Best retail apps

We round up the best smartphone, tablet and desktop apps for retailers looking to make the most of cloud

Certain parts of the retail sector are sadly underdeveloped when it comes to digitisation. Of course, many elements of high street retail have had to embrace modernisation, such as the introduction of chip and PIN transactions as per the law.

But while retail is continuing to change quickly, thanks to the boom of online sales and mobile apps allowing people to pay for their shopping with the tap of a smartphone, there’s a lot more to digital transformation than just taking payments in a convenient way.

Whether we’re talking backend digitisation, such as keeping on top of orders via an automated stock system, making sure your accounts add up (and we don’t mean that box of receipts you have to dust off every year to show your accountant) or using an iPad as a POS system, there’s a lot to consider.

You can even use apps to understand what people are buying, what potential customers are searching for before they arrive in your store, helping you target them with the right messages at the right time.

All this can happen thanks to the availability and plummeting cost of the cloud. Cloud-based apps make it much more convenient to do business both in person and online across all sectors, but for retail, it can put you in front of your competitors, allowing you to put convenience at the centre of everything.

But if you’re completely clueless when it comes to technology, but you know you need to make changes, where do you start? With so many apps available, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff?

However you need to digitise your retail business, we've selected the best apps to superpower your retail business and launch it into the 21st century.

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS is one of the most attractive inventory and POS management applications across devices we've ever seen. It looks as sleek as iTunes, with a beautiful slideshow-style interface for viewing your entire inventory in one place.

It's also, crucially, a POS too, allowing you to take payments for items in your store, with big, bold graphics and easy to tap options to make the purchase experience seamless for both you and your customers. A full range of payment integrations are supported so you can use your preferred payment partner and it works on iPad, iPhone and on-terminal for your preferred set-up.

Everything syncs up between your physical and online store, so you can be rest assured what Lightspeed POS says you have in stock is accurate, whether people are using your website to buy or not. And if you have multiple stores, everything will stay in order, wherever your sales happen.

The app also offers detailed sales analytics and customer loyalty features to help you grow your business by making great decisions and offering bonuses to high-value customers.

Price: From £69/month for up to 5 people (1 terminal)

URL: Lightspeed

Why download? An all-in-one POS system for businesses with inventory control, reporting and customer loyalty programmes to leverage your retail business

SalesPad Cloud

SalesPad Cloud is an extension of QuickBooks Online, allowing retail businesses to keep on top of their inventory, employees, and business using a single tool that works across POS, mobile and computer.

Its POS element means you can track transactions in-store, with frontline employee management available from the same screen. Built-in card processing means customers' data will stay safe and secure without the business having to worry about PCI compliance, while its warehouse barcode management tool means you can make sure orders are fulfilled and inventory levels are at a sustainable level for any online orders and for the shop floor.

The third element of SalesPad Cloud is the purchasing, inventory management, and order processing platform on desktop, helping you manage back-office functions from wherever you are and automatically synching with the warehouse and in-store elements.

Everything integrates with Quickbooks, with a familiar interface too, enabling you to keep on top of your business's accounts as well as order management with as little fuss as possible.

Price: From $85/month for 1-5 users

URL: SalesPad Cloud

Why download? SalesPad Cloud makes it simple to keep on top of your in-store sales, warehouse, and business from one place and it integrates with Quickbooks too!

ShipStation

If you're an online retailer, it's pretty likely you'll need to partner up with a company to help you ship your products to your customers. One thing's clear in the online shopping world: customers want their goods to arrive fast and in perfect condition and this is where ShipStation comes into play.

it's an e-commerce fulfillment platform that not only tracks your inventory but also enables the printing of shipping labels and organisation of couriers to get your goods winging their way to the customerS quick as a flash.

You can set everything up so it's automated, meaning you can save time organising how your goods get to the customers and more time on product development and strategy to get your retail business flying.

In the UK, ShipStation's partners are FedEx, UPS, DHL and if you use Amazon to sell your goods and are registered for Prime delivery, that's supported too.

Price: From $9/month

URL: ShipStation

Why download? ShipStation will vastly improve the way you ship your goods, automating the entire process.

Vend Register

Vend Register (previously Vend POS) combines an iPad-powered EPOS that can be completely customised for your business, with loyalty features to keep your customers coming back. The checkout process is seamless using Vend. When a customer comes to the cash desk, you just select the product, tap pay, choose whether the customer wants to pay with cash or card and the transaction is complete.

Vend Register also allows you to search for a past transaction by customer name, phone number or email address, so you can easily link transactions to customers, helping your CRM and customer loyalty efforts too.

