Finding The Right Technology To Scale Your Retail Business
Although great business are built on great products, technology is increasingly the underlying driver of a company’s success, regardless of the industry or marketplace. From accounting and point-of-sale (POS) systems to inventory and fulfillment technology, the efficacy of the solutions you invest in have the potential to make or break your business.
These are core business functions companies typically use technology solutions to automate and manage:
✔ Purchase Orders
✔ Email and Digital Marketing
✔ Employee Benefits
✔ Warehouse Management
✔ Order Fulfillment and Shipping
✔ Returns Processing
✔ Website and ECommerce Channels
✔ Payment Processing
✔ Sales Orders
✔ Reporting and Forecasting
Signs You Need To Implement New Business Technologies
• If any of the following statements apply to your business, it’s probably time for you to begin researching new technologies:
• There are inconsistencies and/or inaccuracies in your accounting, inventory, or order processing
• You are unable to keep up with or properly track growing sales orders
• Manual or disparate tracking processes are killing your productivity
• You are experiencing failures and/or limitations with your current systems
• There is a lack of interoperability between dependent systems and processes
Challenges and Benefits of Adopting New Technology Solutions
While business owners and executives typically recognize and understand the value technology tools can provide, the sheer number and range of available solutions can quickly become overwhelming. Today’s rapid pace of innovation means that not only are new technologies becoming available seemingly every day, but existing solutions are also constantly improving in order to stay competitive. This growing plethora of business technologies naturally leads to a lot of uncertainty and confusion around what the best technology investments are for your business. In fact, a study by Brother International Corporation reported that 63% of small business owners frequently feel overwhelmed with the number of technologies available to run their business.
Still, most small business owners are confident that implementing new technologies is a better investment than hiring more employees. The Brother study also revealed that 72% of small business owners indicated new technologies would offer a bigger return on their investment than new employees (28%).
63% of small business owners feel overwhelmed with the number of technologies available to run their business.
BARRIERS TO TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION
It goes without saying that at the end of the day, business decisions are dollar decisions. Small and mid-sized businesses typically have limited resources to work with, so your business must be able to afford any new solutions it acquires – that includes implementation, support, and maintenance costs.
Lack of Technical Support
It’s no small undertaking to implement new tech systems into your critical business processes. Some systems require a tech-savvy workforce to implement and manage not only the new systems, but also any legacy systems that may already be in place.
Many business owners and managers hesitate to seek out new technology from fear that its implementation will disrupt their current processes: employees might have a hard time learning and using the new system, current processes and integrations might breakdown, deployment may take longer or be more complicated than originally anticipated.
LONG-TERM BENEFITS OF NEW RETAIL TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS
Increased Efficiencies and Productivity
In a business, time is money. As such, the fundamental value new business technologies provide is time savings. Technology solutions help to automate and simplify processes, allowing for the same (or, ideally, a lower) level of effort to produce a much greater output of results. The best technologies will continue to improve productivity and increase efficiencies over time.
Improved Ability To Scale
Since the main driver of technology acquisition is the need to accommodate or facilitate growth, newly adopted solutions enable your business functions and processes to scale.
Gain a Deeper Understanding of Your Business
Knowledge is power. New technologies are helping to put greater insights and more comprehensive data at business’ fingertips. With a deeper understanding of your company’s operations, you can make better informed business decisions.
4 Steps To Choosing The Best Retail Technology Solutions For Your Business
1. DETERMINE YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS
It’s not enough to know that you want to improve and expand your business; you have to know what is needed to do so. Before you begin your technology search, compile a list of all the business needs a new solution must be able to provide. To ensure your list is comprehensive, consult with key managers and employees to make sure all departments’ needs are being considered. It’s important to understand that you likely won’t be able to find a single solution that covers every requirement on your list. However, if you’ve prioritized your requirements by necessity and potential business impact, it will make your search and decision-making process much easier.
2. RESEARCH AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGIES
Identify the key manager and users of the technology you’re looking to adopt; this is the team that should lead your research and evaluation efforts. They’ll be the most impacted by any new system that’s acquired and stand to benefit the most by picking an effective solution. This team will also likely have the most relevant professional networks to reach out to for software and tooling suggestions and feedback. Beyond online searches and network suggestions, analyst reports and trade associations are great resources for solutions research.
Another strategic approach is to leverage the app marketplaces of the core technologies you are currently utilizing. Since you’ll want any new technologies to integrate with your existing platforms, this will help you create a short list of tools that already plug into your current infrastructure. For example, if your eCommerce site is hosted on Shopify, search through Shopify’s app store to find top integrated technologies and partner solutions.
3. ASSESS THE SCALABILITY OF AVAILABLE SOLUTIONS
While it’s important to ensure any new technology your business adopts checks off the majority of your needs requirements, no solution will be a magic bullet. Consult your prioritized list of must-haves and nice-to-haves, making ensure any system you choose is able to automate manual processes and scale with your business. Acquiring new technology is a significant financial investment for your business. Do your due diligence to achieve the best return on investment with whatever solution(s) you choose.
Your team should seek answers to the following questions to assess the scalability of the technology options you’re evaluating:
• Are the solutions you are considering innovating at the same pace as your company’s planned growth?
• Do these solutions integrate or plug into any of your other existing or planned technologies?
• Are these systems cloud-based for increased agility, flexibility, and scalability
• Will these systems be user-friendly enough for you and your employees?
• How quickly will you be able to get this new system up and running?
4. GET QUALITY TECHNICAL SUPPORT
Technical support services should be a top consideration when choosing a new software solution. Depending on the size and maturity of your business, chances are you aren’t planning to hire a dedicated staff to support your newly acquired systems. However, you’ll want to make sure the implementation process goes smoothly and your existing staff knows how to effectively operate your newest technology. Ensure the business solutions you choose offer top-notch support including implementation, training, security, upgrades, and troubleshooting services.
Choosing the right technology for your business can be difficult, especially for rapidly growing companies. Not only do you not want to waste your limited time and money adopting ineffective solutions, but implementing the wrong solutions has the added potential to actually introduce new problems into your system. Following the steps laid out above should help to make this overwhelming process much more approachable.
Things You Can Do Today:
✔ Ask core team members what their biggest pain points are and where the most pressing inefficiencies lie in your business processes
✔ Research solutions in the app marketplace of core technologies you already have implemented
✔ Consider online reviews and recommendations
✔ Start a free trial or schedule a demo with solutions you’re strongly considering to gain a better understanding of their value
Learn more about accelerating and managing business growth by reading the other chapters in the Ultimate Guide to Scaling Your Retail Business.