In our September 2010 issue, I interviewed Ed Levin, the owner of International Point Of Sale. In the article, Levin explained how he felt as if his company lacked a competitive advantage by only selling hardware. To remedy the situation, Levin developed his own retail software (hence the title of the article, "Should You Become A POS ISV?") targeted at mom and pops. At the time of the article, Levin was able to speak mostly about what it took to get his software developed and the "why" behind his bold business decision. Fast forward to today, and Levin has proof that his decision was correct.
Monocello: How has your business fared since we last spoke with you?
Levin: Our business sales have been about the same. We always have an eye on the big tech titans such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook who could wipe out an entire industry with one app, so we don’t put all our eggs in one basket (software) that is why we are also selling hardware and into different industries such as hospitals with the Star TSP800RX prescription printer. At the time of publishing your article, maybe 10% of our new customers bought Corner Store POS. Now it is over 60% of new customers buy Corner Store. This is partly due to my staff’s familiarity with the functions and ability to answer questions about it. I’ve found that my customers have no brand awareness -- even though there are competitors 10x my size, no software maker truly targets the mom & pop segment which is the fastest computerizing segment in the industry. And, we’re adding features into the software that are common sense. We’re adding web portal access where merchants can check their sales from home. And we’ve installed a Twitter plug-in to Corner Store which will enable us to communicate immediately a new release or sale right on the POS invoicing screen. We can customize this for resellers of our software [yes, Levin is now building a reseller channel] so they can get their message right in front of the store owner within seconds. This is a better and faster form of communication than email, SMS, and snail mail because it has a 100% read-rate.
Monocello: What has contributed most to your success since we last spoke?
Levin: A big factor of sales success is keeping the price low. We start low with the cost of the system but then upsell to better features. We know there’s a lot of competition so we’ll wow the customer with a super low unbeatable price then when we have their attention we’ll recommend upgrades. This is the best industry to be in because the convenience stores, liquor stores, and smoke shops are the least computerized segment of the retail industry and they are all computerizing now. No one wants to handle their business because they are computer illiterate and have tight budgets. So we’re taking advantage of this opportunity with a staff that speaks their language and doesn’t talk down to them.
Monocello: Are there any new technologies/solutions you're offering which are impacting your business?
Levin: We’re seeing a lot of mobile app sales. We've had a lot of success using Star Micronics because they've certified their printers with the moble app makers like Square and OpenTable.
Monocello: Speak to any challenges you've experienced since we last spoke.
Levin: Our biggest challenge is getting resellers for our software. People are unwilling to learn a new product. Just like we were once only comfortable selling pcAmerica software, which we still do, it was a big leap of faith to start our own software. I started out small and pcAmerica CRE (Cash Register Express) and RPE (Restaurant Pro Express) were my franchise products. Similarly, I feel Corner Store POS can be the franchise product for up and coming resellers. But where are the 23-year-old guys who are starting their own business?
Monocello: What's next for International Point of Sale and Corner Store POS?
Levin: I am dying to get into foreign markets. We have a handful of Corner Store customers worldwide. We have a grocery store in India and one in Trinidad too. As economies emerge, this can keep our business in the black for a long time to come. And even in the US, I’d say at least 40% of my customers are doing well and expanding. It gives me great hope for the future.