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How to integrate technology into your retail store

Technology is an amazing thing. As much as it pushes us to reach new heights, it’s leaving some of us behind. Not every country or franchise has the resources and funding to integrate the latest and greatest in technology right this second, only to have something new released in the next few seconds.

Okay, so seconds might be an over exaggeration, but the point stays the same: technology is constantly developing and by the time some people “catch up” with flashy video wall systems, the next best thing (video wall controllers for augmented reality) is about to go on sale.

And an industry where technology has both helped, harmed and now helping is brick-and-mortar retail. Technology in retail was first used to make payment easier and advertising in-store more interesting. Then technology went and created the online shopping malls on the internet, driving traffic away from physical stores. And, now, people have decided that it’s still important to have physical stores so, technology is finding new ways to integrate and make the entire shopping experience an enjoyable one.

Technology is important in brick-and-mortar stores because it’s all about creating effective, smooth, time-saving and customer satisfactory experiences. We’re going to be looking at achievable ways the majority of retail stores can integrate technology in-store and be relevant again in the technological timeline of change.    

Visuals to attract attention

We used the example of video wall controllers in the rapid change of technology. The goal remains to attract customers’ attention. You just need to update your video wall controller screen technology to display more than just your latest products and deals. People want to interact, get useful information and have their attention stolen.

Screens and moving visuals are an easy attention-grabbing win. But moving visuals that respond to an individual consumers’ needs is even more attractive. For example, many retail stores are setting up screens in their windows for passersby. An example would be a blacked out screen that has a hidden background image (of your products, clothing or even in-store layout) that is revealed in the outline of whoever walks past or stands in front of the window-screen. This kind of technology works with visuals, sensors and interactive mirrors and is one way you could boost your store’s technology.  

How amazing would it be to have a video of a model in your clothing line (on the screens) that walks alongside (from screen to screen) a potential customer who’s walking past the store? That “was that just a coincidence or did the model really appear and walk alongside me” moment is sure to stop customers in their tracks and bring them in-store. And, in-store, you could have virtual mannequins where an image of a model wearing the item of clothing customers have just picked up off the rails, appears on the nearest screen for them to see.   

Augmented reality for consumers to decide

Another way you can interact video wall screens and technology into your store is through Augmented Reality (AR). One way AR is used in retail clothing stores is as a means of not having to physically get undressed and try on the items you’re interested in buying. It’s a projected image of yourself and the clothing item that you’re trying to figure out if it suits you or not.

This will require touch-screen and real-time view technology, as well as a detailed digital inventory of all your items. This “digital dressing room” removes the time and energy consuming act of changing rooms that tend to send consumers out the door.

And for home and furniture stores, mobile and AR technology allow for customers to “see” what an item in-store would like in their home-space without having to buy it in order to try it out. It also helps for those who shop online for furniture and don’t want to be disappointed when it arrives.

Efficient point of sales systems (POS)

Another effective integration of technology is through efficient POS. Amazon Go is the example everyone turns to because it’s new, it works and it’s rather incredible. This is the goal, an entirely checkout-free shopping experience. Where grocery shopping is as simple as walking in, grabbing what you need and walking out. No lines, no cashier issues or card machine malfunctions.

Other innovative POS include mobile POS, loyalty management systems and digital wallets. Now, digital wallets allow customers to pay in-store with their mobile devices. Digital wallets store a consumer’s banking information that is easily ‘tapped into” when activated by their personal mobile when purchasing items in-store. This makes the sales process quick and effortless which will make it a go-to store for customers who are looking for an efficient shopping experience.

Unfortunately, not everyone can afford these types of technology and cashier jobs are necessary for certain countries’ economies and employment rate. You need to integrate technology in a way that makes sense for your brand and your business. As long as you’re striving for customer satisfaction, you can’t really go wrong.

Stop these bad work habits to find success

It’s a wonder how we seem to think our standard effort deserves maximum success. Hard work pays off and we can’t work hard if we’re too busy giving in to our bad work habits. Those few minutes doing something other than work every 10 minutes adds up and hours of productivity are lost.

If you’re sitting at your desk right now wondering what you’re doing wrong or how you can be more successful at work, it’s time to stop these bad work habits. And don’t be surprised if you have more than one bad habit to break.

