By Susan Payton
When it comes to growing a retail business, everyone can use a little help. Fortunately, there are numerous apps, software programs and tools that can help merchants manage everything from inventory to staff. Below are five must-have tech tools for retailers.
1. Point-of-sale software
Gone are the days of writing down the price of an item on a paper receipt and adding up a customer’s total with a calculator. Now, POS software makes it easy to total a purchase and accept a customer’s payment, as well as collect that all-important customer data. POS offers many choices. Cloud based point-of-sale systems provide several appealing features for smaller retailers, including lower startup costs and less hardware needed. Often just an iPad will suffice.
Your POS software should:
- Be easy to scale as you add more stock.
- Provide 24-hour customer support.
- Integrate with your merchant processing platform.
2. Inventory management software
If you are constantly battling overstock or running out of inventory, you know the headache, not to mention financial strain, it can cause. With the right software, you can better align your inventory needs with what is actually on your shelves. Barcodes not only help you manage inventory more smartly, but also make it faster for your sales staff to complete a transaction, so you save time and make for customers happier as well.
Look for inventory control software that:
- Integrates with your point-of-sale system.
- Is easy to teach employees how to use.
- Alerts you when stock is nearly out.
3. Employee scheduling software
If you are constantly pulling your hair out trying to juggle multiple employees’ schedule requests, you can appreciate how technology might alleviate your pain. Throw out that paper schedule and start using your computer or even your mobile device to quickly see which employees are available to work a given shift. You can also email or text your staff their schedules so they do not eat up your time by calling to get it.
With employee scheduling software you:
- Get better visibility into who can work when.
- Can set up recurring shifts.
- Improve communication with your staff.
4. Email marketing software
If you are like 68 percent of businesses, email is a huge factor in getting customers back into your store. Email is one of the easiest tools to use, if you have the right platform. You no longer have to be a tech head to send a monthly newsletter or email promotions. Many email marketing programs, like MailChimp, are free or very low cost, and target smaller businesses. If you are using Customer Relationship Management to keep customer profiles on hand, you may already have email marketing capabilities built into it.
The best types of emails you can send to encourage repeat business include:
- A post-purchase offer for a discount on the next purchase.
- Birthday or customer anniversary messages.
- Promotions that target products they have bought in the past.
5. Mobile app
If you have not considered having a mobile app for your retail business, you should. More than half of retailers plan to invest in mobile and other areas this year, and you do not want to be left behind.
For your customers, mobile apps can:
- Help them find your store.
- Alert them when special discounts are available.
- Encourage them to check in from your store.
You do not have to be a big box retailer to get in the mobile app game. There are app designing sites like AppFactory that allow smaller businesses to design their own apps easily.
Do not let 2014 be another year you let technology fly past you. These tools are a great place to dip your toes into the tech pool, and are your ticket to increasing sales.