Author: Cassie Gasaway
Technology can transform your business and simplify your life. Depending on the software, it can reduce operating costs, expedite integration, improve communication processes, protect your business and give you peace of mind. Give yourself a break and give your business a competitive advantage by using the tech tools in the following six categories (if you aren’t already).
Almost all businesses face cybersecurity threats. From hackers to ransomware computer viruses, your company’s data and network are at risk of cyberattacks. Because most small-business owners rely on computer software to monitor and track finances, inventory and transactions, it’s best to always use strong passwords for your computer, Wi-Fi network, email account and other programs. Better yet, use firewalls and additional antivirus or anti-malware software, like Bitdefender Antivirus Plus or Malwarebytes, for an added layer of protection. And don’t leave your passwords on a sticky note on your workstation!
While you’re at it, back up your files on a physical hard drive or a cloud-based system, which automatically uploads information digitally. You can also check that your credit card processor uses point-to-point encryption, which is the highest level of security offered for credit card transactions. Taking proactive measures will ease frustrations should you face a cyberattack.
According to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, retailers lose over $13 billion worth of goods each year to thieves, which is about $35 million in stolen products daily. Security cameras and merchandise security tags can significantly reduce retail thefts and allow you to focus on customer interactions without being paranoid about inventory shrinkage. Most retailers use EAS tags, which sound an alarm when the tag goes by the antenna near the store exit). If that’s out of budget, consider using visual tags that give the appearance of an EAS system but don’t actually have an alarm, meaning they deter shoplifters through the deception of a working system. Installing anti-theft devices and storing security camera video feeds digitally or off-site makes it easy to identify perpetrators trying to rob your business.
Another tip to help reduce shrinkage and keep customers from swapping merchandise tags is to have a point-of-sale system that shows the product image to the cashier when the item is scanned. That way, the cashier can confirm product details during checkout.
- Point-of-Sale Systems
Simplify inventory management and customer communications with a combination point-of-sale and customer relationship management software program. Traditional point-of-sale systems track sales and inventory levels, track repairs and work orders, and manage employees and range schedules. Some systems also have CRM integration to collect and store customer data (such as birthdays and past purchases), and track customer communications. With a CRM like that, you can easily offer loyalty programs to your customers and allow them to accrue and redeem their points in your store and on your website. Advanced systems also help business owners make inventory decisions and anticipate, plan, and communicate efficiently with customers.
- Credit Card/Contactless Payment Options
Streamline your checkout process and improve a customer’s shopping experience by allowing customers to use credit cards and contactless payment options. These services give consumers options and allow them to quickly pay for merchandise after they finish shopping. They also reduce long lines and wait times.
Fortunately, the ATA has two MyATA service providers (Celerant Technology and Savings4Members’ CardConnect AIP) that offer a suite of products and technologies to support the concepts above. Bonus: Many of their options have integration capabilities to reduce additional software requirements.
Avoid mistakes and take the guesswork out of your finances with a digital general ledger platform like QuickBooks, Sage Intacct or Microsoft Dynamics. These systems make payroll, invoicing, budgeting, tax filing and expense management easy and streamlined. When you’re looking for an accounting software program, find one that integrates with your point-of-sale system to eliminate having to enter information manually.
Use Microsoft Teams, a Google Calendar or another efficient way to keep track of schedules. Photo Credit: Lifewire
Most ATA members have little free time in their workday. Get organized and ensure you don’t miss an important call or meeting with a calendar app that sends you event reminders, is easy to edit and syncs with email platforms for simple scheduling. Calendar.com is a free, popular option. If you have a large team, you may want to consider a platform that allows users to share their calendars, like Microsoft Teams or Google Calendar.
If you have too many things on your calendar, consider a time tracking app, such as Toggl Track, that color-codes meetings and events into categories to help you understand where you spend your time. Task management apps like Todoist and Evernote also make it easy to work through your to-do list.
With most things in your business, you should analyze your efforts and processes to see if they’re effective. That also goes for your website’s performance. Find an analytics service, like Google Analytics, to easily review and assess your website content and function. The platform reveals how visitors find and use your website, so you can make data-based decisions that improve the user experience. It can also help you identify content topics and themes your site visitors prefer. Use the reporting feature to stay up to date. You can find and hire a search engine optimization reporting group to work with if you want more detailed reports.
Take advantage of the tools and technologies made for businesses. In doing so, you might have more time on your less-stressed hands. If you have questions, please contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s senior manager of outreach, at email@example.com.