Browsing online

Okay, free internet is asking for non-work-related internet browsing. But, as it is necessary for doing business, there’s only so much companies can do to block employee access to certain websites. It’s up to you to practise self-control and refrain from browsing the internet without a work-related purpose.

Especially online stores that seem to constantly have sales and specials on limited items for a limited time. If you aren’t looking for something specific, it’s easy to spend hours on the website looking at watches, shoes and clothing and putting things in and out of your online cart before not buying anything anyway. It’s a complete waste of your time unless you really need something and go directly there to find it.

If you must, set a 10-minute timer for browsing. When the time is up, close the tab and continue working. And do yourself a favour and stop subscribing to sale-alert email notifications. If you don’t know about it in the first place, you can’t be distracted by it.

Multitasking is not a real thing

The term multitasking, doing two (or more) things at once, is not a real thing or an ideal you should strive towards. You might be able to have three projects on the go at one time that you change between, but it’s physically impossible to be working on all three at exactly the same time.

By trying to multitask, you’re setting yourself up for failure and you’re more likely fall behind than if you start with one project and finish it before moving on to the next one. Set up a to-do list (organised in order of priority) at the start of every day or week, whichever works best for the type of work you do, and work through the list.

A related bad habit to multitasking (which is generally the reason for attempting to multitask) is saying yes to everything. And that needs to stop. You are only capable of so much and saying no to taking on more than that doesn’t make you incompetent, it makes you smart. It prevents you from stressing out more than is normal in a work environment and it allows you to focus on producing a high standard of quality in the work you do say yes to. You can’t do everything at one time and expect it to still be done extremely well.  

Not having a goal to work towards

Going to work every day of the week and getting through your tasks for the month is not a career goal. It’s your job. You need to find another reason, other than the bills you have to pay, to motivate you to wake up for work and do your best all the time.

Set yourself a goal for the year that has sub-goals throughout every month and even throughout every day. At the end of your to-do list, check off whether you’ve done something that puts you one step closer to your end goal.

Having a goal to work towards helps to keep you focussed and challenges you to be better. Besides reaching your goal, your productivity and performance will improve and you’ll be the better employee for it.

Complaining instead of recommending

Too often we’re ready to complain and never up to recommend. Complaining about the office’s internal communications system is an example. You could spend all your time complaining and have nothing change, or be the one to go through problem solving steps and recommend a solution at the end of the day.

There are a variety of steps in decision making that will require you to identify a problem, analyse the situation, gather information, come up with solutions, present these recommendations and take action. If it’s something that has been bothering you for more than a month, then it’s time that you were the one to do something about it.

Now you know what decision making is and how to solve problems so take the initiative. Your managers will definitely recognise and appreciate your ambition to make the office and company better. And you’ll also be spending less time complaining and more time focussing on being a success. Break the habits and find the success you’re working for.

Helpful money management tips for first-time business owners

Living paycheck to paycheck is a common cycle for many South Africans. People want to save but they also love to splurge. If you speak to any financial advisor, you will see that saving a portion of your salary every month is critical for a comfortable future. However, if you have started your own business or want to launch a unique concept, you need to break away from this cycle. To invest in the future of your career and your personal wellbeing, you will need to live according to a strict budget.

Here are a few tips that will help you to set good behaviours in motion and meet your goals:

  • Understand the importance of being organised

When it comes to being an entrepreneur, you are in charge of your finances. You will need to prioritise planning and organisation skills in order to stick to a goal. Start categorising your savings according to your needs. For example, future and immediate goals. Once you have a plan set in stone, you will need to effectively manage and follow your progress to ensure that you achieve what you set out to achieve.

  • Check your credit record

No matter where you are in the world, having a poor credit score will affect your next move. While saving and budgeting might be the long-term solution, you might want to consider taking out a personal loan to help you achieve your dream faster. Or at least lift it off of the ground. The reason why you will need to settle for personal loans, if anything, for your startup is that banks and financial brokers are wary of granting loans to small businesses. So, the minute you start working steadily towards your financial goals to kickstart your business, you will need to think about requesting a credit report. The outcome will determine your ability to apply for a personal loan, as well as how to improve your credit score.

