Technology is no longer beyond the budget of smaller retailers. In fact, it is the greatest opportunity for levelling the customer experience between large and small enterprises, and for providing SMEs with an effective platform for growth.
According to a Barclays Business survey conducted late last year, small and medium-sized businesses view tech as the most important contributing factor to their growth in 2016, with 1 in 4 believing it will have a positive impact on their business.
However, budget does make a big difference when it comes to how SMEs invest in technology versus larger corporations. Naturally, some solutions will be beyond their means in terms of cost, although the development of cloud technology is making systems much more affordable. However, the bigger challenge is making that investment drive ROI – smaller businesses simply don’t have the cash flow to get it wrong.
So how can SMEs in the retail sector find the right technology to cost-effectively enable business growth? Here are some considerations:
- What are the business challenges holding back your growth?
Technology should never be deployed for its own sake; in order to generate ROI, it needs to solve a critical business issue. Therefore, small businesses need to review their biggest challenges in terms of customer engagement, processes and productivity, and how they are impacting their growth.This will provide a framework for prioritizing where the greatest change is needed, so they can focus in on which technologies can solve the problem.
- Which technologies address those challenges?
Research is very important in ensuring ROI for small businesses. For example, if the problem is long queue times during peak trading, the answer may be to introduce a second point of sale – but is there room for a fixed till, or would a flexible point of sale be a better use of space? Mobile Point of Sale is a cost-effective option for many small businesses, as it can be utilized in a number of ways. In addition to providing a queue busting tool during busy periods, it can be used to enhance one-to-one customer service, by linking to shoppers’ loyalty account to collect points, or it can increase conversions by synchronizing with inventory to detail stock availability if an item is not available on the shelf.
- Which technology partner can offer the greatest support?
For the majority of growth challenges impacting SMEs, there will be multiple technology providers on the market offering suitable solutions. They need to find the partner that best fits their business needs.There could be differences in the product itself, which affects suitability – for instance, is it a cloud-based technology? Running applications and devices in the cloud is much more cost-effective than an on-premise system, and it is much easier to add new users, diagnose technical hiccups and update software. Equally, SMEs need to understand how well a potential partner can run a project for their business. One of the main barriers to tech adoption among smaller companies is a lack of in-house expertise, therefore it is advisable to work with a provider that has proven experience in the retail industry.
- How will new technology be integrated into working life?
Last but by no means least, growing retailers need to think about how their technology investment will be used day-to-day to generate ROI. The best piece of kit in the world will not drive growth if it is being under-utilized – or ignored by staff who are unsure how to work it.Education and training is vitally important to make retail technology cost – effective for SMEs. Get buy-in from the whole team early on, launch a thorough training program, and listen to the feedback staff give on how the new solution is serving their needs.
If you’re a SME wondering how retail technology can positive impact your business processes and productivity to enable growth, get in touch with us at London@citixsys.com