Technology is levelling the playing field for small business. Access to world-leading systems is no longer just for large companies with big budgets. Today small businesses including retailers can easily arm themselves with intuitive, bleeding-edge tools to compete with the Goliaths in their industry.
This is all thanks to the cloud. Cloud-based services are having the biggest impact on business since the arrival of the Internet. Most of these systems are now more affordable, more flexible and more easily implemented than traditional systems, and require minimal commitment or up-front costs.
By subscribing to a few Software as a Service (SaaS) subscriptions a month, businesses can essentially create their own enterprise-grade systems by picking and choosing services that all sync together – such as point-of-sale, inventory management, analytics, loyalty programs, ecommerce and accounting. This allows retailers to save huge amounts of time and money, as well as provide their customers with a modern and memorable shopping experience that stands out.
Fashion boutique Slate Melbourne, located in Richmond, is an example of a small retailer that adopted cloud services from the start. Owner and Manager Ellie Weekley said “compared to old retail technology we’ve saved so much time and energy getting our new store and online shop operational. We never have to write out cash receipts or swipe cards – we use Paypass and our customer is on their way.”
Slate Melbourne has 1,500 products entered on their Vend POS system, which is also linked into Shopify for ecommerce and Xero for accounting, to streamline the business. “We recommend using integrated cloud solutions as they save a lot of time, and it’s also a powerful way to collect customer information which we use to improve the business and sales,” says Ellie. “For example, we send out an email once a month that encourages people to visit our online store and through this we gain important data like click-throughs and purchases. We can then tailor specific loyalty programs around this information.”
If you’re a small retailer, the start of a new financial year is a great time to review the tools you’re using and consider if any are due for an upgrade. If you’re using inefficient legacy systems, or are losing your Sundays to reconciling your week’s sales, then it’s time to explore new solutions that will increase your competitive advantage.
While being considerably faster than your typical cash register, cloud-based POS systems also untether the checkout process. They can run on mobile devices and integrate with cashless payments like PayPal, allowing you to make a sale anywhere in the store. This improves traffic flow on your shop floor which creates more sales opportunities and a better customer experience. And you can seamlessly operate your online store though POS extensions such as Vend Ecommerce.
Cloud tools are giving retailers back time, and money – by reducing the need for expensive advisors. Using an online accounting tool such as Xero is an easy way to manage cash flow from the office or via a mobile device. And it significantly reduces the amount of time you need to spend reconciling sales and bookkeeping. Systems can be automatically configured to send alerts when outgoing payments are due, automatically invoice customers and check if payments have been made.
Social media and online marketing tools
Using online marketing tools and social media is a cost-effective way to increase market awareness and drive sales. Tools such as Campaign Monitor can be used for free email marketing campaigns and company newsletters. And using platforms like Instagram allows retailers to interact with customers and drive sales – from announcing new product ranges to special offers. A great tool for this is Soldsie, which allows people to buy directly from your Instagram or Facebook simply by commenting.
Providing responsive, personal customer service is a simple way to get one-up on larger stores that often score poorly in this area. Software such as Zendesk can help small businesses manage all customer support requests regardless of whether they are generated through the website, social channels, or phone. Queries can also be handled from mobile devices, so you can respond to customers while out-of-the-office or outside business hours.
Physical loyalty cards are on the way out. They’re a hassle to carry and they add time and effort to the checkout process. There are now mobile- or POS-based loyalty programs that let you track rewards and offer perks, no cards required. You can also link this to other technologies that enhance the rewards experience, like Collect, which connects retailers directly with their customers via their smartphone. Through this, you can issue personalised offers and run analytics that give you more insight into your customers.
For any small business, competing with large companies with vastly greater resources is difficult. But the pendulum is shifting. The rise of new cloud technologies is allowing small retailers to know more, and do more, than ever before. By embracing these new tools, retailers will be better able to outpace their competitors and take on the big guys.
About the author:
This article was written by Jordan King, Director of Business Development, APAC, Vend