Photo - A Chatime Malaysia outlet using the new POS system.
Lifestyle tea chain Chatime Malaysia has adopted Microsoft solutions - Windows 8 and Microsoft Azure - to better understand its customer base, as well as strengthen its business operations.
Bryan Loo, managing director of Loob Holding, the license owner of Chatime Malaysia, said the company had been struggling with an old point-of-sale (POS) system, which could no longer fulfil vital requirements that the team needed in order to drive their business forward.
Loo said that the company has also been rapidly growing and now employed more than 800 trained tearistas (tea equivalent to baristas), across 150 outlets, offering up to 80 choices of beverages daily. "Keeping pace with our growing business and customer base was a growing challenge for us. In order to serve a beverage liked by all, we use only high quality tea leaves and ingredients to serve close to four million Chatime in Malaysia drinks a month."
"Our expanding business meant that we were in need of a system that was capable of more than just tabulating sales numbers," he said. "We believed that we needed to better understand customer behaviour better - essentially, what makes them tick, and what doesn't - and ultimately, this would be translated into business insights that we could use to consistently serve quality drinks."
Loo explained that the company used an old "traditional POS system in each store that was connected to a main server back at the headquarters, which needed to be manually updated on a daily basis - a time-consuming task which resulted in delayed results. As the system operated in an almost standalone basis, the company found itself wasting valuable time in communicating changes to the POS system and monitoring its business activities in this way."
"A lot of thought was put in researching and deciding on the solution that best fits our needs. Given the size of our business, we wanted a solution that was efficient, that didn't consume time and resources, and more importantly - it had to be one that was familiar and cost-effective," he said.
Loo said the company's research and feedback from various vendors, led to the option of using Microsoft technology. In 2014, Chatime turned to WebBytes to help design a new Cloud-based POS system that runs on Windows 8 and the Microsoft Azure platform, that would address the company's needs.
Chatime began deployment in April 2014, which saw the company replacing its traditional POS systems with Windows 8, specifically tailored for a growing SMB such as Chatime, whose main focus was on mobility, ease-of-use, and flexible access to data insights.
He said to improve mobility, the company used devices powered by Windows 8, which they could easily bring along to different locations based on business needs. Hosted on Azure, the centralised POS system was fully connected to a Cloud infrastructure, allowing Chatime to access transaction data all of its outlets, "live - literally, anytime, anywhere - and extract it in a suitable format that would help them translate the numbers and data into a workable report."
A company statement added that "by storing all transaction data on the Cloud, Chatime effectively minimised the risk of data loss due to hardware failure."
The new POS system was also capable of providing Chatime with real-time customer purchasing information, which the company uses to gain insights - such as analysing sales per customer, the top items sold, what type of toppings customers enjoyed, in addition to the top sellable drinks - allowing them to better manage their inventory and resources. The company has since made changes to their menu to reflect real-time needs and preferences of Malaysians for their much-loved bubble tea.
According to Howard Woon, Technology & Operations Excellence manager at Loob Holding L, the new system has helped the company streamline its operations. "With the new cloud-based POS solution, we were able to link stores nationwide with our central office to communicate any new changes to our offerings or promotions quicker than ever before. As the data from every transaction made in store is automatically stored and synchronized, we were able to gain instant business insights, real-time. In fact, the data representation was so efficient we were able to pull up very specific information from the system, from top selling drinks and the most popular toppings, down to peak sales times."
Woon said the company intended to use the mobility advantage into its kiosks and during events, "We are now able to operate our POS system entirely on a Windows 8 device, giving us the flexibility to move our operations to other locations, particularly when it comes to setting up one-off kiosk locations during specific campaigns or events. For the month of Ramadhan last year, we have actually tested the system at some of our kiosks at Ramadhan bazaars around the KL city centre. We simply needed to hook it up to a running Internet connection, and we were ready for business."
Chatime Malaysia's Loo said the company was considering additional Microsoft Surface tablets that will run on Windows 10 to meet their business needs in new, modern ways - eliminating their reliance on multiple devices. The plan will largely improve Chatime's out-of-store operating capability to enable the company expand its number of temporary kiosks in the future, ultimately fulfilling its brand promise and commitment to continue to serve the best quality beverages and cultivate a modern tea culture in Malaysia.
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