6 Technology Options to Improve Service and Enable Growth for SMB Retailers
Practical, emerging technology updates to increase customer engagement, sales and profits for small to medium-sized businesses
The world of retail technology is changing at an incredible pace. The rapid adoption of mobile devices has spawned the multi-channel buyer who researches a purchase on two devices before visiting the store and demanding the very best price. Social media interactions and reviews can turn sales on or off in days. A range of innovative technologies like RFID beacons and Magic Mirror displays create a personalized, cross-channel buyer experience. And, big data creates supply chain visibility, targeted product assortments and new distribution efficiencies.
“It used to be that companies were built to last. Now they are built to change.” Lori Mitchell-Keller, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Retail for SAP
Retail Technology Challenges
Many retail businesses trying to minimize costs often suffer with a slow or unreliable network. Downtime, unpredictable printing and clunky POS systems hinder customer service and detain employees while customers wait or walk out the door.
Another common retail IT problem is inadequate data security. The lack of PCI compliance, poor network threat protection, and a lack of internal access controls put customer data, and ultimately the life of the business, at risk.
Sadly, 40% of businesses hit by disaster never reopen. Many SMB retailers don’t have a business continuity plan. Inconsistent backups, an assortment of servers and a lack of remote or cloud access make disaster survival unlikely.
“With today’s rapid adoption of mobile technology and increased data security threats, five year old retail technology doesn’t cut it. Retail businesses can do more to promote growth, increase profits, and ensure survival with a technology refresh than almost anything else.” Carl Mazzanti, CEO eMazzanti Technologies
6 Affordable Retail Technology Options to Grow the Business
The SMB retailer (up to 500 employees) may think that only big companies have the resources to harness the new retail technologies. In fact, many are within reach, and the first four improvements listed below will actually reduce ongoing operational expenses, increasing cash flow.
Here are six technology improvements a retail business can affordably implement to get ahead of the competition and position the organization for growth.
- Infrastructure Upgrade – Replace aging routers, switches and wireless access points to improve productivity, reliability, speed, security and mobile access. Switch to cloud backups. Consider server virtualization to consolidate servers and reduce maintenance costs.
- Managed Print – Replace the mishmash of printers, fax machines, copiers and scanners with a managed print solution to keep employees selling and reduce the printing total cost of ownership (TCO).
- POS Devices/Tablets – Extend technology to engage customers anywhere on the floor with Windows 8 tablets. Answer questions immediately without losing the customer. A wireless upgrade and a common Windows operating system simplify execution.
- POS and Loyalty Apps – Add a store app for menus, ordering, specials, or loyalty programs to engage mobile buyers, speed up fulfillment, and increase loyalty. POS apps Square, ShopKeep, and LightSpeed Retail take the register to the customer. Loyalty apps such as Belly, Perka and Front Flip are easy to customize with store information and branding.
- Remote Access to Enterprise System – Put the right information in the hands of front-line and back office employees to answer customer questions, work from home, and switch easily between customer and administrative tasks. Today’s cloud and remote access solutions make this easy.
- Digital Signage – Wow customers with multi-media displays. Digital menus, point-of-purchase promotions and targeted entertainment engage customers in a dynamic immersive experience.
With technology in the hands of employees you can adopt a strategy to combat showrooming*, keep customers engaged, improve service and complete transactions on the spot, increasing in-store sales.
“The reality of retail today is that you need cutting-edge technology in your stores. You have to make it easy for customers to find information and communicate with you, and you have to be able to answer questions quickly and professionally.”
Matt Wilkerson, Head of Retail for Timothy Oulton Americas
For a modest investment an SMB retailer can achieve faster, improved customer service, less down time, increased customer engagement, fewer lost sales, reduced time to open, in-store/mobile coordination, and an effective strategy to capture today’s multi-channel buyer. Information technology is a key driver of revenue growth. By adopting a few of today’s technology innovations you position your business for success in the coming transformative period.
“Technology becomes a valuable way to support your brand and engage your customers. We have to stay one step ahead of them—wow them with cool things that they haven’t seen in other stores.”
Matt Wilkerson, Head of Retail for Timothy Oulton Americas
Where to Start
Though sounding like big-business technology, all of the above options, and others, are in use in many forward-thinking SMB retail firms. With the right technology partner they can be working effectively for your business in a few weeks. eMazzanti Technologies, with specialized experience in retail technology is the perfect partner to design and implement the right mix of options for your retail business. Don’t let outdated technology keep you from prospering in the new, dynamic, technology-driven retail universe.
“Working with eMazzanti has enabled us to create a scalable IT solution that we can roll out to multiple locations. It’s a huge cost savings in the future development and growth of our company. Because of eMazzanti’s partnerships with amazing companies like Microsoft, Xerox and WatchGuard, the speed, connectivity, security and operational efficiency in our business have all improved.” Chris McCullough, US Flagship Gallery Manager, Timothy Oulton
*The practice of visiting the store to research or try on a product then purchasing online to get the lowest price.