So you want to put your data in the cloud?

Every time you look up from your smartphone these days, someone is pointing to the cloud as the technology solution of choice. It seems to matter very little what problem you’re trying to solve. The cloud is the answer.

Whoever named the cloud must have had the soul of a poet. It’s a romantic image for what amounts to thousands of servers in climate-controlled data centers scattered around the globe. But there’s nothing poetic about the underlying reality. By opting for the cloud, you’ve given someone else control of your data, and made them responsible for storing, managing and protecting your information.

Is “cloud” just another name for fog?

Many point-of-sale (POS) system providers offer cloud-based systems, claiming that they give customers greater flexibility, reliability and security. When we were designing our portable POS systems at Shopbox Retail, we took a long, hard look at the cloud option and chose to go another way.

Here are four key reasons why we decided to keep Shopbox Retail, and our customers, out of the cloud:

The big thing with the cloud is figuring out who owns your information. When you put your data into someone’s cloud-based system, they own it (by contract, in most cases). And they anonymize your data and share it or sell it to others. If you’re a retailer using a cloud-based POS system, the inner workings of your store, up to and including your customer data, is no longer yours. If you have any privacy concerns about your customers and their data, you shouldn’t use the cloud.

The Internet can accomplish incredible things, but what you can do online will always be limited by bandwidth. When you move data from a local server to a cloud server, your system will be immensely slower, anywhere from 100 to 10,000 times slower. It’s limiting. You can’t have large product databases. You can’t process large invoices with multiple products. Transfering photos and other images requires a lot of bandwidth. That works fine in a local environment, but things can slow down significantly if there are any Internet issues.

If you’re doing pop-up stores and other temporary retail events, which are our expertise, bandwidth becomes an incredible liability. It limits where you can hold your events—not only by ruling out most remote locations, but also by making it hard to stage a successful event in crowded venues where multiple users reduces the bandwidth available to you. Even if you have a physical connection, you’re still sharing it with other users. As demand increases, your share of bandwidth decreases. And if Comcast goes down, you can’t make any sales. You can’t process transactions or ring up customers.

Depending on the size of your company, your IT department may be just you or it may include a number of people. Despite the hype, cloud services sometimes do go down. When that happens, neither you nor anyone else can do anything about it. You have no control. For example, a cloud-based POS system (we won’t name names) went down for four days in 2015. For four long days, no one who was using that system could make any sales.

With a locally hosted system, you control updates. That’s incredibly important for two reasons:

  • Companies used to be able to have a stable version of their POS system. That’s no longer possible in the cloud. One of the selling points of cloud-based systems is that you always have the latest version, because of frequent updates that are released as soon as they are available. The problem is that there are no longer any early adopters. Everyone is an early adopter. There is no opportunity to let companies work out the kinks before a widespread rollout—and you can’t roll back to a previous stable version if something goes wrong.

  • Chances are you’ve invested a lot of time and money in training your employees to use your POS system and the specialized interface that goes with it. Cloud services historically have had no reservations about updating their systems, with no customer consultation and often no warning. They may even change the interface. As a result, you may come in on a Tuesday morning and find that your system is completely unrecognizable and requires you to retrain all your employees.

From a security standpoint, the problem with putting all of your data in the cloud is that you’re running without backups, putting all your eggs in one basket, and trusting that the cloud system will never be corrupted. There is no backup-and-restore system in the cloud, so your POS system is vulnerable. If there is a security issue, you have no way to recover. If your data is gone, it’s gone.

With cloud-based POS systems, you can’t archive or protect your data. If someone hacks your email, you can restore your password and recover your mail. If someone hacks your POS system, you’re done.

Breaking through the cloud People today often talk about the cloud as though it is the future, and therefore inevitable, the only possible solution to nearly any problem that involves data. It isn’t. There are alternatives that offer equal or greater benefits with fewer liabilities.

It’s also worth remembering that along with whatever benefits the cloud may provide, it is also responsible for many of the unwanted advertisements and other intrusions in our personal lives and a number of unacceptable and unnecessary risks that businesses currently face.

Evolution of Shopbox: Why we went with “just remove the lid”

When we started Shopbox Retail in 2010, we set out to build an outstanding point-of-sale (POS) system that businesses of all types and sizes could use to stage successful pop-up stores, warehouse sales, and other temporary retail events. We accomplished that goal, but at first we didn’t give much thought to packaging or ease of use. We were just focused on creating great technology.

In the beginning, when a client wanted to stage an event, we put all of the register and server components in a box and shipped them to the event site. When the box arrived, all those pieces had to be assembled, plugged in, and configured correctly. That meant we had to go to every event. Every time. Because the people staffing the events didn’t have the specialized knowledge necessary to put together a secure system. Clearly, we needed a different strategy.

