What is an SMB?
An SMB is a small or medium-sized business, which has from 10 to 500 employees, depending on who you ask. The businesses may be small, but the impact of SMBs is huge.
- There are 27.6 million small businesses in the U.S.
- They account for 54% of all U.S. sales
- 35.9% are owned by women
Clover merchants are SMBs.
They are the businesses in your neighborhood or town. Like that mom-and-pop stationery store where you buy birthday cards, the fast-food franchise where you pick up dinner on your way home, your local pizza joint, or your dentist. Clover businesses are in every state in the U.S., and in the UK.
Clover Merchants — by type of business
Merchants process payroll weekly or bi-weekly, pay quarterly taxes, and ensure that expenses are balanced. A business owner may do this herself, or work with a bookkeeper or accountant.
Merchants must add new and seasonal items to inventory, update prices, keep track of what’s in stock, and be alerted about what needs to be ordered, and allow easy re-ordering of stock items.
Restaurant owners create and update their menus, add seasonal appetizers and entrees, and set prices for regular items and specials.
Merchants and their employees spend time with customers to find out what they like and need. Merchants must also attract new customers and repeat customers more frequently with discounts and specials to increase sales.
An important marketing tool for merchants is social media. Therefore, many merchants post regularly to Facebook, Twitter and other social media about specials, events, and other news. They also respond to Yelp reviews and Foursquare check-ins.
One of the most important activities for business owners is to recruit, hire, and train new employees, in addition to tracking employee performance.
Merchants monitor their cash flow so they can pay vendors and follow up on accounts receivable.
Providing good customer service is a top priority, and this includes recognizing and rewarding loyal customers, and handling special orders and requests.
Merchants get the word out about their business via advertising and social media. In addition, business owners network and interact with the local community.
What do merchants need?
The best way to identify what merchants need is to talk to real merchants. Don’t be shy about stopping by to chat with the owner or employees at your favorite cafe or retail store, or at your dry cleaner or the salon where you get your hair cut.
Find out what it takes to run their business, and what they want to make it better. Here are some questions to get started:
- What’s your biggest headache?
- What takes up too much of your time?
- What do you wish you could do more easily?
- What would help you serve your customers better?
- What do you wish you could fix about your current system, whether it is a computerized POS system or a paper notebook?
These conversations may spark some ideas about what merchants need. And, here are some needs we have heard from the field.
These needs were reported by all types of merchants:
- In-house accounts: for frequent individual and business customers; merchant keeps a tally and charges or bills at the end of a time period
- Customer app: prompts customers to provide contact info, fields for notes and other important info for customer engagement and marketing, combine multiple entries
- Visual charts for reporting
- Reporting by device
Quick Service Restaurants
Order and pay at the counter
- Sandwich Shop/Deli
- Take-out pizza
- Dive bar
- Food truck
Full Service Restaurants
Order and pay at the table
- Fine Dining
- Sports bar
- Sit-down Pizzeria
Restaurants have reported these needs:
- Bar tab app: tallies orders
- Drink recipe app: allow servers or customers to create a drink recipe
- ID verification: swipe and confirm that an ID is valid
- Menu with photos: helpful for visual identification of items, especially if language is a barrier
- Order ahead app
- Recipe-based inventory: track inventory based on the components that make up a menu item
- Table mapping: visual representation of restaurant floor plan
- Tip out percentage: help calculate tip distribution
- Two-touch (fast pay): bars/nightclubs want to complete a transaction in two touches. 1) “Vodka Martini”; 2) “$15 cash”
- Jewelery store
- Convenience store
- Pro shop
- Clothing boutique
- Game store
- Liquor store
- Toy store
- Shoe store
- Gift items store
- Musical instruments
- Sporting goods
- Auto parts
- Bike store
Retailers have reported these needs:
- Average cost per unit for all stock in inventory
- Consignment tracking: track information about the consigner and commission for each item
- Layaway management: track items on layaway, amount paid and remaining balance
- Lottery payout: ability to give customers lottery winning and be reimbursed by the lottery organization
- Purchase order management
- Rent-to-purchase (e.g. musical instruments): track payments and remaining balance
- Track commission-based sales
- Hair stylist
- Auto repair
- Boxing gym
- Plumbing repair
- Dental/Medical office
- Nail salon
- Personal trainer
- Music school
- Bowling alley
Services have reported these needs:
- Daycare sign-in: parents sign child in/out with a PIN
- Invoicing, for recurring membership
- Membership tracking
- Membership verification, via barcode scan
- Rental management: tracking what items are in and out, who has it, how long, and charges (flat or percentage; late)
- Repair order tracking: track parts, labor and payments, assign to employee/customer
How can you best meet merchant needs?
Build an app that is fast, easy to use, and reliable
Imagine a variety of situations where businesses need to serve many customers in a short time.
- Restaurants have intense periods of service: breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner
- Seasonal rushes affect restaurants and retail: holiday shopping, Black Friday, Halloween (costume shops), Valentine’s day (flower shops)
- Game or event-related crunch periods at a stadium or concert hall: intermission or pre-/post-game
The key is to complete these transactions smoothly and correctly. In other words, to maximize throughput, (more transactions = more money,) without increasing the risk of errors, because they can be very expensive.
- Errors can cause a bad customer experience, and the impact of negative word-of-mouth and social media can be high.
- It can take time to correct an error — for example, if a customer requires a refund.
- When it comes time to reporting, it can take business owners and their accountants a lot of effort to identify the cause of errors and correct them.
Build an app that better manages their backend
Merchants want to trust that the data that shows up in reporting is correct, and easy to understand.
Build an app that increases customer engagement
Merchants want to spend less time taking care of back-office administrative tasks–like payroll, inventory-ordering and taxes–and more time connecting with their customers. This could include being able to recognize and reward loyal customers, reaching out to the regulars with special offers, or having an easy way to make a recommendation (like a great 2-for-1 discount.)
Transferring sales by category gives me a clear picture of what items are selling the best each day.