Are you planning on opening a tobacco store? Or are you already managing a smoke shop?

Tobacco retailers face unique challenges that retail businesses in other industries never have to think about.

Unlike stores in other retail industries, tobacco retailers may partner with major tobacco manufacturers to offer promotional deals to the end customer. In order for participating retailers to be compensated, they must meticulously account for every promotional item they sell. All the while, federal, state, and even local laws affect each sale that a tobacco retailer processes. Tracking tobacco inventory is as complex as it gets. What does all of this mean?

It means that the last thing you need is a generic Point-of-Sale system that lacks critical tobacco industry features.   

Whether you're about to open a tobacco shop or you're already managing one, you need a POS system that's designed to handle your specific needs. There are 5 features your POS system must have in order to best support your tobacco business.   

MUST HAVE #1:

INVENTORY MANAGEMENT WITH ECOMMERCE INTEGRATION

If humankind learned anything over the course of the past year, it's that when the "unexpected" strikes, online businesses thrive but brick-and-mortar retail locations barely survive. COVID-19 precipitated worldwide retail shutdowns. The businesses that acted fast and launched eCommerce stores to keep their sales going were the ones that fared the best.

Just as every retail location requires a Point-of-Sale system to process sales, every eCommerce site needs a POS as well. For tobacco retailers, remaining in compliance while selling tobacco products online is a science. And for retailers who have to manage both a physical location and an eCommerce store, tracking inventory in real-time can be extremely difficult.

Luckily, there are Point-of-Sale systems on the market today that include comprehensive eCommerce integration to help tobacco retailers accurately manage their inventory both in-store and online. Definitely look for this must have feature prior to investing in a new POS solution!      

MUST HAVE #2:

CUSTOMER LOYALTY & MARKETING CAPABILITIES

The best POS solutions out there include CRM, customer loyalty, and digital marketing capabilities, so if your Point-of-Sale system doesn't currently have these important marketing features, it's time for an upgrade. In today's competitive world, marketing is everything. Your tobacco store's POS can be the central "hub" for all of your customer data collection and digital marketing campaigns. Does your POS offer CRM technology?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. This technology digitally tracks, records, and organizes all of your business's interactions with customers. Within the software, CRM enables you to segment your customers into groups based on their individual shopping preferences. When you launch promotional campaigns, your customized offers will resonate with customers, leading to an increase in sales.

A Point-of-Sale system might have CRM software that includes a customer loyalty rewards program to act as the "face" of the CRM tool. If not, you could install a separate loyalty program into your POS, so long as it's compatible. Ideally, however, you want to invest in a POS system that was built for tobacco retailers and includes CRM software as well as a pre-built loyalty program. 

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MUST HAVE #3:

CUSTOM BARCODE SCANNERS

As a tobacco store retailer, whether you sell goods in-store or online, you offer a very wide range of products, which means your POS needs to be able to handle complex inventory. We already touched upon the importance of accurately tracking inventory in real-time across locations and online, but we didn't delve into the importance of investing in custom barcode scanners for your in-store POS system.

Why do tobacco retailers need custom barcode scanners? It's all about simplifying the checkout process so that your cashiers can focus on upselling, cross selling, and personally interacting with customers to provide the best in-store experience possible. Generally speaking, tobacco retailers use laser barcode scanners or 2D scanners at the POS. In recent years, technology has evolved to meet customers' expectations, which is why there are now more 2D barcode scanners on the market today.

Whether the POS system that you're considering investing in comes with laser or 2D scanners, the most important feature to look for in a barcode scanner is the ability to create custom barcodes. This way, when you want to sell handcrafted cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products that customers can't find anywhere else, you will be able to label them with UPCs yourself and track them as easily as any traditionally manufactured product.

MUST HAVE #4:

BIOMETRIC SECURITY & PERMISSIONS CONFIGURATION

Biometric security refers to technologies that digitally scan, read, and verify the identity of whoever the technology is authenticating. When biometric authentication scanners are built into POS hardware, an employee must go through a process of identity verification before they can use the POS register. Simply put, when biometric security technologies are integrated into your POS, your employees will have to place their finger on a biometric scanner and allow the device to read their fingerprints and verify their identity as part of the logging-in process.

This security measure disincentivizes employee theft. Employees who know their POS transactions are being tracked and monitored think twice before running fraudulent discounts and stealing outright. Biometric security also prevents employees from attempting to "pad" their timecards with phony minutes and hours to cheat their way to larger paychecks. Permission controlled buttons, easy age verification capabilities, and a built-in time clock with a biometric fingerprint scanner are all necessary features when it comes to preventing theft at your smoke shop.

For the best biometric security and customizable permission controlled interface, we strongly suggest FTx POS. When you choose our tobacco retailer POS system, you're getting so much more than the tobacco industry's leading Point-of-Sale system for biometric security. You're also getting the ability to make on-the-fly price or buydown changes using a live data flow that shows spot trends. You can also queue item transfers between your tobacco store locations and instantly access your store's inventory and transactions from anywhere, all at the touch of your fingertips!

