Connect with us

Growing a Business

Self-Checkouts: Pros, Cons and How Businesses Can Use Them

Published

on

Self-checkouts can take many forms, from grocery store kiosks to QR codes at restaurants. Including self-checkout hardware or software as part of your business operations gives customers the option to order and pay for their items without having to interact with an employee.

Self-service point-of-sale systems can be essential for some businesses but inconvenient for others, depending on the type of product offered, staffing needs, theft risk and several other factors. Here’s what to know.

  • Reduced labor costs.

  • Smoother checkout.

  • Minimal contact.

  • Customer difficulties.

  • Impersonal experience.

  • Theft risk.

Which businesses use self-checkouts?

Self-checkouts are most often found in big-box grocery stores and have been met with mixed reviews. But self-service options are available for small businesses, too, and can make a difference in cost and convenience.

Restaurants

Many restaurants have adapted to a more health-conscious world with contactless ordering and payments. At quick-service restaurants, where customers order and pay in a single interaction, face-to-face transactions can be replaced with kiosks.

Self-checkout software can also support a sit-down dining experience with tablets or QR codes at tables that let customers place orders at their convenience. POS systems offer features like order customization and bill-splitting to make this process easier.

These checkouts can also be good for business; POS providers Lightspeed and Toast say that customers order more when placing the order themselves.

Retail stores

Self-checkouts are less of a benefit for small retail businesses. Retail transactions can require employee services like ID verification and packing and tag removal. There’s also a higher risk of theft.

Self-checkouts can make operations easier for businesses with high traffic and multiple locations, especially with current labor shortages — but the costs and security risks may be too much for mom-and-pop shops.

Services

On the front end of the transaction, self-check-in has become popular in airports, hotels, medical offices, salons and more. Service employees often have back-to-back appointments, so a self-service check-in can alert a new customer’s arrival without interrupting.

Self-check-in software also helps maintain sanitation and social distancing. Customers can check in on a kiosk or their own devices and wait for their appointment in a waiting room, their car or outside. NCR offers a hotel check-in system that dispenses room keys, for example.

Reduced labor costs

Self-service systems can reduce the burden on employees, even eliminating the need for some duties. For example, at a hair salon, self-check-in can replace a front desk associate; stylists can process their own customer’s payment at the end of an appointment.

At a large retail store, a single employee can monitor a block of self-checkout kiosks, freeing up other employees for different tasks. Quick-service restaurants with several tablets can handle a meal rush with only one or two cashiers at the register.

Smoother checkout

Self-checkout stations allow more customers to order and pay at once without additional staffing, speeding up the rate to process orders. Checkout can feel faster to customers when they’re doing it themselves instead of waiting in line or for a cashier to scan their items.

Self-service food orders are also more likely to be accurate. Customers can select their customizations and add notes about dietary restrictions without the risk of miscommunication.

Minimal contact

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more important than ever to have sanitary and safe business operations, and self-checkouts can help protect both customers and employees.

Instead of face-to-face ordering and payment, entire transactions — including sit-down meals — can be safely completed on tablets, smartphones or kiosks. (Keep in mind, though, that self-checkout stations should be cleaned regularly.)

Customer difficulties

Self-checkouts can cause frustration and confusion if they’re not user-friendly or if customers aren’t used to the technology. There can be a learning curve with mobile ordering, tablets and kiosks, and some customers may always prefer face-to-face service.

Impersonal experience

Many small businesses benefit from the relationships that good customer service can build with patrons. Adding a self-checkout option or switching altogether can take away the opportunity for employees to sign customers up for rewards accounts, answer questions or upsell a product or service.

Theft risk

The most notorious issue with self-checkouts is an increased risk of theft. This is specific to retail stores and has become a problem in large grocery stores and general merchandise retailers like Target and Walmart. Self-checkout kiosks can be easily “tricked” by switching barcodes, weighing expensive items as cheaper ones or simply placing an item into the bag without scanning it, even accidentally.

But for small restaurants and services that use kiosks for paying for orders upfront or checking in for an appointment, theft risk isn’t an issue. The rare retail store that operates via self-checkout can compensate with solid security measures.

What providers offer self-checkout POS options?

Toast

Software cost: Starting at $0 per month.

Hardware cost: Quote-based.