We approached this problem the same way we would tackle a software development project:
Identify assumptions and dependencies based on actual pain points Assess what needs to happen to address all relevant issues Design a path forward to achieve those goals.

We knew from experience most of the problems that can occur at retail events. Time and space are often limited. There’s no time for troubleshooting or replacing lost parts, the right tools are rarely available, and there’s no room to set up complex systems with a tangle of cords running between multiple components. There’s also no guarantee of a reliable power source or Internet connection, and it’s unrealistic to expect the on-site sales staff to have specialized IT knowledge.

We knew that our next-generation POS systems would have to solve all of these problems to provide a seamless, worry-free experience for our clients. We also knew one other thing with absolute certainty. Our system would have to work. Every time. No exceptions. Failure was not an option.

We decided to automate everything and eliminate human error as much as possible. Everything that a human could potentially mess up, we bolted down or automated.

We designed a portable, durable case for our POS systems, which is both waterproof and shockproof when closed. Everything is pre-assembled and preconfigured, and all of the components are bolted into the case so that parts don’t get lost. Just take off the lid and plug it in. Simple.

We based everything on laptop versus desktop technology, so instead of forcing our clients to struggle with towers and peripherals while crawling under tables on their hands and knees to set up the POS system for their event, everything is already integrated and ready to go when they flip the switch. Each register gets a unique fingerprint, and the network is set to turn on registers and assign addresses in the right order. It’s like a string of Christmas lights; you plug it in and everything just works.

What we ended up creating is a turnkey solution for pop-up stores that takes the stress and risk out of two of the most complex tasks of any retail event—setting up and tearing down—so our clients can focus on other priorities. Even the most inexperienced person can set up one of our POS systems correctly and have it operating in minutes. In addition, every component is configured to work with everything else, so we can split off registers and servers as needed and ship them to different client events without reconfiguring. And event staff can submit sales information to the retailer’s backend system with one click of a single button.

We don’t claim that Shopbox Retail POS systems are all things to all retailers. They’re not meant to handle every possible retail contingency. Our systems are designed to provide fast, secure transactions in almost any location, and to be extremely easy to use and virtually foolproof. In the unlikely event that something does go wrong, after six years and hundreds of events it’s almost certain that we have seen and solved that something before. Our support personnel are there to fix it – in real time.

We went with “just remove the lid” because at events and pop up stores our clients need to focus on customers, not IT or point-of-sale problems.

How new technology is transforming an old idea

Pop-up retailing—sometimes called “flash retail” or “temporary retail”—is revolutionizing the retail industry as merchants look for new ways to connect with customers, build brand awareness, test new products and increase customer loyalty.

The big question is why?

The idea of pop-up retailing isn’t new. It’s as old as the ancient caravans. Back then, a group of merchants would travel an established trade route, stopping at each town along the way to set up a temporary market where they could sell their goods. After a few days, they would strike their tents, load their camels, and move to the next town. Today’s pop-up stores operate on the same principle. A merchant identifies an event or location that is likely to attract potential customers, sets up a temporary store, and keeps selling until either they run out of merchandise or customer interest starts to fade. Then, they look for the next opportunity.

What’s new about today’s pop-up retailing is the technology. That’s our business.

At Shopbox Retail, we apply state-of-the art technology to the time-tested practice of bringing products to wherever customers gather to create the world’s only go-anywhere, sell anything POS (point of sale) system. By providing custom retail solutions, we enable our clients to realize the benefits of pop-up retailing, which can include:

  1. Targeting a niche audience

  2. Building brand awareness and customer loyalty for new product lines

  3. Testing new products and markets to gain valuable consumer insights without a big investment

  4. Generating buzz about their business

  5. Taking advantage of an agile business strategy that offers a flexible, cost-effective alternative or supplement to a permanent retail installation

  6. Increasing revenue and reducing losses by selling surplus inventory that would be hard to move through traditional retail channels

  7. Aggressively marketing products during high-intensity, low-duration retail periods related to specific events, holidays or seasons

  8. Creating a sense of urgency with short-term sales events that pique customer curiosity and drive their desire to purchase merchandise while it lasts

We started Shopbox Retail in 2010. Our first customers were tent stores and small pop-up shops. Since then, we’ve improved and optimized our technology. Today, we offer compact, portable, rugged and fully integrated POS registers and handheld devices that leading retailers trust to manage high-volume stadium events, marathons and festivals where they host as many as 100,000 guests.

We believe all retailers should be able to sell anywhere, and all customers should be able to buy anywhere. Technology should make every sales experience easy, no matter where a transaction takes place—in the desert, in a stadium or in a mall.

As a result, our solutions don’t rely on Internet access, the cloud, or even external power sources. With Shopbox Retail, our clients know they can just open the box and be ready to create powerful retail experiences anywhere on the planet.

