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Today, it’s possible to run a store from the comfort of your home (yes, even for products), as long as you set yourself up properly from the start! And your tech will play a huge part in its success!
Home businesses are not reserved for digital services only. Nowadays, thanks to tech solutions that are available and affordable to any sized business you can run a product-based business directly from home.
Aside from the research you need to do for your specific product, there’s some tech you need to think about getting before you launch your product-based business at home.
Since it’s easy to lose track of it, we’ve compiled a list of the essential physical tech and online tools that you need for your new business venture:
Physical Tech Needs for Product-Based Home Businesses
This is the hub where you’ll do everything – from setting up a website or e-commerce store, to marketing, preparing labels, answering emails, to sending information to carriers, and so on.
Helps make your business laptop into a powerhouse and powers all the PC periphery that you might struggle plugging into the laptop alone.
Mouse and keyboard
Having them makes it much easier to work with a docking station, and a mouse will help you work faster on your laptop in case you skip the rest of the peripherals. Go for wireless options to make them easier to carry with you.
Go for business-line monitors you can rotate horizontally and vertically and adjust the height to your liking. It’s easier to work and keep track of all things happening in the store with this setup.
A regular inkjet or laser printer is needed to keep track of all of your paperwork, print receipts, discount codes for purchasing products, instructions for use, manuals, thank-you notes, and whatever else you need.
It can also be used to print labels, with the laser printer having a bit more durability since it’s using dry ink, and inkjet printers having lower durability due to the technology used to apply ink.
For days when you need to focus, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones is a must. It will keep away all noises that might distract you. Pro tip: connect with your laptop AND phone so you don’t miss any important calls or notifications.
Either as a combo deal (a headset) or a standalone, it will help you communicate with business partners and prospects easier by keeping your hands free.
A point of sale (POS) system lets you take card payments in person. You will need a digital or manual cash register, terminal, and card reader. If you’ll be running your business as a physical and e-commerce store, your POS system should have inventory tracking so it can synchronise with the online store to show the right stock numbers.
You will do a lot of label printing – especially shipping labels. You can choose between two types: direct thermal printers or thermal transfer printers.
- Direct thermal printers don’t need ink but require labels with specific chemical layers that react to heat from the printer to make the information visible. Such labels don’t do well under UV light, though.
- Thermal transfer printers need an ink ribbon to print. These ribbons are made of resin or wax or a combination, depending on what material you will be printing the label on (paper, fabric).
It will minimise any data entry errors due to manual input. As soon as you scan a product, it will put in correct information on the order number, given you have set up a barcode inventory system for your product and have a UPC-A for it. It helps keep track of inventory numbers too.
You don’t have to do it on your own. Most international and large shipping carriers have a calculator available on their website.
While not mandatory, it can help you determine the weight of your packaged product precisely, thereby helping you get an idea of the shipping costs for your product.
Not mandatory, but it helps with disposing sensitive documents in a secure manner where you won’t have to worry about someone finding them in the recycling and reading through them.
For all the necessary appliances that require electricity, it’s best to have power extenders with surge protection. Invest in those that have at least a few USB sockets to easily charge your phone too.
Wi-Fi extender (And Internet Connection)
A reliable internet connection that will keep you online without disruption is a must to be able to answer queries from customers as soon as possible. Ideally, you want plans that don’t have data caps.
For areas in the home where the reception is spotty, it’s not a bad idea to have Wi-Fi extenders. There are also extenders that enable you to get a wired ethernet connection this way, so you might want to invest in those if you regularly upload/download large amounts of data.
Home automation system
This can help you keep track of important tasks and dates, alert you on time, and provide reports on important things like traffic and weather. It can play your music, connect to other smart devices, and even help control lights and temperature with the right setup.
Online Tech Tools for Product-Based Home Businesses
Nowadays, you have automated cloud accounting software readily available for small and home-based businesses that can keep track of everything – from a new inventory order to a business drink with your partner. The simplest solutions will keep track of essentials (i.e., invoicing, reporting) while advanced options let you keep track of profits, losses, reporting, forecasting, payroll, banking reconciliation, and more.
Inventory management tools
This is how you will track all orders – from products that you need to get to those that you have to send to customers. It is basically a powerhouse tool that tracks your whole inventory chain.
Helps you create and keep track of all your orders. It is also necessary when using a barcode scanner.
Helps set up marketing campaigns across all necessary channels – web, email, or social – and keep track of their performance. Most solutions have powerful automation options where you set up triggers that start an action based on customer behaviour. For example, someone subscribes to your mailing list, the software will send them the welcome email you have prepared.
A/B testing tools
Helps you make sense of your product features. With it, you can see which feature brings the best results and what customers prefer.
Ad campaigns are investments, and a successful ad campaign must produce a good ROI. The right tools can help you identify relevant keywords that have good search volume and CPC value for your products.
Project management tools
As with any other business, you must keep on top of things. As with any other retail business, organisation is the basis of efficient operations, and project management tools help you keep everything organised.
A functioning website is mandatory for a successful product-based business. It’s where you’ll showcase the features of your product and one of the main touchpoints for your customers.
Best to pair it with your website and have it as part of the site. Alternatively, you can go for solutions like Amazon or eBay, but having your own store is the better option since you have more control over the costs of doing business this way.
Help you keep track of your customers and their habits. Analytics tools can also be used to keep track of your product, market position, website traffic, demand and supply, seasonal fluctuations, customer engagement, and other important metrics. By better understanding your customers and your performance, you can tweak your offer and improve sales and your profit margin.
You’ll need a good communication hub for your business. Email is mandatory and live chat is a nice-to-have option that really drives the customer experience, so look for a good chatbot to automate the most common queries. As for customer support, phone support is preferable but might be too much for starters, but definitely a good addition as you grow.
Data backup and contingency tools
Keep data and devices safe from service disruptions and natural disasters with a good backup and contingency plan. Have a plan on what happens if you can’t run your product-based business at home, and have an alternative HQ for that.
You might think your product-based business at home is too small of a target for cyberattacks, which actually makes you a good one, so better be safe than sorry. You’ll need security software to keep everything safe, especially because you’ll be dealing with lots of confidential data like customers’ addresses and credit card numbers. Ensure you’re using a good payment processor for all these transactions, as well as good antivirus and antimalware software on all your devices. Make sure you have a separate network for your business that’s properly secured.