What Small Businesses Need to Know About Point-of-Sale Systems

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What Small Businesses Need to Know About Point-of-Sale Systems

A point-of-sale (POS) system is a way for retailers to manage the checkout process. At its best, a point-of-sale system for a small business becomes much more than that. It acts as a conduit that enhances the relationship between you and your customers. To achieve this, you have to find a POS solution that provides the combination of features you need, on a budget and scale that makes sense for your organization.

What follows is a checklist of factors and features that will be important for any small business to consider when choosing a POS system.

1. Hardware, software and cloud-based systems

While some POS programs can work with a variety of hardware systems, others require their own dedicated peripherals to function. These range from small and versatile, such as a simple credit card reader that plugs into a phone, to full-service terminals. You need to consider what kind of hardware is required to run your POS of choice, as well as whether you are leasing or buying the hardware from the vendor.

Additionally, think about the different kinds of POS software platforms available. Cloud-based platforms are attractive because they come with simple, inclusive subscription pricing; they're accessible from anywhere with a mobile device; and they can be upgraded with little downtime. However, the vendor retains ownership of the software, and cloud-based systems are not feasible for companies that have unreliable internet access.

2. Pricing structures

Most of the contemporary POS cloud-based systems that are suitable for small businesses feature a monthly subscription-based pricing plan. These types of plans allow you to easily budget for your POS expenses when cash is tight. Others may take a percentage of each transaction fee.

As you vet your POS platform options, inquire about what each subscription fee covers, and if there are extras that come a la carte, including service plans, hardware, customizable features and updates. Finally, be aware that some vendors require you to sign a contract to use their service for a specific length of time.

3. Inventory management

Most high-quality POS solutions include some type of inventory management system. Some services can handle a wide range of SKUs and provide advanced inventory management features, while others can only handle basic inventory management tasks.

When you shop for any technical business solution, you should have a detailed understanding of your needs. Estimate the number of SKUs your system will manage, and decide whether you need premium inventory management features to optimize your operations. Your basic growth projections should include potential product line expansions, and it's important to choose a POS solution that can scale with your inventory needs for the future.

4. Customizable user profiles and permissions

You may want different employees to have unique rights and access to specific features, so look for a solution that supports customizable user profiles. Advanced POS systems include options for integrating user profiles for individuals or groups of employees. You can give certain positions the ability to view, run and edit certain reports, and allow supervisors to access scheduling and timecard features built into the platform.

5. Customer relationship management

Your front-line employees should be able to access and update customer account details. CRM functions in your POS system can also help you identify and target your most loyal customers. Look for a POS platform that features integrated CRM tools so team members can view and edit customer profiles during interactions with them without having to use a separate system.

6. Online store and other systems integration

Some small retail businesses begin as an online-only presence and eventually migrate to brick-and-mortar – or vice versa. Many retail and service companies operate with multichannel or omnichannel strategies as soon as they launch. Whatever journey you take, you need a POS solution that includes online store integration, which saves you from operating separate inventory platforms and enables you to provide a cohesive customer experience across channels.

7. Third-party payment processors

When it comes to accepting payments, consider how third-party payment processors will impact your customers' payment options and your ability to collect cash payments. Some POS vendors require you to use their chosen credit card processing systems, while others are compatible with many options and give you the freedom to customize your own payment suite. Consider your needs and your customers' needs to make sure you have a system with enough flexibility for your business.

8. Scalability

In addition to the evolution of your inventory management needs, you must plan for hardware you may have to purchase, software user licenses, CRM needs, payment transaction volumes, vendor support resources and more. Speak to POS software sales representatives about your growth projections, and get specific answers about how their solution will scale with your ongoing needs.

9. Data management

POS systems can be powerful data management tools that help you leverage the vast amounts of information that come from customer interactions. Data gathered from your POS solution can help you optimize inventory management, improve customer profiles and product recommendations, enhance email marketing strategies, increase your staffing efficiency, and develop innovative products. As you decide on your POS solution, take into account whether it has the capacity to carry out the data management operations that contribute to your improved performance.

10. Ongoing support

When you encounter issues with your POS system at a crucial moment, you need a vendor that provides quick and reliable support. Its customer service could be the difference between limited downtime and hours of potential lost sales.

Choosing the right POS system can facilitate further growth for your small business. Take the time to understand how each of these factors impacts your company and speak with sales reps from different point-of-sale platforms. That way, you'll have a comprehensive understanding of your options, which will allow you to make the right decision for your brand.

Have a WordPress Site? Optimize It.

Websites built on content management system (CMS) platforms are generally not very popular among in-house web developers because, they claim, a great site can only be built from scratch.

However, you may be surprised to know that many well-known websites are actually built on WordPress, one of the most popular CMS platforms. TechCrunch, The New Yorker, Disney – these companies' websites are just the tip of the iceberg.

