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Customers expect a certain level of service from any business, and in today’s competitive market suppliers who exceed customers’ expectations build a strong and loyal base. Loyalty, which equals growth and profitability, can be attained through careful relationship building. This can be helped by intuitive relationship management software designed specifically to attract and retain customers.

Price is not the boss

A key point that has been missed in the online versus bricks and mortar debate is the fact that the growth in online shopping isn’t all about price; for the most part it’s about efficiency and service.

Research shows that while price is a factor that draws customers to online shopping, it’s not the only one. And when it comes to making a purchase online price is usually not a customer’s first consideration. As a recent survey by comparison site GetPrice showed, online shoppers consider a number of factors such as service and reputation to be more important than price.

For retailers and wholesalers the message is clear: customers are prepared to pay more when they feel it’s worth it. The challenge businesses face then is not to offer the absolute lowest price but to provide an experience that makes customers turn—and return—to them.

Technology is here to help

To acquire a competitive edge suppliers need to look at technological investments that will support an innovative shopping experience, regardless of the channel shoppers utilise. There are a number of software applications available that can help sellers better know and understand their customers and pre-emptively respond to their needs. These technologies provide insight into your customer base and enable more informed decisions on how to retain and expand it in light of the challenges presented by online competitors.

Three software solutions for selling

Point of sale

As POS software is used to process your sales transactions, it is crucial for recording data on trends and inventories. Ensure when selecting a POS system that you match it to the size of your business, that it can provide a snapshot and alerts on stock movements and that it can interact with any other software and business intelligence applications you may later acquire.

CRM/ERP solutions

Customer relationship management software offers ways to automate sales, marketing and customer service processes to facilitate customer expansion and retention. Enterprise resource planning systems enable data produced in all aspects of a business to be made available to other areas. These software packages let sellers assess and learn from the dynamics of their business in order to better respond to their customers’ needs.

Business intelligence tools

Reporting and business intelligence tools can make sense of the customer data collected and provide a snapshot view of who your customers are, what they are buying and who the best margin customers are. This provides sellers with an opportunity for competitive advantage and growth beyond merely competing on price.

The message to sellers is simple: technology can enhance your business in more ways than you may think. So start thinking beyond price and look at ways you can improve the overall buying experience you offer your customers.

Ian Whiting is managing director of Markinson Business Solutions (www.markinson.com.au).

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Ian Whiting

Ian Whiting

Ian is Chief Executive Officer of Markinson Business Solutions, a privately owned Australian provider of business software solutions to the commercial environment.

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