With MP3’s making music stores obsolete, Netflix bringing even mega movie-rental chains like Blockbuster to their knees, and Amazon practically monopolizing book sales and working hard to take over the publishing industry, too, it’s hard to believe that technology could benefit the small businesses that, at a glance, it seems bent on helping to destroy. Despite appearances, technology can still provide salvation for the savvy and open minded small business owner. Here are some great examples of tech that small businesses can use to stay competitive and relevant in the world of instant consumer gratification, free shipping, and slashed prices:
1. The In-store, Online Experience
Taking the best of both worlds, Hointer, a new pilot store in Seattle, WA plans to revolutionize shopping IRL (in real life). Walking into their men’s clothing store, sparsely stocked with a selection of designer jeans—one of each style available, hanging from the ceiling—the customer must scan a QR code on the jeans he wishes to try. These jeans are then delivered to a dressing room, in the appropriate size, in less than 30 seconds thanks to an unseen robot. Having been described by one male a customer as “high-efficiency buying,” Nadia Shouraboura, a former Amazon executive, believes her innovations will revolutionize shopping. By offering the best of what the web has to offer (efficiency, less social interaction) and the best of what shopping IRL offers (actually trying clothing on before risking a purchase) she might be right.
2. Customer Loyalty Gets a Digital Makeover
Customer’s and small business owners share a common complaint. Call them stamp cards, punch cards, customer loyalty cards, or discount cards: they are a serious pain in everyone’s wallet. Customer’s can’t find them, and frantically unload their at the point of sale to sift through a mound of nearly identical paper cards, holding up the line, frustrating everyone. Businesses want to shake the habit, but don’t know where else to turn. Paper cards are expensive, but customer loyalty is invaluable. Now, Rezoop has brought the digital stamp card to life. It’s free for businesses, easy to use for customer’s, and allows for a variety of loyalty programs and rewards to be redeemed by customers at the click of a button.
3. Manage Customer Relationships with Insight
Or, Insightly, a Customer Relationship Management platform that is free and easy to use. Everyone knows that nothing’s more important than forming and maintaining healthy customer relationships. Spamming customers with unwanted emails, or sending them too many coupons and business related advertising may seem like the best way to keep customers in the loop, but Insightly allows for even more nuanced and subtle communications with customers. Insightly’s free plan allows a team of up to 3 people with 200 MB storage and as many as 2,500 contacts. Plans are designed incrementally beyond that depending on required space. For the super small business, Insightly will always be free.