These well-known sites have heavily invested in WordPress search engine optimization (SEO) to get visibility and traction in Google. As a result, they get a steadily growing flow of visitors whose search terms match what those sites have to offer.

Why do you need to invest in WordPress SEO?

According to data from SimilarWeb, TechCrunch gets 28 million visitors per month, and more than 45 percent of this traffic comes from search engines.

The New Yorker has 30 million monthly visitors, and almost 30 percent of its traffic comes from search. To get that amount of search traffic, a WordPress site needs significant investment in SEO.

These sites are obviously putting a lot of time and money into their SEO, but getting traffic is a more complicated task when you don't have a multimillion-dollar brand. This is why optimization of your WordPress website is essential. Search engine optimization helps your site rank better on search engine results pages (SERPs), drives visibility and brings you more search traffic.

What do you need to optimize on your WordPress website?

What does it take for a WordPress website to rank higher? Basically, it's about ensuring that all the important pages of your site are indexed properly, and the ones that should not be visible through search are not. These steps will help you significantly improve your search traffic and make sure that new content has a better chance of getting to the first page in Google (and other search engine) results.

Set up Google Search Console

No optimization journey should start before the analysis of your current position has been completed. To make sure that your WordPress website is indexed correctly and has no critical issues, set up Google Search Console (GSC).

The Coverage report shows you how many pages have errors that affect your site's visibility.

Next, check all of your indexed pages in the Performance report. It shows you the number of impressions that all of your pages are getting, their average positions and their click-through rates (CTR).

Last but not least, review your sitemap. A sitemap is a file with a model of your website content that's designed to help both users and search engines navigate the site. It can be a hierarchical list of pages with links organized by topic, an organizational chart or an XML document that provides instructions for search engine crawl bots.

A sitemap is an essential element for any website that wants to be crawled for new or updated content and indexed regularly by search engines.

Here's the official Google manual to building and submitting a sitemap. It is a cumbersome task, but it's the only choice for a custom-made CMS platform or website. For a WordPress website, however, it is far more convenient to create a sitemap with the Yoast plugin. There are several WordPress plugins to choose from, but this one is typically the top choice among professional SEO managers.

Yoast automatically creates a sitemap for your site and adds the pages that are available to all users. The only thing you need to do afterward is make sure that search engines know about your sitemap. To do that, submit it in GSC.

Add Google Analytics code

To monitor how your audience interacts with your site – what pages they land on, how long they stay and other data – you'll need to enable Google Analytics. This is done by adding the Google Analytics code to your website. This allows Google Analytics to collect user behavior metrics for you.

Some CMS platforms, including WordPress, simplify Analytics tracking code installation by offering plugins that automatically set up the code on a website. But if you are into advanced techniques, you'll need to insert the Google Analytics code into your WordPress theme. 

1. Generate the code in your Google Analytics account under Website Tracking.
2. Then, edit your header.php file in your WordPress theme and add the code right after the <body> tag.

You can also add the Google Analytics tracking code to a WordPress functions file. It will then automatically add the code to every page on your WordPress site.

Choose between www and non-www versions of your site

When you visit a website, it makes no difference whether you land on a www or a non-www version. For example, https://www.example.com and https://example.com lead to the same page, so it doesn't matter which one of them you're on.

Search engines, however, see them as two different pages and add them both to the index. As a result, the pages compete with each other for the same keywords, which negatively affects both of their rankings.

The main fix is to choose which version has priority and specify it in the Google Search Console.

After that, you need to redirect the pages of the secondary version to the main ones. For example, if you decide to stick with the www version, you'll have to redirect all the non-www pages to their www twins.

If you decide to ignore that, Google will show both versions of your page in the SERP.

Title tags, meta tags and URLs

Titles and meta tags don't only exist in your website source code. Users see them when they run into your website in search results. Therefore, unless you want Google to automatically generate them based on its sophisticated title-generating algorithm, you'll want to specify them yourself.

Additionally, make sure that the keywords for which you want to rank are also included in your title and meta tags.

Keyword optimization is a long and windy road, but you should be watching out for three key items:

Check the competition level of the keywords you're using. Some keywords are too competitive to try to rank for. Select the ones with lower competition levels for better outcomes. Review companies you consider your competition by checking the sites that are currently appearing on SERPs for your target keywords. Find out what websites you're sharing SERPs with. If you are optimizing your website for a region other than your own, you should also be aware of its local competition. For that, you can use a tool that tracks positions in more than one location. Monitor the keyword usage in your title tags, meta tags and URL.

The Yoast plugin lets you know if you used the keywords in your title tags and meta tags, and suggests adding those keywords if you haven't. Additionally, it will notify you if you exceed the maximum number of characters for each element. For instance, the maximum number of characters in a meta description is 150. If the description is longer, it will be reduced by the search engine to fit into the search snippet or substituted completely for a phrase from the content.

