The rise of eCommerce retail has changed the way people think about shopping forever. Now, when people think about purchasing goods, they’re usually thinking about heading online. Rather than the clang of a cash register, they’re thinking of the click of a mouse.
Online shopping has quickly become the de facto choice when consumers consider where and how to make their purchases. This is due to the availability of options, convenience, and competitive pricing, not to mention the ability for consumers to check prices across options very quickly.
All this means that traditional, offline retail options are quickly losing their shine. For them to have any chance in this new world, traditional retailers and their bricks and mortar stores need to embrace new ideas and be ready to make changes. For online retailers, the same trend means they need to refine their consumer offering to ensure that they’re providing the best customer experience that they can. It’s now super easy for customers to choose other businesses if they’re not satisfied. Doing this is just as quick as a click on their Mac or a tap on their iOS mobile devices!
What do we mean, though, when we say ‘make changes’ or ‘refine the customer offering’? We mean being ready to embrace technology or automation, and integrating them in everyday retail operations both online and in-store.
For example, online businesses frequently run into the problem of customers browsing their site but leaving empty-handed due to out of stock items. Conversely, they may be in a space where they have low sales but overstocked inventory levels. There could also be issues with irregularities in stock counting or mismanagement of faulty or expired stock.
All these problems lead to the same outcome for customers. They’ve gone online to find something they want, but it isn’t available – either at all or in the size, colour, or delivery window they want. Or they find they can’t pay by credit card, PayPal, or the particular method they desire. These issues make the customer experience rough and could negatively affect retailers now and in the future.
What frustrates consumers the most about the retail industry?
The worst of it is that these problems can’t be identified through analysis of traditional sales reports, and so businesses aren’t able to get to the root causes of loss, or lack, of sales.
These days, customers expect their shopping experience to be easy and convenient, and customer support to be polished. Businesses need to be able to optimise their customer journey to ensure that there isn’t a pause for customers to purchase from them. They need to be able to streamline their front and back-office operations to ensure they’re providing the best value for customers. In terms of money, time, and overall experience.
The answer to this is retail management software. Whether for online-only stores, traditional retailers or in circumstances of eCommerce integration with other channels.
What is Retail Management Software?
At its heart, retail management is the set of actions a company takes to make the customer journey as easy and enjoyable as possible. It’s made up of things like customer relationship management, retail inventory management software, loyalty programs, employee management, point of sales management, and many more. It also includes specific strategies that retailers will use to achieve their sales goals and meet business needs.
Changes in retail management
Way back when businesses didn’t have to think too much about retail management. Managing their retail stores was relatively easy; they didn’t have nearly as many pain points, and wouldn’t have thought too hard about their customers’ journey. Customers, for their part, were much more submissive and more local retailers tended to have a monopoly on their particular product types.
Customers would see products in a showroom, and if they didn’t like what they saw, colleagues would hand over a catalogue with more products that they had available in their warehouse. It was catalogue only and, if customers weren’t 100% satisfied, there was a minimal choice in a wider market. And little, to no, the scope for preferences or customization. It was also easy to manage, as customers could be made to wait for their products to be delivered from the warehouse.
Today, this whole process couldn’t be more different. Customers won’t wait if the product they want isn’t available; there are too many different options available to them. Retail business management used to be much easier as retailers would only face local competition if any. Now, eCommerce has changed the game. Today, retailers have to compete with millions of other businesses selling the same products globally—sometimes even multi-location goliaths like Amazon or eBay.
If a customer is looking for a specific item, they are likely to look at several options online and have an idea of the business they want to buy from. They will have poured over the product specs, compared with other offerings, read reviews, and analysed the prices. They will also already have a wide range of businesses that they know about, ready to visit if their preferred choice doesn’t stack up. Simply put, today’s businesses can’t stay competitive without the addition of technology to their businesses.
An example of this is the use of reporting and analytics. Previously, there was no reason for businesses to have in-depth analytical tools. Ecommerce retail has opened the floor up for customers, allowing them to pick and choose from hundreds, if not thousands, of options online.
The problem for online businesses, then, is the ability to decipher how and why customers choose them or not, and what they can do to ensure optimisation of sales. Reporting and analytics are vital.
Importance of efficient retail management in today’s climate
Retail, at its heart, is direct to consumer sale activity. And, in today’s world, customers can be browsing products while looking at price comparisons, reviews, and alternatives at the same time. With a large number of information customers have available at any one time, their buying decisions can be made for them in seconds and retailers have very little control over this.
With this total overhaul in customers’ approach to purchasing, the survival of any retail offering in this day and age depends entirely on how businesses are managed and what extra value they can provide for their customers. Having an efficient retail management solution becomes everything for the sustainability and the growth of their businesses.
What challenges do retailers face?
In physical or online stores, stock management is everything. If a business has poor stock management, it won’t take more than a moment’s thought for customers to go elsewhere. They’ll quickly recognise that the business has insufficient stock and jump on their iPad, Android tablet, or smartphone to find a company that can give them what they want.
They will rarely wait until you have stock back, and it could damage their perception of the brand in the future. With so many options available to them, why would they waste time waiting for an item to come back in stock or for a longer delivery time?
