Build Your Business By Building The Industry
POS (point of sale) bar code equipment manufacturers, distributors, and integrators should work together to send a unified industry message to potential end users.
All of us in companies that supply bar code scanning products say we want business in the POS (point of sale) channel to flourish. We claim to be interested in a strong, growing industry. However, we commonly focus more on outdoing each other than on what will ultimately drive channel sales - the customer. Distributor programs, for example, encourage increased and intentionally exclusionary stocking of one manufacturer's products. Reseller incentives similarly encourage VARs to move only one company's products from distributors' inventories. Sure, manufacturers offer cooperative marketing money to assist resellers in marketing to their customers, but is this practice really helping to expand the bar code scanning industry as a whole? Is it truly driving home a unified message to new end users about bar code scanning products? Or, are we only vying for business from the same interested parties who already invest in bar code-based POS solutions?
Misconceptions Result In Missed Opportunities
In case you haven't noticed, bar codes are popular - they're "in." Bar codes are showing up as design elements on clothing and in body art such as tattoos. Even more important is the increased use of bar codes in mainstream commerce. Witness, for instance, the surge in gadget-oriented consumers running around with bar code-enabled key chains, cell phones, and PDAs (personal digital assistants). With the immersion of bar codes into everyday life, why is it that many end users in small retail environments - liquor stores, specialty shops, clothing stores - have yet to adopt bar code-based POS systems?
A recent experience gave me insight into the problem. I was shopping for baby furniture in a small, downtown Philadelphia store. At one point in our conversation, the storeowner asked, "And what do you do?" Assuming that the question referred to my profession, I explained that I work for a manufacturer of bar code scanning equipment. She responded to my basic description of bar code scanners with a rousing, "Sure, I know what they are."
"So," I asked, "why aren't you using them in your clothing store downstairs?" She confidently explained, "We don't want to slow our customers down. They want to come in, buy something, and move on quickly. We can't afford to have them standing in line."
I wondered about her response. For some reason, this particular proprietor associated POS bar code equipment with lines of impatient customers. Could this notion stem from shopping at a busy supermarket or discount department store, where long lines can occur with or without bar code scanners? I can't be sure. However, I am certain this particular storeowner had somehow developed a wrong impression of what bar code scanning equipment can do. She seemed to have no awareness of bar code technology used to enable powerful POS applications such as customer loyalty promotions, customer profiling for marketing purposes, and inventory accuracy during shipping and receiving. Why? My guess is that she's never been informed by way of a unified, thorough, and accurate campaign regarding the benefits of bar code scanning systems.
'Milking' The Market With A Unified Message
Let's apply our combined energy, spirit, intellect, and money to a worthwhile campaign for expanding core channel business. How about a clear, easy-to-understand message touting the benefits of bar coding? I propose an approach not unlike the "Got Milk?" campaign, which stemmed from milk processors' concerns about declining sales. That popular advertising campaign extols the virtues of drinking milk - period. It doesn't strive to explain the differences between 1%, 2%, skim, and whole milk. It doesn't promote a single provider's viewpoint. Instead, the ads work as industry evangelism, pure and simple.
In order to best serve the channel, we should set aside our competitive drive just long enough to strategize an industry-wide marketing plan. In a spirit of industry boosterism, let's ride the current wave of bar code acceptance all the way to more channel sales by educating and enlightening our potential customers in small- to medium-sized businesses. Let's give them the knowledge they need in order to embrace the advantages of the products and services we provide. In that way, we will move closer to the moment when all retailers - including small business owners - can respond affirmatively when asked, "Got Bar Codes?"Questions about this article? E-mail the author at M.Schmidt@metrologic.com.