Introduction to Near Field Communications


Unless you’ve been living in a tech-free bubble, you’ve probably heard rumblings about near field communication (NFC). This technology is hoping to completely change the way consumers pay for goods at both major retailers and small Mom and Pop shops. 

If you’re a business owner looking to upgrade, or just a tech savvy consumer, don’t be left in the dark about how this technology can change your day to day transactions.

What’s NFC?

NFC is a way for two devices to send and receive data from about four inches apart. This means that you the consumer can pay for goods and services by simply swiping your smartphone. With NFC, there’s no more toting a wallet full of credit cards or a wad of cash.

Though this technology has been around since 2003, it’s only really risen to the forefront in the last year. As with any new technology, it suffered some fits and starts. According to an article in, trials conducted between Citibank, Cingular Wireless and the New York City subway, as well as a trial between Nokia and San Francisco’s BART system went nowhere. NFC has been hard to get off the ground because it requires competing wireless carriers and banks to come together. Another issue is that not many phones currently have an NFC chip.

But that’s all about to change. 

Not only are more smartphones being armed with NFC chips, but several wireless companies have recently paired with banks to develop NFC apps. AT&T and Verizon wireless have teamed with Discover Financial Services to develop ISIS. Rumor has it Apple, always at the forefront, is developing its own NFC technology that would link the phone’s credit card information back to the users iTunes account. 

Google has also jumped into the game. According to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, the company ran a trial in Portland, Ore. called Hotpot. Kits were handed out to local businesses with window decals that used near field communication technology. Any customer with a smartphone that contained an NFC chip, including Google Android users, could scan the decal with their phone and get information on the business, like reviews and operating hours.

So far so good. Sarah Heise of Voodoo Donut, a local business participating in Hotpot is quoted as saying, “It’s something that helps local businesses. It’ll allow us to interact with our customers more, especially the younger, texting generation.”

Working out the Bugs

That’s not to say there isn’t a downside to NFC. While it’s super convenient to have a chip that holds bank information, coupons and loyalty cards, what do you do if you lose your phone? There’s also concern for how secure it is to transmit your information. 

That said, no technology is perfect. Only time will tell whether NFC technology really is the wave of the future, or just another fad that never got off the ground. 

How to Make Black Friday Work for Your Store


By Erik Sherman

Erik Sherman is a writer primarily covering business and technology, but also experienced in food, entertainment, the outdoors. Erik blogs via

As you know, Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is traditionally the day that retailers move into profit, or into the black. It’s the biggest shopping day of the year, and one that your
small business can take advantage of,

Here are three steps to use to get a great start to the holiday retail season.

1. Be savvy about sales items

Shoppers have adjusted their behavior to a new economic
reality, shying away from free-wheeling credit card use. Kit Yarrow, a consumer research psychologist and chair of the Psychology Department at
Golden Gate University, says the new
watchword for consumers is frugality.

That means stores with aggressive pricing will do well. But rather than offer storewide promotions, smart merchants will carefully decide on which items to put on sale.

Create door
, items that are priced so well they’ll bring people in en masse. Prepare your staff with potential
up-sells and cross-sells that can build margin and make up for these loss
leaders. Display them around the door busters. 

If possible, choose items that are not being offered by competitors. Make them available in limited quantities. That way, you’ll capture the interest of “treasure hunters” and still limit the number of
margin-losing specials you sell. 

Put together gift packages that bundle several items together. Offer
them at a lower price than each would be individually. To make them even
more appealing, save busy shoppers time by having them already gift

2. Outfox super early sales

The big retailers have been competing with each other to see
who will open earliest. It’s gotten so competitive that some stores unlock
their doors on Thanksgiving
 to catch people who can’t wait until after the holiday for a

Rather than meet them head-to-head, why not outfox
the big stores, and smaller competitors, as well? Contact your best customers
and let them reserve items on special sale. Then, set appointments for them to pick them up at their convenience over the weekend.

When you open, make it special for shoppers by offering pastries and coffee. Hand out discount
coupons to early birds
. This tactic has proved useful to major department stores like Lord &
Taylor, Sports Authority, and J. C. Penney.

Free gift wrapping is another incentive to bring in shoppers. How about keeping customers’ purchases at your store? That way, they can be sure that family members won’t  find out in advance what they’re getting.

The point is, you need to provide the extra services that your customers would
appreciate. Then you need to let them know, through both social and mass media, that they’re available, and that you have their best interests at heart.

