With Small Business Month rolling to a close, the shoulder season squarely upon us, and a lackluster season in the not-too-distant past, it’s a good time to look for ways to cut expenses in some areas, spend wisely in others and uncover ways to better serve your customers.
One of those ways is via software. With more legit software running on “the cloud” (think the Internet), you have fewer reasons to constantly be in the office, and more time to do what you love.
Is all this tech speak over your head? Offer some paid time off or a shop discount to a trusted employee or customer who’s in the know, and have him or her do the research for you.
Obviously every shop is going to be different, but here are five software companies/services you may want to check out.
B2B Sales Link
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure is the premise of recently launched B2B Sales Link. Though the software doesn’t interface with POS systems, it enables retailers to manually input products on the Sales Link network, assign a price to them and wait for another retailer to request a purchase. The buying shop sees the lowest price for the item (if anyone has it) and pays for shipping, and the selling shop pays, in most cases, a 5 percent transaction fee that goes to B2B.
But you’ll need to get your brands on board-and it’s not free for them either. Suppliers pick what shops and what products they’ll allow to be put on the network-though the shop can decide whether or not to sell each item. While it means extra work on the shop’s behalf, it’s another way to sell unwanted inventory or find inventory the manufacturer doesn’t have. www.b2bsaleslink.com.
Founded by the owners of a snow and skate shop in Denver, CompanyBe enables online real-time inventory management that’s available anytime, anywhere. After the Denver retailer created it solely for its shop, other shops started asking to use it. Now CompanyBe is trying to expand its reach in the ski market. For $1,000 and then $250 per month after that, retailers get a new in-store POS solution as well as a new e-commerce-enabled website that’s tied directly to the shop’s inventory system and can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. www.companybe.com.
For those shops that are dabbling in e-commerce and want a low cost of entry, Prestashop is a great option. If you don’t need a fully-featured, medium- to large-scale e-commerce platform, then the open-source, free software will be easy to use and will cover all your bases.
Like with Magento, another free, open-source e-com software, you’ll have to pay for upgraded features, but the base model will still get the job done. It integrates with your inventory system and enables you to track orders, set up a mobile-enhanced store and allows customers to compare products. Keep in mind: If you already have the basics down and want an e-com-only platform that’s more robust, you may want to check out Magento instead. www.prestashop.com.
Email marketing still proves itself when it comes to reaching customers, and MailChimp is a legit service that makes sending e-blasts easier. If you have fewer than 2,000 email addresses on your list, you could opt for the free version-but there are a few functions it doesn’t give you, so the upgrade might be worthwhile. The standard monthly fee scale ($10-$240) is broken down by the number of email subscribers and the frequency of the e-blasts. Plus you can choose from a variety of pre-made templates or create your own, segment your email list, track your email campaigns and more. www.mailchimp.com.
For mid- to upper-midsize retailers and brands that are too busy to breakdown customers into segments—or those that don’t know where to start—PivotLink can do it for you. The company can give you the tools needed to create more-effective ad campaigns, loyalty programs and brand partnerships.
By taking into account facets like weather, social media, customer demographics and customer hobbies, PivotLink’s service can give you a pretty detailed look at what your customers are and aren’t buying, and how to make sure they keep coming back to your store. But it’s not too cheap. The average one-year contract is between $50,000 and $70,000—hence the company’s target market. www.pivotlink.com.