Your iPad can become your most important business tool for your retail business, if you add the right apps.
Running a retail operation is a full-time job, and for many business owners, that can literally take up all of your time. Despite the labor-intensive nature of retail, mobile apps can make it easier than ever to oversee your business from afar and reclaim your life. We nosed around to find some stellar apps — from marketing, internal communications, payroll, sales analysis, point of sale and floor planning — that help you run your retail business and still have quality time for hanging out with family and friends.
It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, if you’re not getting the word out to customers, your sales will tell a sad story. MailChimp for iPad acts as a messenger that lets you design and manage team-based marketing campaigns for your business. The app’s drag and drop design templates and marketing automation features make your campaigns unique and easy to accomplish. A new mobile dashboard gives you the immediate lowdown on revenue, audience growth and campaign engagement, letting you keep tabs on how marketing is helping your business grow. You can track revenue generated from your MailChimp campaigns when you connect your store via Shopify, Magento and other store fronts. MailChimp for iOS is an abridged version of the web app for which you will need a MailChimp account to get the full benefit. Subscriptions start at free, while additional features can cost $10 per month.
Teamwork is all about communication, and retail operations can always benefit from Slack’s flexible, collaborative features, designed to help you cut down on iterative emails. Slack lets you organize conversations by topic, call or message team members, share and edit documents, and integrate with such office tools as Dropbox, Google Drive and Twitter. All messages, notifications and documents are indexed for easy reference. Third-party apps are integrated so you don’t have to keep jumping back and forth between apps. Improved message input helps you attach photos and files, access slash commands and @-mention colleagues. A free version offers basic features, but if you want unlimited searching, integrations, team calls and additional pro features, the standard version is $6.67 and the Plus version is $12.50 per month, based on an annual subscription.
Deputy handles the nuts and bolts of running your retail business: employee attendance, time management and scheduling. Who is working and were they paid? Who is out and needs to be replaced? Is everyone up to date on company policies and changing work orders? Deputy lets you use text messaging, email and push notifications to update and remind employees about work schedules. Facial detection technology is used for clocking in and out. The app also works with popular payroll companies such as ADP, Square, QuickBooks, Xero, Gusto, Vend and Revel. Simple task assignment, scheduling, newsfeed, SMS and email notifications, and templates and schedules cost $1 per user per month. Additional services for premium and enterprise accounts cost $3 and $8 per user per month respectively.
Online accounting helps businesses stay current with multiple and rotating responsibilities. For $29.99 per month, back-end chores such as bank statement reconciliation, invoicing and billing, expense reports, and recording business expenses, bookkeeping, bank feeds, and more can be accomplished via your iPad with Xero. This stylish accounting app not only lets you manage your finances but also communicate with or locate customers or suppliers and save critical notations. Data is saved in the cloud using Internet banking data encryption, protecting your information even if your phone or tablet gets lost or stolen.
What if a detailed retail analysis could help you determine which parts of your operation really resonate with customers and which ones don’t? RetailNext uses resources such as video cameras, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, point of sale systems data, staffing systems, calendars, payment cards, and even the weather to correlate customer behaviors such as traffic and dwell time to sales. It offers heat maps of visitor traffic, in-store traffic measurement over time or store departments, and can link traffic and sales to external events. It outputs customized reports, real-time alerts, predictive analytics, maps and more. Use RetailNext to analyze your location’s performance by departments, aisles and even specific displays to tailor your store to customer preferences.
A point of sale app helps any seller — from individual to retailer — exchange a product for payment: Shopify POS (Point of Sale) lets retailers employ the iPad for such transactions. After installing the app, you can accept cash or credit, offer discounts, email receipts, sync and create new products with your online store, add product photos from your camera, automatically set location-based sales taxes, issue refunds, and do transactions without inventory updates. Wireless credit card readers are available, starting at free and ranging to $149, while other hardware such as cash drawer, receipt printer and barcode scanner are also available. A handy dashboard lets you track orders and sales, though you will need a Shopify Plan to get the full benefit of the app.
Say, you want to work up a design your store, MagicPlan for iPad helps you create floor plans and work estimates: It lets you measure rooms and draw floor plans by taking pictures with the device camera. Targeted to real estate and architecture, and other professions, the ability to create floor plans also makes the app attractive to businesses and retailers. The app lets you add objects, annotations, photos and attributes. If you purchase your plans, you can to get them in PDF, JPG, DXF, PNG, SVG and CSV formats, share them with any MagicPlan user, and publish an interactive map on the web. MagicPlan is free to use on the device, though some objects are locked. A single property map costs $2.99, while a subscription costs $9.99 per month for unlimited use.
Photo credit: GuadiLab/Shutterstock
A San Francisco-based freelance writer who has written for The Next Web, MacWorld, TechHive, PCWorld, Engadget, Digital Arts, Laptop Mag, Tom’s Guide and Tom’s IT Pro. She has been writing about technology for more than 10 years.