You can track sales and how much money you've made from customer transactions, plus it'll work offline too, so even if your internet goes down, you can still process payments.

Vend Register uses a drag and drop UI when you're setting it up, making it simple for everyone to configure, whether you're tech savvy or not and if you're worried you'll need to switch payment provider, you won't have to, because Vend Register has partnered up with the majority of merchant service providers, so you can continue as you were, just with a much easier way of managing the checkout process.

Price: From £49/month

URL: Vend

Why download? Vend is a fully-integrated POS and customer loyalty platform with an easy to use interface, developed specially for iPad

Square Point of Sale

Square Point of Sale helps you take payments efficiently from customers, whether they want to use chip and pin, contactless or mobile payments, such as Apple Pay, on your own mobile or tablet.

You'll need a Square Reader to be able to take payments, but as soon as you're set up, you'll easily be able to take payments and be reassured they'll be in your bank account instantly. If you're not totally convinced, you can check your bank account from the app to make sure funds are transferred before handing over the goods.

You can also use the app to keep track of sales and inventory in real time making this one of the best mobile POS apps out there and analytics mean you can share your performance with the rest of the business in real time.

Price: App free, charged 1.75% per transaction

URL: Square POS

Why download? Much more than just a payments app, Square POS helps you track inventory and share performance with others.

PollDaddyMarketing & Instore Analytics

If you have a bricks and mortar store, it's important to find out why your customers are visiting, what they're looking for and what they value from shopping on the high street. PollDaddyMarketing and Instore Analytics will help you find all these things out and more. It enables you to ask customers questions as they come through the door using any mobile device - both with and without an internet connection.

The surveys can be tailored to your particular business, making them highly relevant and helping you collect the information you need to make your business a success. Any responses you get from your customers can be quickly analysed so you can work out what you should be improving about your shop and how to further enhance the customer experience.

Price: Free, with in-app purchases

URL: PollDaddy

Why download? Bricks and mortar stores are becoming extinct against online stores, so it's vital to make your shop stand out from the competition. Finding out what your customers want is essential and PollDaddy allows you to do this easily, from any device.

Boutique Window

If your stores are mostly brick and mortar, but you want to launch into the big, wide world of digital sales, Boutique Window makes it simple for you to set up your own online shopfront, showcasing your merchandise to the world.

Although it's not the most attractive app, it syncs with your calendar and social media accounts too, so not only can you keep up to date with everything going on in your hectic life as a retailer, it will also show you the updates you have planned for your complete online experience.

Price: From $19 a month (approx £13.50 a month)

URL: Boutique Window

Why download? For those trying to put their retail stamp on the digital world, Boutique Window is a great starting point for everything you need to launch into the digital age.

Collect

Collect screenshot

Collect allows you to target your marketing to attract new customers that might not have naturally come across your business, using a loyalty programme. Collect also allows retailers to set up rewards for those who keep coming back or spread the word about the company and with integrated marketing, you can automate processes to better target your audience, with information and offers that are relevant to them. All apps are web-based and are not yet available on mobile or tablets so you're limited with mobility, but the suite is a perfect toolkit for any retail business.

Price: From $19 a month, per store (approx £13.50 a month, per store)

URL: Collectapps.io

Why download? Collect can manage your entire purchase process, from attraction right through to marketing and the creation of brand advocates.

Counter

Counter helps you keep on top of your inventory, right from your iPhone or iPad. You can scan in any barcode and find out how much stock you have, check your inventory and process deliveries and transfers from one place, making it an important tool for anyone running a shop selling third-party goods.

It recognises most barcodes and data matrix codes and all the data is available to view in a CSV file, meaning you can import the information into other applications that support it, such as accountancy programmes, databases or even just Excel if you want to take a look at it.

Price: Free download

URL: Vend

Why download? Counter is simple to use, recognises most barcodes and presents everything in a multifunctional csv file

Deputy

Deputy screenshot

Deputy saves you time, effort and money. You can easily create, edit, update, delete and assign things to your employees. You can cut yourself some slack and actually focus more on engaging your customers and growing the business further because this app lets you and your employees know the demands of shifts and time in a simple, neat and easy to read manner. Employees can use the app to swap shifts and log attendance, pick up schedules, request for leaves and notify you of any changes in the work plan. The finance department can automate payroll processes too, making the workplace more productive and pleasant to be.

Price: Free trial for 30 days then paid service (subscription required)

URL: www.deputy.com

Why download? Deputy simplifies the whole employee management lifecycle for retailers and other companies where shift workers need to be managed.

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