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Oct 1, 2011
Erply, an Estonian company, has created an innovative ecommerce solution for big box retailers as well as medium and small retailers. "Our background is in building RP [retail payment] systems for enterprise level businesses," says Robert Jacob, Erply's U.S. vice president of sales. "In 2009 we decided to develop an out-of-the-box solution. It just made sense that we should take the tools we customized for the big guys and revamp them for the small to mid-sized retailers."
Using an app for the iPad, Erply's ecommerce solution transforms the tablet computer into a cash register. An additional $50 card swiper that fits on the side of the tablet allows the retailer to use the iPad to take credit card sales. While competing with companies such as Square and Verifone, Erply's solution offers significant advantages over other POS systems on the market.
Erply's system runs off an Internet "cloud," or a collection of remote servers, not requiring the retailer to have an investment in hardware. "There's no need for a server in the back," Jacob says, explaining that Erply hosts the back end systems. "No information is stored on the register," he adds. "If the iPad or cash register goes down, everything is being pushed to the cloud, so you can pop up a browser on a computer and keep going." The second system advantage is the robust design, which includes a complete ERP solution for big retailers. "We have a powerful suite of tools that is much deeper than the point of sale. In the web-based space, there are not many providers who are taking it to that level," Jacob notes. "Our back end is much more complex, including inventory management, customer databases, and reports that are all combined into one and hosted in the cloud," he adds.
The essential software for the point of sale runs independently of the cloud, another competitive advantage. If the web goes down, the application still functions as an independent sales terminal. "Most of the competition keeps their solutions 100 percent Internet-based, so your registers are subject to web failure," says Jacob. "However, if the Internet is sluggish or goes down, our point of sale system remains functional. "Our differentiation point is that we have an off-line, local client that communicates with the cloud, allowing the registers to function independently," says Jacob. "This client communicates with the cloud. It pulls data down upon first signing in, and then data is pushed back up at regular intervals set by the retailer, as short an interval as once every ten minutes." he says. The retailers set their iPads or cash registers to check in with the cloud every so often. During a connectivity failure, the registers work fine, including switching to a backup phone line for credit card validation.
Credit card handling is a strong point for Erply as well. The application encrypts the card info so that neither the retailer nor the Erply app sees the data. Instead, it is sent to a credit card transaction company. "Within the Erply application, all you are doing is saying that you are paying by card, and what kind of card it is," says Jacob. "No information is stored. No credit card data touches Erply." As an added bonus, credit card companies like the added layer of security and charge less per transaction. Erply retailers typically pay 1.9 percent for each credit card transaction as a processing fee, compared with an industry standard of 2.7 percent.
Another highlight, is that the company has very liberal terms for new customers. "It's a low barrier for entry, so an independent retailer can start with just a store or two," says Jacob. "The low overhead means it costs nothing to start up, and all accounts have a 30-day free trial period. During that 30-day period, retailers have full access to our help desk. It allows importing of both inventory and customers. The idea is that we get the customers in at no risk." The company works with customers to make custom plans, based on what they need, and they can cancel with just one or two days notice.
Last but not least, Erply offers incredible reporting tools that can be accessed online from any location. "A store owner can log online at a store or in their living room and see all the reports, such as total sales per day for each location, top selling products, top selling workers, and more," says Jacob. "The system has very powerful inventory management reporting tools, so retailers can really analyze what is going on and make smart decisions. They grow and then we grow."
Erply is a growing company, with an award from Seedcamp, an organization that fosters entrepreneurs in Europe. "We received $2.4 million in our first round of funding, and since then we have expanded into many different markets," says Jacob. The iPad credit card reader just came out in August. "We had a few articles out recently, so we're getting some PR too," he says modestly, referring to articles in Forbes, GigaOm, and ZD Net, among others.
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