When it came time to up-level its point-of-sale (POS) technology about a year ago, T-We Tea based its ultimate selection of the Vend system on one big factor: its ability to analyze the cost of goods sold.
"We were really trying to understand what was going on in the business," said Christopher Coccagna, owner and master blender for the San Francisco-based handcrafted tea company. "I was running into problems, like not having enough cash to replenish inventory."
A practical example: while honey might seem like a great complementary product to sell in a tea shop, the reality is that T-We's profit margin isn't as high on it, along with other tea "accessories" like pots or infusers. Vend's software enables Coccagna and the company's four other employees watch those metrics carefully, which helps them with merchandising and promotional decisions. They might decide to place honey farther back in the store, for example, so there's more chance of someone buying something else at the same time.
An equally important concern: because Vend is cloud-based, Coccagna can check on this information from almost anywhere using a mobile device. That's important because T-We participates in many craft shows and he's often on the run. "I don't have to actually be at the shop all the time. For the sanity of a small business owner, that's really good," he said.
Like many cloud POS companies, Vend is developing partnerships with other cloud service provider building traction with small businesses and entrepreneurs. T-We actually found the software when it began using the Xero cloud accounting application and discovered an integration between the two services. (Vend's pricing starts at $35 per month for a single outlet that sells fewer than 100 products.)
Austin Gunter, senior marketing manager at Vend, noted that another active area for integrations centers on customer loyalty features: ones that enable storeowners to see when someone last visited and how much they tend to buy when they walk in the door. Promotions can be created using that information. "This is an open platform where retailers can add in other integrations," he said. "Vend has its own features, but you can add your own systems if you want."
Vend is particularly useful for retailers that support both brick-and-mortar locations and other channels such as fairs or e-commerce marketplaces. "This is really a massive shift that will put small businesses back into the driver's seat," Gunter said.
More than 10,000 stores currently use the Vend service. So far, the 130-employee company has raised $35 million in backing.