When we hear about the tech needs of small business, we often think specifically of online business. Most of those needs have to do with marketing automation, e-commerce, funnels for turning leads into customers, and various other SaaS tools geared to automating the sales process.

But technology isn’t just an online phenomenon. From the GPS gadgets of African safari tour guides to the hand-held meters that confirm the strength of current in wiring at a new hotel, even offline businesses increasingly rely on technology.

Many industries require specific high-tech equipment. GPS and electric current meters might be too specialized technology for some offline businesses, but there are some technologies that many offline businesses should be using. Here are a few of them.

Payroll Automation

Gone are the days when you have to enter each employee’s presence individually in a ledger and tabulate their pay at the end of the week. Or, as Min Cho puts it, “an Excel spreadsheet isn’t going to cut it in the long run.” Automated software can calculate their pay, their deductions, and their benefits — whatever adjustments are necessary — in just a few minutes each day. If some of your employees are part-time, automation also relieves you of trying to keep track of how many hours each employee has worked on different days (Imagine doing that by hand; can you spell n-i-g-h-t-m-a-r-e?).

Modern tools go beyond just payroll by helping managers schedule employee shifts so that there is enough staff on the job at all times. You can also submit payroll records to government bodies electronically instead of filling in forms, and that should save you more time than the cost to get started with automation.

Payment Processors

Nobody carries cash anymore. Well, almost nobody. But everybody carries plastic, whether that’s a credit card or a debit card. PayPal might act as a payment processor at an online store, but people offline need a way you make their payments.

The faster and the more secure the better, and ideally you’ll be able to take payments in almost every way your customers want. The digital wallet is on its way, so get ready to service people with and without plastic. Also, new EMV chip readers are slowly replacing the old magnetic stripe readers for one simple reason: Consumers prefer to shop at stores that are using the most up-to-date payment security methods.

Signs of change

Digital Signage

Every business needs a sign. That is the most basic form of publicity. But that does not mean you need a basic, static sign. Signs that can change messages are certainly not new. Gas stations often change their pricing several times a day. And we have all seen those roadside signs that can carry any message you like, as long as you manually change the letters.

Digital signage lets you display a much greater variety of messages, including rotating three different messages, such as is often done in fast food restaurants.

Furthermore, there is no comparing the image quality and interest level of a digital sign next to a roadside letter message.

Best of all, digital signage can be changed in real time, so you could even interact with your customers as events transpire, engaging with them on social media while they are in your store. And these days, you can run it all from a USB key you can take with you wherever you go.

Inventory Control

If you are dealing with anything physical, you need to keep track of your inventory. Walmart keeps track of thousands of individual items. The government tracks each of its computers, monitors, phones and other devices. All hard goods need to be tracked.

There are several reasons you need to keep track.

  • Know when to restock when you get low.
  • Understand seasonal cycles better, so you can plan ahead.
  • Simplify mandatory inventory reconciliation, for audit and reporting purposes.
  • Save on extra shipping costs by keeping stock replenished before you get an order for something you’ve run out of.
  • Know which locations are selling which product.
  • Achieve ultimate customer satisfaction. If you are tracking down to the actual item, your customer service will be in a position to win friends…or at least not make enemies.

Digital Rewards

People love rewards, and it has been shown that loyalty programs turn casual customers into repeat customers. Given how costly it is to find new customers, compared with the much lower cost to keep customers, a loyalty program makes sense. Running it from an app that people can track online and that can be accessed from any location, makes your job easier and makes the customer feel like a partner in the relationship.

Security Apps

You’ve probably seen the ads for home security, where you check the view from various cameras right on your phone, no matter where in the world you might be. Your business could use these too. You can be alerted instantly when an unauthorized person breaks into your business.

Given that the police these days are too overworked to investigate break-ins, you stand a much better chance of identifying the thief if you can catch him in the act.

Bonus: Consider Taking Your Offline Business Online With a Website

Just because your business is run mostly offline, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from an online presence. You don’t need to start an e-commerce website or worry about making something overly complicated. Just start with something simple to help online shoppers know how to find you. People like to compare prices, check out colors, and do other research online, even if they come into your store to shop.

There is no escaping technology. We might hear jokes about “kids these days” who are so busy staring at their little screens that they would not even notice a stampede of rhinos in front of them, but tech and business are a serious combination. These are just a few of the more obvious tech needs of most businesses. What additional tech tools do you need?