Mobility beefs up food co-operative's effectiveness

Not-for-profit unshackled by move to mobility and cloud apps
Written by Krishan Sharma, Contributor

The Manly Food Co-operative is a thriving not-for-profit that's been transformed by mobility. Simply by acquiring two iPads and running cloud-based point of sale (POS) software Vend, volunteers are now able to serve customers anywhere in the store. Vend also automates the inventory reporting process and staff can now monitor stock levels even when they are out of the store.

The co-operative is a community owned not-for-profit that provides organic, waste-free shopping as an alternative to mainstream supermarkets. It is completely run by volunteers who become actively involved in the daily running of the store. The organisation has been operating for 16 years, and when it won a government grant earlier this year it wasted little time in putting the funds towards its mobility initiative.

Manly Food Co-operative director Mark Kelly

Director Mark Kelly says the volunteer organisation can now train customer service staff on Vend in minutes, making the experience of helping in store more enjoyable because volunteers can move around the store and serve customers freely.

“It is so much easier to process people through the checkout now. The volunteers are easier to train and everything is less stressful for them as Vend’s software is simple to use,” says Kelly.

Kelly says the mobile workplace has allowed the organisation to become more efficient with volunteers' time and has helped extend the availability of the volunteer base.

“We used to rely on people coming into the Co-Op to do their work but now we have 8 volunteers who do their work from home. We now use a website to help coordinate our volunteers, people can access it on their phones and iPads. That has helped a lot in filling the roster.”

Previously, the organisation was running on a ten year old PC and custom written software which Kelly says was a “horrible experience” and “difficult to use”.  According to Kelly, it was also relatively expensive and as a result, restricted the store to one register. The new setup allows the co-operative to effectively have two registers and scale up as needed by simply adding more tablets to the mix.

“Before, we didn't really have inventory control, CRM, or any great reporting capacity via the custom written software. Being able to run stock reports, sales reports, download customer information for mail outs etc. is great. Best part is you don't have to be in the store. As it is all web-based it can be done from anywhere.”

Apart from using Vend for POS, the organisation also deployed a program called Perkville for managing loyalty points, and a shift scheduling application called Volunteer Spot.

While Kelly gives a glowing report card on mobility and how it has impacted his organisation, he urges other SMBs who might be planning a mobility initiative to be thorough when reviewing suitable apps and cloud services.

“Make sure you do your homework on cloud solution providers and on apps to make sure they suit your specific business needs. You want to launch in with conviction as you can't really do beta testing in a small business.”

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