It is becoming increasingly difficult for small retailers to compete with larger stores. Especially the chain stores and franchises.
But it is possible. Those small retailers who invest in the right tech can streamline their processes, reduce their overheads, and improve quality. Often, this is enough to enable them to compete with their bigger competitors on price, speed, and quality of service. While, freeing up more time to focus on doing what smaller businesses do best, which is to offer a highly personalized service.
Start with the easy wins
Of course, introducing new technology does require investment. But if you start small and target the easy wins you can create huge improvements without necessarily having to spend a lot of money. Here are a few things virtually any small retailer could start doing within a few weeks.
Tap into the power of the latest point of sale systems
Customers hate to be kept waiting. So, anything a retailer can do to make it easier and faster to pay is well worth doing. It is now relatively easy to source single unit self-checkout kiosks, which puts this technology easily within the reach of small retailers. The footprint is small, so most businesses can find the space to install them.
But understandably some small shops worry about this setup being abused. Because they do not have enough staff to make sure nobody is walking out without paying.
Fortunately, there are other things they can do to speed up the checkout process, including:
- Enable customers to pay using their phone
- Tap into the power of mobile POS systems that enable you to send a member of staff out to pull people with small purchases out of the queue so their purchases can be rung up and paid for via the handheld device that the salesclerk is holding.
- Offer click and collect using the curbside pickup model
Automate your inventory processes
There is nothing more frustrating than popping into a store to buy the ingredients for a meal, only to find that half of those items are out of stock. That has only got to happen a few times before people stop coming back. So, for all retailers, good inventory control is vital from a customer satisfaction standpoint.
As well as from a cash flow and profitability. Good inventory tracking and reordering reduces the chances of goods having to be thrown away because they have gone out of date. As well as improves cash flow by ensuring the business is never sitting on more stock than it needs.
It is now easier than ever to control inventory. There are plenty of stock control systems that are specifically designed for small businesses to use. They can be set up so that as an item is sold it is automatically reordered. Unless the owner has put a stop on the system to prevent that from happening for that particular product. You can read about several of them here.
Start using digital signage on your shop floor
Digital display screens are not expensive to buy or run. Provided you buy one that has been made to minimize the amount of energy used. They can be put up practically anywhere and be turned into a powerful promotional tool. Using these digital signage tips any business owner can quickly create stunning images that highlight special offers to customers. Adverts that make them more aware of what is available and tempt them to buy.
These screens are also a great way to share information. For example, to advertise your new click and collect or home delivery service. Or to remind them about special services that you offer.
Loyalty cards are powerful
In the past, only large businesses could afford the technology to set up and run loyalty card schemes. The cost of that equipment has now fallen drastically, putting it within reach for smaller retailers. As you can see from this loyalty card guide, setting up a customer rewards club is not difficult, at all. They are a great way to build strong relationships with customers, increase brand awareness and reward consumer loyalty.
We live in an always-on world, which means that even at 3 am people want to be able to buy things. That is why so many big businesses have stores that they keep open 24/7.
Unfortunately, many small retailers cannot afford to staff their shops around the clock. But it may be possible to install a vending machine in the entranceway. Or to offer a home delivery service for a selection of products that operates into the early hours.
Not all of the above ideas will work for your small retail outlet. But some will, so why not pick a couple and give them a go?