Where do the steppe clouds begin, or the accounting of a store in Kulund

What do residents of the capital region represent when they say “the nature of the Altai Territory”? Most probably think of high mountains, vast forests and completely unearthly landscapes.
However, Altai is far from being only mountains. The relief is replaced by steppes, ribbon forests and salt lakes. The Kulundinskaya Plain, located in the south of Western Siberia, between the Ob and Irtysh rivers, is far from the resort that many are accustomed to seeing. Continental climate, sudden changes in temperature, arid summers and cold winters. The role of the recreation area here is played by salt lakes, which have become one of the symbols of the region.

Sunset on the lake

Although it looks like the outskirts of the world, here, on the border with Kazakhstan, there is a stable 3G connection and active people who love their land and want to develop it.
In 1995, my wife and I founded our first household goods store in Kulund. Over time, the network has grown a bit, covering neighboring villages.
It is worth explaining what a store in Siberia is. There is practically no industry here, and the distances are enormous. Logistics under such conditions becomes a non-trivial task, especially with a nomenclature of 20K items.

General view of the store

The first major retail in Kulunda entered only in 2008, but immediately changed the local ecosystem. New supermarkets offered discount cards to replace discount cards and worked on modern cash register software.
Faced with an outflow of customers at around 20% for six months, we conducted a simple survey and found out that the bonus loyalty program is a decisive factor for our dear customers. And we, in turn, worked “the old fashioned way” using a primitive cash register.
In addition, cash accounting, logistics and inventory management went through regular Excel. Naturally, it was difficult to scale and to control business processes in general.

And we tried to change everything

It was decided to switch to electronic accounting. Our first program was 1C. The enterprise, with settings from a local programmer (I also add that in Kulund it provides services exactly 1 1C programmer). We honestly tried to deal with all this, transplanted cashiers from calculators to monitors, and for a while we turned a blind eye to malfunctions in the program.
Most of all, the stability of the program upset: to eliminate medium and even small bugs, we had to install update after update, and each update is a load of the entire system. Plus, our programmer was not able to make a working bonus program, and partly for the sake of this, everything was started.

Fly into the clouds

A little later, I read about cloud technologies in retail, which not only in the West but also in Russia have already found their fans. Disappointed with the customizable and personalized 1C, I wanted to try a service where everything is simple and ready to work.
Initially, three services were selected for further testing (My Warehouse, Big Bird and Simple Business). But not one of them was able to provide the functionality that we needed:
1. Accounting for product balances
2. Warehousing and inventory
3. Retail sales and returns
4. Money and cash discipline
5. Work with weighted goods (for the future)
6 Marketing programs (coupons, gift certificates)
7. Loyalty program with bonuses
I highlighted those points that, in my opinion, were important, but to one extent or another were not implemented in the described companies. As I said, for us one of the incentives for automation was the arrival of network retailers in the region and the need to introduce a bonus program.

View inside the store

A slight lyrical digression. Our survey showed that customers choose the bonus loyalty program consciously, ignoring discount offers. This seems paradoxical, but customers want to accumulate bonus points, even despite the fact that the prices in network markets are much higher than ours.
Therefore, I had to continue the search for a cloud service with support for bonus programs. As a result, the choice was made in favor of workabox (it seems that I read about this little-known project in one of the forums). This is a similar solution, only with marketing support.


The first serious difficulty in launching the bonus program was the need for a permanent Internet connection. Workabox cash desk supports offline mode, but scoring and paying for them requires an Internet connection. The solution was found in the use of 3G-WiFi routers - I can write a separate article about this, after all, the progress in the telecommunications industry is amazing. Previously, high-speed Internet in the field was something on the brink of science fiction.
The second obstacle was the need to re-issue customer cards (we used to have simple discount cards, and the discount was calculated manually at the checkout). Nevertheless, updating the design of the cards along with the new terms of the program were received positively by customers.
In general, the setup process took about two weeks. I practically figured out everything on my own; technical support helped me figure out minor technical problems. Self-management of marketing programs is so facilitated that it simply pitied time trying to launch similar functionality in 1C.

Results and Conclusions

A small sales growth began a week later (!) After the launch of the bonus program. It is too early to draw conclusions, but I think that about 5% of our clients we will “play” by the end of the year. Perhaps we are luring the clientele of other local stores, or maybe returning our old customers.
As a result, I would like to wish good luck in business to our colleagues, and competitors too. And invite everyone to us in Altai. Paris may be closer geographically, but the homeland is all that we have!

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