One of the biggest challenges faces retail business these deals is how to manage their sales effectively.
The rise of e-commerce has grown through the years, as more and more customers find themselves ordering online rather than in-person. Because of this, many retail stores may struggle with a transition to an e-commerce model. Lucky for them, it’s as easy as staying on top of the trends. But while many businesses try to adopt an online platform, they tend to neglect the software needs or their basic retail storefront.
The positives for them are that many retail management and e-commerce platforms are becoming synonymous with one another.
Many retail businesses will need to adapt their businesses to ensure they have a proper retail management option that will allow their customers to have a pleasant and quick experience. Most functionalities you’d find in a retail management system can come as a stand-alone software, or offered as an add-on to an existing system. However, many businesses are trending towards a complete retail management software that acts as a fully-integrated option, mostly keeping in mind these important functionalities:
Point of Sale is the most common software associated with the retail industry. If you have a storefront that sells goods/services to a customer, you’ll need a way to record the sale. POS coordinates the execution of in-person retail sales transactions by supporting payment collection, receipting, and linking with back-office processes.
Key POS software features to consider include:
- Refunds/return management: Helps you process a refund for a customer by issuing payment back to them, reversing the entry in your accounting, evaluate item conditions, and help with restocking
- Customer loyalty/rewards/promotions: Track customer benefits or store credit (such as in the form of “points”)
- Sync with inventory: POS systems with integrated inventory allow cashiers to check on item availability from a terminal, which will let them know if an item is in stock, or prompt the ability to order items they are low in stock (once being sold beyond a certain threshold).
- Account sales: Customers and local business can purchase “on account” or with credit given from the store itself, allowing them to receive items immediately and make payment on an issued invoice at a later date.
In addition to the above, the unsung hero of any POS software will be sales tax calculation. Automation in calculating sales tax is key, as this can become a very time-consuming process if you need to look up sales tax rates for every purchase. Generally, a retail store will be selling items in one set location, so they can adjust their POS to calculate one rate. However, when you add in multiple stores, and each store potentially having different sales tax rates to monitor, a software that can handle this feature for you becomes an underappreciated asset.
Your day to day transactions will be handled by your point of sale, but the real financials of the business will be handled within an accounting software in the back-office. Your accounting software will handle accounts payable, sales from your POS, reconcile with your bank accounts, and manage any reporting that may be needed. This becomes far more important in a retail operation with multiple stores, as they’ll need to be able to check store performances which will impact what goods they carry at each location and help make important decisions such as which stores should be given additional funding for new projects or redevelopments.
In retail, the most important functionalities you’ll look for within your back-office accounting will be a tight integration with your cross-platform sales channels. You’ll easily be able to import sales from your point of sale as well as any e-commerce platform you have to help get a full idea on your daily sales. This will allow you to adjust margins appropriately to increase revenue and still keep your sales numbers where they need to be. Most accounting programs will have some form of reporting built in as well, to show things like profit and loss statements or just general income statements.
At the end of the day, a properly maintained back office in your retail operation will allow you to know what your expenses and revenues are, and overall improve your financial health.
Online Payment Functionality
According to a recent study, 96% of people shop online. These days, if your retail business does not have some form of online platform to allow customers to browse your inventory, or even purchase products online, then you are falling behind.
Most retail management options will have some level of an e-commerce platform that works with it. You’ll need to make sure you understand your payment process and that your online shopping carts are linked in with your payment gateway. Your customers will want the flexibility to pay online, as well as the comfort of knowing their transactions are secure.
The best online payment functionalities you’ll want in any retail management software include:
- An international payment gateway.
- Extensive payment methods such as Credit/debit card payments, PayPal payments, SEPA payments, SOFORT, and more.
- Subscription assistance, which helps with recurring billing that may need to be set up. This can come in hand when you allow customers to purchase things such as memberships (or any operation with a recurring charge) such as a membership-grocery store or a fitness center. You may also need to bill customers for things they need to be shipped to them on a monthly basis for a subscription-service you may offer.
The most successful retail businesses in 2018 are going to be the ones that can fully take advantage of both online and in-person customers. As the trends shift towards shoppers buying online, you’ll need to adjust your business (and the software you use to run it) to ensure you can keep up. Harness what you can out of in-store visits you get, but make sure that the customer is welcomed with open arms on a visit to your website, and make both experiences keep the customer happy and coming back.
Author Bio: Russ Davidson is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Software Connect, a company that provides free software and application recommendations based in Milwaukee, WI. Since 1996, we’ve helped thousands of companies find the best solution for their needs by understanding software requirements and pointing them in the right direction.