How many of your clients manufacture or wholesale a consumer product of one type or another but don’t bother setting up a decent walk-in store for those who just want to buy direct? Let’s face it, not everyone wants to look at pictures online to buy something. And often the product they want is a niche product that wouldn’t show up at your typical mall or Walmart. Do you think maybe some customers might want to come by for a visit if you gave them that opportunity? I think so. So why not make it easy for them?
Case in point: Last year I saw an article in the paper regarding a local “Artisan” chocolate manufacturer who had won numerous international awards for their chocolate. This surprised me because for me, “local” is Orem, UT and I would be hard-pressed to think of a less likely location for a “world-class artisan chocolatier” than Orem, UT. But what do I know? So, out of curiosity, at lunch that day I decided to go look them up and buy some chocolate.
Let me be clear, they had a nice website where they sold their chocolates, both wholesale and retail. And I guess, if I wanted, I could have found out what high-end retail stores carried their products at the mall and gone there to buy some. But their facility was reasonably close and I just wanted to stop by to see what they had. Obviously, this was not a practical decision. Twenty minutes to drive over and find the place (I’m too cheap to buy a GPS and directions are for sissies), another 10 minutes to get what I want (closer to 20 minutes with the wait), and then another 15 minutes to drive back. I suppose “practical” would mean I would have bought online (or not at all), but the article in the paper piqued my curiosity and sometimes I just want to go see the product first-hand. I think a lot of potential customers think the same way.
Their factory was a small facility in an industrial section of town that didn’t look a whole lot different from any of the other small manufacturers and wholesalers in that neighborhood. In fact, I drove past several times before I saw their sign. When I went in, they had a few of their products sitting on shelves in the office and they had a front desk with a glass case where they kept a few trays of their chocolates for sale. At the counter, there was a woman looking at a laptop computer, trying to figure out how to enter the credit card information for the customer currently at the head of the line. As the woman worked through the other three people in line (I’m guessing they read the article, too), it became apparent to me that this store really hadn’t planned for many walk-in customers so they hadn’t bothered to set up a more practical Point-of-Sale system. The orders were written up by hand on paper, and when anyone tried to pay by credit card everything ground to a halt as she entered the information, again by hand, into her laptop to run the payment. Since I work for a company that provides Point-of-Sale and Inventory Control and Manufacturing software, I asked her what they used. She didn’t know if they used anything for their inventory and they certainly didn’t have an automated Point-of-Sale system, just a laptop with a connection for taking credit card payments.
Frankly, my first impression was not a good one, not because they weren’t using our software or because their product wasn’t any good, but because I hate waiting. It seemed, at best, they just didn’t know what they were doing or, at worst, they weren’t all that interested in my business.
But why should it be that way?
Many of Fishbowl’s customers are in a similar situation. They have from 5 to 100+ employees, they have a great product that they sell online or wholesale, and they have a facility, sometimes multiple facilities, where they produce or store their products. But when it comes to providing a simple store where local customers can just stop by and purchase products first-hand, most don’t do it, and I think they are missing a great opportunity. Maybe it’s the perceived cost. Maybe it’s the fear of setting up a new system. Maybe they just don’t know what is needed, and they have bigger fish to fry anyway with their online or wholesale business. But I say, why turn anyone away when they WANT to give you money?
Next time, to address some of the above-mentioned concerns, I’ll go over exactly what is involved in setting up a simple Fishbowl Point-of-Sale store for your clients. The opportunity is there for both you and your clients and it’s a LOT easier and straightforward than you may think.
Till next time!