Use internal crosslinking

Internal crosslinking is one of the fastest ways to affect your website positions in SERPs. Here are three explanations of the logic behind it:

1. When you add links to other pages on your site, your visitors stay on your site. That increases the time of a single session and the overall time on the site and reduces the bounce rate. These behavior signals are told to be affecting the rankings.

2. It helps Google bots crawl your new pages faster. The faster and more often they get crawled, the sooner they will be indexed and get on the SERPs.

3. It shares the link juice between several pages of your site. Link juice is SEO industry jargon that means the positive SEO outcome from link-building efforts. For example, if Page A links to Page B, then link juice "flows" from Page A to Page B, and that generally helps Page B rank higher on Google.

Get rid of orphan pages (archive, category, pagination or tag pages)

WordPress magic comes with some side effects. One of them is the creation of multiple duplicate or half-duplicate pages that negatively affect your SEO. For example, when these pages get indexed, the SERP is full of nearly identical results from your site that can confuse users and look unprofessional.

When this happens, instead of one page, there are dozens of similar pages competing for the same keywords and decreasing the visibility of the main page.

Is WordPress SEO popular?

A recent study shows that more than 30 percent of all websites are powered by WordPress, making it the most popular CMS platform in the world. For anyone who has ever built or maintained a website, this comes as no surprise: WordPress is simple, doesn't require a team of developers to maintain and allows you to launch a simple website in a day. Moreover, it is easier to optimize a WordPress website for search because a good share of work can be automated with plugins.

Conclusion

Not all of us have the time and resources to build a website from scratch. The beauty of WordPress is that it makes it easy to build a fully functional website at a fraction of the cost of traditional web development methods. In addition, managing your SEO becomes less frustrating and hectic with the help of available plugins.

A well-orchestrated SEO campaign, including optimizing your website so both search engines and users can find it and navigate it faster, means new clients, higher brand credibility and more profit. Follow these tips, get the hang of it, and soon you'll see your organic traffic grow.

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Data skills — the skills to turn data into insight and action — are the driver of modern economies.  According to the World Economic Forum, computing and mathematically-focused jobs are showing the strongest growth, at the expense of less quantitative roles.

 

So whether it’s to maximize the part we play in data-driven economic growth, or simply to ensure that we and our teams remain relevant and employable, we need to think about transitioning to a more data-skewed skillset. But which skills should you focus on? Can most of us expect to keep pace with this trend ourselves, or would we be better off retreating to shrinking areas of the economy, leaving data skills to the specialists?

To help answer this question, we rebooted and adapted an approach we took to prioritizing Microsoft Excel skills according to the benefits and costs of acquiring them. We applied a time-utility analysis to the field of data skills. “Time” is time to learn — a proxy for the opportunity cost to you or your team of acquiring the skill. “Utility” is how much you’re likely to need the skill, a proxy for the value it adds to the corporation, and your own career prospects.

Combine time and utility, and you get a simple 2×2 matrix with four quadrants:

 

Learn: high utility, low time-to-learn. This is low hanging fruit that will add value for you and your team quickly. Plan: high utility, high time-to-learn. While this is valuable, acquiring this skill will mean prioritizing it ahead of other learning and activities. You need to be sure that it’s worth the investment. Browse: low utility, low time-to-learn. You don’t need this now, but it’s easy to acquire so stay aware in case its utility increases. Ignore: low utility, high time-to-learn. You don’t have the time for this.

In order to help you decide where to focus your development effort, we have plotted key data skills against this framework.  We longlisted skills associated with roles such as: business analyst, data analyst, data scientist, machine learning engineer, or growth hacker. We then prioritized them for impact based on how frequently they appear in job postings, press reports, and our own learner feedback. And finally, we coupled this with information on how difficult the skills are to learn — using time to competence as a metric and assessing the depth and breadth of each skill.

Insight Center
Scaling Your Team’s Data Skills
Sponsored by Splunk
Help your employees be more data-savvy.

We did this for techniques, rather than for specific technologies: so, for machine learning rather than TensorFlow; for business intelligence rather than Microsoft Excel, etc. Once you’ve worked out which techniques are priorities in your context, you can then work out which specific software and associated skills best support them.

You can also apply this framework to your own context, where the impact of data skills might be different.  Here are our results:

 

At Filtered, we found that constructing this matrix helped us to make hard decisions about where to focus: at first sight all the skills in our long-list seemed valuable. But realistically, we can only hope to move the needle on a few, at least in the short term. We concluded that the best return on investment in skills for our company was in data visualization, based on its high utility and low time to learn. We’ve already acted on our analysis and have just started to use Tableau to improve the way we present usage analysis to clients.

Try the matrix in your own company to help your team determine which data skills are most important for them to start learning now.

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