  • Save where you can

If your business concept or idea is something that you’re passionate about, you will need to make a lifestyle change and do your best to cut back where possible. There are several ways to reduce your spending when it comes to daily habits and spending trends, so you will need to make a conscious decision to help yourself. If you are already running your own business, you need to postpone personal rewards and think realistically about your cash flow. It certainly is exciting when you start to notice an interest in your product or service, but you cannot reap the benefits just yet. Do not burden yourself with salaries, employee benefits or any other traps when your success has not yet been achieved. You will also need to cut your salary and live as cost-effectively as possible to set an example for anyone who is working with or for you. Reduced cash flow is key in the first couple of years.

  • Set long and short-term goals

Setting goals is effective when working towards something. Having a goal in mind will motivate you every day to wake up and do your best to be better and succeed in life. But the problem with goal setting is that people are puzzled by them. Short-term and long-term goals both take time, effort and dedication. You cannot think you’ll achieve your goals in the shortest period of time. Look at the SMART goal setting technique as this will help you achieve the feedback you need to keep moving forward.

Another tip for first-time entrepreneurs is to try to diversify your business by investing in alternative sources. Many business owners try to put all their eggs in one basket, without having a plan B. If you are going to look at personal loans, be sure to have a plan on where you’re going to distribute that money. You can look at a loan calculator or instalment calculator to see how much you’ll qualify for, and based on that, you will be able to put together a failure plan as well as alternative investment plans.

  • Think about finding a mentor

Whether you’re struggling to manage your personal finances or you need some inspiration to go ahead with your business, try to consider finding a mentor during this process. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to your finances, and something like this can dent your ego and cause you to feel inadequate. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you will need to consult with someone who can help and guide you. Much like everything in life, managing your finances take practice and time.

Final thoughts

Managing your money for the first couple of years will be a draining process, but once you start seeing the benefits, you will also start seeing the benefits. Starting a business is not easy. There will be times when you want to hit a wall from frustration as well as give up, but you are not alone. Keep pushing through and take advantage of your support system and mentor to help keep you motivated. If you stay focused and determined, you will easily be able to reach for the stars and achieve your dream.

Skills you need to start and run a business from home

Starting your own business and choosing to do it from home is both a brave and popular business venture at the moment. The flexible hours, controllable workload and doing what you love are all attractive perks to starting your own business from home.

But it takes the right kind of person with the right kind of attributes and skills to pull off a successful home business. And if you’re considering taking this type of business journey for yourself, you need to know what it’s going to take to make it work and make sure you get those skills down before you try it out.

The best thing to do for any job is to make sure you’re qualified and capable. And that’s what you’re about to find out.

Discipline and determination

 

If you were a student who studied via correspondence from your desk at home, then working from home, sticking to deadlines and making sure you actually work, shouldn’t be a problem. But, if you had to go to a university or college and attend lectures to force yourself to focus, then you might struggle to work from home.

There’s a certain type of self-discipline that is required when working from home. You have all the distractions in the world at your disposal and no one else to keep a watchful eye or be on your case to make sure your work gets done.

You need to create your own determination and find the discipline to get work done on a daily basis. You need to work in a productive environment within the house and not from the cosiness of your bed or comfort of your pyjamas. Your success is based on the amount of effort you put in and if you can’t find enough focus to work at home, then your business will never get the attention it needs to grow.

Organisational and project management skills

We spoke about needing to work in a productive environment. Hand in hand with that is the

need to have organisational skills to help you stay on top of things. You can’t mix work and home life together because then you’ll have kids toys in the office, lost documents and all the “home” things calling you away from your desk.

While starting your business from home is a way to balance your work and home life, it still doesn’t mean that your home life distracts for work life. Which is also why you’ll need project management skills. Being organised and tracking the progress of all your projects will help you stay focused on work during work hours and realise the urgency of your tasks. It’s easier to focus and work hard when there’s a plan, a deadline and nothing extra lying around to steal your attention.

Finance and accounting skills

An important part of any business is finances. If you don’t consider yourself the ideal candidate to run a finance manager training programme, you may want to look into finance for non-finance managers courses. As they say, “it takes money to make money” and you’re going to need to manage finances as soon as you proceed with the idea of starting your own business.

