Soan POS ― Mobile productivity for merchants 12 Minute Read
Let small to medium business owners run & manage their sales, inventory, accounts & profits using their smartphone.
Mobile still remains limited as source of entertainment videos and affordable Whatsapp calls for middle to lower class. Our goal was to leverage the massive growth of mobile usage to help small businesses reach their growth goals.
In these changing times, many young people are taking over the family businesses and they have a lot more trust in technology than their elders. Our main goal was to utilize the abundance of smartphones for creating ease and helping these new businessmen who are going to manage their business accounts.
And that goal took us to Raja Bazaar where after spending a huge amount of time, we were able to extract out the issues people face, the reasons they are caused and the gap between what systems do.
The shops in bazaar are both retail and wholesale with the daily sale sometimes exceeds $10k. Even though the volume of sales is huge, the business there usually don’t utilize POS systems. The owners use memory and notebooks to keep accounts which, as you can imagine, results in a system that’s hectic to manage and prone to errors.
The problems with this method are usually related to billing and ledger management. So why not a web or desktop application?
Its difficult to setup desktop software in a shop which doesn’t have the place to put a PC. There is simply no space there!
Even if you put some stuff aside to place a computer, following are the issues which you need to overcome:
- Needs infrastructure e.g PC, monitor, peripherals.
- Power issues are common so a UPS is needed, adding load on the space.
- Hard disk failure means loss of entire data.
- Exporting or Backing up data is not a common feature of local POS systems.
- Entering and reconciling stock is an issue since warehouses are far away from shops and taking the Laptop/PC is not an option, moreover there is no multi-device support usually.
So a mobile system is not only a better idea but it offers multiple advantages regarding mobility and space. Combined with cloud based system so there is multi device collaboration, the system becomes one of the best solutions for the whole sale market needs.
Current systems are bulky, hard to learn
This, by far, is the most important facet. Business community there is diverse and for most of them learning how to use a PC is not an easy feat. POSs are generally complex to use and most of the time, they are designed by developer with less or no regard for usability. If someone wants to have a POS, they might have to hire a person to just operate it.
We made a visual approach of bill creation process. Meaningful interactions were used while adding items in bills and navigating between parked bills. The aid of animation gave a clear understanding to users about managing multiple bills and which item they are adding in which bill.
Our research process consisted of talking to the customer constantly and checking if the solution works for them, this process is still ongoing, we keep our ears on the reviews and constantly improve and add features.
Available POS solutions aren’t tuned to the market
One immediately obvious face was that current POS don’t align with the market needs at all especially wholesale market needs
Conventional POS systems don’t have Bilti System
When a merchant ships an order out of city, there is a transportation fee and Order details associated with it but this need isn’t recognized by available systems.
We added Bilti with one tap switch so users could enable/disable it as per need and made it flexible enough for other users who don’t use it by simply hiding it from bill confirmation screen.
Conventional POS have too many varaibles per item. Adding a new item may become similar to filing for tax returns.
We made it to the point, just enter item name, variants (if any) and that’s it. The new item is ready to add stock and billing. But also gave the facility to add further details of item in Edit Item.
Creating a new item is like onboarding at micro level.
Items list viewing and filtration in current systems aren’t up to the market need.
Like one merchant said that he was unable to list items based on Item Rate threshold. He wanted a list of all items having Sale Rate less than Rs100.
To cater this issue, we designed a separate module of Rate List having complete flexibility of creating rate list of retail or wholesale rates and with threshold rate.
Item return from a bill sounds simple task but way difficult to handle.
This one was a mess to handle, there were a lot of complex cases e.g what happens if a customer returns the item from a credit bill or partially credit bill? Especially when he also purchased other items etc. Current systems don’t auto adjust return items and merchant has to add multiple transactions and update stock manually to accommodate one return item.
We automated all the transactions that the merchant perform in updating stock, account and customer balance and made a single one tap item return feature from bill. This made the life a lot easier, especially for retailers who have high frequency of billing.
Considering the frequency of return items, we also created Estimates where users can create estimated bills or quotations. User can completely edit the Estimate without worrying about accounts, customer balance and stock. Once the Estimate is has been confirmed, it can be converted into Bill or Sales Invoice..
Billing & Sale
People are hesitant about writing bills, its hectic & erroneous. Errors in item type, specifications, quantity and in total calculations are common.
We automatized bill writing for the people, the credit history and every related calculations with it.
Business owners forget rates often. Rates in the wholesale market keep on fluctuating and need to be tracked manually if there isn’t a system in place. That fluctuation decides their profits so errors here causes loss. Most importantly, if the owner isn’t there, none of the subordinates know the actual rates and may sell items based on early rates.
In Soan, we made it very convenient to change the rate while billing. Users can change the rate of item on the go without changing the saved rate of items.
Merchants don’t write daily sales usually cause its hectic. They count Cash in Hand to estimate the sale which results in them not knowing the exact daily sale and Net Profit. Also they are blind to any sort of trends.
Adding Items in Multiple Bills Simultaneously
Current systems usually handle one bill at a time but by nature, wholesale owners can be in the middle of many bills at one time so we handled this by allowing the creation and update of multiple bills at a time.
Ledger Management and Accounting
Most people use ordinary notebooks for manual bill writing which makes transaction tracking and daily closing hard to do.
We designed a timeline of all transacitions happened in a day. That made it very easy to track Cash in Hand and Closing Balance.
The Ledgers of Customers and Vendors is difficult to keep. Since every time there is a new transaction, things have to be recalculated. Merchants work on credit as well and its complicated to track the records or reconcile them if needed. Moreover, searching of previous transactions means opening previous notebooks which is hard as well.
Soan automatically updates the account balances whenever a transaction is made against a customer or vendor. The whole process is seamless.
The maintenance of total credit or due payments with both Customers and Vendors is difficult and time taking. Merchants spent most of time maintaining it and they end up with no time in growing their businesses. Since Soan has the record of all sales and purchases, users can view reports of net credit, net sale, net profit and purchases.
Pinch of wisdom
In user research, visiting users once or doing user research once is flawed. Reason is that user’s behavior changes with time and environment. They doesn’t remember everything once or misses the context of what you are trying to ask. Even multiple users from a one location is not enough.
Researchers need multiple visits to same user set so we can have our research refined and authentic.
Custom interactions and UI elements can be executed only when research, design and engineering data is align with each other.
Logs are life saviors. In a multi device financial system, logs of add, edit and delete is key to transparency. Its extremely important in multi user system so the owner can track who changed the price and when etc.
As the nature of prouct is managing very sensitive data of businesses, there is trust issue. Business owners doesn’t easily listen or adapt the offering of product unless you give them full sense of control.
User experience sometimes rely more on customer support than the actual experience of product design.
Skewing towards user goals means hard work on technology side. Making things more visual oriented are hard to develop and unstable. The key is to find a right balance between technology and user goals while developing a solution. And without the understanding of user cognation and technology, the designed solutions remain imaginary.