The Computer's Impact on Retail

by Dennis Hartman; Updated September 26, 2017
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The field of retail sales has its basis in retailers bringing buyers and products together in the marketplace. There are a number of ways retailers can do this, and many tools they can use in their work. Computers, which have had an impact on nearly every economic sector, are especially prevalent in retail where their effect is visible at each level of the retail organization.

Online Sales

One of the most significant impacts of computers in the field of retail sales is the phenomenon of online sales. Most major retailers have large Web presences, offering a full range of their products for order. Customer can order out-of-stock items from a physical location for home delivery or in-store pickup, eliminating the lost sales that come from lack of inventory. The Internet also allows small retailers to sell to a wide base of customers who may not live near the retail location. It makes online-only retailers possible -- these businesses don't need to invest in the cost of a physical location since they process all of their sales online.

Marketing

Retailers also feel the impact of computers when it comes to marketing. In addition to print, radio and television marketing, retailers can turn to the Internet for banner ads, websites and email promotions that get customers' attention. Email allows retailers to send sale reminders or special discount coupons to customers on their mailing lists, reducing the cost of contacting customers directly via postal mail or phone. Online marketing also means that a retailer can reach potential customers anywhere in the world for a much more reasonable cost than other forms of global marketing.

Inventory Management

Retailers need to control their inventories to succeed. Too much overhead means the business's money is tied up in unsold products. Too little means there might be problems meeting customer demand. A simple computer program such as a spreadsheet allows a retailer to track inventory levels over time and ensure that the right amount of product is always in stock. A computerized inventory system can also save time and money by storing ordering information for reference and, in some cases, integrating with distribution systems online for automatic ordering when inventory levels are low.

Payroll and Accounting

Like other business owners, retailers can feel the impact of computers when they take advantage of programs that simplify their payroll and accounting tasks every day. Accounting software streamlines the process of keeping accurate records for tax purposes and personal business assessment. It may even reduce the amount of money a retailer spends on an outside accountant. Retailers can also use software to manage their payroll and employee benefits. Outside payroll services allow managers to go online and enter payroll information, such as hours worked and salary changes. These services can also distribute paychecks automatically, giving retailers one less administrative concern.

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