Just a few decades ago it was unfathomable to think that doing business would be as convenient and low cost as it is today. The rise of the internet has changed the way the world does business in almost every way.
Mobile technology has thrown in another curveball: Almost anyone with a mobile device and internet access can start and run a retail business from virtually anywhere.
In particular, the advent of the iOS has introduced a number of user-friendly apps that have been game changers for small business retailers. If you’re in retail, there’s an iOS app for almost anything you need done in your business. And they’re incredible easy to use, helping small, time-strapped entrepreneurs run their business smoothly. In retail, processing payments is essential, but so are other functions you’ll find apps for, like accounting, customer service, and marketing.
If you’re a business owner in the retail space, check out these must-have apps made to make your life easier. These apps are ranked by popularity (from iTunes search results and ratings) and how important they are to the typical retail operation.
So, if you’ve got to prioritize an app based on your business needs, this list should help guide you on what to purchase for what purpose and when.
Square was one of the first mobile payment apps to rise to prominence in payment processing. When the app started becoming popular, it was quite common to see people processing payments on their mobile devices for products and services of all sorts. People with all types of businesses had a solution for the cashless society that had evolved around them: Square.
Taking payment became as easy as carrying around a smartphone, From pop-up shops to craft fairs and fundraisers, Square made it possible for people to process card payment for products and services on the go.
The service has evolved greatly since its inception in 2009, and now provides a number of enhanced offerings and integrations with other full-scale accounting programs.
One of the neatest developments is the Square Stand and Square Register. The Stand debuted in 2013 and was designed to offer a point-of-sale (POS) solution that could work with the use of a single iPad. The Square Register software brings the POS solution full circle by integrating payment processing (no credit card terminal needed) and the ability to itemize products and handle inventory management.
Nowadays, you’ll see Square in many establishments. It’s not uncommon to see Square stands in restaurants, boutique, and farmer’s markets.
Though there are tons of POS apps for iOS, Shopify deserves a mention due to the popularity of its web-based counterpart developed in 2005. In 2013, the company decided to extend its payment processing and inventory tracking to brick-and-mortar environments with a POS solution. Shopify’s strong performance and long-standing track record in retail has helped make this one of the more popular iOS-based POSs.
As always, flexibility and integration is key for the small business owner desiring low-cost, user-friendly POS system. The Shopify POS platform also offers many integrations and add-ons like barcode scanners, cash drawers, and receipt printers.
When I Work is a complete employee scheduling and time tracking app. All run from an iPad, you get a complete shift-scheduling solution that also includes messaging capabilities to communicate with your team via text, chat, or email.
The scheduling tool lets you see, at a glance, how your shift scheduling is shaping up. You can easily see gaps in coverage and message employees so that they can accept or decline shifts. Plus, employees can clock-in from the app and swap shifts as needed.
The best part? It’s free for up to 75 employees!
Extremely popular with freelance service providers, the FreshBooks app offers support for expense tracking and invoicing. This app might be most useful for wholesale businesses that have only a few products and large orders that require tracked payments.
Though not a full-service accounting solution, it can be pretty handy for the retailer in need of an efficient, easy-to-use invoicing option. Clients can settle their bill right from the invoice they receive. Plus, FreshBooks has a cool partnership with PayPal, which offers a flat 50 cent processing fee no matter how large the payment is.
The coolest part is that all this can be done on the fly from any mobile device that has access to the FreshBooks app.
One of the biggest challenges retailers face is finding effective marketing channels to increase sales by cultivating customer loyalty. We all know that it’s much more effective and cost-conscious to market to existing customer than to spend time and money acquiring new ones. Enter email marketing.
Email marketing is a proven way to get repeat customers and extend the lifetime value of a customer. If you’re not collecting email addresses, chances are you’re passing up opportunities to extract value from your existing customer base.
With the SignUpAnywhere app, your customers can enter their contact details on an iOS device, even if it’s offline. Once connected to the internet, the app syncs the information to your SignUpAnywhere account and you can transfer it to your email service provider of choice.
Also, you can use the SignUpAnywhere forms to create surveys, collect sweepstakes entries, or make use of other custom forms.
The Kiosk Pro app lets you create a customized experience for customers at kiosks. With this app, you can show information like videos and images or capture customer information like email addresses. Other features include blocking domains and remotely controlling settings at your kiosk.
If you’re short on staff or want to make use of customer wait times, a kiosk app could be helpful in answering product questions, helping customers learn more about your business, or providing intermittent entertainment during busier times at your store.
We all know about Spotify for personal use, but what about setting the mood in your establishment with some thoughtfully curated music? According to a few studies, music can influence shopping behavior based on characteristics like volume, tempo, and genre.
Use Spotify to create playlists your customers will enjoy. While you’re at it, throw in a few tunes that might inspire them to spend just a little more money in your store with each visit.
The Magic Plan app lets you design floor plans and layouts by taking pictures with your iOS device. (The video demo is pretty impressive.) Though the app is mainly used in real estate, it also works well for retailers wanting to set up a floor plan suitable for their store.
This app can create 3D renderings of a space and lets you conceptualize things like furniture placements, displays, and traffic flows through your retail space.
Do you know your inventory turnover rate? How about the best mark-up for the most profitable pricing schemes? The Retail Calculators app is designed to give you quick answers to the numbers you should know when it comes to your business. Key metrics like financial ratios and business valuations are at your fingertips with this app. Some calculators are built in and others are accessible through in-app purchases.
Business is getting smarter, faster, and more competitive by the minute. Hopefully, these apps will help you when you’re getting started as well as when you find your retail establishment growing more than ever. Here’s to the technology that will help you on the way.