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The 11 Main Experience: Three Pros, Two Cons

BY Dan Berthiaume

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group recently introduced its U.S. e-commerce site, 11Main.com. Like its parent company Alibaba, 11 Main operates by letting other retailers and businesses sell goods through its platform in exchange for a small portion of the proceeds. 11 Main offers shops in a variety of categories including fashion & style, home & outdoor, jewelry & watches, baby & kids, collecting & art, and crafts, hobbies & toys. Buying and/or selling goods on 11 Main requires an invitation.

Having recently secured an invite to become an 11 Main customer (all it takes is an email address), I decided to evaluate the online customer experience, not including order fulfillment. Following is a brief overview of three pros and two cons from a customer experience perspective.

Pro #1: Quick, Easy & Personal

The site loads very quickly, including high-quality product images. Although the front page is somewhat busy, the overall layout is clean and easy to navigate. Short videos provide back stories of the small shops and boutiques that dominate 11 Main, adding a personal touch.

Pro #2: No Advertisers Need Apply

11 Main does not yet run any advertisements on the site. Unlike competing shopping platforms such as Amazon.com, Google and EBay, there are no banner ads along the corners of the site. The customer experience is thus more relaxed and focused, and actually closer to the in-store experience of shopping at a small boutique.

Pro #3: Customer Control

Customers have a lot of control over their 11Main experience. Products can be arranged by most relevant, recently added, alphabetical order from A-Z or Z-A, low or high price, by shop or by item. A quick view feature allows users to pull up a window of a product and add it to their “bag” (the 11Main term for a shopping cart). The shopping bag stays full unless the customer empties it and appears as a small icon in the upper-right-hand side of the page.

In a particularly handy and interactive feature, customers can directly send questions to individual 11Main vendors.

Con #1: Focused on Fashion

11Main is heavily oriented toward displaying fashion merchandise, which is understandable given the prevalence of specialty boutique retailers among its merchants. However, the tech/gadgets category does not make its first appearance until halfway down the front page. And while individual customers can arrange product displays in a wide variety of formats (as mentioned above), the initial front page assortment seems heavily tilted toward pricier items.

Con #2: Path to Purchase

Oddly, 11Main’s navigation becomes much less user-friendly once the consumer reaches the all-important checkout stage. Purchasing an item is a four-step process involving selecting items from the shopping bag, selecting shipping and billing options, paying, and then confirming the purchase. Not an awful process, but a little clunkier than that of other leading e-commerce platforms.


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Five Reasons You Should Upgrade Your POS System

BY CSA STAFF

By Jared Isaacman, Harbortuch

As payment and POS technology continues to evolve ever more rapidly, it is more critical than ever to make sure that your POS equipment is up-to-date. According to the 15th Annual POS/Customer Engagement Survey from Boston Retail Partners, released in early 2014, the lifecycle expectancy of POS hardware is shifting from a more traditional lifespan of eight to 10 years to a much shorter three to four years. If you are still running your business on an outdated POS system, you may be putting your business at risk of a security breach, or at the very least you are not taking advantage of the powerful tools available on newer equipment.

1. Microsoft and XP

A few months ago, Microsoft stopped supporting their Windows XP operating system that many POS systems are running. This discontinued support means that if a hacker finds a new security flaw, exploit or bug in Windows XP that allows them to access your machine, you will be out of luck when it comes to an official patch or fix from Microsoft.

Microsoft typically releases a new security patch on a weekly basis to address recently discovered “holes” in their operating systems. By abandoning XP, they will also be abandoning the patches needed to keep the system safe. The result is that your POS system may put you at risk for a costly data breach.

2. Using Big Data to Improve Customer Satisfaction & Loyalty

The term “big data” has been used in the technology industry for a number of years now. It refers to the increasing quantity of information that is being collected on a constant basis. This mass of data is growing every day and the ability to sift through all that information and find uses for it is important to every business. Generally, this has only been a concern among large corporations, but today it represents opportunities for smaller retail and hospitality businesses as well.

For example, the amount of information available to you today can include everything from the most basic elements of sales, costs and cash flow — to the most granular information on specifically who your customers are, when they come in, what they purchase (and how often they purchase the same items). Simply put, gathering all this information on the preferences of your customers and your potential customers can yield so much data it’s difficult to know how to use it. That’s the bad news about Big Data. The good news is that modern POS systems are equipped with sophisticated software that can sift through all that information and provide you with actionable insights you may never have considered. Having this information at your fingertips empowers you to take actions that will improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3. EMV and NFC

You have undoubtably heard of the two most significant changes in the payments industry in the past decade. One, EMV, is a movement by the world’s largest providers — Europay, Mastercard and Visa — to reduce the tremendous number of hacks involved with POS systems and the magnetic stripe cards they accept. The other, NFC or Near Field Communications, involves the ability to pay with your mobile phone. Both of these movements are still in the early stages of adoption, but both need your immediate attention — and the ability of your POS system to accept them.

