How to Drive Your Retail Business Forward with Technology

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By Paul Abrams

Topics: Small Business Tools

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The retail landscape in Canada is changing rapidly. New technologies are opening up new opportunities, including online stores and marketing initiatives. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores and small retailers have to operate on ever-slimmer margins, and they are looking to reduce overheads in new and innovative ways.

For most retailers, technology presents both a challenge and an exciting path forward. As much as innovations can present cost barriers and have created a landscape that favours early adopters, these same technologies provide retailers like you with a chance to revolutionize the way you do business.

Adopting new technologies into your retail operations, from end to end, can help you lower costs, deliver better customer service, and reach new revenue heights. This guide will demonstrate how you can drive your business forward by adopting some of today’s most advanced technologies.


Improve the Customer Experience with AI and Apps

Success in retail hinges on the customer experience, almost more than any other industry. If people like the experience of shopping with you, they’ll come back to your store. If, on the other hand, they’re not satisfied when they leave the shop, they likely won’t be back. Worse, they’ll discourage others from buying from you.

Delivering great customer service and personalizing each customer’s interactions with your business are key to retail success.

New technologies are helping retailers do just that. One way to improve your customer relations is to adopt an app to streamline shopping. This tactic has been wildly successful for clothing retailers, pharmacy chains, and grocery stores.

Artificial intelligence could also help you deliver more personalized shopping sessions and better customer service. Chatbots can be on call 24/7 to answer customer queries, even when you’re not around. AI can also analyze customer information to make suggestions for additional products customers may also be interested in.


Make Payment Easier for Your Customers

Technology has also been revolutionizing payment systems. The world is increasingly cashless, as consumers switch to credit cards, products like Apple Pay, and other types of electronic fund transfers.

For retailers, point-of-sale technology has been evolving. Apps allow you to turn your smartphone into a mobile point of sale, meaning you can complete a transaction almost anywhere.

Contactless payments are also becoming more common. You can take your pick of payment gateways to provide a friendlier checkout experience for customers. If your retail business generates invoices, an online invoicing system can streamline the process and also help collect from your customers, reducing manual error and automating the collection process.


Manage Inventory with Ease

Today’s retail environment is more competitive than ever. Retailers are surviving on smaller margins. To succeed, they’re adopting techniques previously used only in the manufacturing industry. Lean retail operations and just-in-time delivery are key approaches for modern retail businesses—whether you operate bricks and mortar, online, or as a combination of the two.

Technology can help your retail operations achieve better inventory control and even lower associated costs and overhead. Inventory control systems provide real-time tracking of your stock. Data analysis tools can assist you in identifying sales patterns. Using these insights, you can predict (with near pinpoint accuracy) when you’ll need to order more stock.

Automation also plays a role in the better management of inventory. The data provided by the system drives insights, and pattern analysis can be used to allow machines to determine the right amount to order and when to order it.

Taken together, these two innovations help retailers achieve just-in-time delivery for their stock, minimizing the inventory needed to keep on hand and pay to warehouse..


Adopt a New Business Payment System for Your Bills

Technology hasn’t just made getting paid easier for retailers. It’s also improved your ability to pay your suppliers and bills.

Canadian businesses still write millions of cheques each and every year, but the number has been dwindling. Electronic Fund Transfers (EFTs) are now more popular than ever before, and retail business owners like you are reaping the benefits.

New business payments systems make it simple to pay all of your suppliers in one central location—whether you are used to paying by cheque, EFT, wire, credit card or any other payment method. B2B payment systems can also enable the use of your credit card to fund payments where your supplier may not accept credit card payments. All-in-one payment portals will have you saying goodbye to time-consuming chequing procedures and costly wire transfers.

Perhaps best of all, these new platforms are already geared for the mobile world. You can pay anyone from anywhere, whenever it’s convenient for you.


Expand the Business by Going Digital

Many retailers have already taken their businesses online, expanding into e-commerce operations. As web technologies have improved, it’s become easier for even the smallest of retail options to get a slice of the digital selling pie.

If you’re not ready to expand into an online shop just yet, there are still plenty of ways to use web technologies and social media for your retail business.

Social media marketing can help you get the word out to new customer bases for minimal costs. Your website is another great tool to use in collecting information about your current clientele. You can even start an email marketing campaign to deliver special deals to your loyal customers. The opportunities are virtually endless.


Keep Better Track of Your Team

Labour costs are another area of concern for many retailers. Technology can help here too. Time tracking software is one example. Using it, you can schedule your staff members more efficiently.

Better scheduling can help you get the right number of people on the floor when you need them. It prevents creating too much coverage with overlapping shifts, and it will also help you manage overtime more effectively. This is part and parcel of lean retail operations.

You can even map out who is spending how much time on which tasks. This can greatly improve productivity and accountability.


Enhance Team Communication and Learning

New technological tools don’t just allow you to keep better tabs on your staff members, they can put you in touch with employees whenever and wherever they travel. If you send staff to a conference or trade show, apps and video conference calls make it easy to stay in the loop.

Learning opportunities for your employees are also enhanced by technology. Staff members can take part in web conferences, webinars, and online learning courses without needing to travel away from the store. You can even book training sessions for new software or product demonstrations online.

In short, technology presents new ways for you and your employees to keep sharpening your skills.


Which Technologies Should You Adopt?

It’s clear implementing technology can drive a retail business forward. The question facing you now is which technologies you should adopt.

In an ideal world, you’d be able to quickly implement all of these solutions for your business. The good news is most of them are simple to adopt. Most of them are also affordable solutions for a Canadian retailer.

Take stock of your business and review your strategic plan. Which technologies align with your goals and the vision for the business? Ask yourself which ones will deliver the most ongoing value.

Before you decide to adopt any new technology, be sure to conduct some research. Reach out to vendors and ask them about the benefits their product can deliver to your retail operations. Finding the right solutions for your business can be as simple as having a conversation with the experts.

Disclaimer

The information in this article is for educational and information purposes only and should not be relied upon for decision making. Always seek the expertise of a professional advisor or accountant prior to making any decisions.

Paul Abrams

With two decades of marketing and sales experience across both B2B and B2C organizations, Paul understands the importance of having a tight alignment between sales and marketing. Paul oversees the team responsible for the creative positioning, advertising, communications, and channel partner relationships, which all fuel the organization's exponential client acquisition strategies. In this role, he also provides expertise and best practices for sales processes, ensuring sales activities are aligned, focused, and contributing to the overall strategic plan.