Cloud Storage?

The “cloud’ is an extremely hot topic right now in many areas of IT and personal computing, but it means different things to different people, and it can do different things for different types of businesses.

One of the simplest concepts to understand and use is cloud storage. This is essentially just remote storage of your data, and you can get this service from Google, Amazon, Apple, Mozy, and any number of others.

But, is that really a business service, or just outsourced storage? Small businesses need data security and disaster recovery, included automated backup services, not just data storage. Many companies offer this service as well, but is that the whole story?

Imagine this scenario: You have a retail store with 4 POS terminals and a back office station. You have had a busy holiday season so far and you’ve done lots of account sales and loyalty transactions with your best customers. You have a backup service, so you assume you’re good to go.

But, a desperate criminal, possibly hurt by the long recession, breaks into your store. He finds empty cash drawers because you have good banking practices, but he sees value in your computer system and steals them all.

What good will your simple backup service do you now? You need help re-installing your point of sale application on your replacement computers, and you need help downloading your data. A simple backup of your files isn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

As noted here by Mark Webster: http://www.echannelline.com/usa/story.cfm?item=27328, retailers need to be thinking about more than just offsite backup. You need to have a disaster recovery plan, and you can use the cloud to store not only your data, but your mission critical applications and other necessary information. Or, pick a provider that will do it for you, and will give you the services you need, when you need them most.

Retail Technology Flies!

I just returned from a point of sale vendor conference and it’s clear that this business isn’t standing still. Despite a relative lack of innovation before and during the recession of 2008-2010, the last year has shown that mobile devices, web offerings, cloud products, and many other new technologies are set to offer retailers powerful new ways to interact with their customers, more efficiently gather data, and reduce their operating costs.
Mobile platforms such as tablets, smartphones, etc. allow retailers to come out from behind the counter and offer their customers a much more personal and interactive experience, without reducing their data gathering capacity. You can serve a customer in an aisle or near a display, but still capture their demographic info, loyalty points, inventory balances, and process credit cards securely, all from a simple tablet device. Is your store ready for this?

The cloud is going to continue to develop, but we see lots of opportunity for hosted data storage, reporting dashboards, and remote connectivity functions, just for starters. What part of your system would you like to see in the cloud?

In short, there’s a lot going on, and I think the rate of change will only accelerate. Help us understand what you need, and we’ll get there together.

Ready for the Holidays?

I know, I know, it’s only October. I’m not ready for the holidays either, or at least not personally, but on the business side it’s time to get going.
Retailers have to be at their best during the holidays, from mid-November right through to the end of the year, especially in a down economy when customers are being extra careful with their money. A retailer who lets a customer down isn’t going to get a second chance this year.
So, what to do? Make sure your staff is prepared for the extra crowds, and really carefully analyze your inventory and your sales from this time last year to make sure you’re stocking the right merchandise and that you have enough stock.
But those are the basics, how else can you prepare? Well, the big guys are marketingto their customers (and yours) every day. I know you don’t have the marketing budget that they do, but you have a huge advantage. You KNOW your customers.
Leverage that advantage to send your customers and prospects timely and targeted offers by e-mail or even mail to invite them to your store for special prices, services, or seasonal product and throw in some special attention and expertise and you can win a repeat customer.
Take some time to identify who your ideal customer is, and what you can do for them that the big box stores can’t, and go sell THAT to them. I bet you’ll have a merry Christmas…

Getting Ready for the next PCI Deadline

All retailers accepting credit cards have an obligation to protect that sensitive data.  However, it’s more than just an obligation.  It’s a requirement put in place by the PCI Security Standards Council, an industry group that governs credit card processing regulations. 

The goal of PCI is to reduce identity and credit card theft and to protect the consumer.  To this end, all merchants must maintain in-store security systems to protect their customers’ data.  This includes making sure your POS system is compliant under the 12 points of the PCI-Data Security Standard.

The next deadline is July 1, and it states that all merchants must be using an audited and approved point of sale system from the VISA list here: www.visa.com/cisp

If you are using an older application you run the risk of fines and penalties from your processor, and ultimately you may be cut off from the processing network.

You can read more about it here: http://www.capretail.com/pci.html

Don’t wait until it’s too late, get your system up to date today.  If you need help, you can always contact CAP and we’ll get you taken care of.

CAP is Closed Today, Friday February 12th

We apologize for any inconvenience, but we’ve had a massive snow storm and our entire building is shut down. For immediate assistance please e-mail sales@capretail.com or support@capretail.com
Service will resume as normal on Monday the 15th.

Marketing Basics for Retailers

For retailers, marketing is one of the hardest tasks to tackle on a consistent basis. Sure, it’s important, but it always seems to come after the pressing things like staffing, inventory, and reports management.

But, even though you may not feel like you have a lot of time to manage a grand marketing campaign, you simply MUST find the time to put on a targeted marketing effort.

Pick a segment of your customer base and use your reports to understand what they like to buy. Rather than hoping they’ll come back to buy more, send them all a postcard with a promotion on similar items, or a new line of items from their favorite vendor. This not only increases the potential that they’ll come back to buy something, it increases your brand status with those customers and makes them feel special.

On that note, make them feel so special that they tell a friend. Give them an incentive to bring a friend in next time they come. If they bring a friend, maybe you give them a free small item or a trinket. Maybe you give them a free service or a discount. Whatever it is, reward the behavior you’re looking for, and make the reward tangible.

Market consistently to these customers, and periodically to new customers, and you can be sure that you’ll have better store traffic than you would simply by having nice displays or a well stocked inventory.

Retail Security is here to stay

Everyone has heard of the major credit card and identity data breaches at retailers like TJX and DSW, but what does that mean to the small retailer?

Well, it means a lot. Small retailers have been lucky for the past few years as hackers and other cyberthieves have targeted the plump, low hanging fruit of large businesses with lax security practices. However, it only takes a few major brands being made an example of for others to start taking extreme measures to secure their payment networks and other customer data.

So, with the big data “banks” locked up, where will the criminals turn? If it’s very complicated and expensive to target the big haul, thieves will focus instead on small returns that can be had with much less effort.

This means that in 2010, especially in light of the desperation in the economy, small retailers absolutely must implement network, firewall, user access, and other data security policies to avoid being breached. Such a breach will cost more than most retailers can afford in fines, fees, lost sales, increased auditing costs and other outlays. You simply cannot afford to NOT secure your data.

Get a qualified security auditor to review your computer infrastructure, including your software, legacy systems, and internal policies. If you still have sticky notes with your login and password stuck to your monitors, you’ve got a long way to go baby.

The time for sticking your head in the sand has passed, and the retailers that can’t demonstrate that they are secure will get passed by as well, by the PCI (Payment Card Industry) and by customers who don’t feel secure in using their credit and debit cards in those stores or on those websites. Security is fashionable now, just like being green, so now’s the time to use the latest GOOD technology to fight the latest BAD technology.

CAP has a full PCI knowledgebase to help retailers negotiate the maze here: http://www.capretail.com/pci.html

Go to VISA’s PCI Knowledgebase to learn more before it’s too late:
http://usa.visa.com/merchants/

You owe it to yourself and your customers to make your business as secure as possible.