A few months ago our team was handed a challenging problem: how to sell 30,000 books over two weekends to support The Story sermon series at CCV. To make it harder we at CCV have a passionate hatred dislike of lines. Defining the problem set we came up with the following attributes of a successful solution:
- We knew that 50-60% of the transactions would require credit cards.
- We have a total of 5 different titles to sell (leather bound, hardcover, teen edition, kids edition, children’s picture book and a early children’s picture book.)
- The solution must be easy for volunteers to use.
- The solution must be cost effective as we were selling the books for what they cost us (let’s just say they were priced amazingly low).
- The solution had to scale to allow for 35-40 credit card lines at a minimal cost.
- The solution had to be FAST!
After looking at several credit card solutions we determined we needed something that had a point-of-sale feature set. This would allow a volunteer to punch in a person’s ‘order’ (book types with quantities) and get a sub-total (no calculations required).
We looked at several iPad solutions but ended up using Squares Register app. The beauty of this solution was that it required very little cost to deploy. We asked that volunteers bring their iPads to use for the event. The card readers are free which was the single largest factor that made Square stand-out. All we needed to provide was printers for receipts (these could be shared 1 printer for 5-6 iPads as most people don’t require a receipt) and a WiFi network.
The only real challenge we found was sharing the printers. The printers themselves need to be on the same VLAN as the iPads. But… if there are several printers on the same VLAN it’s hard to know what printer to pick from the settings on the app as they all have the model as the name. Our new IT specialist Chris Upshir found a brilliant solution that used several old Linksys WRT54g’s to provide a specific SSID for each printer. So if a volunteer showed up at say the Pavilion selling point he/she could connect to the SSID ‘Pavilion Printer 1’ and know where to expect their receipts.
Square’s customer service was great. We started communicating with them about the project several weeks ahead of time. After leaning about the size of the event they agreed to send us 40 card readers (something that they said didn’t not happen often). I also had some worries if their solution would work for such a large event. I was able to speak to several people in the company and they were able to walk us through some tips on making the event a success.
Our team spent a lot of time thinking through the details on this project. We provided our volunteers with advanced training on how the POS would work so when they showed up they knew more or less what to do. Our team also created order sheets that could be filled out in the service so by the time someone was in line they knew exactly what they wanted.
The result was a huge success. As you would expect the sales come in waves with 95% of the sales coming immediately after the end of a service. With our 40 credit card stations we were able to process through the lines in 9-11 mins. Many of our attendees made comments about how quickly the lines moved. I met two accounting professors from local colleges and they were amazed at the efficiency of the lines. One wanted to know if we had video of the event that he could show his students.
After the first weekend we have sold over 24,000 books, 11,500 of which were sold using credit cards with 2500 unique transactions (think swipes). Doing some rough math that comes out to about 35 transactions a minute during our peak times.
While we still have another huge weekend ahead of us, I would highly recommend this solution to other churches who need to sell a large number of resources in a limited amount of time. Not only is it cost effective, but it also scales to reduce lines.