By David Dorf on Apr 10, 2014
Steven Hunter, SVP and CIO at Stage Stores, said something at Oracle's recent Industry Connect conference that caught my attention. He was retelling a story about how Stage Stores customers, communicating through social media, said they wanted to make donations to charities at the point-of-sale. So Steve implemented round-up functionality that allowed donations to several nationwide charities. The program was good, but not great so they went back to social media to receive additional guidance. This time they swapped the nationwide charities for local charities and donations rose by 600%!
There are a few lessons to take away from this story. First, listening to customers is important and never easy. Social media can be a big help, but sometimes it still takes experimentation to find the right solution. Second, customers want to be charitable, but they want to be involved in the choice of charities and prefer local organizations that directly impact their communities.
Donating to worthy causes feels good, so why not associate that feeling with shopping? The donation jar by the register has been around forever, but it presents issues for security, counting/reconciling, and lack of audit trail. So retailer's have a couple requirements for taking donations at the register:
- Must never increase checkout time. Long lines are bad news for retailers.
- Must be integrated into the payment process, without requiring prompts from employees that are awkward for both parties.
- Must be electronic, so theft is minimized and there's no overhead for counting.
- Prefer to give customers a choice of charities, so they get a say in where their money goes.
- Prefer configurable charities, that are local and can be changed to align with events.
- Prefer to provide receipts for donations, so customers can collect them and take deductions at tax time.
Based on these reasonable requirements, ARTS developed an integration standard that aims to reduce the cost of integrating the POS to "charity processors," the third-parties that process donations for retailers. Greg Buzek, who is very active with his own charity, quickly calculated that 1.4 million POS registers were represented by the companies involved in creating the standard, Just imagine if each one of those collected $10 a day for a year. That would be $5 billion, significantly more than what's collected today, for those in need.
Using the standard, Oracle Retail has integrated its POS with Mini-Donations as a proof-of-concept to show what's possible. As more retailers follow Stage Stores' lead, vendors will incorporate the interface into their POS and e-commerce offerings, making it easier for retailers to adopt the practice. Then retailers can strengthen the bonds with their customers and community, and reap the benefits that follow.