3. Get the word out

Even the smartest promotions and best pricing won’t bring
people in, if they don’t know about them in advance. In addition to your normal advertising
channels, leverage email lists and
social media to reach people directly.

Be sure you have a clear marketing message. Start
the communications  process early
, so that people are open to it. 

Finally, make sure you can be found on the Internet,
not only by name, but by location and product type, because consumers are
increasingly going online to research products and sellers. Also, if possible, have your website enabled for smartphone browsers.  Google is projecting that 15
percent of Black Friday searches
 will likely be done on a mobile

With the right strategy, you can compete and win business on
Black Friday. That way, your holiday shopping season, as well as your customer’s, will be a profitable one..

How to Get Customers to Buy Add-Ons


By Dan Rafter

Dan Rafter is a freelance writer and editor with 15 years of journalism experience. Dan blogs via

The current economy isn’t exactly a friendly one for most small business owners. Too many consumers are worried about losing their jobs. Others fret about the value of their homes continuing to fall. Still others haven’t received even cost-of-living boosts to their salaries in three years or more.

It all adds up to customers who are more cautious than ever when it comes to spending on retail goods. This means that businesses need to use every tool possible to convince these buyers to part with their dollars.

One way to do this? Discover the selling science behind add-ons.

You know what an add-on is. It’s that extra purchase — or two or three or more — that consumers make when they’re buying a specific product. For instance, a consumer stops into the local hardware store to buy a seeder. While there, he notices a fresh package of grass seed and another of fertilizer sitting near the seeders. Not only does this customer purchase a seeder, he also buys the fertilizer and seed. These add-on purchases can add up during a week, month or year.

Nabbing the Real Money

Retail blogger Rick Segal says that add-ons are where the real money comes from for small business owners. That’s because stores don’t make as much of a profit on the first item that customers buy. Overhead, advertising and employee salaries suck up the profits.

But the add-ons? They provide that extra bit of income that makes the difference between a thriving small business and one that’s struggling to keep its doors open.

Segal breaks add-ons into two categories, extras and accessories. Accessories are fairly obvious: You’re selling a customer a bottle of perfume. You might ask this customer if she’d like some body lotion to go with it. Or you’re selling your customer homemade pasta noodles. Why not ask this customer if she’d like some homemade sauce to go with it?

Want Fries with That?

The key to convincing customers to make these second purchases is simple: suggest them.  Merely grouping like products together is a good start, but to really get the add-ons adding up, you and your sales staffers have to speak up.

You can also promote add-on purchases by running special sales during the year.

For instance, you can advertise that batteries are 20% off when customers purchase a new digital camera. This encourages shoppers to pick up a package of batteries, even if they didn’t plan on doing so.

Extra items are a bit more challenging. These are items similar to what the customer has already purchased, but different.

Footwear is a good example. Your customer may be purchasing a pair of work boots. Your sales associates should then ask if this customer is interested in a pair of slippers that are on sale or a pair of running shoes that are currently being discounted.

The Efficient Way to Build Business

There’s a real positive that comes with training yourself and your staff to sell more add-on products: It’s a cheap way to build your business.

According to Entrepreneur, there are three ways to build a small business: You can attract new customers. You can work to make customers buy your products or services more frequently, or you can increase the size of your customer transactions.

It’s important to focus on adding new customers. Businesses that don’t do this will surely fail. But it’s equally important, and far more cost-effective, to focus, too, on convincing your customers to increase the size of their purchases and to purchase more often. Add-ons can help you accomplish these tasks.

After all, when a customer buys a pair of dress socks with that new suit he just purchased, you’ve increased the size of his transaction. When a customer remembers that you sell the perfect film for the camera she just bought from you, it’s likely she’ll come back to you when she runs out of film. You’ve just used the power of add-ons, then, to increase the frequency of this customer’s purchases.

How to Generate Business on Small Business Saturday


By Dan Rafter

Dan Rafter is a freelance writer and editor with 15 years of journalism experience.

For the second year, Small Business Saturday will take place the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. The Nov. 26 event, the day after the much-publicized “Black Friday,” is designed to showcase how important small businesses are to the national economy, and encourages shoppers to “Shop Small.”

But just the fact that there is a Small Business Saturday isn’t enough to bring customers to your small business. To do that, you’ll have to promote your shop and the event.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do this.

The Small Business Saturday website offers plenty of promotional tools for business owners. American Express, which is covering much of the costs of Small Business Saturday, is offering business owners $100 worth of free Facebook ads.

Target Local with Facebook

You can see a template of the ads here. According to Facebook, these ads will be geographically targeted to customers in your area.

