You may already know that it’s time to upgrade from the old-school, hardware-based software your business has depended on in the past and invest in cloud-based software.
But the search for cloud-based software can feel overwhelming, especially at first.
For example, should you get one comprehensive program that handles many tasks, or try a few different apps that expertly address different pain points? Should you pay more for a program that will grow with your company, or settle for a less expensive option that will work great for now?
And how much time can you afford to spend evaluating all the potential cloud-based programs to find the best fits for your unique needs? Is there any way to ensure that your investment in cloud-based software will pay off?
On our Elevated Entrepreneur blog, we’ve already spent some time discussing the finer points of the software selection process — comparing competing programs and listing specific features to look for.
But today, let’s simplify things. We think there’s one question business owners should be asking first when they evaluate a potential cloud-based software solution: “Was this software built to address the needs of businesses just like mine?”
This question can serve as a bit of a “shortcut” in the search for cloud-based software. Here’s why:
The Growth of the SaaS Market
Cloud-based computing certainly hasn’t been around long in the grand scheme of things. But the market for cloud-based software, or Software-as-a-Service, has matured a lot in recent years.
This is especially true for point of sale software, which tends to be the backbone of the operations at most small customer-facing businesses, such as retailers and restaurants.
In the beginning, there weren’t many cloud-based POS options, and businesses had to make the available cloud-based software work for their own needs. But as demand grew for SaaS, more competitors entered the market. Cloud-based software companies have long since started to differentiate themselves by focusing on providing solutions for specific groups of clients.
That’s why these days, businesses can find POS programs and related software that caters to specific industries (such as restaurants), and even specific types of companies within that industry (coffee shops, pizzerias).
The Benefits of Industry-Specific Software Features
Most small businesses share the same needs when it comes to many basic business functions. They all need to process sales, get reminders for low inventory, run financial reports and analyze data, and manage staff, to name a few.
However, in other ways, different types of businesses have very different needs when it comes to these processes. These benefit from distinct sets of advanced features. That’s where industry-specific software can be particularly helpful.
For example, POS software that was designed for restaurants may have features such as table management, menu management and tableside ordering — none of which would be useful to any other industry. POS software that was designed for retailers, however, tends to have robust ecommerce capabilities, plus plenty of options for combining and discounting products for sale.
On the inventory end, restaurant software may specialize in deducting ingredients as they’re used in meals. Retail software, on the other hand, features barcode scanners and tools for quick and efficient inventory reconciliation — features that restaurateurs don’t often need.
The Benefits of Industry-Specific Software Support
Beyond the advanced software features, industry-specific software also tends to offer more specialized help and guidance to their clients.
Because industry-specific support specialists work with businesses like yours all day every day, they have more in-depth knowledge about how your business works. They may even be able to alert you to best practices or improvement opportunities based on what they’ve seen elsewhere.
Industry-focused programs may also be able to provide support documents and other tools that are more relevant to your needs.
Some SaaS companies invite clients into exclusive online communities, such as Facebook groups where industry professionals discuss best practices. Some even offer industry-specific webinars or other educational resources on a regular basis.
The Pitfalls of “Generalist” Software
It may seem relatively harmless to invest in software that has a few more features than you actually need. After all, you might need the features in the future, right?
It’s true that some general POS systems might work well for your business, just as sometimes a Swiss Army knife works better than a single, sharp blade.
But consider that any extra features you don’t need right now can clutter up your software, and may even confuse your employees.
Plus, there’s a good chance that the cost of the features you aren’t using will still be passed along to you in the price of the software.
Think about it: As a software company adds more and more features that aren’t relevant to your business, they extend themselves further and further to provide tech support and customer support for those features. And with each additional feature, potential software integrations tend to get more complicated. That’s why finding a program that caters more exclusively to what you need it to do is almost always the best bet.
How to Tell if Software is Industry-Specific
Most cloud-based software websites have a list of supported industries featured prominently on their homepage or in their main menu. Each industry page should include a description of how the program works for that type of business, along with relevant features and testimonials from business owners in the industry.
If your business type is less common, you might not find it listed on any SaaS websites. But you may be able to find what you need by searching for programs that cater to industries with similar processes and needs.
However, you’ll have to look beyond the web site and do a bit more research to know for sure whether a program really caters to your industry.
After all, it’s super easy for a company to list a certain industry on their web site in the hopes of attracting new clients. It’s quite another to already have a deep list of satisfied clients within that industry.
If you have any doubts, you can ask your sales rep more about how many customers they serve that are similar to yours, and even whether you can get connected with any of them. Starting a free trial of the software before you commit can also give you insights into how relevant the program will actually be.
Enlisting the Help of Software Experts
Sometimes the easiest way to know which software will actually be the best fit for your business is to have a quick conversation with an expert.
At Cloudscape Technologies, our team is full of cloud-based software experts who have years of experience and dozens of certifications in the best cloud-based software programs on the market.
Sometimes the easiest way to know which software will be the best fit for your business is to have a quick conversation with an expert.
We specialize in serving restaurateurs and retailers, and we have plenty of industry-specific insights that can help improve your business as we work together.
If you reach out to us and let us know a little more about your software needs, we’ll give you a clear idea of your best options. Even better, though, we can help you get that software up and running, and support you for the long term.