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In: Mobile App Development

There’s no doubt that this year has been unpredictable. As the snow started falling in the Northern hemisphere, we faced a holiday season that looked a lot different for many. And there’s perhaps no industry as uncertain as retail when it comes to how this year compared to years past.

In 2020, we saw drastic changes when it came to the retail landscape. Customer experience is more important than ever before for driving sales and staying competitive, and the experience that customers are demanding is much different and changing quickly.

That means that retailers walk a tightrope, balancing the need to meet customer demand to remain relevant with the increased risk of investing in something new at an ambiguous time.

How can retail software solutions help?

Retail software solutions prove time and again to be a good investment for businesses in the retail industry. There are a lot of options for ways you can incorporate software into your retail business. If you want to drive customer engagement through a loyalty app, grow sales with optimized online ordering, increase employee retention with great POS software, or grow your bottom line by enhancing retail operations, there’s something here for you.

No matter how nuanced your retail business, a custom software solution can give you everything you need with nothing that you don’t. That means you’re only investing money in products that solve your exact problem. Whether you want to build something completely custom and just for you or take advantage of the simplicity of a quick fix with an off-the-shelf solution, you can tailor your products to what your customers and employees really need.

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What software do retail stores use?

Until recently, software wasn’t really something you thought of when you thought of retail. In fact, a slow stroll through a cozy shop with attractive displays can feel like an escape from the world and technology. However, it’s actually an important part of retail operations.

A common software that comes to mind for many is point-of-sale, or POS. Retail POS systems are often the center of the retail software arsenal. When it comes to retail POS software, retail companies often rely on products that provide a central hub for store and back office operations like processing transactions, completing sales, updating inventory, and storing customer data.

Imagine if your store employees needed to dash to the back office and manually count all your inventory each day. That would be frustrating, time consuming, and inaccurate. However, it’s important for you to know what and how much you have to offer at any given time. That can be especially tricky when reconciling with in-store and online or warehouse inventory. That’s why many retailers implement inventory management solutions to help streamline operations.

While it might be combined with your POS solution, retailers use customer relationship management software to keep track of customer data. These solutions can analyze that data to target special offers and reward loyalty. This can help you predict and influence shopping trends. The right solution can make shoppers feel valued, appreciated, and understood. With the power to anticipate their needs, retail software solutions like this can help you develop trust and a solid reputation among consumers.

Online shopping was on the rise even before the pandemic hit. Many retailers take advantage of e-commerce solutions to be able to offer their products to people anytime and anywhere in the world. Create an online storefront to get in touch with users on a variety of devices. With the right payment processing software attached, you can complete secure transactions fast.

For physical stores, retail companies opt for different solutions. Artificial intelligence has been introduced to help customers make final purchase decisions and get answers fast when an employee isn’t nearby. Especially these days when consumers are keeping their interactions to a minimum, a kiosk or a chat bot is great to help to steer them in right direction while keeping shoppers and employees safe.

Internet of things, or IoT, solutions are also popular with retailers. They make retail solutions like beacons work. Beacons use Bluetooth to connect with customers based on where they are in your store. They can lure shoppers into stores with offers and alerts or help them navigate once they get inside. These IoT solutions are also the driving force behind the concept of cashierless checkout at stores like Amazon Go.

Mobile applications are increasingly popular among retailers for a variety of reasons. A branded mobile app is a great way to stay top-of-mind while offering options for personalization and rewarding brand loyalty. Mobile apps also afford retailers the chance to gather customer data in a way that doesn’t feel invasive to users, which can help companies identify trends and predict future consumer behavior.

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What is retail management software?

Retail management software is another type of software frequently used by retailers of all kinds. It deals with things like managing operations, tracking inventory, completing transactions, and storing, securing, and analyzing customer data. The right retail management solution can help you remain organized and provide a solid foundation for your retail business to grow.

A retail management system is a software product meant to handle the ‘behind-the-scenes’ part of your retail business. This software is more frequently used by employees than shoppers but impacts the overall experience for everyone.

For instance, while an employee will be the primary user of my POS system, one that runs too slowly or requires a lot of unnecessary steps can also mean that my customer is growing frustrated with the time it takes to check out. They probably won’t be back next time they’re in a hurry.