If you’re struggling to come up with ideas to promote your business on Small Business Saturday, Facebook is also offering you its Share an Offer feature. Sales and special offers are an effective way to get customers to your business on Small Business Saturday. The Share an Offer feature on Facebook gives you an idea of what other entrepreneurs are offering.

For instance, a quick glance at the Share an Offer page turns up a sign company offering customers a year’s worth of free signs for participating in an online contest, a custom framing company offering a 25% discount on Small Business Saturday and a clothing store offering a 10% discount and free shipping on merchandise through the end of the year for customers who “like” their Facebook page.

YouTube Video

American Express and Google are teaming up to offer small business
owners a free online video tool that will let you create YouTube videos
telling the stories of your companies. The best news is that you don’t
have to be a skilled filmmaker to take advantage of this offer.

The My Business Story
tool includes a step-by-step guide, sample video templates,
royalty-free music, script outlines and examples of successful business

These ideas are just the beginning of the ways in which you can promote your business for Small Business Saturday.

Banner Ads

Credit company Experian offers its own suggestions. The company recommends that you add a banner to your website promoting the date of Small Business Saturday. The company also suggests that you add a landing page to your website on which you can feature your special offer for the event.

Online coupons, too, are a big draw for consumers. Shoppers who download coupons from your website are far more likely to visit your shop to use them than are those who passively receive coupons from a mailer.

Small Business Saturday offers the owners of small businesses a prime opportunity to promote their business ventures. Now you have no excuse not to promote your small business and reap some of the success of this November 26 shopping event.

Five Must Have Chrome Extensions for Small Businesses


By Robert Hadley

Robert Hadley is a business reporter. Robert blogs via

In today’s app-centric world, it’s not enough for your browser to simply serve as an on-ramp to the Internet.

And why should it? Just as it’s good practice to ask your vendors to help you use their products and services to make your business more efficient, it’s also a good idea to demand more functionality from your browser.

Fortunately, Google Chrome is up to the challenge, offering an army of apps and extensions that can make the day-to-day operations of your retail business more efficient. 

I’ve listed five must-have apps for the small business retailer below.

1. Terapeak Sales Reports for PayPal

If you have an online storefront that processes transactions using PayPal, this app is a must. It’s free and can generate a number of helpful reports, including sales and product trends, fee history, profitability comparisons, and track and filter eBay or Etsy data.

It also lets you graph the success of marketing campaigns from within the app, rather than having to import to a spreadsheet. This free app received a four-star rating (out of five) on Chrome’s app store based on the ratings of nearly 350 users.

2. Wave Accounting 

Promising to let users “send invoices and track expenses like a pro,” Wave Accounting’s free app lets you manage your bank and credit card accounts by enabling automatic downloads of transaction data.

The app allows multiple users, such as an owner, accountant and bookkeeper simultaneous access to data, and facilitates tracking for multiple businesses and personal accounts. Based on user ratings, this app received 4.5/5.0 stars.

3. Web-based Time Clock

Most companies that employ hourly workers should have some form of online timesheet that lets them maintain payroll records.

Web-based Time Clock from offers the flexibility of tracking employees’ time in an environment that is both secure and accessible.

Being cloud-based, the payroll records are stored online, and workers can log in from any PC with this app installed in the Chrome browser.

Base pricing is $129 per month, and there is a surcharge based on how many employees you have. For 50 or more employees, the surcharge is $0.40; for zero to nine workers, it’s $0.65, with tiers in between.

4. Barcode Generator

There’s no better way to track inventory and sales than barcodes, and even though their newer siblings, QR codes, are all the rage right now, conventional barcodes are still useful if you have the equipment to scan them.

This app makes it easy to generate one barcode at a time, or run a sequence of codes with beginning and ending values you specify.

Not only can you create barcodes in different formats, such as Code 128, Code 39 and others. You can also create QR codes with this program.

5. Google Calendar

We all need a calendar, right? Google’s web-based calendar lets employees log in and see upcoming sales, holidays, training events, etc.

Click the Agenda tab and you’re instantly viewing a list of major holidays — convenient for planning upcoming sales and promotional tie-ins.

The app isn’t really standalone (you have to be logged in to your Google account to use the full feature set), but it works seamlessly and lets members of your group share information.

These five Chrome apps offer a handy toolset to speed up some of the common tasks retailers need done — right from within your browser.

This suite of software is sure to automate payroll, accounts receivable and time management tasks, freeing you for the more important tasks at hand.

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