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MUST HAVE #5:

TOBACCO MANUFACTURER INCENTIVE REPORTING CAPABILITIES

If you work in the tobacco industry, you're familiar with generating and submitting retail scan data reports to applicable manufacturers, such as Altria / UST, RJ Reynolds, and ITG. Manufacturer sales representatives typically reach out to retailers like you to make tobacco store owners aware of these data submission programs so that retailers can accept and participate in offering specialized discounts to their customers.

When participating in these kinds of manufacturer incentive programs, you want to get paid on time, which means that you must submit accurate sales data reports to the manufacturer.

Let's take a look…

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These retail scan data programs are set up by major tobacco industry manufacturers as a way for you to electronically report your sales, discounts, buydowns, coupons, and other transaction-level data exchanges for monetary compensation. The three major manufacturers that support the scan data programs are RJ Reynolds, ITG, and Altria, which we mentioned before.

Every discount and buydown that participating retailers like you offer to your customers must then be reconciled and organized into a report, which is submitted to the tobacco manufacturer. Once the report is processed by the manufacturer, the monetary incentives due to the retailer are funded back at the end of the quarter.

The proper setup, configuration, and submission of these reports are extremely important, because manufacturers will reject the submission and refuse to rebate you if proper data is not included!

This is the reason why we are including "tobacco manufacturer incentive reporting capabilities" as one of the critical POS features you must have at your tobacco store!

If your retail POS lacks the necessary software technology to collect this data, leaving you no choice but to manually collect data yourself, then you're running a great risk of accidentally including inaccurate information. Any discrepancy in your reports will lead to delays in payouts.

Avoid discrepancies, ensure accuracy, and submit flawless retail scan data incentive reports that are accepted immediately and processed quickly at RJ Reynolds, ITG, and Altria, so that you get compensated without delay! FTx POS for Tobacco Stores comes with manufacturer incentive program reporting features that cover all of the major tobacco report requirements, including special changes that have occurred at Altria.

Curious about what has changed at Altria? Keep reading....

What has changed in Altria's Scan Data Report requirements?

As we explained, a scan data report is a way for you, as a tobacco retailer, to electronically submit your sales information to major tobacco manufacturers in exchange for monetary compensation.

What data is actually required within your reporting to ensure that Altria compensates you for all the manufacturer "deals-and-discounted" items you sold at your store?

First, the foundational data requirements have remained the same. This includes the Management Account Number and other standard information. In addition, you will now need to include ON / Loyalty UPC—also referred to as "Helix"—Altria Loyalty Codes, and customer ID information for security purposes.

The required customer ID information can be pulled from the customer IDs that you scan into your POS during the checkout process—either a driver's license or state issued non-driver's ID. This security measure protects both retailers and manufacturers because it ensures that sales staff does not sell tobacco products to under-aged customers.

By now you're probably thinking that you definitely don't want to have to collect that kind of information manually! We agree! Which is why you need FTx POS for Tobacco Retailers. Our software solutions handle every aspect of scan data incentive reporting!

Thanks to FTx POS reporting, this entire process has been streamlined to eliminate errors. You no longer have to manually create these reports, which greatly diminishes the risk of your report submission becoming rejected by the manufacturer due to faulty data. FTx POS data scan reporting is user-friendly, which frees retailers from having to pay a third party to compile and submit their data in order to ensure timely, accurate reimbursement from major tobacco manufacturers, like Altria.

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How easy is using FTx POS to generate accurate scan data reports?

After POS set up, which includes launching the FTx Director in the Control Center, with just a click of a button you can generate the previous week's data and submit accurate reporting to Altria, or any major tobacco manufacturer, for efficient, timely reimbursement of all those manufacturer deals your customers took advantage of at your tobacco store.

FTx POS simplifies the entire process. You only have to click "Retail Scan Data Incentive Report" within the Director tab of the Control Center. We won't go into a step-by-step explanation right now, but if you're interested in watching a demonstration of how easy FTx POS makes the entire reporting process, then be sure to check out our ten-minute video, What has changed in Altria Scan Data Reports?

In the video, we show you a simplistic drop-down menu where you can select one of the three major tobacco manufacturers we mentioned. Once you've made a selection, you can then check the relevant data boxes that you'd like to include in the report you submit to the manufacturer, such as Altria.

For more detailed information regarding Altria's new updates and how FTx POS for Tobacco Stores fulfills all critical reporting requirements retailers need for Altria and other manufacturers, please watch our webinar here.

FTx POS is the best solution on the market today for tobacco retailers that need accurate reporting features in order to submit manufacturer incentive program data on time. Our tobacco store POS system provides a full suite of retail solutions and comes with live technical support 24 / 7. To learn more about FTx or to speak with a FTx POS specialist, contact us today.