? Leave a comment.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.