The wheels of time just keep. on. turning. Somehow, I am rapidly and relentlessly getting closer to retiring from my days spent marketing Cloud POS and other exciting retail technologies. And yet, I still remember many a summer day of my youth spent helping my grandfather in his furniture store. My grandfather used to own and operate Wayside Furniture, a one-store operation in Poughkeepsie, New York. I can still remember my 6-year-old self being thrilled by the sturdy and rhythmic ka-chunk of the brass keys and the satisfying stamp made with each turn of the nickel-plated receipt crank on the vintage (even for 1969) cash register he used to ring up each sale.
Fast forward almost 60 years, and - believe it or not - I still find POS thrilling. However, instead of being fascinated by how brass and nickel came together to document a transaction, I now marvel at the many technological advances that have conspired to enable us to run POS in the Cloud. And I marvel at our willingness to entrust our very ability to transact business to an often-fragile connection with that mythical “cloud” in the sky.
It’s remarkable, really.
We’ve come a long way
I often wonder what James Ritty, the Dayton, Ohio-based saloon owner and his brother John, who together invented the first mechanical cash register, would think of what their invention has become. Cloud POS designed to deliver rich customer experiences? Heck, they didn’t even create their “Incorruptible Cashier” to document transactions for customers. Rather, they devised their machine as a way to document transactions for themselves. They invented the first cash register to - as the name implies - help hold cashiers accountable for the money they collected while tending bar at their saloon.
Today, of course, we consider mobile, real-time and omnichannel POS technology as the lynchpin to delivering exceptional customer experiences in the store. This despite the fact that we don’t necessarily ask sales associates today to do all that much more than my grandfather did in his store in the 1960s.
My grandfather knew all of his best customers by name. He knew where they lived, their tastes in furniture and he knew their purchase history. He knew his vendors by name as well, and he could tell you which new pieces were coming from each, as well as when they were likely to arrive. And he did all that without the help of a computer. In fact, he did all that with barely more than an adding machine for a cash register behind the sales counter.
Scaling sales associate skills with Cloud POS
The biggest difference between selling in that Wayside Furniture store in the sixties and retail stores today, of course, is scale. We expect today’s sales associates to have all that same information at their fingertips and to be able to put that information to use to convert more sales. Just like my grandfather did.
But today, sales associates need access to inventory information from every store, every warehouse and every vendor – many of which are now located around the globe instead of around the block. And the same goes for customers. They shop anywhere and buy everywhere. Their tastes, preferences and histories are documented on social media and in CRM databases, order management systems and POS transaction logs.
Sales associates can simply no longer keep pace without the help of technology. And that technology needs to be connected technology. Shoppers, channels, orders, competitors and markets move too fast for anything less than relentless connectivity. Which is why the industry is slowly – ever so slowly – beginning to actually embrace the idea of Cloud POS. Despite the rise of cloud computing in the past decade, POS has understandably been an outlier. Delivering rich and efficient sales associate experiences in the Cloud has proven challenging. Plus, there’s just so much at stake with POS technology, it’s easy to see why we have been reluctant to trust it to the Cloud.
But that’s all changing. Cloud POS technology has evolved to the point where we can now build feature-rich applications that empower associates while also reliably overcoming connectivity challenges.
“We didn’t even know we lost connection to the Cloud.”
At Aptos, we spent almost two years designing, testing and patenting bullet-proof offline resiliency strategies before we added a single meaningful feature to Aptos ONE, our Cloud POS platform. And it flat-out worked: sales associates using Aptos ONE Cloud POS tell us they typically don’t even notice when their devices lose connection to the Cloud. They just keep on selling and supporting their customers. When the connection to the Cloud comes back, everything quietly syncs behind the scenes, with neither the associate nor the customer knowing anything had ever changed.
That’s our definition of relentless connectivity.
Once we knew we had delivered on our connectivity goals, we moved on to delivering features. The types of features required of the modern sales associate. We created agile, mobile-first experiences that are easy to adopt and empowered by real-time customer, inventory, order and promotion data.
It wasn’t easy, nor was it quick. It took time, a willingness to fail, and investors willing to wait two years for marketable features to be delivered. But we persevered. And today, we have more stores and devices on our Cloud POS platform than all our competitors combined.
As a result, sales associates now have all the information they need to inform, educate and convert shoppers into buyers.
Just like my grandfather did all those years ago, only at the scale required of modern retail.