Technologies That Will Give Your Small Retail Business a Boost

Here are 10 retail technologies that I believe will give retailers the biggest benefit and boost for success. If you’re not utilizing any of these technologies then you might want to check them out because you could be missing out on some big time saving and money making tools…

Here they are in order of importance (in my humble opinion, of course):

1) Point of Sale (POS) and Inventory Control Software
A good POS / Retail Management System can be a huge time saver and money maker for you. That’s partly why it’s number one…

In its simplest form, a good POS system will track all your sales so you can easily see how your business is doing (at any time). In other words, it replaces your cash register.

It’s difficult to decide where to even start talking about POS software because it can do SO many things for you. I could literally write a book about ALL the reasons why a POS system will help you — so I’ll quickly summarize in 5 key areas. A good POS system can…

* Dramatically improve your customer service.
* Simplify and improve inventory management.
* Improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
* Easily show where you’re making and losing money so you can make adjustments and increase profits.
* Save huge amounts of time by automating bookkeeping and countless other retail tasks for you.

Now keep in mind… not only will a POS system give you a huge benefit, but it can also be the MOST difficult technology to choose. There are many things to consider and you certainly don’t want to miss out on anything important because it’s very expensive to change POS systems. So take your time and do your research when you choose a POS system.

2) Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
One of the unwavering keys to building a successful retail business is to build relationships with your customers. Because of that, CRM software is a critical tool for the retail business. And not only will CRM help you improve your customer loyalty it will help you market to potential prospects and generate new business.

In a nutshell, CRM software allows you to track your customers, identify market segments and then easily communicate with them via email, telephone, direct mail and more.

Some POS systems actually include CRM capabilities and that’s what I recommend. This allows you to track all this information in one place and reduce time consuming double entry. In any case, CRM software can be purchased as a stand alone product or considered its own module in your POS software. So it deserves its own category.

3) Bar Code Scanning and UPC Codes
Simply put, bar code scanning allows you to check products at the point of sale much faster and more accurately than can be done on the keyboard. Not only will this save you time, but you should also consider the effect of your inventory…

Just think about the consequences of entering the wrong product number and throwing off your inventory. Your inventory is the lifeblood of your business and accuracy is vital. These errors can cause you to lose sales, increase inventory costs, and waste hours of time.

I should also point out that if your merchandise has UPC codes, you can easily scan those tags without the need to print your own bar codes. This can be a huge time saver.

4) Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
EDI technology allows you to send purchase orders (created in your POS software) to your supplier electronically via phone line or internet. Not only does this save a huge amount of time, but it can also reduce errors — so you don’t have to apologize to your customer because you special ordered the wrong item.

Just imagine, using your POS software to automatically generate purchase orders (based on order levels and sales history) and then sending your order to your supplier electronically. You can process your entire order without entering a single product number! How much time would that save you?

5) Retail Accounting Software
More and more retailers are doing their accounting in-house because they can quickly produce up-to-date financial statements and see how their business is doing at almost any time. This has become easier for the small business owner because of a variety of user friendly accounting applications.

Accounting software can be purchased stand alone or can be integrated with your POS software. Now it’s important for you to consider each different module within an accounting system. I suggest that your Accounts Receivable module (what people owe you) should almost always be integrated with your POS software. It’s also a good idea to get your Accounts Payable module integrated with your POS too (because you’ll reduce double entry). Your General Ledger module can be stand alone or integrated. There are pros and cons for each method. If you’d like to learn more about integrating POS and accounting software, here’s a good article to check out:

6) Store Traffic Counters
These valuable devices will help you improve sales conversion ratios, increase store traffic, and improve advertising. If you’re serious about increasing sales conversions then you need an accurate measure of your store traffic so you can determine your closing ratio. Automated traffic counters are accurate and objective. They provide surprisingly detailed data that takes the guesswork out of measuring closing ratios and even how ads pull.

Store traffic counters also help better schedule your sales staff because they identify actual foot traffic in your store during certain time periods. You can also determine if traffic goes up or down during marketing promotions so you can figure out what works the best. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! There are MANY benefits to this technology.

7) Graphics Design Software
Most small retail business owners tend to wear many hats… and taking care of marketing promotions can be one of them. With computers and graphics programs today, you can save thousands of dollars by creating simple flyers, brochures, and ads with your own graphics design software. Popular programs include Adobe InDesign, Adobe PageMaker, Corel Draw and Microsoft Publisher.

8) Websites & Shopping Carts
Whether you sell products on your website or not… websites can be powerful tools to promote your retail business. For example, you could link to your website from business cards, newspaper ads, and more. This gives you an opportunity to tell your story, give people an idea of what you sell, and convince them to stop by your store. Since it would be very expensive to tell your entire sales story in a newspaper ad… you can finish the job by sending people to your website and save money.

Then if you’re really serious, you can utilize a website shopping cart so customers can place orders and pay you right from the website.

9) Payroll Software
Payroll software can allow you to do payroll in-house and save a bunch of time. The software calculates the deductions that come out of each payroll, like FIT, SIT, FICA, 401K, HSA, flex, etc. It also calculates the totals for W-2’s (and prints them) at the end of the year. And of course, it also prints nice looking checks with all the deductions per payroll as well as year-to-date totals.

10) Portable Data Terminals (PDT) and Hand Held Computers
Portable data terminals are great tools that allow you to quickly count your inventory and easily update your POS system. You can simply carry around this portable terminal, scan your merchandise, and then enter your on-hand quantities. This allows you to more easily and accurately count your inventory.

In addition, hand held computers are becoming more popular. They allow you to create orders and complete various tasks on a computer that fits in the palm of your hand. You could place orders from a truck or anywhere inside or outside of your store.

Now I obviously listed only 10 retail technologies because it’s a nice round number, but there are many other great technologies that can help you out. For example, a few honorable mentions include… signature capture devices, smart cards, customer loyalty cards, wireless technology, and email auto-responders.

I’m sure there are a few more that I’m missing, but depending on your type of business, this is a pretty good list to start with.

I suggest that you take a close look at each one of these technologies. Make sure you understand what’s involved and why they are SO important. Then consider utilizing this type of technology in your business (if you haven’t already).