Selling your products at markets, fairs, and festivals is a great way to get your online business into the offline world.
Once you’ve chosen the perfect sales event, and got your market booth game on lock, you’re ready for IRL retail sales, right? Wrong. To make your (and your customers’) offline sales experience run as smoothly as possible, it’s important to remember all of the odds and ends you’ll need to actually track your sales. How will your customer pay in real life? Will you accept credit and debit cards? Are your products barcoded and do you have your SKUs straight?
Depending on what payment methods you’re accepting, and how you track your inventory, you may have different hardware needs for selling your products. So, before getting started selecting hardware for your booth or table, it’s important to figure out your needs.
The Tech-Free Approach
If you’re just testing out your first couple of markets, you might lean toward the simplest and least costly option. So, if your goal is to keep things as simple as possible for your first go around, you might choose the bare-bones approach of pen to paper.
While this is an old-fashioned method of keeping track of sales, it’s also a tried-and-true method that’s cost-effective and allows you to get started right away. In this case, there are a few absolute essentials for sales:
- Pens: Whether you go with a bare-bones approach, or something more advanced, having plenty of writing utensils on hand is always a good idea.
- Carbon copy receipts: This is the bare minimum way to keep track of your sales and issue receipts to your customers. It’s seriously low tech, but in a pinch, it will get the job done.
- Calculator: You can pick up a simple calculator from a dollar store. Sure, you could use the calculator on your phone, but you don’t want to drain the battery doing simple calculations if you don’t have to.
- Cash box: Keeping your cash payments organized, and having change on hand for customers, is far easier with a cash box. Make sure to stock your cash box with plenty of $5 bills and change so that you don’t run out throughout the day. A cash box with a lock also offers a secure place to keep money and receipts.
You’ll also want a way to track your overall inventory, which on paper, might simply be crossing off stock as it’s sold.
Even if you decide to go with a more complex system, having these items on hand can be useful in a pinch. For instance, if the power or Internet goes down, having pen and paper on hand will allow you to keep making sales, regardless of any tech glitches.
If you’re going the cash-only route, keep in mind that while you’re not spending that extra 3%+ for a customer to use a card, you might also have fewer customers. More and more, people are leaving cash behind and relying on cards, and depending on what you’re selling, potential customers might be unwilling to spend the extra time and money to take cash out from an ATM.
Accepting Non-Cash Payments
To broaden your customer base, you can also accept credit and debit cards.
In this case, you can take the low-tech approach, but you’ll need to add a few key items:
- Point-of-ale system: A point-of-sale system (POS) offers the ability to integrate your online and offline sales in one place. The best POS system for small business and selling on the go will also allow you to track your sales, manage your inventory, and create detailed reports to help you to clearly see any trends. And a mobile point of sale like Shopify POS can help you sell from anywhere.
- Card reader: In order to accept tap, swipe, or chip card payments, you’ll need a card reader. Fortunately, many popular POS systems offer basic card readers at a low cost. The most basic system is a card swiper that plugs into the audio-jack of a smartphone or tablet. There are also Bluetooth hardware options, including Shopify’s Chip and Swipe Reader. (Need more info? Learn more about how card readers work).
- Payment terminal: While many card readers plug into the audio-jack on your smartphone or tablet, some merchants prefer an external payment terminal like this Moneris card reader. Don’t forget to download the right POS software to get your system up and running prior to your sales event.
If you already use Shopify for online sales, Shopify POS seamlessly integrates with your online shop and inventory. Not only will it allow you to take payment via credit and debit cards, but it will also integrate with your already existing inventory system.
To choose the POS that’s right for you, it’s important to consider issues like cost, ease of use, and integration with your business, to name a few factors.
Full Retail Package
Once you’ve done a few markets or fairs, or if you’re thinking of hosting your first pop-up shop, it might be time to invest in the full retail setup when it comes to hardware.
You can certainly get by without some of the items on this list, but as you grow your business, it might be worth investing in hardware that streamlines your sales process and makes tracking payments and stock simple. Having a full system in place will also help to easily streamline the whole sales process if you’re working with multiple staff members.
Here are a few additional pieces of hardware and tools to consider for your more mature retail business:
- Receipt printer: While you can definitely email receipts to customers, many people still prefer printed receipts. This can also speed up the sales process if you don’t want to have to wait for customers to enter their email addresses once the sale is complete.
- Receipt paper: Obviously receipts won’t print without the proper paper. Always make sure to bring a few extra rolls along in case you run low.
- Tablet: When you’re starting out, using your smartphone as a payment terminal can be a great solution. But the larger screen size of a tablet can make the sales process easier to navigate for both yourself and your customer. Some of the more complex card readers work better with a tablet versus a smartphone. Check with your POS provider to find out which tablet will work best with your system.
- Tablet stand: Especially if you have multiple salespeople at your table or booth, using a smartphone as your sales platform just might not cut it. A tablet has a larger screen, and a tablet stand frees up both your hands to process transactions. Using a tablet stand will also help to protect your tablet from physical damage, theft, and being misplaced.
- Barcode printer and scanner: For the ultimate inventory tracking experience, you might want to consider investing in a barcode printer and scanner. Especially if you’re going through a high volume of product with items that have similar packaging, barcodes can help to ensure that you’re keeping your inventory in order. Having barcodes on all your products and a scanner to quickly ring up items also helps streamline your checkout process, which keeps queues under control,
Finding the Right Equipment for Sales Events
And there you have it folks — everything that you need to keep your offline sales running smoothly when you’re on the go.
While having all of the items listed in this post will help to keep your shop running smoothly, there’s no need to purchase every item right away. Especially if you’re starting off at some smaller markets or fairs, start with the basics, and see what works best for you before upgrading.
On the other hand, if you’re gearing up for a larger fair where you’re expecting a high volume of traffic, consider the amount of time you’ll save (and additional customers you’ll be able to serve) with every time-saving measure that you put in place.
What hardware and tools do you use to sell at markets, fairs, and festivals? What advice can you offer to offline sales newbies? Share your thoughts in the comments below.