There are currently over a million small businesses in Canada, and 12% of them are retailers. If you’re one of them, you know all too well the challenges facing small retail businesses. Especially, when it comes to technology.
Canadian retailers have been slow to adopt technology, with 77% of Canadian retail companies claiming they have no defined strategy for using technology effectively. These days, retail businesses aren’t just fighting to stay ahead of their brick-and-mortar competitors; they’re competing with Amazon, eBay, Google, Walmart, and international companies reaching customers online.
In the most basic sense when we’re talking about technology for retailers, we’re talking about business internet providers. Don’t underestimate the need for uninterrupted high speed internet to keep business systems running (like your POS, payment platforms, and in-store product display monitors). Beyond that, technology includes the ability to offer in-store WIFI with a branded splash page, the option to stream background music in your store, or even play video streams from online channels like YouTube to enrich the customer experience. And, the ability to do it all on a network that keeps data safe and secure.
For small retail businesses with a physical storefront, technology isn’t necessarily the primary focus. But, it’s a key piece that should be working behind the scenes and on the front lines to enhance the shopping experience. Choosing an internet provider as a small retail business may be something you didn’t give a lot of thought. Maybe you were referred by a friend, or you picked the cheapest internet provider that popped up in a Google search. It may not seem like an important decision, but choosing the right internet provider can have a big impact on your business. Let’s set the stage: imagine you own a boutique clothing store with several locations (maybe you actually do!). You’re competing largely with online retailers, but you still have a loyal customer base that enjoys the “offline” experience of shopping in-store. You need to leverage technology to make that experience seamless. What does that entail?
In-store business systems are powered by an uninterrupted connection
POS (point of sale) systems
You need reliable, uninterrupted high speed internet to make sure your system stays up at all times. After all, it’s how you complete sales transactions and keep track of your inventory. It could even include purchase order management and other vendor tracking to manage your suppliers. Either way, you can’t risk any network down-time.
Processing credit card or Interac payments is a key part of running any business, especially a retail store. Again, powered by reliable, uninterrupted internet, your payment system integrates with your POS to run your day-to-day business efficiently.
Time tracking / employee management / payroll services
You may rely on an online program to manage your employee schedules and payroll (like Rise or ADP), which you want to be able to access while at the store or while on the go. Reliable, strong internet is a necessity to keep this functioning (...do you see a trend emerging?).
What’s better than searching for the perfect item in a favourite store? Doing it with great background tunes. You may want to stream in-store music, so you can create an environment your customers want to keep coming back to. Powered by stellar internet, of course.
We can’t stress enough the importance of a strong reliable internet with no downtime. It’s the backbone of so much of your business operations. If any of the systems outlined above don’t function due to lost connectivity, you’ll risk lost revenue, cash flow, and even customers.
Use technology to tailor customer experience and gather insights
A solid internet connection also allows you to go beyond operations, and tailor the customer experience.
If you’re our boutique clothing store, you could use technology to gather and store customer email addresses and other insights to use for marketing and loyalty communications. Leverage your POS system to store customer preferences and buying history, to make valuable suggestions on their next visit. Your biggest advantage as a small physical storefront, is your personal touch. Undoubtedly, you’ll have a social media presence for your business (whether it’s on Facebook, Google Business, Yelp, Instagram, the list goes on), and that’s another key way to learn more about your customers. These channels offer rich insights into demographics like age, location, income bracket, and even personal interests. With a solid internet connection in place, you can leverage these platforms from your store during business hours—to understand your customers better, as well as to build an engaged community online through social media marketing.
You may not realize, but you can also control your network access and what customers have access to while surfing the web on your WIFI. In fact, you can disable online competitor comparison searches while customers are on your connection—making them more likely to purchase at your store.
Protecting your business from cybersecurity threats
We can’t talk about internet connection without mentioning cybersecurity. It’s an increasingly important issue, and small businesses are not immune. By 2020, nearly 200 billion connected devices will fall prey to hackers. Of these, 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses, but only 14% are prepared to defend themselves. Keeping with our boutique clothing store example, imagine you have hundreds of customer records saved in your system. Names, addresses, email addresses, maybe even credit card information. You need help to safeguard and protect your customers and your business.
So, how do you protect your own business, as well as your sensitive customer information? One of the best ways to protect against major loss from a cyber attack is by ensuring you have network security in place and a firewall solution. This will identify and block any threats—like malware, phishing, and malicious files—from reaching your company's network.
Small retail businesses need a reliable internet connection
In our hyper-connected world, using technology to support your business is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a necessity. As a small retailer you face unique challenges. You’re working hard to stay ahead of your direct competition and disruptors in your industry who are using technology to change the way customers shop. As a small business owner you’re multitasking between training staff, tracking inventory, talking to customers, and keeping track of company finances. You have a lot of hats to wear and you don’t have time to decipher complex business internet options. You need an easy, affordable internet solution that simplifies your life, increases employee efficiency, and improves the customer experience.Choosing a reliable, high speed internet solution with uninterrupted service is your best foundation. With that in place, your business systems can function and you can leverage technology to gather valuable customer information, keep your business secure, and focus on ways to delight your customers—offline.
If you’re a retail business, you need a simple (and reliable) internet solution. TELUS Workplace as a Service Basic is Canada’s largest and fastest network, with Office Internet, Wi-Fi, security and collaboration solutions with one point of contact to support your small retail business.
Learn more about TELUS Workplace as a Service Basic, and how it can help your business succeed.
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