Change is perhaps the only constant of the business world; as technology evolves and consumer tastes shift, many businesses (and even industries) will fade from view, forever relegated to the history books.
However, while manufacturers of pocketwatches and buggy whips may have had decades to notice the writing on the wall before their industries became non-viable, today's business environment moves at the speed of light. Those who don't embrace change or modify their business structures and practices to adapt to these changes could quickly find themselves looking at an empty store.
However, it can be tough to form a long-term view of your company and how it fits into the broader economy when you're spending your days putting out (figurative) fires, hiring and supervising employees, and performing the other myriad tasks required of you as a business owner.
Read on for some ways in which you can position yourself to adapt to--and even embrace--changes in marketing methods, developments in technology and smart POS systems, and subtle shifts in customer demands and desires.
Know Your Customers By Asking What They Want
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a business owner is not regularly soliciting and receiving feedback from your customers. While you're likely to primarily receive kudos (and complaints) from those who are either very happy or very unhappy with your products or services, you'll often want to pick the brains of the larger, quieter, group of customers who fall in between these extremes.
Fortunately, advances in technology have made this easier than ever. From online customer surveys (which can be helpfully printed at the bottom of your receipts or included in email signatures) to the creation of online support forums where you can respond and answer questions in real time, you'll be able to facilitate interactions you may have never thought possible. Most experts recommend keeping customer surveys short, with under 15 questions, and caution that you shouldn't expect to get more than a 5 to 10 percent response rate.
In addition to seeking constructive criticism from your customers, it may be useful to solicit feedback from those who didn't choose your business for whatever reason. Tracking down these individuals can be more of a challenge, but the advent of social media and the ability to "boost" posts on your business's Facebook or Twitter pages makes it possible to get the word out to a wide range of people, including those who have never "liked" your page. Offering a contest entry, coupon code, or other reward for those who respond can help boost your feedback rate.
Ultimately, you may find that many consumers are choosing one of your competitors for a reason you can easily solve; for example, by validating customers' parking with a minimum purchase, switching from "cash only" to accepting credit or debit cards, or updating your signage and business's exterior to appear more modern and inviting.
Keep Your Finances and Inventory Organized With Smart POS Systems
With tax regulations, labor laws, and insurance coverage requirements changing on what can seem like a constant basis, staying on top of your finances is key to avoiding waste (or worse, finding yourself in hot water with the IRS). Some reports indicate the IRS has increased its scrutiny on small business taxation during recent years, making it more important than ever before to ensure your finances are in order.
From the consumer perspective, while some still prefer to deal with cash, many have shifted to using credit cards for most daily purchases, enjoying the purchase protection and security these cards provide. But while having a smart POS system on hand can help speed up transactions and make it much easier to generate income and sales reports, being able to protect your customer data from embarrassing and potentially costly breaches is key.
Both the Clover POS and Clover mini can fit the bill on both counts, providing you with nearly instant access to your daily, weekly, or monthly sales while encrypting customer data and protecting it from hacking attempts. The Clover POS is the original point of sale system designed for in-store use, while the Clover mini is a more portable POS that can be perfect for delivery drivers, house calls, fairs, festivals, or other on-the-go transactions.
By being able to access your accounts and transaction history at a glance, it'll be far less likely for any transactions to inadvertently slip through the cracks and draw attention from the IRS or your state's department of revenue. These Smart POS systems can also help when it comes to forecasting and inventory management. No longer will you need to manually sift through months of account statements to get an idea of what your sales volume looked like last December, or search through dense warehouse spreadsheets to see how many widgets you have in stock--instead, by pressing a few buttons, you'll be able to create a customized report that includes all the data you need.
While customer tastes and payment technologies will continue to evolve over the coming years, remaining flexible, responding to your customers' needs and desires, and keeping your business's finances well-organized through electronic means can go a long way toward ensuring your business remains robust for decades to come.