Digital vs. hard copy documents: when and how to use each as a merchant

Good retail management keeps the cogs of your business turning smoothly. It prevents stock problems, maximises the value you receive from each square foot of your store, and ensures the point of sale experience is equally efficient for both the customer and the employee.

10th February 2016

If you use retail management software to help you with these tasks, you can save time and money by automating administrative processes and streamlining other jobs. Document management is another area where software might assist you.

Email and the internet have revolutionised the way we communicate. We can now send files and have conversations with people anywhere in the world, for free. Businesses swiftly adopted email as the main form of communication between employees, and often use it to pass on information to customers. Many merchants use a combination of communication platforms to speak to consumers. How do you choose between hard copy and digital documents?

Customer preference                                

The customer is always right. If they have a preference for communication formats then it would be foolish to ignore it.  On your trade accounts, in your retail software, be sure to mark whether the customer would prefer their invoices, quotations and other documents in hard copy format or sent via email. Marking a record in this way also ensures your staff take a consistent approach, regardless of who serves them in-store or over the phone. Even if the majority of your customers prefer to receive hard copy documents, the cost of printing and sending documents is far smaller than the potential revenue you’ll lose by failing to listen to their preferences and emailing documents instead.

Scanning and organisation

Regardless of how your retail management software is configured, it’s important to keep all files related to each client in one place, attached to the client’s file in your system. Set up robust processes for scanning and sorting paper documents, including a standardised formatting system for ease of identification at a later date. Set aside time each day to scan, print and post documents. By following these processes closely, you’ll ensure that using hard copy documents won’t compromise the efficiency of your software.

Marketing

In terms of marketing communications, it is essential (and often a legal requirement) to only send out material according to customer preferences. You must obtain permission from customers before you can send them marketing emails, and you must include an unsubscribe link on any marketing emails you send.

If your customers are open to receiving marketing content through direct mail or email, consider which option is likely to be most effective:

·         What are you aiming to achieve from the marketing campaign? Emails are best if you want to boost online sales, direct mail is better for in-store purchases.

·         Return on investment. Direct mail is certainly more costly, but its potential is also greater. Weigh up the costs and benefits of each method.

·         Consider how to target your marketing communications. This is trickier for direct mail than it is for email.

Emails are quicker, cheaper and easier to store electronically than hard copy communications, but that certainly doesn’t mean that you should ditch letters for good. Hard copy documents still have a valuable place amongst builders’ merchant communications, but must be stored and managed digitally to maximise efficiency.

Integrity Software’s Trader software is retail management software built specifically for merchants and complex retail, with powerful document management, accounting and point of sale capabilities. Get in touch with our team to learn more and see the software in action. 

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SBS Builders Merchants select our Trader software following user recommendations.

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Integrity Software wish to welcome SBS Builders Merchants to our Trader software user base.

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