Toast offers self-checkout kiosks that can process orders and payments and update guests on their order status with SMS notifications. The company also provides a QR-code and digital-menu ordering system for table service. As NerdWallet’s current pick for best restaurant POS system, it’s a great choice for adding self-checkout options.

Lightspeed

Software cost: Starting at $69 per month for retail and $39 per month for restaurants plus $29 per additional register per month with Lightspeed Payments (billed monthly).

Hardware cost: Quote-based. Software works on iPad.

Lightspeed offers “Self-Order Menu” software that can be used in kiosks and tablets, either at the counter for quick-service or at the table for sit-down dining.

Square

Software cost: Free basic plan, Square Plus for $60 per month.

Hardware cost: Free and up.

Square also has QR-code and mobile ordering functionality. The company doesn’t offer its own self-service kiosks, but it partners with Flash Order and KioskBuddy to integrate Square software with a customer-facing tablet.

NCR

Software cost: NCR Silver Starter plan from $0 per month, Premium plan from $165 per month.

Hardware cost: Quote-based.

NCR doesn’t advertise self-service options for restaurants, but the company does offer self-service kiosks for retail checkout. The NCR FastLane SelfServ includes an integrated scanner, scale, touchscreen and card reader and has built-in security measures to help prevent theft and fraud.

Advertisement

This post was originally published on this site

Continue Reading

Growing a Business

Shopping Video – New Marketing Trend

Published

on

One of the best ways for marketers and business owners to increase sales and engage customers is video shopping. This new marketing trend involves using video content to promote and sell your products.

Here is everything you need to know about shopping videos for business owners.

What is Video Shopping

Video shopping involves using video content to promote your products/services with the aim of increasing sales. With a shopping video, business owners can show off their brand and give relevant information about their products and services. Also, videos help influence the decision-making process of buyers and increase sales.

Types of Shopping Videos

There are two main categories of shopping videos, and they are:

Live Video Shopping

This type of video shopping involves creating a live presentation of your products. It is not pre-recorded, thus making it easy for customers to interact in real-time.

Non-Live Video Shopping

In this case, you record the video and then upload it on platforms where customers can find them. While you can’t get real-time responses from customers, non-live videos are easily accessible, unlike live videos.

Engaging social video ads

Benefits of Video Shopping

Video shopping can provide many benefits for business owners and their customers. Some of the advantages of video shopping are:

1. Engaging Visuals That Increase Sales

Consumers generally prefer video content over text because they are a more expressive form of content. With video shopping, business owners can create an interactive environment where customers can engage. This form of engaging content increases your chance of converting visitors to actual customers.

2. Increase Brand Awareness

Business owners can increase the chance of being seen by their target audience through impressive shopping videos. Shopping videos prove to be a convenient way to promote your business and increase brand awareness.

3. Convenient Customer Interaction

Video shopping helps engage with customers in real-time, thus making them feel seen. You can chat with customers one-on-one, which makes it easier to serve their needs. Whether it’s a car dealer chat or a skincare consultation, you can count on video shopping to improve rapport.

4. Bring Products to Live

With video shopping, shoppers can easily browse products in real-time. For example, fashion brands often bring clothes to life by making a video of how it looks on a real person. This will help customers have a feel of how the item will look on them, and this can increase sales.

5. Easy to Create

Creating shopping videos doesn’t have to be a long and complicated process. Shopping videos tend to be short and easy to make without requiring a professional. With a smartphone or camera, anyone can make a marketing video that converts. Also, there are many channels and platforms available to create videos that will persuade visitors into being actual customers.

6. Increased SEO Ranking

Videos tend to perform better than other forms of content, and having them on your website will increase your SEO rankings. This makes it easy for customers to find you and do business with you.

Video marketing

If you are running an online business, you need to keep up with new marketing trends to boost your brand. One of the latest marketing trends to implement is video shopping. When done correctly, video can help provide valuable information for customers, boost engagement, and increase sales.

This post was originally published on this site

Continue Reading

Growing a Business

In Business, Image Matters. How to Improve Yours?

Published

on

Your business may boast of excellent products and/or services. However, nowadays, excellent products and services simply aren’t enough to help a business survive and thrive in the long run. What your business also needs is a strong image – one that can help it stand out from its competitors.

