A fully integrated IT system allows retailers to have their entire business at their fingertips, advises Sonu Kundi, commercial director, Cromwell Business Systems.
There are numerous aspects to being a successful retailer – not least attractive store design, a desirable product range, proactive and efficient staff, competitive prices and an overall great customer experience.
What’s missing from the above list – and is missing still in a surprising number of retailers – is a fully integrated IT solution that allows retailers to run their entire business from selling products in the stores to managing all other areas such as purchasing, suppliers, distribution and so on. These comprehensive systems impact absolutely everything, but here I focus on store operations.
In this most public-facing area of the business, effective software will give your sales staff ready access to comprehensive data on all your customers including full names, contact details, purchase history, response to promotions, credit rating etc. In short, it can act as a customer relationship management (CRM) system if you have been diligent at obtaining and recording the information in the first place. Knowing who your customers are, and what they’re buying, makes it simpler to devise marketing campaigns that target the right customers with the right incentives. Plus, when existing customers return to your store your sales staff can have much more personalised – and potentially profitable – conversations with them.
Good software will also prompt the sales staff to offer customers linked products such as leads and batteries; or deals on packages; or services such as warranties. It will also provide a means of looking up end of lines and other specials. To support any of these conversations at the point of sale, the system will also provide staff with fast access to information highlighting the main features of particular products and services.
Effective software will ensure 100% accurate inventory and sales tracking across single or multiple stores. Staff will be able to rely on stock balance information and give customers accurate details on availability and delivery. The setting of automatic review and re-ordering levels for individual products means fast-moving and staple lines are never out of stock.
Convertible quotes are another nice feature of good software. When potential customers return to your store having previously been given a quote, there will be no delays while details are recorded a second time; instead, the quote can be rapidly converted into a sale. Special ordering is also simple – turning special orders into purchase orders for sending direct to suppliers – as is the handling of loyalty schemes, gift vouchers and cash payments on account for, say, Christmas Clubs.
Links to a reporting solution from the software mean that, in real-time, you and your staff can see the performance of the business by branch and by salesperson, by day, week, month or year. As you will always know which lines are selling, and which are not, purchasing decisions will be based on facts and not instinct.
By using the commission features, you can incentivise your sales staff to offer customers products that are a match for their known preferences and give you the desired level of returns.
For retailers with service operations, systems with integrated Service capabilities will provide seamless booking and tracking of all Service jobs from any of your locations. Powerful integrated scanning solutions will also make goods-in/goods-out operations much faster and more efficient, particularly for volume stock levels, and ensure accurate stock-taking.
Overall, having quality software will save time and money by minimising tedious and error-prone administrative tasks. Crucially, it will allow your sales staff to be out on the shop floor, helping customers, and – when they are behind the counter – interacting with them in ways that boost your business and strengthen customer relationships. At a higher level still, it will give business owners a total picture of what is happening anywhere in their business.