Retail Business and the Importance of Picking The Right Technology

You don’t need to be a computer expert to pick the right technology to grow your retail business. You just need to know what specific technology you need, why you need it, and where you can find it. In this article, we’ll explore how to find the right technology to run your business.

Do Your Homework

Your customers do not know what technology you use in your store. They do not care whether it is outdated, state-of-the art, or expensive. What they do care about is the service they receive. If they don’t find it extraordinary—efficient, accurate, and complete—they will go somewhere else, and they may never come back. You won’t be able to deliver the right services to your customers if you rely on outdated technology.

Think about when you shop at an independent retailer and you have to wait in line for a long time as each transaction is handled excruciatingly slowly and the credit card processing is even slower. Or think about the last time a store you were in missed a potential sale with you because they were out of stock on an item that you needed and that was popular—i. e., they shouldn’t have been out of it. Or think about when you had to shop at a different store than originally planned because the first didn’t have what you wanted. And finally, think of how difficult it will be for you to coach your staff toward higher levels of performance if you don’t even know how much more they should be doing.

While technology isn’t the only answer to all these problems, the right technology can go a long way to solving them. True, the right technology for your business can represent a considerable investment. But have you thought about its benefits over time? Even better, have you considered what it might cost you not to have it in terms of lost sales and opportunities?

As you try to figure out what technology you need, pay close attention to check out procedures at the stores where you shop. When you see sales associates in independent retail stores able to handle customer checkout quickly and efficiently, talk with the owner about the systems she uses. You can learn a lot about which systems may be best for you by talking with other independent retailers about their successes and failures with technology.

Interfaced vs. Integrated Software

In addition to the hardware requirements, you need to consider software options. There are three key types of software critical to the independent retailer—back office, accounting, and point-of-service (POS) software. You’ll also need to understand whether the software you’re considering will be interfaced (able to translate data between your back office and POS software) or integrated (use the same data files so the information can be updated simultaneously in both programs and can be available in real time).

Integrated software will save you lots of time and avoid the need to enter information into three different systems. Interfaced software requires you to download information from one system and upload it into the other. The big disadvantage of interfaced systems is that the interface requires that you do it manually. You won’t have the information in real time. You’ll likely interface the programs at the end of the business day so you won’t have the information you may need throughout the day.


Integrated software is software that uses the same data files so the information can be updated in real-time.

Interfaced software is software that enables you to translate data between your back office, accounting, and POS software, but this must be done manually.

Accounting and Financial Reporting

The two most popular accounting software packages available on the market today is QuickBooks and Peachtree Accounting. Before picking your accounting system, check with your accountant to be sure whatever you pick can easily interface with his systems. That way you will be able to download your data and he can upload it into his system when he needs to prepare your reports, review your books, or prepare your tax returns.

POS and Inventory Management Your most important software package will be your point-of-sale software. Whatever system you pick, the following are the basic functions you must have:

• Fast checkout and approval of charge purchases. Customers are time poor and generally see shopping as a task rather than a recreational activity. That’s why it is paramount that you have the right POS in place to ensure you can have them in and out as fast as possible. Don’t make customers wait in line or at the counter because your POS can’t handle the volume of transactions that you are experiencing on that day. Trust me, avoid that and you will have that customer for life, because if shopping at your store means fast and easy, that’s exactly where they will shop

• Transaction suspends feature. This is a feature that allows you to place a transaction in suspense, while the customer either goes to her car to get her check or charge card or goes back into the store to get an additional item, and resume the transaction when the customer returns. This also helps speed up processing of customers in line behind this customer and reduces waiting time.

• Production of gift receipts. To make returns more accurate and efficient.

• Automatic store credits. Automatic store credits can be given on returned items, which reduces cash refunds and tracks returned items. These store credit notes are serialized and can be used just like a gift card. They can replace manual issuance of store credit notes that are time consuming and open to fraudulent use. Again, it’s about accuracy and, of course, efficiency.

• Bounce back coupons. Some cash register receipts can be programmed to provide a “bounce back” coupon to the customer. This will give them a discount on their next purchase, thereby increasing the likelihood of a repeat purchase.

• Inventory management. Your system not only has to tell you what you have on hand per department, per category, per sub-category, and line, but it also needs to show what inventory you have on order. It also needs to be capable of creating purchase orders.

• Customer profile. Your software should also track each customer, their purchases over time, favorites, and as much information as you can get about individual preferences. This will help you build your database for your customer relationship management programs.

Reports alone do not change a business or make it more profitable; it is what you do with the reports that count. If you have not had any updated or ongoing training with your software, then it is no surprise that you are not benefiting from it. A good software provider will not only train you on the use of the software (what buttons to push, how to enter data, how to create a report, and so on), but it will also give you additional training on the strategic use of the software.

If you have the right information, you can make smart decisions. The problem with most of us today is that we are drowning in data and going thirsty for information and knowledge. Learning means paying tuition, and every dollar that you invest in learning how to maximize your retail technology you will get at least $10 back in increased productivity, sales, and profitability.

The Author of this article is participating in POS Systems in Brisbane online project. Damian is also contributor on several tech related blogs and online magazines.

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