New tech tools and software make it easier than ever for entrepreneurs to run a successful small business. However, with all of this new technology, it can be tough to figure out where to start. With all the choices, it can be challenging to narrow down the options to what will work best to meet your business needs. With that in mind, let’s look at four types of tools that can help you manage and grow your business.
1. Technology to Help Create a Strong Web Presence
Tools that help you expand your outreach and presence online are a critical part of finding and keeping lifelong customers. From websites and social media platforms to online reviews, shoppers turn to the Internet to inform their purchasing decisions and share their customer experience with others.
A 2013 survey by GE Capital Bank found that 81 percent of shoppers research major purchases online before buying. Even more revealing, a study conducted by Dimensional Research that same year discovered a whopping 90 percent of customers say their purchasing decisions were influenced by online reviews.
Your customers are looking for you online, so it’s important that you meet them there. Every small business needs a website that includes basic information about your company, including who you are and what you do. There are a number of free or low-cost platforms and services to choose from that will help you get a website up and running—even if you don’t have experience as a graphic designer. The important thing is that you give customers a way to find you online, regardless of whether or not you need an eCommerce site. Additionally, don’t forget to pay attention to your URL. Make it something easy to remember and tie the name in with your brand so that your customers know to associate it with you and your business.
Websites are great for channeling information to customers, but social media makes it easier to engage with your brand. Consider establishing a presence on the social media platforms where your customers spend their time and reach out to them there. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all offer ways for you to interact with potential customers. Try to encourage dialogue and remember that social media is not about selling your product or service; it’s about enhancing your web presence. It’s a strategy for engaging with customers, and it opens up new ways to delight and amaze them. You’ll also gain valuable insight into how to expand your consumer market, and may even discover new revenue streams.
2. Improving the Point of Sale Experience
Point of Sale (POS) systems have come a long way since the days of cash registers and legacy terminal systems. The latest POS options tap into tablet and smartphone technology to make purchases easier and more flexible. Now your customers can actually make purchases and payments via their smartphones rather than requiring cash or a credit card. The easier you make it for your customers to shop with you, the more they likely will.
Today’s small business owners want modern POS systems that offer a range of options that outdated systems aren’t designed to handle. Features like automated item lookup, barcode scanning and digital receipts translate into a speedy checkout experience for customers. Many systems also include inventory control or sales reporting and have analytics tools so you can easily track what’s selling well and what stock needs replenishing. When shopping for a POS system, consider packages that include multiple payment options that can serve a wider range of customers including mobile and cash transactions.
3. Technology That Helps You Control Your Inventory
While POS systems can offer a high-level view of your current inventory, many small business owners invest in dedicated inventory management (IM) software to protect their investments. IM systems are available at a wide range of price points, depending on what features your company needs.
Today’s IM systems do more than simply track your available inventory. They also generate real-time data on your most and least profitable products, offer insights into purchasing trends and help business owners project sales on individual items based on past performance.
4. Ramping Up Your Human Resource Management
Most business owners would tell you that their employees are the heart and soul of their companies. Set your employees up for success with tools that help you manage your human resources as well as you manage the other crucial parts of your small business.
From onboarding and training to payroll and benefits, HR management software gives business owners an easy way to track all the activities necessary to managing workers at every level of your organization. Where HR management tools really shine is in their ability to analyze disparate bits of employee data to help small business owners maximize employee talents and minimize turnover.
Being a small business owner means spinning a lot of plates at the same time. Fortunately, modern developments in technology give you options that business owners of the past could only dream about. Dive in and get comfortable with what’s available to not only make your business run smoothly and effectively, but to help your business grow.
About the Author
Lisa Hoover McGreevy is a professional journalist and blogger with more than 15 years of experience covering enterprise products and services, brand marketing and emerging technology for OnDeck.