What are the Different Types of Retail Software?

Erin J. Hill

There are many different types of retail software used to help business owners keep track of important information. Programs can be as basic as a simple word processor or spreadsheet, or as sophisticated as a system which automatically files customers into an online database or keeps track of inventory with each purchase. The level of sophistication in retail software needed will depend on the size of the business and the nature of what it sells.

Simple spreadsheet software may be used by small retail stores.
Simple spreadsheet software may be used by small retail stores.

Small “mom and pop” operations may be able to do business using simple retail software like word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation software. These generally require the person to type in information and can be used to track orders, inventory, and customers. Very small businesses do fine with these basic programs in most cases, but if there are thousands of items to keep track of and an equally large number of customers, a more sophisticated software system may need to be implemented.

Modern point of sale systems are often linked to software which can be used to track, analyze and report on sales.
Modern point of sale systems are often linked to software which can be used to track, analyze and report on sales.

Separate retail software systems are available which automatically keep track of inventory in stock, inventory that is purchased, customers and their information, and monetary value for sales and profits. Each of these programs can be pricey, but they make keeping track of store operations easier and less cumbersome. Many retail software programs are run entirely online and can be used in a company website. Others are encoded into scanners and registers so that everything is calculated at the time the sale is made, even in a brick and mortar location.

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There is also point of sale retail software, which is one larger software system that combines inventory tracking, customer information compilation, accounting programs and other important information into one program or suite of programs. Rather than buying everything separately, this type of software allows business owners to keep track of everything in one place. This makes running their businesses more efficient, with less mix-ups and computer errors due to moving information from one program to another.

Prices for retail software range from relatively cheap to very expensive. The sophistication and capabilities of each program greatly influences the cost. Some free or shareware versions of certain business software may also be available for download via the Internet. Business owners should choose the right software by determining their unique needs and comparing brands and types of programs based on price and capabilities. Some types of software may also be able to be programmed into a website's design by the designer or programmer in order to keep track of orders made online and of visitors to the site.

Small business may only need simple software.
Small business may only need simple software.

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