Going Paperless: 6 Ways to Digitize Your Retail Business

Male Owner Of Gift Store With Digital Tablet

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when the word “paperless” is brought up?

If you answered the environment or sustainability, you’d be only partly right. While it’s true that consuming less paper does help the environment, there are plenty more advantages that come with going paperless — especially if you’re in retail.

Minimizing paper usage helps you run a more efficient business. For one thing, digitizing documents makes information retrieval lot easier. If you’re searching for a particular invoice, for instance, you can simply look it up on your computer instead of rummaging through piles of paper.

Need to stay on top of employee attendance? Digital timesheets enable you and your staff to accurately keep track of hours worked.

Digitizing documents also has several benefits for your customers. Rather than cluttering up their purses with paper receipts, you could just send receipts via email where customers can access and search for them with just a few taps.

Yep, replacing paper docs with digital files has multiple advantages, which is why you should consider going paperless in some (if not all) areas of your business. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the ways that you can do this.

Check out our ideas below.

1. Eliminate paper spreadsheets and clipboards when counting inventory

Physically counting your inventory is already a chore as it is. The last thing you want is to make the task even harder with manual tools like a pen and paper. Do yourself and your staff a favor and opt for digital solutions such as barcode scanners and inventory counting apps.

Check if your POS or retail solution offers stock count functionalities, and take advantage of such features. Doing so will save you time and reduce the chances of human error, helping you keep an accurate record of your inventory.

2. Send receipts via email

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If you haven’t done so yet, adopt a POS system that lets you send receipts via email. Once you have that setup, start introducing email receipts to your customers. Instruct cashiers to mention it at checkout, so shoppers have the option to have receipts printed out or sent to them digitally.

One retailer that’s seen the benefits of email receipts is surf shop Sitka NZ. Owner Andrew Howson is big on recycling and other sustainable practices, so when he found out that his POS system (Vend) allowed him to send receipts via email, he used the feature right away.

“We had an Epson receipt printer from our previous system, but now it is just another piece of hardware we didn’t need to buy, sitting in the back office gathering dust,” shared Andrew.

When asked if they had difficulties getting people to adopt email receipts, he said: “not at all.”

“We first ask if they would like to be added to our customer database and if they say no, we then just ask if they are happy to receive a receipt by email… and not one person has said no.”

Aside from reducing their carbon footprint, Andrew shares that sending email receipts helped them increase their online fan base.

“We include a link on the receipt, which goes straight to our Facebook page. And you can literally see every day new fans on our Facebook page, and they are the same customers who bought from our store.”

See if you can adopt similar tactics in your business. Include links to your website or social media pages on your receipts to encourage people to visit them.

You can also use email receipts to build your database. When people provide their email address, ask if they’d like to be included in your mailing list. If they say yes, then you’ve got one more person to engage on your list and you got to help the environment. Win-win.

3. Use a paperless system to manage your calendar and appointments

If you sell services (e.g. salons, spas) or if you just need to schedule in-store customer appointments (e.g. personal shopper), consider looking into digital solutions to handle your calendar.

Rather than literally pencilling in client bookings and handing out appointment cards, you can just type in the customer’s information into your system and send them reminders via text or email. You and your staff will be able to stay on top of your calendar easily, while your customers won’t have to worry about missing their meeting or losing their appointment card.

4. Use a digital employee management tool

Replace paper timesheets and manual scheduling with a staff management solution that can digitize how employees pick up shifts, log their hours, or even request time off.

Modern staffing systems don’t just reduce paper usage, they also help you run your business more efficiently. By digitizing certain staffing procedures, you can spend less time worrying about schedules, and instead go back to growing your business and delighting your customers.

Having a digital staffing system is also a boon for your team. Such solutions make it easier for them to pick up shifts, switch schedules, and request time off, and that can result in happier more productive employees.

5. Go paperless when dealing with financial tasks

Consider going paperless in your finance department. Instead of printing out invoices, for instance, see if your clients and vendors would be open to doing business digitally. Are you still reconciling financial records manually? Get yourself a good accounting app that can automate such tasks for you.

6. Manage your loyalty program digitally

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If you’re still using printed out application forms and physical cards in your loyalty program, you’re wasting a lot of resources. Replace them with a POS-based or mobile-based loyalty program instead.

A POS-based loyalty program eliminates the need for physical cards. All customers have to do is give you their name or email address and you’ll be able to track purchases and rewards using your POS.

One retailer that’s doing a great job at implementing POS-based loyalty is Rockets and Rascals, a bike emporium in England. They have more than eight hundred members in their loyalty program, and the fact that they don’t require physical cards proved to be advantageous to the retailer and their patrons.

“It’s a wonderful life saver for a cold, wet cyclist that’s come in without their wallet,” says Steve Toze, marketing director at Rockets & Rascals.

If you’d like more bells and whistle in your loyalty program (e.g. birthday rewards, personalized offers), look into mobile-based loyalty programs which enable you and your customers to stay on top of rewards using a smartphone app.

Mobile-based loyalty programs are also convenient for shoppers. Since they work with people’s smartphones, customers won’t have to add yet another card to their wallet. They can just scan their phones to earn and redeem points.

Apps to help you go paperless

Hopefully, this post gave you some ideas on how you can reduce paper usage in your business.

Wondering how you can implemented the pointers above? There are plenty of tools to help you. Below are our top picks for apps that can enable retailers go paperless:

Vend – Not to sound our own horn, but Vend really has several capabilities that can help you digitize your retail business. Aside from having from having an intuitive sell screen that lets you complete sales faster and send email receipts, Vend’s software includes inventory management, E-commerce, customer loyalty, and reporting analytics. It’s simple to set up, works with a broad range of point of sale devices and operates on any web-capable device with a browser.

Xero – Xero is beautiful accounting software that lets you stay on top of your company’s finances no matter where you are. Aside from allowing you to create, approve, and send invoices, Xero lets you upload receipts and track expenses, so you always know how much money is coming in and out of your business at any given time. Xero also has a bank reconciliation feature that automatically imports your bank, credit card, and PayPal transactions, so you can keep track of all your financials from one dashboard.

To top it off, Vend integrates seamlessly with Xero to share your customers, product sales and invoices.

Deputy – Deputy takes the pain out of coordinating staff schedules. Say goodbye to messy time sheets and confusing charts; with this app, you can create, update, cancel, and set shifts using one nifty app. Notices and messages are sent via text, email, or the web, so employees can get scheduling updates and notifications wherever they are.

Connect Deputy with Vend in just a few clicks to gain greater insight on sales trends and labor metrics. Use it to schedule staff based on Vend sales data and report on staff wage vs sales percentage to optimize team performance. Deputy iPad kiosk for clock in/out is also the perfect companion for Vend iPad app. Thinking of signing up? If you’re a Vend user, you  get an extended, 3-month trial!

Timely – Timely is easy to use, great looking and affordable appointment scheduling software that you will love. It also integrates with Vend so you can sync products, services and customers. Plus you can pull appointments directly from your calendar as a sale in Vend.

Collect Loyalty – Get customers coming back more often. Create a fully automated customer loyalty program that’s effortless to use in your POS, helping you deliver an exceptional customer experience. Offer perks, automate points balance and emails and redeem rewards hassle free in-store and online. It even comes with built-in referral program and Apple Wallet functionality.

Your turn

Got any other tips for going paperless in retail? Let us know in the comments.

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.

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