New technologies that can help support independent retailers’ businesses abound. You’ve no doubt heard the buzz about social media, mobile POS, data analytics and The Cloud, but maybe you’ve wondered how you can incorporate some or all of these into your business plan, and considering a significant investment in time and/or money, whether or not you should. Here is a brief overview of four technologies you might want to consider adding to your toolbox.
1) Social media. Social media is an inexpensive way to reach and interact with customers and to broaden your reach. Are your customers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or The Fancy? Launch social media pages and maintain them diligently. Some conversations, like those which involve photos, videos and contests, are extremely useful in engaging customers and are well suited to social media platforms. Providing information that will benefit customers, rather than self-promotional posts, will win followers’ hearts. By coordinating your website with your social media efforts, you become another step closer to establishing your brand. Purchase your domain name or use a blog and build your site.
2) Mobile POS. Mobile POS makes your life easier by making your customers’ lives easier. A mobile payment platform that allows customers to make a purchase in seconds and to charge the transaction to their mobile bill or prepaid balance has the potential to significantly improve both the customer experience and retailer revenues. In an era when almost everyone has a mobile device, mobile payment solutions that enable carrier billing and prepaid balance deductions can be an integral part of a company’s expansion strategy. Many retailers invest considerable time and effort into making shopping easy for customers, but unless they also make paying fast, safe and simple, it may be difficult for retailers to achieve their full sales potential.
3) Analytics. Mining customer data is critical, and there are a number of straightforward technology platforms to help do that in multiple ways, enabling you to build customer loyalty. Once in place, each customer profile tells its own story by providing a unique history of past purchases, buying habits and even decision trees, which can be used to identify motivations and predict future spending. Combined with the ideal offer and personalized message, across every channel customers can use (especially online and mobile), the opportunities to increase engagement, drive behavior, grow revenues and build brand allegiance are endless. As first steps, retailers need to assess their existing loyalty program and technology platform, and decide whether they have the capabilities to mine and leverage customer data. This may require upgrading to the right technology platform. In addition, retailers must implement the metrics and resources necessary to monitor and gauge effectiveness so that programs can be refined as needed.
4) The Cloud. Using Internet based applications to run your business rather than locating those applications on your servers or hard drives can give you powerful functionality, without the headaches. You can move customer contact information, email marketing, document storage and more to The Cloud, and you can access the information from anywhere. Cloud based applications give you the freedom to spend more of your time on your business and less on your infrastructure.
Social media, mobile POS, analytics and the Cloud are technologies that can help you expand your business. Some, like social media, make demands on your creativity and time, with little outlay, and others require little time but may require more capital. It’s important for independent retailers to weigh all aspects of these new technologies to determine which strategies will work best for their businesses.