Today, I went to Lee’s Bakery for bánh mì sandwiches for lunch.  It was crazy good.  You should go get yourself the bbq pork bánh mì   They also have chicken and other meats if that’s your deal.  

Lee's Bakery

I was standing in line waiting to pay, and I was just watching the cashier ring people up, and watching the servers take orders scribbling on their little pads, frantically going back and forth between the tables and the kitchen.  I was thinking about how technology has invaded so many parts of our lives where in so many other shops, you see business starting to adopt tablet-oriented point-of-sale (POS) systems.  In all the English as a Secondary Language businesses (I’m dubbing them “E2L”), why is the rate of adoption so much lower compared to their English-dominant counterparts?

Some general thoughts:

  • POS systems such as those mobilized by Square or Stripe and apps like Shopkeep help small businesses by eliminating much of the hassles of the earlier cash registers including credit card processing, financial/ bank integration, transaction histories (taxes), etc.
  • Many of the apps today that we see are catered to “us” — English-dominant businesses.  However, business is a common language. Profits and losses are largely the same.  The same pains of payment processing, training, etc. are ubiquitous business pains no matter the language.  So you would figure (I do anyways) that you could potentially port over some of the great concepts that technology brings to small business from English-dominant businesses to E2Ls.
  • Why aren’t E2Ls adopting?  I liken this to how prevalent technology, apps, etc. are exploding here in the U.S., but not in some of the smaller countries.  I have a friend who is porting successful business ideas from America and adapting to his native country with great effect.  Perhaps what’s happening is that in the end, these E2Ls don’t have the apps catered to them like “we” do — English-dominant speakers.
  • One of the most prevalent gaps between any two people is communication.  If I think about businesses and the POS system apps today, they’re all in English.  Step into some of the E2Ls on Buford Highway, for example, servers, bus boys, owners… they don’t speak English.  If they’re to adopt a technology, they’re not going to adopt something in a different language.
  • So perhaps one of the keys and ways to expand and empower these E2Ls is supporting them with multiple language packs.  Couple these new apps with easy to use interfaces, and perhaps even some language support with someone like TripLingo, and you could, potentially, have a new POS that breaks barriers.
  • E2Ls are supported like mafias in that in these mini-pockets of varying cultures, word-of-mouth is that much more profound.  I’m Chinese, if you didn’t already know.  I know that my parents love to hire Chinese contractors.  My Greek friends love to help and buy from Greek vendors.  My friend’s Jamaican parents love to support the local Jamaican contingent.  So in the end, perhaps if you build something that really caters to a culture, a language, that because E2L owners support each other that they could be more apt to also adopt the technology.
I don’t know these E2Ls very well, and these thoughts are largely off the cuff.  However, I do believe there’s some real opportunities here to fill the void that is leaving behind the rest of the countries around the world, and in many ways, the mini-countries in our very backyards.  Similar to speeches, you have to know your audience and adapt your speech to the listeners.  In the case of E2Ls, no one is really speaking their technology language.  My grandparents didn’t grow up with a lot of technology, but by setting up their new laptops with simple things like language packs and streamlining the computers, they can easily call me on Skype at 2AM.  

Like I said, I’m not a pro at this.  It’s just a casual observation that I’d love to hear some feedback on.  The same hurdles for new tech adoption remain, but currently apps won’t help these E2Ls adopt at all.  Of course, not everything needs another layer of technology and there is the issue of just adding another complexity to selling — not just new tech, but potentially a language/ cultural barrier, too.

So what are your thoughts?  How would you market a POS system or even new technology to these E2Ls?
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