Over the next few years, Main Street is poised to witness a dramatic increase in the health of small businesses across the retail sector. With technology revolutionizing the way merchants and retailers do business, the automation of business operations is freeing up merchants’ time to focus on what matters mostproviding a great product and experience customers keep coming back for.
Exciting to witness in the industry, is the expanse of technology now available to small businesses. Legacy systemsonce bulky and expensiveare being phased out and replaced by sleeker and more efficient hardware. Merchants now have access to software that not only helps with business operations such as inventory control, but also customer transactions and employee timesheets.
A decade ago, being able to automate your business was unfathomable. Now, it’s the competitive advantage all SMBs need to succeed.
Future-proofing your business is something we talk a lot about in the industry. Keeping up with trends and being able to accept the newest forms of payment is critical to the success of any small business. You might walk into a new coffee shop and see the owner ringing up sales on a shiny tablet-based point-of-sale (POS) system and assume that that’s now the standard. And yesfor the most partnew small business owners are investing in cloud-based software that integrates with their payroll solution and helps automate core business operations. But there are still mom and pop shops out there doing their business the old fashioned way. It’s only a matter of time, however, until even these types of businesses adopt this technology. Sure, there will be growing pains for these businesses, but eventually, as with adopting any new technology, the benefits these merchants see will outweigh the initial learning curve.
For these small businesses, cloud-based software will reduce capital outlays and works cross functionally for owners, both in the back office and on the floor. The ability to bridge these parts of a business is crucial; it cuts down on hours spent sifting through spreadsheets and allows merchants not only more face-time with their customers, but gives them a better understanding of how to optimize their business.
The automation of inventory management and merchandising is a powerful tool. Tasks such as price changes, inventory tracking and reorderingthat used to take hours, now takes minutes. When a business such as a coffee shop has a POS system that knows when every cup of coffee is sold and lets them know when they are running low on coffee beans, it’s invaluable to an owner. It allows SMBs to have the optimal amount of inventoryall while streamlining operations, facilitating customer retention and promoting a bigger bottom line. The ability for a merchant to easily access their inventory information in a single locationsans spreadsheetsmight not sound groundbreaking, but the automation piece is what’s key.
Crunching the Numbers
When it comes down to it, revolutionizing the retail industry, especially for small businesses, is all about data and analytics. Solid analytics raise the bar for merchants, giving them a competitive edge and the ability to play ball with the big kids. It’s about crunching the numbers and determining what will allow your business to come out on top. Recent technologyspecifically inexpensive cloud-based POS systemsallow small business owners access to the same analytics tools that used to be accessible only to big box retailers.
This additional insight into retail data allows merchants to make smarter decisions that ultimately increase their profits. For example, if I’m a coffee shop owner that’s open from 7am to 8pm and I sell approximately 200 cups of coffee a day, the ease at which I am able to determine when I sell those cups of coffee, can make or break my bottom line. If my POS system shows me that the bulk of my coffee is sold before 7pm and that staying open an additional hour actually hurts my profits, that’s invaluable information. When in comes down to it, not implementing an efficient inventory system is one of the number one reasons that small businesses fail. And that’s preventable.
Tools and Evolving Payments
Technology for small businesses not only results in more streamlined operations, but improves the quality of life for merchants. Owners are no longer tied to their stores from opening until closing. POS apps for mobile phones allow merchants to have instant, realtime access to the back office, including monitoring inventory levels and sales figures. This frees a merchant from their back office and allows them to stay engaged with their business remotely.
A perfect example is a coffee shop my company worked with in New York. The business was located in Brooklyn, but one of co-owners was actually deployed to Afghanistan. Because of ShopKeep Pocketour mobile back-office app, both owners were able to stay connected to their business, even when one was 7,000 miles away.
In fact, this is the very issue that drove me to develop ShopKeep. Years ago, as a retailer myself, I was away on vacation and our servers went downat that time we were using a server-based POS system. When I got on the phone with my POS provider, they weren’t able to come out and fix the problem for days. Consequently, we lost thousands of dollars in sales. Six weeks after returning from vacation I decided to solve the problem I had encountered myself. I was looking for two things in a POS system: a system that wouldn’t stop working if the Internet went down and a system that allowed me to see all of my information anytime and anywhere.
Mobile Payments at the POS
Technology is also completely changing the way in which we pay for goods and services. Near Field Communication (NFC) technology such as Apple Pay and the recently-launched Samsung Pay, allows customers to complete transactions with just a single tap of their card.
Ultimately, new and affordable cloud-based POS systems have lowered the barrier to entry for merchants looking to automate their businesses, increase bottom lines and gain a competitive advantage in the retail landscape. Finding a system that is a good fit is the most important step anyone can take to ensure the long-term success and health of their business.