Evolving Toward Success with Technology
The retail industry is constantly evolving. For the past 10 years, business experts have been saying that an approaching Retail Apocalypse would change the way consumers shop. While many of those predictions were slowly being realized – retail technology created more online shopping alternatives like Amazon, and large, overcapitalized chains failed to keep up and closed – it took the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown to make the apocalypse reality. Many businesses that weren’t technologically sound failed when their brick-and-mortar stores were closed by health regulations. That’s why it’s so important today, and every day, to make the evolution of retail technology a routine part of your business plan.
The Technical Evolution
Nowadays, it’s hard to find a retail store that doesn’t use some form of digital technology. Point-of-sale (POS) systems that were essentially glorified electronic cash registers have been around since the 1970s. In the 1980s, the point of sale evolved into computer terminals and incorporated inventory and data management programs. Today, a modern retail platform can allow businesses to manage all operations with a few keystrokes.
“Over the last 20, 30 years there’s been a real loss of small-town hardware stores, and the lack of modern technology, I think, is one of the reasons. The demand for technology by retailers for a number of reasons, and the need for speed at the point of sale has changed so much over the past few years, I don’t know how stores operate without it,” says Jim Byrum, who owns six community hardware stores in central Michigan.
It’s vitally important, and extremely difficult, to choose the right retail platform for your business. The basics of choosing and implementing retail technology should include these basics:
Simplicity to learn, train employees, and use
Ease of loading your inventory into the POS system
Ease of loading your inventory into the POS system
The Purchase is Just the Beginning
The biggest mistake many businesses make when investing in retail technology is stopping that investment once the system is in and operating. Why do stores invest in a retail platform? The answer is pretty simple: simplify operations, increase efficiencies, and make more money. Buying retail technology will help you do all of that, but only if you learn how to properly use it. You get out what you put in.
Making Technology Work for You
When incorporating a retail platform into a business, it’s paramount you fine-tune your store processes into the technology, not the other way around.
Too many businesses purchase a retail system envisioning the way it will fit into their current workflows or processes. That’s wrong. Retail technology works best when it’s used the way it was designed. This means putting your trust, faith, effort and investment into learning how to properly use the equipment and software.
“I’m an old codger – not very tech-minded – and, of course, I resisted change. I wanted to (keep doing business) in the shoebox,” says Dennis Gamble, owner of Tri-County Hardware and Farm Supply in Paxton, Florida, who installed a retail system from Paladin Data Corporation to help him run his business. “This is the first system we’ve had and it works real well for us. This has been a labor-saver for me. The way the accountant wanted our paperwork, it was labor-intensive to put together. We put in sales, cash, credit, checks and accounts received by hand. And that better tally up to how much business we done that day. Now, it’s all done at the front desk. It cut a lot of hours out of my week.”
In some cases, this might mean some extra work during implementation, such as changing some of your business practices to fit the software. For example, mapping out your store with location codes allows you and your retail technology to better find out which products are selling, and which aren’t based on the geographical location in your store. Identifying and tracking customer “type” is another way to easily discover which customer groups, i.e., contractors, electricians, plumbers, property managers, and others, generate the most revenue for your store.
Technology as an Investment
You invest in your store for many reasons. You invest to build your business to create a good quality of life. You invest in your community to spread goodwill and gain more customers. You invest to build a nest egg for retirement and maybe pass your business on to your children.
To achieve these life goals, you invest in infrastructure, product lines, and employees to make your business successful. You invest in your store’s location and equipment and offer goods and services to augment your bottom line. It’s no different when you purchase technology. Technology is one of the most important investments you can make in the success of your business. You must think of technology as an investment that drives more business rather than an expense.
Retail technology allows you to increase efficiencies, maintain better inventory control, and drive more customers to your store, all of which contribute to the growth and profitability of your business.
“We appreciate the flexibility of this system and the difference it has made for our customers as well as our employees. Some of our employees were terrified of computers. Once we got this system, some of them got home computers and internet service and now they use them at home … so, this has been a great opportunity for growth for our employees as well,” Wanda McCullers, co-owner of Farmers Feed Service in Wetumpka, Alabama, says of how retail technology improved her business and her employees’ lives.
Complacency is Not Good for Business
Technology is like any other investment in your business. You need to nurture it, stay current and informed, and continue maintaining and updating it for a healthy return on investment.
You don’t find a good location or build a store and not continue its development. You don’t stock your store and not continually maintain and adjust inventory. That needs to be your attitude when it comes to your retail technology.
Many stores let their technology atrophy and become an anchor to their store progress rather than an accelerant to growth. They purchase a retail platform and expect it to run their store for many years without regularly improving and upgrading it. It’s human nature to stick with the status quo if there is no catalyst to push forward. However, all successful businesses embrace change. They constantly evolve and continue investing in their development.
Continuing Education Pays Off
Education gives us the knowledge to build a foundation on which to build our lives. Continuing education, treating it as a life-long process, changes us into something better. It helps us develop and build new perspectives and expands options and provides us with alternatives for growth. It gives us the tools we need to enhance our personal lives and achieve both our business and life goals.
Technology is ever-changing and staying abreast of these changes provides a wealth of opportunities to increase efficiencies and grow. That’s why it’s important to make continuing education part of your business plan. You can continue to expand your knowledge with:
Knowledge base articles
These are all opportunities to continue learning about your business and the tools that can help you improve its performance and increase its profits.
The challenges of the past few years have been unprecedented. They have been particularly hard for independent businesses. When doors were closed in 2020, many had no way to do business.
Stores that are fully invested in retail technology have the tools to stay open and weather the storms better than many. Their success proves how an investment in technology and its continuing evolution leads to growth and profitability.