In what ways will point of sales solutions have to evolve to meet changing business and sales dynamics? Saumil Mehta, General Manager: Square Point of Sale shares a few observations in this chat:
Hi Saumil, welcome to this chat! Tell us more about your journey through the years and more about your role at Square?
Hi and thanks so much for having me! I started my career as a software design engineer and over the years became a product manager. I then founded LocBox, a company that helped local businesses generate revenue and foot traffic from existing and new customers with campaigns. In 2015, LocBox was acquired by Square and I was immediately drawn to Square’s purpose of economic empowerment, ensuring that businesses of all sizes and industries across the world have the tools they need to succeed on their own terms.
At Square, I lead our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Point of Sale business unit where I oversee areas like Product, Engineering, Design, Product Analytics, and Product Marketing.
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How have you been seeing POS solutions evolve over the past year? And also taking into account trends influenced by COVID-19?
It used to be that businesses had to piece together POS hardware and software that oftentimes didn’t work together and provided clunky experiences for businesses and their customers. Some still do, though there has been a continued push for POS systems to operate as full-fledged business management software. This in turn helps business owners automate and manage a host of functions from inventory, transactions and sales, customer relationships, reporting, and others, all from one single platform.
POS solutions are continuing to evolve to enable businesses to meet the needs of their customers by offering robust omnichannel capabilities that are no longer a “nice to have” but a must have. POS systems have adapted to handle these shifts in consumer behavior by offering contactless methods of shopping and receiving goods like curbside pickup and delivery, while also allowing employees to manage their workflows quickly and efficiently.
What makes for a great POS experience, taking into account physical and digital aspects? And also factoring in today’s changing needs of buying and selling like contactless purchases.
A well-designed POS system is integrated so that merchants can use one provider for all their needs across hardware, software, and payments so they don’t have to spend onerous time reconciling data from different systems. This includes everything from accepting payments across channels, running marketing and loyalty programs, sending and receiving invoices, managing employees, and getting the analytics and reporting to measure performance on each.
On the other hand, POS systems should also be simple for staff to learn and use, while still being robust on the back-end. With the current labor shortage where turnover can be high, new employees will be drawn to smoother, more intuitive technology that makes their jobs easy without a large learning curve.
POS systems also must have omnichannel capabilities in order to help businesses meet customers wherever they are, whether that’s curbside, in-store, on mobile, or via delivery platforms. A seamless POS system will enable customers to pay in whatever way they prefer whether that be tap cards, digital wallets, gift cards, invoices, and also across channels to enable selling through online stores, social media, marketing emails, and other methods. By making these connections easy and seamless, POS systems help ensure that businesses never miss a sale.
A great POS system needs to offer advanced back-end capabilities. The first is by providing businesses with critical insights into their operations that enable them operate more efficiently. This includes understanding which items are selling and which aren’t, how individual shifts are doing, performance across locations, and timely sales reports into their operations. The second is employee management and staffing. POS systems can help merchants see labor vs. sales charts and utilize features like overtime-reporting and shift-scheduling to make sure they’re open and staffed properly at the right times. This increases productivity and efficiency, ultimately saving business owners time and money.
Square recently released data on how brands today can connect better with customers during the holiday season. What are a few thoughts and highlights from the research?
Perhaps the top lesson for business owners since the beginning of the pandemic is
that omnichannel operations are now mandatory. Not only does this mean selling on multiple
channels, it also means connecting with customers in more diverse and efficient ways.
Square’s Omnichannel Commerce Report explored some of the ways businesses are making connections with customers both online and in-person from loyalty and marketing software to shopping via social media. For example, nearly 50% of sent loyalty messages resulted in points being redeemed, while 15% of loyalty points were redeemed within one week of a message being sent. The report also found that marketing members that open a coupon spend almost
60% more than those not enrolled in the marketing program, while customers continue to redeem marketing and loyalty incentives both online and in-person.
The report also highlighted that a well-designed omnichannel strategy will create a great customer experience by ensuring merchants can meet customers wherever they are, whenever they are ready, across any channel and device, ultimately driving more business. Part of this is shopping on social media channels that continues to be a popular method of commerce. Square’s report found that Facebook and Instagram are consistently the most popular channels for consumers, creating an opportunity for businesses to leverage this way of selling to attract both new and existing customers.
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What should marketers and businesses be looking towards and preparing better for in 2022 as they try to move back to a pre-COVID pace?
Customer experience will continue to be a top priority to build memorable and seamless shopping experiences, that in return build brand awareness and loyalty. Convenience and customization will be key to meet buyer’s needs and expectations so they feel valued.
Businesses can do this by building a seamless customer lifecycle by adopting a blend of online and in-person operations to attract new and existing customers. Customer relationship management (CRM) software will enable businesses to understand their customer data to make better informed decisions. Marketing and loyalty software enables businesses to engage and communicate with customers, while messaging platforms provide real-time customer service to buyers so they can quickly and efficiently communicate with businesses they shop from.
As B2B and general consumer trends evolve, what are some top thoughts and predictions that you have in mind for 2022 and beyond?
Business has changed rapidly over the course of COVID-19 with a huge acceleration of online operations. Businesses will continue to invest in doing things more efficiently by adopting both online and in-person operations since consumers are continually changing how they shop. There’s been an expansion of peer-to-peer (P2P) payments through digital wallets that is here to stay since P2P payments offer convenience and a cashless method of shopping.
Consumers will also continue to adopt alternative methods of shopping like QR codes that are used for tableside ordering, digital wallets, and other use cases. Social media shopping has also continued to increase as consumers turn to popular channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Linktree to browse and purchase from businesses.
Another interesting trend that occurred during COVID-19 was the rise in consumers’ leveraging gift cards for self-use to track their personal finances, hitting on a broad macro-trend of diversion of credit. With this in mind, businesses can lean into selling both physical and digital gift cards to meet this new demand.
In 2022, consumers will also increasingly turn to omnichannel ways of interacting with businesses. Consumers want the option to shop and receive their items in whatever way they prefer. This includes shopping through an online store, in-person, social media, and other channels, while having the ability to buy online and pick up in store, buy online and return in store, or have their items shipped directly to them.
And of course, any thoughts and predictions on the future of salestech and POS solutions?
The POS will continue to evolve to be the central brain of any businesses’ operations. It’s what seamlessly connects a business with all of the services outside it’s operations like accounting, delivery services, new demand channels, and so on. The POS of the future becomes the decision making power tool of any smart business that will offer advanced capabilities like data reporting and CRM.
The POS will also continue to adapt and introduce new payment methods in response to changing consumer methods so that buyers can pay in whatever way they prefer. POS systems will also need to be seamless and easy-to-use from both the employee and consumer perspectives, while also catering to the growing pool of mixed-use businesses that blur the lines between verticals such as restaurants and retailers.
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Saumil Mehta leads Square’s Customer Relationship Management and Point of Sale business unit. His responsibilities include overall P&L ownership and organizational management across multiple functional disciplines, including Product, Engineering, Design, Product Analytics, and Product Marketing. He was previously Founder and CEO of LocBox, which helps offline and local businesses generate revenue and foot traffic from existing and new customers with multi-channel advertising campaigns.
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