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Monday, March 8, 2010

The 9 Retail Technologies That Will Propel Your Small Business Forward

Here are 9 retail technologies that I believe will give retailers the biggest benefit and maximum return on their technology investments. Your small retail operation can be just like the Big Box stores when it comes to being efficient and productive. Every retail operation must have technology in place to manage it s pricing, sales and inventory.

1) Point of Sale (POS) and Inventory Control Software A POS / Retail Management System are mandatory. A good POS system will track all your sales. It replaces your cash register and allows a multitude of features that will save you time and help you manage your inventory. Immediate benefits include:  Simplify and improve inventory management.  Improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.  Show where you're making and losing money so you can make adjustments and increase profits.

2) Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software Building a successful retail business is to build relationships with your customers. CRM software is a critical tool for the retail business. A CRM system will help you improve your customer loyalty it will help you market to potential prospects and generate new business. CRM software allows you to track your customers, identify market segments and then easily communicate with them via email, telephone, and direct mail. It can also track your customer buying patterns and manage information.

CRM software can also be integrated within a contact centre system or your POS system.

3) Bar Code Scanning and UPC Codes Bar Code and UPC Code scanning allows you to check products at the point of sale much faster and more accurately than can be done on the keyboard. It can also maintain your inventory system to be up to date.

The technology is very robust and can easily be implemented using hand held scanner devices.

4) Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) EDI technology allows you to send purchase orders, created in your POS software (based on order levels and sales history) to your suppliers electronically via the internet. This can ensure your inventory is never oversold and there is ample stock for your customers to purchase. No stock on fast moving items means lost sales.

5) Retail Accounting Software Accounting software can be purchased stand alone or can be integrated with your POS software. This allows a small business owner to manage their accounting in a very timely manner. This is not to replace your Accountant but to provide reports in between your meetings with your accountant. The most important modules are the Accounts Receivable, Inventory and Cash Flow Analysis.

6) Store Traffic Counters These valuable devices will help you improve sales ratios, tally store traffic, and manage your advertising campaigns. You need an accurate measure of your store traffic so you can 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.

7) Web Presence Websites can be powerful tools to promote your retail business. For example, you could link to your website from business cards and newspaper ads. This gives you an opportunity to tell your story, show what you sell, and convince them to stop by your store. Many Bricks and Mortars operation use web presence to either advertise their business or generate traffic to their physical store.

You can also utilize a website shopping cart so customers can place orders and pay you right from the website.

8) Portable Data Terminals 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 quantities. This allows you to more easily and accurately count your inventory. They are also invaluable as price checkers.

Hand held computers have become very popular and cost effective. They allow you to create orders and complete various tasks on a computer that fits in the palm of your hand. They can perform various tasks especially if linked to your POS system using WiFi or be used as a way to manage customer contacts and selling information.

9) Digital Video Recorders Digital Video recorders have become the tool for loss prevention. Video cameras capture activity in real time and can record to a digital device for storage and later recall. They can integrate with POS systems and can include powerful tracking software. Simple installations can be a few cameras with a monitor and DVR to large installations that include traffic counters and 2 way audio.

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