If my inventory count is incorrect, my customer is upset when they show up for their ‘buy online pickup in store’ order with nothing to take home, and my employee is uncomfortable having to explain the mistake to an irate shopper that braved the December snow and fought for a spot in a packed parking lot for nothing.

Retail management systems help keep things running smoothly from the very first interaction someone has with your brand. A great experience every step of the way ensures that a person likes working with you and gives it their all every day or enjoys shopping with you and is likely to return and bring their friends with them.

With the right retail management solution, you also help yourself! Free up time and brain power to focus on doing all of the things you always said you would if you just had more time.

What are the top retail software solutions?

The top retail software solutions are becoming more customer centric. The pandemic has forced customers to re-evaluate the way they shop. As a result, companies in the retail industry have had to re-evaluate how to meet this new kind of cautious consumer where they’re at.

Cloud-based retail software solutions have also risen in popularity, even before the pandemic. These types of products often cost less than traditional POS software while providing added flexibility. Users can take back-office functionality onto the floor, which can prove extra useful when you want to check out customers while letting them skip standing close to one another in line!

Marketing-focused retail software solutions have also exploded onto the scene in recent years. Smart retailers have learned that the best way to cater to customers is to be able to understand and predict their needs. These kinds of mobile retail software solutions can provide an easy way for businesses to collect customer data and use it to personalize offerings that drive sales and entice customers. A customer might be less likely to come browsing after work but would be excited to drop in if they know the item that they’ve been thinking about is on offer!

It’s also important to note that a top software platform is easy to use. Retail systems focused on the customer are useless if the customer doesn’t know how to use or connect with them. Software products for retail should be fun to use, intuitive, and personalized to maximize user adoption and sales. A way to maximize connections with shoppers both online and in-store is ideal for any global climate.

How to Connect with Customers and Enhance Retail Management

At a time when connecting with customers is more difficult than ever, it has also become critical for businesses that want to succeed. A lot of us can hop on a Zoom call to catch up with our clients, but it isn’t so simple for B2C retailers. However, there are many ways you can use technology to reach out to your customer base.

The top retail software today allows retailers the opportunity to better connect with their customers and enhance retail management. The pandemic has made it more difficult for retailers but has also opened up an opportunity to innovate in new and exciting ways.

People have been increasingly isolated from one another since early this year, so it’s no surprise that customer connection is among the top trends in the retail industry right now. Companies are looking to maintain and even improve their customer experience from 6 or more feet away, and technology is a great way to do it.

Ecommerce in general is also booming, showing a 21% year-over-year increase with consumers spending $21.7 billion online just in the first 10 days of this holiday shopping season. Even with a vaccine on the way, this trend doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.

These new trends have pushed retailers to keep up or else. Many retailers pushed up software projects they had envisioned for later in the future or rolled out new offerings at breakneck speed. Suddenly, all of those nice-to-haves, like curbside pickup, became must-haves in order to keep customers interested.

Mobile Must-Haves

One must-have item at the top of the list for a lot of retailers this holiday season? A mobile application. The seismic shift in customer behavior this year provided a unique opportunity for retailers to cultivate relationships with new customers that are open to trying different brands and methods of shopping. And a great way to develop relationships with customers wherever they might be is through a mobile app.

For some retailers like Tractor Supply Company, the pandemic inspired them to try a mobile app for the first time. Many other retails have enhanced their applications to meet new demands.

For instance, Target and Walmart both have mobile apps that make curbside pickup quick and easy with tracking, automatic check-in, and reserved parking spots. This is great for contactless pickup at the moment, but also rather convenient when you need to maximize your shopping time or just don’t have it in you to brave holiday crowds.

Mobile apps can also be employee-facing retail management systems. For example, Gap created an app that allows employees to check stock in real time right on the sales floor, saving customers and employees significant time. Providing accurate inventory information is especially essential in busy seasons.

In-Store Enviables

As popular as mobile loyalty, payment, and ecommerce have become, retailers also use technology to improve the in-store shopping experience as well.

