Retail Software – What Your Small Business Needs

Retail software is an important purchase for any small business running a retail store. Selecting the right retail software can make your business more efficient, increase sales, and improve customer satisfaction. Whilst picking the wrong software can have just the opposite effect. Slowing processes down, limiting the number of sales you can make and causing your customers (and your staff) to become frustrated. So what factors are important to consider when selecting your retail software?On-premise or in the cloud?You can choose to either host the software yourself on your premises or access your software via an Internet browser (in the cloud). The advantage of having it on site is that if something goes wrong with the software then you can have immediate access to it in order to fix it yourself. This however requires that you have a certain amount of technological know-how as you will need to be able to perform any repairs yourself, or hire someone to do it for you. When you buy software that is on premise you normally pay an upfront fee with the option to pay for ongoing support if you so choose. Additionally, you will have to buy hardware, such as a server, for the software to run on, and a system for backing up your data in case of hardware failure. The onus will be on you to both secure and maintain your entire system, as well as to pay for and perform any upgrades of the software that are required.Choosing web-based software means signing up to a SaaS (software as a service) model. This requires you to pay on a monthly basis rather than the large upfront costs associated with on premise software. Cloud software eliminates the need for you to purchase hardware, secure your systems, run backups or perform upgrades. The software company will do this for you. You are however reliant on a good Internet connection to be able to access your systems so if you opt for this solution you must budget for a high quality Internet package.Inventory, accounts and CRM.When selecting your retail software is essential that you work out how the different areas of your business will share data. The key systems you will need to receive data about the products you are selling are your inventory (what products have been sold, and how many you have left to sell), your accounts (how much did you sell your products for, and how much profit have you made) and your CRM (who did you sell the products too, and can you encourage them to buy from you again). If all these systems are working in harmony then your business will be much more efficient and you will start making more sales.Ideally you want these three systems working together, integrating separate packages can be costly and so buying a pre integrated or all in one solution makes sense. Integrated retail software removes the need for you to transfer data between multiple software systems that may not necessarily be programmed in the same format. This will save you a lot of time and will also mean that all you systems are updated in real-time rather than waiting for you to do a data synchronisation for them to be able to update. So you, or your staff, won’t have to stay late anymore doing stock takes or updating accounts. It’s all done for you as it happens.StaffYour staff are the people who will need to use the retail software to make sales. Make sure that you bear them in mind when you are making the selection. Think about what will make their job easier. If your staff are happy, then they will provide better service and this will make your customers happy, which should ultimately result in more sales and higher customer satisfaction.Would it suit them better to have portable tablets so they can make sales around the store? Would it be easier if there were multiple tills for them to serve from so they aren’t constantly waiting for others to finish serving? Would giving them access to the stock levels in the warehouse make their lives easier? Speak to your staff members and work out what would really benefit them so you can choose the software which best fits their needs.Although remember what suits your business too. Make sure that you can limit the amount of access your staff have to your back-end systems. You may want to let them see stock levels but it’s unlikely you would want them nosing around your accounts. Select retail software that works for you both.What hardware will you need to accompany it?You’ll no doubt need to buy some hardware to go with your retail software. If you opt for an on-premise solution you will need to buy a server, a firewall and a backup facility as well as a secure cabinet to keep your equipment in. For web-based software you will not need this equipment, just a secure and fast Internet connection, but for either solution there will be some additional hardware required. You will certainly need a central cash till to keep cash payments and credit receipts in it. This will need to be connected to your retail software so that it is triggered to open when a sale is made.All your products will also need to be scanned by a barcode scanner to be picked up by the retail software. You will need to invest in a few of these so staff will be able to make multiple sales at the same time. Once a sale has been made you will then need to provide a receipt, make sure you have a facility in your retail software to hook up to thermal printer so that these receipts can be printed automatically.Your company, your decisionAll in all make sure that the decision you make is the best one for your business. No two companies are the same so it is important that you really understand what it is you’re looking for and don’t just settle for the first solution to come your way. Take the time to identify your needs and to research the market so you can find the best retail software solution for your business. Many software products have the option to try before you buy, so take the time to test some out before making your final decision.

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