But how exactly do you go about improving the image of your business? To know the answer to this question, read on as we take you through all the steps you can and must take to take your business forward towards success.

photo credit: August de Richeliu / Pexels

1. Face-to-face interactions with people

We may be living in the digital age, but nothing can beat face-to-face interactions when it comes to telling people about your business. Here are some ways through which you can inform people about your business and what it’s all about:

Meet people and start conversations

It’s unrealistic to expect that people will know about your business if you don’t reach out to them. So, start going out and attending events.

Business-centric open meetings and conferences would be the best place to start. At these events, you’ll run into several businessmen like yourself. You should make the most of these opportunities to start conversations with others from the world of business. This will gradually let people know about your business and the products and/or services it has to offer.

Prepare a pitch

When you meet potential customers, you have to be prepared to speak spontaneously about your business. At this juncture, it’s important that you don’t fumble or sound unconfident. After all, what you tell people about your business will form impressions in their minds – and you’d want those impressions to be positive, wouldn’t you?

This is where preparing a pitch can come in incredibly handy. Write it down first and then keep practicing it out loud, and make changes where necessary.

Participate in community events

Your local community is the first pillar of support for your business. So, get out there and try playing a role in all community events. At these events, you should promote your business in a friendly and welcoming manner.

This should encourage members of your local community to take an interest in your business and what it has to offer. Sure, this may not result in immediate sales, but it will definitely improve your business’s public visibility.

Businessman in a fancy coffee shop

2. Make your business appear professional

A surprising fact is that the modern-day consumer values professionalism more than the quality of products and services. Of course, product and service quality is important, but if your business lacks professionalism, it will lose out on customers.

So, to make your business appear professional, you can put the following steps into practice:

Invest in a business website

The internet is arguably the biggest platform for businesses nowadays, which is why you should invest in a dedicated website for your business. We recommend hiring professional web developers and designers to curate your business website. This will ensure that your website looks and feels professional.

Apart from setting up a website, you should also pay attention to its content. Quite simply, it should have all the information that your target audience may want to know, i.e., contact information and information about the business. Your business website should also have a blog with consistent posts. This can go a long way towards ensuring your expertise within your niche.

Set up a dedicated email account for your business

Using your personal email account as your business’s email account is nothing short of a criminal offense. That’s why you should set up a dedicated business email account. It’ll help you achieve consistency with your branding, and it’ll also allow your business to look professional to the people who subscribe to your business newsletters.

To set up a business email account, you need to first create a domain name and then get in touch with an email provider. Two of the best email providers out there include Office 365 for Business and Google Apps for Business. Both options provide business-class email along with features such as online storage and document editing. The best thing about these options is that they’re quite inexpensive.

Provide 24/7 Customer Service

These days, consumers expect the companies they buy products and services from to be available for them 24/7. Fortunately, the widely availble virtual assistant and reception services such as those provided by www.virtualreception.com.au can do that for you – both on and off office hours – to any types and sizes of business, from freelancing digital nomads to multinational corporations.

Social media manager

3. Set up your social media for success

Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are excellent places to market your business and its products. Here are a few ways to make your business succeed on social media:

Create business profiles

On all major social media platforms, you have the option of setting up personal profiles and business profiles. It’s best to create the latter type of profile as it is designed specifically for business purposes.

During the setup process, make sure that you include relevant info in the bio sections. Don’t forget to add links to your official website and other social media handles as well.

Post relevant content regularly

All social media algorithms tend to favor accounts that post relevant content on a consistent basis. So, irrespective of the social media platforms you’re active on, make sure that you’re posting new content as much as possible.

Not posting regularly can limit your business account’s reach and stall its growth on social media.

Keep branding elements consistent across all platforms

If your Instagram page looks drastically different from your Facebook page, your target audience is bound to get confused. That’s why it’s vital to use similar branding elements across all social media platforms.

The branding elements you should focus on keeping consistent include your business’s logo, its imagery, and its voice, i.e., the tone of communicating with your audience.

Encourage users to engage with you on social media and interact with them: Through the use of call-to-action (CTA) messages, you can encourage your followers on social media to engage with your posts. You should also spare time to respond to your followers’ comments.

Business owner in the Portugal-based office
photo credit: Fauxels / Pexels

Takeaway

There are quite some things to consider in your endeavor to increase your buisness image. However, focusing on the three above is more than sufficient to get started: Meet people and tell the about your business; make an effort to be professional, especially in your online presence; and lastly, make use of social media platforms to your advantage.

Be sure to do a lot of trials-and-errors so that you can form the best practices for your company.