Lowes uses mobile technology to track the numbers of customers in-store, helping them easily adhere to new COVID-19 retail regulations and keep staff and shoppers safe. Post pandemic, this sort of information can be valuable to data gathering and trend tracking.

Ever wander around Home Depot and find yourself in an aisle full of faucets when you came for a can of paint? Home Depot’s app can help! It’s user-friendly, allowing you to search for an item with a description or even a picture, see if it’s in stock in the store, and get directions to the right aisle.

Earlier this year, Stein Mart combined the power of convenience with the strength of personal connection when they introduced their ‘smart button’ for buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) orders. Customers press this button when they arrive for their order, triggering a page to available employees. It saves them wait time while also giving staff the option to engage with them face-to-face.

More retailers are also turning to data to help create stronger connections with their customers. Analytics platforms help to compile data, identify customer needs, predict how they will change, and spit out the information in highly visual reports that are easier to read than a spreadsheet of the same data. The more a brand can understand their target audience, the better the chances they have of knowing the right steps to take to develop great customer relationships.

Back-Office Wishlist

There is no doubt that new retail technology has made it easier and faster for consumers to purchase what they need. However, it can’t stop there. If you’re taking in more orders at an enhanced rate, you also need to be prepared to fill those orders if you want to keep those customers.  

Retail management systems can provide what your business needs to tackle each part of the fulfillment process, from warehousing to shipping and return processing. A fully integrated ERP system helps any sized retailer optimize their supply chain.

Software helps to address the #1 fulfillment concern of merchants – the ability to process orders on time.

Giant retailers like Amazon and Walmart and other retail companies like Shopify have turned to technology to keep their warehouses running smoothly. These ‘smart warehouses’ use software and robotics to meet increased demand for fast shipping and staff safety while reducing operating costs.

Pieces of general equipment, like a conveyor belt or a forklift, have evolved new functionality that connects them to one another and their operators. Driverless carts collect merchandise based on the learned layout of the warehouse. Smart glasses help direct employee actions and reduce the potential for human error.

With more customers than ever switching to online orders and 80% usually expecting same-day shipping, it’s critical to be efficient from start to end to meet those heightened expectations.

What is the best software for retail businesses?

The best retail software is one that meets the needs of your customers and your business. There are so many retail software solutions on the market because there are so many different types of businesses with different consumer markets.

Selecting the perfect retail management solution for your business can be tricky. The great news is that there are plenty on shelves today, and you also have the option to customize solutions that get you exactly what you need.

However, there tend to be some common desirables when it comes to retail solutions. The best retail software will account for the following variables:

(1) Budget. Let’s face it. I think a lot of us would be living in luxury and vacationing to tropical islands if money were no concern. Your retail software and development approach should consider what you can spend. Consider licensing and user fees as well as costs to upgrade. Focus the bulk of your precious resources on producing solutions that have the most value in the quickest time.

(2) Target Audience. Retail software solutions aren’t worth the cost if no one is going to use them. Make sure that you consider your users and the behaviors you want to inspire. What platforms do they use? Do they prefer shopping online or in-stores? What are their biggest concerns when it comes to shopping with you? Consumer research is very helpful in deciding on the best solution for your retail business.

(3) Challenges. What do you struggle with currently? Knowing that is the key to finding the right retail software solution for you. Software won’t be a great investment if it’s not able to do some work for you. Whether you struggle with enticing a new audience, introducing e-commerce, keeping track of a vast inventory, rewarding loyal customers, or handling increased online traffic, you want your retail software solution to help.

(4) Ease. As mentioned, you want your software to work for you. Retail software solutions are a great way to make things easier for your retail business, shoppers, and employees. Retail software that’s easy for everyone to use can offer the solution to a lengthy checkout time, simplify the online ordering process, help manage a chaotic warehouse, and more. You’ll be rewarded with smooth operations, happy customers, and engaged employees.

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Retail management software puts you on the fast track to get what you need from your retail business. Whether online or in-store, these solutions give you the power to reach consumers like never before. Enhance the business you already have or build something completely new with a fresh concept that appeals to an evolving consumer market.

If you need help or just want to find out what sort of software would be a good match for your retail business, reach out to Geneca. You might be surprised to learn about the ROI we can provide for the next holiday shopping season!