There have been countless times where I have ditched a queue in-store to leave due to the wait times. And this doesn’t only happen when I’m in a rush either. In this day and age, people really value their time and standing waiting in a queue isn’t worth it to most.
The above stats show how long shoppers in America are willing to wait in a queue before abandoning their shopping. A whopping 73% of customers surveyed said they would abandon their purchase if they had to wait more than five minutes! This isn’t just Americans either, the queue tolerant Brits consider 9 minutes long enough to reconsider their purchases, and will walk out of queues more than seven people deep.
It’s not just customer frustration that is affected by queues; it can affect brand loyalty too. 74% of customers would choose to shop at a competitor store if they think the queue time will be shorter, and 70% would be less likely to shop in the same store again if they experienced long queues.
Online efficiency, meanwhile, is all about how long it takes a customer to find an item and checkout. The number of clicks it takes to get through to purchase the item is vital. Frustration can come when you have to click through several screens to get to the checkout and enter your details.
One example is if you have been browsing and added items to your cart. If I then leave that cart to come back later and pay and then find that my cart is empty, you’re likely to abandon the site altogether.
Creating and maintaining loyal customers
It can be incredibly difficult for businesses to create and maintain a loyal customer base. It’s challenging to personalise their approaches to individuals or target customer segments. It’s even more challenging to find a system which will take care of customers’ shopping data and market to them.
Customer loyalty tends to focus on price, quick purchase or delivery, accessibility and personalisation. Such loyalty can easily be taken away when customers find other options which compete on price, have quicker purchasing turnaround times, are easier to use, and are tailored to them – like some of the best online retailers.
The three above challenges all show how much an efficient system is needed to take care of customer needs and data. This can be achieved through retail management systems which are all-encompassing. The kind that helps manage traditional or mobile POS for quicker checkouts, inventory management to help with stock issues, and customer management to look after customer data.
Retail Management Software – what is it?
Retail management software is a suite of tools encompassing inventory management, POS, CRM, and much more. This helps retailers to run their businesses in the most efficient way. It’s essentially a platform that is made up of much-needed tools enabling businesses to manage their online and/or in-store offerings successfully.
The software takes care of things like generating sales and financial reports, customer relationship management, point of sale, and business intelligence. It can also help manage employee performance, too! The best of these software solutions will allow all of this to happen anywhere, providing businesses with the ability to manage retail functions online, on tablets or smartphones.
Benefits of using Retail Management Software
Old fashioned inventory management is a thing of the past. Spreadsheets or pen and paper options are overwhelmingly time-consuming and don’t make sense for digital offerings. These days, there is a myriad of software which can do this for you in no time. These smart inventory management systems make up an essential part of retail management software.
These features can assist in updating quantities automatically when products are sold thanks to intelligent barcode scanning. They can ping notifications when items need recording, when you’re running out of stock, and more. They will even help you to stay profitable by tracking profit margins and costs on a product by product basis. Thus, freeing you up to concentrate on processes that you don’t want to automate, like merchandising. Finally, it will do all this, and provide real-time stock data in as quick as a click.
Efficient POS (Point of Sale solutions)
Customers value efficiency when it comes to the checkout experience. This is where businesses can really show off, and you can make or break your customers’ perspectives of your brand. To do this, you must have a modern checkout offering with speedy payment processing.
You can get a fantastic, modern point of sale software within your retail management software. Faster transactions, ease of use, and greater accuracy are what you can come to expect from the software—even if you’re a multi-store operation. And, during the checkout process, the modern POS will give you several ways to speed up the checkout operation while being customizable and allowing personalisation to each customer.
Finally, the best retail management software will also allow customers to pay with their preferred method and in their preferred currency.
Customer Relationship Management
To keep up in this fast-paced, ever-changing business environment, retailers have to focus on getting new customers, while also maximising the value they get from their existing ones.
To do this, retailers must keep up with their customers’ expectations by ensuring they’re providing the very best service they can offer. To do this, they need to create ways to personalise their approach to customers by developing an effective marketing strategy.
Customer relationship management (CRM) features within retail management systems should help retailers to attract and maintain customers by driving traffic to various social media platforms, online stores, and raising in-store awareness. They will also assist in encouraging engagement with loyalty programs and email newsletters informing of the latest discounts.
Business analytics and intelligence
Retail management software will allow retailers to summarise sales and financial reports, providing business-critical information. When businesses can predict results using intelligence and analytics, losses can be evaded.
The software should help you to identify top-selling products, categorise items, monitor stock levels, and analyse the effects of certain offers and promotions. It can also help businesses to understand the volume and frequency of shopping.
Finally, on the employee side, retail management software can help identify high performing employees based on sales performance. Thus allowing you to reward and provide training where needed. This works in both physical stores and for employees who engage with customers online.
Key Retail Management Software Features
Customer targeting and retention
Retail management software has made target based marketing, creating campaigns, and loyalty programs easy. It gives retailers more accurate data about how often a particular customer walks in—or clicks on—your store, what they buy, what promotions they react to, and how much they spend.
