Starting a business is a liberating adventure, but it’s also one fraught with uncertainty. While small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) represent 50% of global employment, some will inevitably be more successful than others.
Over the next three weeks, iVend Retail will be focusing specifically on growth strategies for SMEs in the retail sector, sharing the expertise we’ve developed working with rapidly expanding organizations. We’ll be discussing the trifecta of things that small businesses must get right in order to scale and develop: technology, processes and people.
Technology and SMEs: underdeveloped opportunities
Today’s highly connected, digitally-driven shoppers expect the same standard of service wherever they shop, online and offline. Size is no longer a ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to investing in the right tools and systems to impress customers; as SMEs grow, they need the technology to support a seamless journey to purchase, or risk losing business to larger, better prepared rivals.
Thankfully, the affordability of retail technology has increased in recent years, largely due to the proliferation of cloud-based systems. By hosting infrastructure in the cloud, rather than locally, SMEs can benefit in a number of ways.
Firstly, cloud-based retail technology takes up less space. This is vitally important for store-based businesses, as it leaves more room for products. In fact, couple this with a mobile Point of Sale, and retailers can get rid of the need for a checkout too (creating a more personalized service in the process).
Secondly, cloud-based systems are more flexible, and can scale and change much more easily. This is key for rapidly growing organizations, whose retail estate is likely to change over the next 12-24 months.
In fact, the importance of an agile solution cannot be underestimated. Technology is a major investment for any retail company, particularly a small business, and that investment is designed to promote growth. However, all too often, SMEs jump in head-first with a system that can’t grow at their pace, and ultimately ends up restricting their development.
Technology, SMEs and the consumer
We briefly mentioned earlier that mobile POS systems are an ideal way to free up more room for products in the store, but the idea of bringing greater customer-facing technology into the SME environment is much broader than simply saving space.
The main draw of shopping with an independent business is the personal service they provide, and digital devices like mobile POS can further customize this experience. With on-the-spot connection to back-end information, sales associates can look up product availability, place an order if a product is out of stock, log loyalty points generated by transactions, cross-sell, up-sell and much more.
As we’ll go on to discuss over the coming weeks, it’s the people that make SMEs unique and appealing – and the right technology can enable these key people to do their jobs even better. It’s a great time for growing businesses to look at how digital solutions can enhance their experience and improve their profits, rather than assuming it’s the domain of larger businesses. This is no longer the case.
Next week, we’ll be looking at how process problems impact SMEs’ growth strategies. You can share your views through our @ivendretail_EU Twitter account.