EMV-enabled credit cards, or “smart cards”, include an embedded microprocessor that provides powerful security features not possible with traditional magnetic stripe cards. The major card brands recently announced that they will be migrating to EMV technology in the near future due to the added security afforded by these cards. To speed this transition, they have announced that beginning in October 2015, merchants who don’t accept EMV payments will be non-compliant and will incur increased liability for data breaches and chargebacks. Some POS providers are adding significant charges for EMV card readers. Others are providing them for free. Doing your homework now to “future proof” your business is important.

With near field communication (NFC) technology, customers can simply wave their mobile phone to pay. The number of NFC enabled phones is estimated to reach 1 billion by 2017 and it is estimated that 65% of consumers will use their phones to pay for goods by 2020! This technology is gaining traction as a number of high profile companies such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Google are investing heavily in its success. The ability to accept these payments can mean the difference in gaining or losing valuable customers. Again there are POS solutions that offer this equipment for free, so start looking for solutions that include the ability to incorporate this technology so you can take advantage of those sales as they continue to present themselves.

4. The Importance of the Cloud

Traditionally, many POS systems have required a dedicated back-office PC to run reports or make updates to the menu. If your current POS system doesn’t allow you to access and manage all your reports at any time and any place, you’re missing out on technology that can provide you with significance convenience and improved capabilities. Cloud-based solutions not only provide you with greater freedom and convenience, but also protect you from data loss by backing up your data to the cloud.

Here are a few of the features you should look for in a POS system:

• The ability to remotely add, edit or remove menu items/products, screen categories, choices, choice sets and employee information.

• Remote access to real-time sales and labor reports, processing data, and monthly credit/debit card statements. And the ability to set up email subscriptions for each of these reports to automatically receive them on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

5. Taking These Tablets Can Give You A Headache In The Morning

One of the hottest trends today is the use of tablet based systems. Sleek, futuristic and often extremely inexpensive, tablets are definitely the sexiest new addition to the POS system. For many companies looking to upgrade, they seem the perfect solution. Before you make a purchase, however, consider a number of things that may have a significant influence on your decision.

• In making comparisons, you should make sure you’re not judging the book by its cover. The front-end interface may look sleek and modern, but does it have the necessary features and back-end capabilities that you need?

• Will the tablet stand up under the conditions your staff puts them through? Tablets are typically designed for personal use and may not be “built-for-purpose” to withstand the heavy use often associated with retail environments. It’s also worth keeping in mind that tablets are an attractive target for theft, so you may not want to keep them sitting on your counter.

• What kind of service and support can you expect? Take the time to ask about what you can expect in terms of training and support after the sale. Many tablet POS providers only offer email support and only during normal weekday business hours. You should look for customer service and technical support that will be available by phone or email whenever you need assistance.

These are just five of the most significant reasons to start shopping around. As you can see, some of these reasons could severely limit your business if you don’t, while others could mean you are losing valuable revenue you can hardly afford to pass up. Your competition undoubtedly already realizes all this and, in the end, you don’t want to be the one that’s passed up.

Jared Isaacman is CEO of Harbortuch, a leading national supplier of POS systems and payment processing services.


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J.Cain says:
Apr-06-2017 12:03 pm

QuickBooks POS can help to
QuickBooks POS can help to overcome from unnecessary work challenges. There are many ways by which an integrated post system can help in runing a successful retail business.

J.Cain says:
Apr-06-2017 12:03 pm

QuickBooks POS can help to overcome from unnecessary work challenges. There are many ways by which an integrated post system can help in runing a successful retail business.

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Burger King in talks to buy Tim Hortons and move HQ to Canada

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Burger King Worldwide is in discussions to buy Canadian coffee and doughnut chain Tim Hortons. The two companies said in a joint statement on Monday that the new publicly listed entity would be based in Canada. The move comes as the White House is calling on Congress to take steps to prevent U.S. companies from moving outside the country (“tax inversions”).

The two restaurant companies are currently worth a combined total of about $18 billion, according to media reports.

Under the terms of the deal, which is not yet finalized, 3G Capital, the majority owner of Burger King, would continue to own the majority of the shares of the new company on a pro forma basis, with the remainder held by existing shareholders of Tim Hortons and Burger King. Tim Hortons and Burger King would operate as standalone brands.

According to the statement issued by the two companies, the deal would create the world’s third-largest quick-service restaurant company, with approximately $22 billion in system sales and over 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries worldwide.

“Tim Hortons and Burger King each have strong franchisee networks and iconic brands that are loved by their respective consumers,” the companies stated. “Any transaction will be structured to preserve these relationships and deepen the connections each brand has with its guests, franchisees, employees and communities.

A key driver of the discussions is the potential to leverage Burger King’s worldwide footprint and experience in global development to accelerate Tim Hortons growth in international markets, the companies stated.

The Burger King system has more than 13,000 locations serving more than 11 million guests daily in 98 countries and territories worldwide.

As of June 29, 2014, Tim Hortons had 4,546 systemwide restaurants, including 3,630 in Canada, 866 in the United States and 50 in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

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