Data analysis and business forecasting
Which products are the most popular? How much stock should you get off this range of products? Did that promotion work as well as expected? These questions, among thousands of others, are vital to optimising sales for your online or bricks and mortar retail store. They can often go unanswered or are a real struggle to figure out. With prediction features in the best retail management system, businesses have access to a suite of tools that will help them find the answers.
This suite includes tools such as sales reports, data analytics, and complex data calculations, which help businesses make decisions in managing the entire customer journey. Monitoring inventory, tracking profit margins, studying buying patterns, and managing expenses are just some examples of how the software can help businesses to make innovative decisions that will really work for them.
In today’s world, more and more retailers are going online. In fact, it’s sporadic in this day and age to come across a business that doesn’t have at least one type of online presence. Retail management software allows retailers to manage their businesses across a variety of platforms, both online and in-store—all in the same place.
There are now so many options available to shoppers that they can afford to be picky and demanding when it comes to who gets their business. Omnichannel retail software is a significant feature in retail management software and will allow you to effectively manage your relationship with customers across websites, mobile apps, social media, and more.
Best Retail Management Software
We’ve compiled this list of best retail management software for different-sized businesses to help you choose the right fit for you. The best software should be a comprehensive solution that helps you manage your supply chain, handle purchase orders, and more. We’ve looked at several factors when choosing the best, not least the cost and how easy it is to use.
We also considered all the features and benefits we’ve gone through in this article—things like customer management, inventory control, and POS software. We’ve also looked at how the software would integrate with other solutions or add-ons, and how they help you manage your presence across channels.
Read on to find out which retail management software we voted as the best for solopreneurs, small/medium-sized business, and one that can take on it all. These are the systems that we feel strike a balance between affordability, usability, and functionality for each business level.
1. The one for the big guns – Brightpearl
This is a multichannel inventory and order management software alternative for high growth retailers. The software lets you inventory plan and manages order fulfilment to help you grow.
This software also includes order management, replenishment, retail accounting, warehouse management, inventory, and much, much more. It really does provide you with everything you need to streamline your business. The software fully integrates with all sales channels and is specifically designed for retail business models. This means it’s built to handle peak trading reliably and allows communication throughout the full retail ecosystem.
What makes Brightpearl No.1?
The biggest unique selling point for Brightpearl is that they put both software and service at the heart of everything they do. Their retail consultants will get you up, running, and live on the system three times faster than other traditional systems, and always at a fixed cost. Meaning no nasty surprises when it comes to payment.
On top of this, the in house team will be with you throughout the process, giving you ongoing tech and business support when you need it.
The software is also built and designed around the retail sector, specifically. This gives the added benefit that the current system and any new features are built to make sense for your business. They’re also designed and built to suit your size, whatever it is, and scale with you.
2. Small and medium for the win – Openbravo
Openbravo is a close second. Formerly an open-source ERP solution, Openbravo offers today a cloud-based omnichannel platform for medium to large retailers including an excellent web and mobile-enabled POS solution. Openbravo is used today worldwide in more than 60,000 point of sale terminals and is deployable with standard connectors with solutions like ERP, eCommerce or payment platforms, such as SAP, Magento, adyen and Chase Paymentech. This means it helps you to save time, reduce costs, and increase your productivity.
Openbravo it’s great for flexibility and keeping an eye on all aspects of your omnichannel operations. With features like inventory and warehouse management, order management, multi-store solution with a mobile and offline-resistant POS and merchandising capabilities with a flexible promotions engine, it’s easy to see why this makes it ideal for supporting your omnichannel strategy on a multi-national and even global scale.
Because of its built-in open-source extendibility and rich functionality, it integrates across channels and provides a seamless experience to consumers. It has state of the art technology, intuitive interfaces, and lean data management. It’s also developing at a speed which means that any kinks are being ironed out rapidly. Openbravo is the retail management software of the future.
3. The best things come in small packages – Vend
Vend can often be overlooked, as it sells itself as a retail POS system solution. Really, though, it’s an all in one selling tool to suit small business owners. It will allow you to sell products online and in-store and has a fantastic inventory management tool. Other great tools are the reporting tools, loyalty program management, and customer database.
For small businesses or solopreneurs, there are few common business processes it can’t help with. Making it the perfect choice for an all in one solution. One of the most exciting features is its loyalty program which is built into the POS on all plans. Most retail management software providers charge extra for this sort of feature.
While Vend is perfect for solopreneurs, it isn’t a one size fits all system. It’s a POS system that has retail management tools built into it. What it doesn’t have are online storefront and native accounting tools. However, you can easily integrate it with third-party providers if necessary.
No matter the size, every retail business will benefit from a retail management software. We’ve picked out the three best options for different sized businesses to help you figure out what you need. For those going solo, or staying small for now, the best option is a user-friendly POS system that will connect across channels.
As your business grows, you’ll need retail management software that can scale with you and really suit your needs. Something that can handle more complex retail logistics, manage orders, and vendor partnerships. Here, you will need to be looking for something more like Openbravo or Brightpearl.
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Originally published Dec 01, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023