And if you look at the two-day finance for non-finance managers course outline, you’ll see that you cover all the basic necessities of business finance that you’ll need to know to manage your business’ money and keep it afloat. They even have a module that covers making financial decisions, which will definitely come in handy during your time as a self-employed, business owner and manager.

Of course, there is always the option of bringing an outside finance expert in, but even then  it would be beneficial for you to have a good idea of what they’re talking about and suggesting. So, just take the course. It will be better for business.

Clear communication skills

And, lastly, you’ll need clear communication skills to be able to start and run your business from home. You will need to contact the necessary institutions to register, finance and market your business and you need to be able to clearly communicate what you want, need and are looking for.

More than that, you will need to build a network of contacts who can help you, endorse your products and collaborate with you. And you’ll need to be able to communicate with clients on a firm and professional level.

Communication is how you’ll market your business and build your brand. You need to know what it is you want to communicate to your clients and target market, and execute it properly the first time. All of these skills will serve you well in your at-home business. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into and stick to the game plan for as long as it’s relevant.

How to start a business without any money

You may be sitting at your work desk right now in an office full of people who can never seem to get your name right and doing a job that makes you wish every hour between eight and five away. You may have big dreams of starting your own business but have no money to back the idea up.

Well, what if you were told that it is possible to start up a business without any money? You’d want to jump on that train right now, wouldn’t you? Well, technically, there are ways to go about starting a business without having the initial capital to get it off the ground. You just need to be smart about it and do it the right way.

Choose the right business

If all you know is that you want to start your own business, then pay close attention to the following business ideas that cost next to nothing to start up.

  • Creative business: If you’re creative and can write, draw, paint, sculpt or craft items that appeal to a market, then you’ve got yourself a business that will only cost you the materials you use. Then it’s as easy as finding an online platform or local market to sell it all.
  • Home-services: Pay the price to fill your petrol tank and offer your services as a house sitter, pet sitter, babysitter, or dog-walker. You could also spend the extra cash to buy your own supplies and register yourself as a mobile nail technician, repairman, pet groomer or garden service. People like it when they don’t have to leave their house for things or when they can trust their house to be under the care of other people for a while.
  • Reselling: Find a brand or set of products that you can personally endorse and buy it from a wholesaler or drop shipper to resell to your own market of customers. This is a popular side business for most people and the more successful you are at it, the more you can rely on it as a stable income.
  • Use what you’ve got: Have a car? Or a spare bedroom? Uber and Airbnb are “micropreneurship opportunities” where you can basically run your own business through the template of a head organisation.

But if you have bigger business plans in mind, just keep reading. The above business suggestions can also be seen as extra ways to start making and saving some money for the big leagues.

Don’t quit your day job… for now

Once the “I want to start my own business” seed has been planted, it’s very tempting to quit your day job and start spending all your energy on this new venture. That’s not going to be the best move. If you don’t have money to start a business, you probably won’t be able to survive very long without any income. And new businesses generally cost money before they start making you money.

So, don’t quit just yet. Use any extra time you have to do your research on the business you want to start, the industry it’s in, the market you want to target and coming up with a sound business plan – right down to the asset finance solutions. You’ll know when it’s the right time to focus solely on your own business.

And by sticking to your current job, you’ll be in an environment where you can learn new things, build experience and grow your network. After all, it’s all about who you know when it comes to business matters. Networking within your current company and the companies affiliated with it will make it easier for you to find investors for your business when you branch out and do your own thing.

Design a crowdfund-worthy product

Your business idea may be exactly what the public has been waiting for. To see if you’ve created a crowdfund-worthy product, set up an account and campaign on a crowdfunding website. This way you can gauge the amount of interest (or lack thereof) there is in what you want to do as well as earn the money you need to get started.

Be prepared for the chance of there being zero interest or not enough to confirm your business idea. In that case, you can either think of something else or find the money somewhere else and sell your product to a different market.

Secure a business loan and start with the basics

 

The next step, once you’ve done your research and have a solid business plan in place, is to apply for corporate financing and secure a business loan. Depending on the type of business you’re starting, you’re going to need equipment to help you do it.

Apply for machinery asset finance within the industry you’re going to work in. Financing your equipment allows you to start your business while in the process of making the money you need to make it better. You’ll find that once you start, things get a bit easier. And with finance loans, you’ll be able to afford that start.