Experiencing a Sales Slump? It Could be Your Technology
Keep your business management technology solution current
If your software has not been updated in the last two years, your business is at risk and needs a more powerful robust solution. Here are a few signs that your system is no longer an asset and is actually holding your business back:
- Your software is running on local servers, requiring dedicated IT personnel for their support, maintenance, and issue ticketing, as well as for data security.
- You are not getting any valuable analytics or insights into your business.
- You are being asked to pay for expensive upgrades just to keep your system current.
- Your system takes a long time to make simple updates or complete basic tasks.
- Some of your tasks are still manual, when software is available to automate them.
- You and your staff waste time with redundant and unnecessary tasks because you have nonintegrated solutions for different business functions.
- Your POS system is non-PCI compliant and incompatible with EMV credit card providers.
There are many new advances in software features for hardware stores, but four categories in particular are essential to remain competitive in the current industry environment:
- Cloud-based business management solutions
- Industry-specific, integrated modules
- Modern point-of-sale system technologies
- Mobility solutions for employees and customers
Cloud-based business management solutions
“The cloud” is a cost-effective software delivery model. It cuts upfront investment in software packages and reduces the time it takes to make an investment decision, since options can be changed easily. Hardware stores often sign on with a software vendor and add modules and options as they grow. Updates are delivered automatically and conveniently, with no business interruption. Customers always run the latest versions, including up-to-the-minute security updates.
Cloud-based software solutions enable delivery of real-time data, which helps to assure better business planning and quicker decisions. Because it is hosted online, the software is accessible from anywhere, by anyone with permission and a password. This means enhanced productivity for staff, including salespeople at the counter who can access vital information on tablets. Customers and vendors can also do business without having to call.
Cloud migration eliminates the need for expensive onsite servers, ongoing maintenance, and the advanced IT skills that would be necessary to perform this work. Finally, the cloud has proven secure and reliable. In conjunction with advancements in data security and disaster recovery, being able to deploy continuous updates ensures that businesses are protected against the latest threats.
Industry-specific, integrated modules
Industry-specific software solutions can integrate and streamline your workflow, enabling you to accomplish more using less staff. For small and medium size businesses, this is vital to competing against large corporations.
Modules work seamlessly, eliminating redundant tasks and needless communications between inventory, purchasing and receiving, point-of-sale, and accounts receivable. Formerly manual tasks are now automated. Communications that once took place by email or over the phone are now done through the software platform. Best-of-breed software packages are also designed to be intuitive, which reduces the training it takes for each employee to reach peak productivity.
Modern point-of-sale system technologies
Modern point-of-sale systems can be accessed by employees on devices from any point in the store or yard, greatly increasing time management and customer service. Omni-channel integration enables each customer touchpoint to be more personalized. Customer engagements in store and online add to the customer profile, so that salespeople are better equipped to understand customers’ histories and needs.
A very important consideration is credit card processing. Major bank cards now use EMV microchips instead of a magnetic stripe to reduce incidents of fraud. If your POS system and credit card processors are not EMV compatible and fraud occurs at your business, you—not the card issuer—are responsible for the damages. Make sure your POS system and payment processors are compliant.
Mobility solutions for employees and customers
Enabled by the cloud, today’s Lumber and Building Material Handling (LBMH) technology applications are mobile extensions of software systems. Staffers can access modules from any internet-enabled device, from anywhere. Store employees can answer the most challenging customer questions and provide customers with the information they need. Personnel can create live customer orders and get digital signatures on delivery. Managers can access up-to-date business information as they travel, view documents, and see store sales totals in real time. They can even compile purchase orders created by scanning barcodes with the phone. All of this information is constantly updated, integrated, and available.
Placing this power in the palm of your employees’ hands, wherever they go, frees them from the shackles of working on premises. Now they can walk in the yard as they monitor sales activities and even visit clients and vendors while they work. Mobility reducing training time for information-enabled employees and maximizing staff productivity, from accountants to clerks. solutions are changing the way LBMH leaders work, reducing training time for information-enabled employees and maximizing staff productivity, from accountants to clerks.
Give your technology investments a powerful marketing boost
Once you have updated your software technology platforms, you can leverage powerful marketing techniques that have evolved with and because of technology:
Customer loyalty programs – In all economic cycles, it is crucial to find ways to attract and retain customers. A well-designed loyalty program can make a huge difference. If you are not taking advantage co-op programs or haven’t developed your own, you could be missing out. Turnkey programs can often be integrated with e-commerce, inventory, accounting, and POS systems through LBMH business management software.
Customers love getting exclusive offers, and more importantly, they have been conditioned by all of the companies they do business with to expect loyalty rewards. These programs are fairly inexpensive to implement, and you are sure to enjoy considerable returns on your investment.
Keyword research and optimization is what most LBMH leaders think of first when they consider SEO investments. This is about defining your audience segments and then working with Google to “meet” these people in their online quests for information. Google AdWords enables you to pay for search engine display results and ads when prospects search on key terms that you choose. This is one of the most cost-effective ways of bringing in the highest quality new leads to your business.
Your website must be optimized to work with search engines’ ever-evolving algorithms. There are hundreds of technical considerations in getting search engines to assess and rate your site, so that when customers search for your products and services, your pages rank highly. Just a few short years ago, there were tricks webmasters used to manipulate search engines, but now only high quality content is rewarded.
Social media must be an integral component of your multi-channel marketing plans. Assuming you are investing in SEO and digital advertising, social media dramatically enhances your work through these channels. For example, a successful SEO campaign is driven by content marketing. However, investments in high quality articles are too expensive unless you can leverage them on social media, where they will be shared among business and social networks, maximizing your exposure and credibility.
Sharing is just one form of engagement. If you provide compelling content, your audiences will engage with you by commenting, liking, and re-posting or re-tweeting. Audience engagement is a measure of attention, or mindshare, and mindshare is as valuable to your business as market share. In other words, how much each customer loves you is as important as how many customers love you.
Investing in social media also enables you to manage your reputation. Prospective customers and employees Google your business name and the content that you push out through social media channels often appears at the top of search engine rankings. You want that content to be a reflection of your good work, and it can be, provided you engage with customers through their preferred platforms. Thank them for positive feedback and offer solutions whenever a negative experience occurs.
Website improvements – Continually improving your customers’ online experience is a marketing mandate for all LBMH businesses. Having a site professionally designed and maintained, with a robust, reliable, and secure e-commerce platform is essential. A good website experience drives your brand within the local community and beyond, and enables people to do business with you no matter where they are located.
Boost your sales and marketing opportunities with modern LBMH business management software
Your LBMH business management software supports your marketing strategies. If it integrates with POS, accounting, and inventory features, it can help you determine strengths and weaknesses in your marketing and sales efforts. User demographics and buying habits, for instance, can be revealing. Through your software, you may become aware of an uptick in the sale of a particular item. Perhaps your efforts marketing to a specific group are finally paying off, or maybe you’re missing out on low-hanging fruit. Whatever the case may be, you can more easily identify and capitalize on market opportunities by using the right software.