Running a retail business can be a challenge. The logistics, the personnel, and the marketing aspects are all critical and require constant attention. The competition is also severe for any industry, and both new entrants to the market as well as established players have to constantly innovate to stay in the game.
According to the recent reports, the most challenging factor is to be the never-ending rise of e-commerce, which is scheduled to surpass $684 billion by 2020 and spells revenue losses for main street outlets.
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Fortunately, there are lessons to be learned from the e-commerce industry. One of the advantages e-commerce businesses have is that they are not bound to a single location. Besides the virtual location of the e-shop, entrepreneurs are free to run their business from literally everywhere.
Your employees don’t need to be constantly present to run a successful business. To that end, technology is your greatest ally and will help you be more productive away from the office. Here are a number of tools that the modern retailer should consider, if not include, in their business stack.
1. Email marketing
Email marketing is a cheap, well-tested way to stay in touch with your customers. You can use email campaigns to send out newsletters and offers or request feedback on previous transactions with your clients.
Mailchimp has everything you need to create successful email campaigns and to increase your productivity. It handles automated emails that you can set up according to your workflow. A wide set of tools such as send time optimization, A/B content testing, spam filter test, and similar subscribers discovery ensure the maximum efficiency of every email you send.
You can segment subscribers into separate lists, and you also have the ability to add multiple users with different permissions to match the needs of your e-commerce business. Pricing is flexible — based on the volume of emails you send and the number of subscribers. The MailChimp interface is very mobile-friendly and accessible via native mobile app, so you will face no problems editing emails on your tablet or smartphone.
Keeping accounting records for a business (especially a retail business with high transaction volume) is a tricky task. You need to use accounting software that can easily handle these tasks and centralize all of your financial data.
Quickbooks Online is a cloud-based accounting solution that can accurately handle all of your accounting operations. You can automate your payments and payroll processing to help save time. QuickBooks also integrates with many e-commerce solutions, so you won’t have to go back and forth with your data. Since it operates on the cloud, you won’t have to worry about losing access to orders, payments, or reporting during your off-days.
3. Remote IT support
Even the best business management systems fail, and when you have a client impatiently waiting for their order to get through because of a technical problem, things can get messy really quick. Small and medium retail business usually don’t have their own IT staff, and waiting for a technician to come over might cost you customers. If you aren’t at the office yourself, the problem is further magnified. Thankfully, the right remote IT support can save the day.
Teamviewer is a piece of software that lets you host screen sharing sessions with remote collaborators and IT support agents. This allows your technician to remotely control your devices (e.g. a POS register), even if they run on different operating systems. It even lets you control mobile devices remotely from a laptop. With a tool like Teamviewer, you will be able to install needed software or fix errors without hassle.
4. Inventory Management
Optimizing your store inventory can increase profit margins and improve the services you offer to your clients, but keeping track of stock levels across different inventory locations and managing orders is a demanding task.
Megaventory is a cloud-based inventory management system specially tailored for retailers. It provides efficient management features for inventory, sales, purchases, and returns of physical products in a single platform. Since Megaventory is cloud-hosted, it can easily accommodate multiple physical locations of a business (stores and warehouses), but also virtual locations like e-shops. Megaventory is designed to provide different employees different levels of visibility depending on their permissions. The system is accessible from any device with an internet connection and offers a screen-optimized interface for mobile devices.
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These are but a few of the apps available to small business owners and management staff. Of course, each tool that was mentioned has a number of alternatives, both with richer as well as fewer features, depending on what you need. You only stand to gain from adding relevant technology to your most important workflows. To stay afloat in the era of e-commerce and comparison shopping, traditional retail businesses should try implementing some of these systems.