6 Benefits of Pop-Up Shops

Temporary retail establishments have been growing in number, popping up on street corners, in shopping centers, at events, in airports and more, as more brands begin recognizing the benefits of pop-up shops. There are a variety of pop-up stores, ranging from modular retail establishments to those housed in shipping containers; regardless of the format, there are several advantages in setting up a pop-up establishment:

1) Affordability.

Because pop-up shops are often temporary in nature and smaller in size than conventional retail stores, the cost of rent is usually lower. This is especially advantageous for new businesses that don’t yet have the funds to lease a more traditional retail space and, if necessary, have the option of closing down the temporary location to avoid more costs from a low-sales location.

2 Short-term Commitment.

Pop-up shops allow for a more selective approach to selling and marketing. Instead of being locked into a long-term rental agreement, the brand is only committed for a fixed period of time, which means the brand is more able to adapt to changes in its business and marketing plans. What’s more, a brand can open up a pop-up shop only when traffic and sales are expected to be high, and then close it down during the slower months.

3) Generate Buzz.

One of the primary benefits of pop-up shops is that they help a brand generate buzz. Pop-up retail establishments are often fantastic marketing tools because they tend to draw attention from crowds. People are interested in the sudden existence of a store, especially if they look unique — for instance, a shipping container. As Robert Humble of HyBrid Architecture, a firm that designs shipping container projects, says, “There’s a certain built-in marketing cachet that [container stores] have that other businesses don’t.” Big brands such as Target, Levi’s, adidas and the Gap have used pop-up shops to generate buzz around a product or promotion.

4) Testing & Experimentation.

The low-cost and temporary nature of pop-up shops allow brands to engage in test marketing new products and promotions to gauge future demand. Major companies like BMW’s MINI have opened up pop-up shops for this purpose, while smaller businesses have used pop-ups to try out a new business idea, such as Softroom’s ‘Wahaca Southbank Experiment, a pop-up Mexican restaurant in London.

5) Encourage Spontaneous Purchases.

A pop-up store’s temporary nature creates a sense of urgency among consumers to buy now. Unlike traditional retail establishments, the pop-up store itself is presented as a “limited-edition” item that people must take advantage of in the moment or regret their inaction later. According to the co-founder of Think PR Claudine Gumbel, “There’s a certain passion about things that shout ‘act now!’ and that has transpired into the way we shop too.”

6) Brand Extension.

Pop-ups allow a business to extend its brand and build awareness. For online businesses, especially, pop-up shops provide a way to interact with customers face-to-face and also educate them about new products, services and features. This can be particularly beneficial for brands that have complicated offerings or want to capture a market segment that would not normally visit the brand’s site or buy from the company online. For example, Google launched a pop-up store in Australia last year, called Androidland, to introduce and educate customers on the Google Android mobile operating system.

There are many benefits of pop-up shops, and an increasing number of businesses today are jumping on board to try their hand at opening a temporary retail establishment. Uncover more temporary and mobile retail strategies by downloading Trend Hunter’s Retail Trend Report and by accessing our PRO trends database for trends like Pop-Up Eats and Portashop.


What exactly is a pop-up shop?

Whether you hear temporary retail, flash retailing, pop-up store, or pop-up shop, it is all one and the same. Pop-up shops are taking over the retail world and rethinking traditional brick-and-mortar and big-box stores, but what exactly is a shop that pops up?

Sighted as early as the 1990s in large urban cities such as Tokyo, London, Los Angeles and New York City, pop-up shops and pop-up retail are temporary retail spaces that sell merchandise of any kind. That’s right, just about every consumer product has been sold via a pop-up shop at one point in time. From art to fashion to tech gadgets and food, pop-ups are exciting because they create short-term stores that are just about as creative as they are engaging. And they come in all shapes and sizes.

Specific Details

  • Term. Typically 1 day to 3 months. IGNORE
  • Location. High foot traffic areas such as city centers, malls, and busy streets.
  • Price. Much lower than a traditional store; typically paid upfront.
  • Use. Sell products, presence during holidays or events, launch new products, generate awareness, move inventory, test idea or location, increase ‘cool’ factor.

What are the benefits of a pop-up shop?

  • Connect with customers: The pop-up retail format allows you to personally get to know your customers and build stronger relationships.
  • Sell more: About 95% of all purchases are still completed offline. This is your opportunity to take advantage of the retail channel.
  • Build awareness: Consumers and the media love the excitement generated by pop-up shops. Build brand awareness by going offline.
  • It’s cheaper: Launching a pop-up shop is 80% cheaper than a traditional retail store.
  • Test new markets: Easily enter a new market and launch new products.

So, who can start pop-up shop?

The short answer is everyone. Big-name brands, including eBay, Target, JCPenney, and Gap, have tested hosting pop-up products in their stores. At the same time, local artists, makers and fashion designers have also become increasingly popular in the pop-up scene. Even mobile trucks for food, designer fashion and vintage housewares have been spotted around cities like New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.


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