This post was originally published on this site

Continue Reading

Growing a Business

5 Ways Virtual Headquarters Pandemic-Proof Your Business

Published

on

The coronavirus pandemic battered many businesses to the ground. At its peak, we saw businesses either shutting down or struggling to make ends meet. We had job cuts and salary cuts left, right and center. Businesses across the world, especially small businesses, are still suffering from the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic. Even now, with things finally opening up, many businesses are skeptical of the times and have gone into planning mode.

Every business now wants to create a contingency plan for when things start to go out of hand. Many businesses which were able to survive the pandemic were the ones that were prepared. The ones that had a contingency plan and a disaster management plan ready to roll out.

photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Solutions / Unsplash

Taking a cue from this, all every company wants to plan for right now is this: What to do if and when a pandemic hits again? Is there a way to pandemic proof your business?

One step that most businesses have taken is setting up a virtual headquarters.

What is a Virtual Headquarters?

Virtual headquarters or a virtual office is a physical address of your online business. At this physical address, you can create shared workspaces, meeting rooms, and set up a virtual assistant. You and your employees can continue working from home, but you still have a physical address for your place of work.

But why would you go to all that trouble when everyone is working from home? A number of factors come into play here, the biggest of them being the pandemic. As more and more businesses attempt to pandemic proof their businesses, they are striving to find the right balance between remote working and having a physical office. For a lot of businesses, a model that works better is having a watered-down version of a physical space up and running.

Remote working

 

photo credit: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

Here are some of the main advantages of opting to have a virtual headquarter for your business in order to keep it as pandemic proof as possible.

1. You get a prestigious office address

First impressions matter. And having a prestigious office address on your business card certainly makes the right impression. This point becomes even more significant if you are a small business that’s trying to make it big. A calling card with a flashy office address sends a positive sign to potential clients — about your seriousness regarding the business and your credibility and professionalism. A prestigious office address is also something your employees will be proud of.

So you get a great address without the long lease and the major utilities and upkeep costs involved. An absolute win-win.

2. Expansion is easy

It is a lot easier to expand or even downsize your business when you have a virtual headquarter. This is because you do not need to think about the physical space aspect of it. Need to hire more people? Go ahead without worrying about where they will sit, if you will need to lease a new floor, or if the office space is enough.

Thinking of moving a department offshore? No need to redo your office space lease to physically downsize. Having a virtual headquarters gives you the flexibility without the constraints.

3. Your employees can keep working remotely

Having a virtual headquarters does not mean a proper office space that employees will eventually return to. You and your employees will continue to work remotely while being associated with that one physical address.

Depending on how big or small your virtual headquarters are, you can make room for monthly in-person team meets. You can even give some employees to have the option to book up a terminal and work from the office once a week. Or you could simply reserve your physical address as a place to forward mail and work calls. The possibilities are endless.

Excellent customer service

4. Customer service are made easy

When the pandemic hit, too many companies had to suddenly shut shop and move everything online. While the transition came with its own hurdles, one of the bigger issues was customer service.

Shutting shop completely may cause some technical issues with providing customer service. Having a virtual headquarters means that you can now use the available virtual services, such as 24/7 customer service – which can be a critical success factor in winning customers during the pandemic.

5. Better work-life balance

Just knowing there is a demarcation between your work life and your personal life helps a lot in trying to strike a balance. As great as working from home is, many find it very hard to disconnect completely from work. This happens when the place you work from and the place where you relax overlap.

A lot of employees are prone to giving out their personal details more easily while working from home. This may be to receive official correspondence via postal mail or receive calls on their personal mobile number. While this may seem like part and parcel of remote working, it makes disconnecting difficult. Things seem tougher when you proceed to go on leave or a holiday but are constantly being bombarded with work calls, emails and postal mails.

When you have a physical headquarters, employees are able to make use of the virtual receptionist to handle calls and also have an address to forward relevant mail in their absence. This provides a much-needed demarcation between personal and professional life.

Business team meeting in a Virtual Headquarters

Takeaway

A virtual headquarters may not work for a particular business type. On the other hand, it may be the thing another business needs to flourish. It is important to evaluate all the pros and cons before you make a decision for your business.

This post was originally published on this site

Continue Reading

Trending

SmallBiz Newsletter

Join our newsletter for the latest information, news and products that are vital to running a successful SmallBiz.