Retail Tech Tools

Options for your POS systems, websites and social media

ONCE UPON A TIME, all the tech you needed to run a successful store was a decent cash register. Now, you have to decide which point-of-sale system to use; who is going to design, host and maintain your website; if you’re going to send out regular emails and how; and whether to use a tool to streamline your social media posts. The tech world can be overwhelming to many retailers.

POS Systems

Most of the spa retailers interviewed for this article still work with a register and deal with their inventory by eye and hand.

Sierra Modro of TechnicalFuturist.com says that while Square is still going strong, she suggests checkout out VEND HQ and ShopKeep. Research each option’s features and on capterra.com/point-of-sale-software. Tom Shay of ProfitsPlus.org breaks up POS systems into Big Boys and Little Guys. The big boys are Microsoft RMS and NCR Counterpoint POS. The pluses of working with a Big Boy: They’ll be in business a long time, and their systems are fairly adaptable to different shops. Customer support is different for each POS system. Some retailers love their supplier and mention them in online reviews, but you don’t know if that person covers your territory. The Little Guys may or may not stay in business once the founder/owner retires. That’s where the medium companies come in: Shopify, Vend HQ, ShopKeep and others.

Laura Jost from AJ Spas in Patchogue, Long Island, New York, uses Intuit QuickBooks and says it’s been good for their store — but only for items that can be scanned. Intuit is used for larger, scanable items sold up front, and a regular register is at the parts counter where there are smaller items without bar codes. Spas are invoiced through QuickBooks. Intuit works well on registers around the store if you have more than one.

Evosus is a POS system designed for spa and pool retailers. It’s medium size and is used by many spa stores including Adventure Hot Tubs & Pools in Sarasota, Florida. Manager Greg Buffkin says it’s an excellent system with one caveat: “It will let you take shortcuts, and sometimes shortcuts get you into trouble,” Buffkin says. The shortcut he warns about is the “track serial numbers” button. He says the system at times won’t allow you to ring up a sale after using that button.

RB Control Systems, Shopify, ShopKeep, Vend HQ and Square are some top POS systems to check out for small- to medium-size retailers. Look at Stripe for online/internet sales.

Website Design

Modro says WIX (wix.com) is the best website-design program for small businesses. “You can create an attractive website in a short time, and it integrates smoothly with sales platforms,” she says. She also recommends Woo Commerce to integrate your store and online sales, especially if you work with WordPress. GoDaddy, SquareSpace and Wix are all easy to use, and the last two have well-designed templates and online sales tools. “There are a lot of snake oil salespeople out there,” Tom Shay says, adding that a store owner should be wary of hiring a friend of a friend or the person you met at a networking function just because they’re nice. Vet a potential website designer and speak to a few people who worked with him or her before making your decision. Shay’s choice for a more robust website requiring lots of pages is Creative Suites, adding that a retailer should make sure their site is mobile friendly.

David Carleton helps companies with internet marketing and generating sales leads. Carleton also recommends the free WIX tool. With WIX, you rent your site for $15 to $25 per month depending on how much storage you require. Carleton cautions these sites may not be SEO (search engine optimized) friendly. That can mean $600 a year for the life of the website, and not getting everything you need — rather than paying a website designer a one-time fee and having all your web needs met. He suggests hiring a website designer, saying it’s more cost efficient over time to make the site mobile friendly and search engine optimized. His company specializes in pool and spa stores’ websites, and he bills based on the complexity, amount of pages and needs of the site. The costs can range from $1,500 to $10,000.

Email Software Programs

Does your email system, Gmail or Office 365, connect to the email automation software you’re interested in using? While Modro likes Aweber and Constant Contact, she prefers Mail Chimp for most newsletters and group emails. Mail Chimp is simple to update and has a good user interface. It also links directly to a Gmail account, and is free for up to 2,000 subscribers. If you’ve outgrown Mail Chimp, another excellent program, Modro says, is MyEmma.com. She is impressed with its beautiful templates for stunning newsletters and how easy they are to work with. MyEmma.com starts at $89 a month for up to 10,000 contacts, and can be worth it if you have an active email marketing presence.

A federal regulation that Modro refers to as the “canned spam act” (CAN-SPAM Act) makes it against the law to actively spam people. Unless you have their permission, email sent in large groups is considered spam. Send a one-time email asking for their interest and/or permission to be put on your email list to people who have given you their email address.

Social Media Posts

Modro says you’re better off posting on social media yourself rather than using a service, as it will expose your wares to more customers. But if you prefer to use a streamline service, consider Hootsuite. It’s the classic and is very good. If you just post on Facebook, it has a tool to allow you to schedule posts. Instead of hitting “post,” click a little clock and there’s a drop-down button to schedule your posts. This only works if you post as a page, not a person.

Carleton also recommends HootSuite to manage social media posts. Shay likes SocialOomph “…because dummies like me can use it.” (He found Hootsuite overwhelming with too much information.) Tom schedules daily posts months in advance. He suggests if you are attending a trade show, post that you’re going, post what you see and ask for impressions from your customers. Be in the present as well as scheduling ahead. Another good program to schedule posts to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is Later.com. It also has a function to allow you to sell on Instagram.

Consider doing what many have done: hiring a social media person to take care of your emails and social media posts while allowing you to post as well. And instead of buying a complicated stereo system for your entire store, consider running all the music off one Sonos speaker (which sounds great); Bluetooth on smart phones can control it.

Whatever you choose to do with your technology, you have to do something. You don’t have to send emails nor do you have to post anything, but a mobile-friendly website is vital to your survival.

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