I run a retail store in a small town, and I love technology. That’s why I came up with these ten ways you can put an Android tablet or iPad to work in your rural retail business.
1. Take payments at the Point of Sale
Throw away your old cash register. A tablet makes a smart Point of Sale system, in place of your old register. Depending on the app and system you choose, you can track sales, take payments, weigh products, print receipts, and maybe even track inventory. I use ShopKeep and recommend it for stores large enough to justify $49 per month. (Still way cheaper than old-school POS systems.)
2. Let me Google that for you
No matter how much you know, customers manage to ask questions you can’t answer off the top of your head. Put a tablet on the counter and Google up some answers for them. We do this all the time, looking up drink recipes for customers.
3. Let me come over there and Google that for you
Don’t stick behind the counter. Bring your tablet out to meet the customer. It’s a tablet, so go mobile! Show customers what you find. Show them pictures. Pull up a video that shows how to do something. It’s memorable for customers and helps you do a better job of selling.
4. Show off some pics
Your business has pictures to show off: product photos, happy customers, product in use in the field. (OK, that last one not so much for liquor, but maybe for a tire store!) Both iPads and Android tablets have a built in photo slideshow feature and extra apps with special features. Set the tablet in a frame on the counter, and let it show off when it isn’t working.
5. Update your social status
Grab the tablet, shoot a photo of something new, and post it straight to Facebook or Twitter. Or send it as an email to customers. And since the tablet lives at your retail store and you’re in a small town, you can leave it logged into your social accounts, and let your staff do updates any time of the day without worry.
6. Count your inventory
If you’re using a tablet-based Point of Sale system that manages inventory, there’s probably a built-in function to do use your tablet to count inventory. No matter how you manage your inventory, a tablet is much easier to carry around when you’re counting than, say, a heavy laptop. And of course it’s better than having to write it all down with pencil and paper, then enter it into a computer system later.
7. Clock in
Toss the paper timesheets and go with a timeclock app. And check with your Point of Sale, as ShopKeep includes a time clock, and I’m sure others do as well.
8. Ask your customers what they think
Set up a customer survey using a website like SurveyMonkey or using a survey app. Put it on the tablet, and get it front of customers. Maybe strategically by the front door. I especially like the idea of “smiley face surveys” that ask simple “are you satisfied?” questions and give graphical icons to tap as an answer.
9. Sign up for our newsletter
You do have an email newsletter, right? If not, get one. I’d start with MailChimp, which is what I use myself and that is my rewards link. They have a free plan up to 2,000 subscribers so that should get you started. Then use their sign up app on either iPad or Android to let people use your tablet sign up right in your store.
10. You Googled it, now blog it
Every time you Google an answer for a customer, blog the answer to share with everyone. Using the Android or iPad Blogger or WordPress apps, you can type up a simple question and answer story, maybe throw in a photo, and hit publish.
Won’t someone steal it?
Since you’re in a small town, you probably don’t worry too much about people swiping your store’s tablet. But if you do, you can use a heavy metal stand like the red one we use in the photo. That should be enough to discourage the casual would-be tablet takers. Many metal stands are compatible with locking cables for even more security. We haven’t found that necessary.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.