What it takes to be an award-winning company
By David Leonhardt
What does it take to be an award-winning company? Just ask Vaughan Rowsell, founder and CEO of Vend. His company won two awards last year at the New Zealand High Tech Awards (unofficially dubbed “The Oscars of New Zealand Hi-Tech”). And not just any awards, but Hi-Tech Exporter of the Year and Hi-Tech Emerging Company of the Year.
“Awards are not going to just come to you because you have a great idea,” says Rowsell. “That Aha moment is the seed, the spark. Then you have to do a lot to make it happen.
And a lot is what Vend has been doing. The spark that started it was frustration with point-of-sale software available to New Zealand retailers. Rowsell saw a better way.
Jump on emerging technologies and ride them like a cowboy breaking in a wild steed.
Part of Vend’s better way was to get on the iPad from the start. As tablets were becoming popular, Vend saw the opportunity to empower retail staff – to liberate them from the counter.
Before Vend came along, staff had to choose to go serve the customer or to stay behind the counter – or to drag the customer over to the counter. With point-of-sale software on the iPad connected to the Cloud, Vend freed up retail staff to wander the store, bringing their computers with them. From that little idea, a whole host of opportunities emerged.
Just being compatible with Apple products sold The Cheese and Wine Company of London on Vend. But their kudos go mostly to how easy it is to run a loyalty program on the Vend software.
Help your customers do things better.
In fact, one of the more frequently lauded features Vend offers its customers, is an easy way to run a loyalty program. In fact, that is a feature that many Vend customers have latched onto with zeal.
“Discounting to some level is inevitable, but it's amazing how many businesses don't work out that it's far better to keep the cash circling by turning it into loyalty pounds and dollars,” says Steve Toze, Marketing Director of UK bike shop Rockets & Rascals. “We have around 850 customers on our loyalty programme already and they use it avidly, most choose to save up their loyalty and every now and then they treat themselves.”
Retail staff can follow customers right into the change room, or close enough, and apply loyalty points or inform them that they have enough points to get something extra for free, or to let customers know of an unadvertised special.
Make things simpler and easier – streamline your customers’ life
If you can make life easier for your customers, you’ve already won half the battle. One of the problems that vend sought to fix from its inception was how complicated pervious point-of-sale software often was.
So it should come as no surprise that one of the recurring themes from Vend customers, is how easy the software is to use. ” Very easy to use, great interface, and lots of reporting features,” says Ahmed Ashraf, Co-founder & Retail Manager of NAS Trends fashion exporter in Cairo, Egypt.
“I was doing my business in a very rudimental way. Seriously, old school! Pen and paper, hand written receipts, and my bookkeeping – it was a nightmare,” says Emily Cantrell, an artist in New York who was not familiar with computer automation when she became a retailer.
Miyo Fallshaw, a kids apparel store owner in Australia, had a retail store, a wholesale business and an ecommerce site. She had to write down everything they sold for the day and manually adjust inventory as sales were processed. She assumed that getting all her systems to communicate with open another was a “fairy tale”. Identifying customer complications like this, and making them simpler, is one way to become an award-winning company.
“Our goal was to make things simple, so that an artist or a bike repair guy or anybody opening a shop could easily manage their sales, track inventory and run loyalty programs without having to learn complex software,” says Rowsell.
Don’t give customers a reason to curse you.
It’s one thing to make life easier for clients or deliver a more efficient process, such as Vend does through Cloud computing. But what happens if the Internet goes down? Vend made sure that their software works offline, automatically syncing sales to the cloud once the Internet is reconnected. The last thing you want would be a customer cursing you.
An award winning company tells a really good story
In fact, one of the factors that the judges at the New Zealand High Tech Awards cited Vend for was “how well the product and business story were presented”.
One of the things that makes Vend, the company, easy to like is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. A cursory glance at Vend’s “About” page tells you how seriously Rowsell takes himself…
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