6 Common Retail Problems Technology Can Help Solve

6 Common Retail Problems Technology Can Help Solve
Whether it's expediting checkout, streamlining inventory management, or customizing your entire retail experience  — here are some of the ways to use technology to get your business to the next level. 
by Alena Courtney Jun 10, 2024 — 4 min read
6 Common Retail Problems Technology Can Help Solve

To excel in today’s competitive landscape, retailers are constantly looking ahead to see where they can set themselves apart with customers while finding operational efficiencies. And using the right technology is helping savvy retailers do just that. 

Whether it’s mastering inventory management, streamlining operations, or customizing the eCommerce experience, here are some of the clever ways retailers are using technology and automation to overcome common challenges. 

Problem #1: Unforeseen overstocking or stockouts 

Inventory is the lifeblood of any successful retail business. Managed well, and it can drive profitable growth. Managed poorly, and it can become a liability. Understanding when you have excess inventory on hand so you can adjust your sales strategy accordingly is the key to getting ahead of the costs of slow-moving products.

Similarly, you are bound to have certain SKUs or categories of products that fly off the shelves. Insufficient inventory, resulting in missed sales, can occur due to an inaccurate demand forecast and unforeseen issues with your supply chain. While you can’t always control issues with your vendors, you can get ahead of stockouts with accurate sales and inventory data.

Solution: Real-time inventory insights and low-stock alerts 

In order to avoid missing a sale due to insufficient inventory, Square makes it easy to set up bulk low-stock alerts on multiple items, so you can reorder with your suppliers before an unwelcome stockout occurs. 

Using an omnichannel technology partner like Square, you’ll also get real-time insights into your inventory health with helpful reports like inventory by category, sell-through, and projected profit reports. These reports will inform your demand forecast and reduce the likelihood of holding onto excess inventory, which you will later need to discount. 

The automated inventory sell-through report is a tool that we use to really look at the future of our business. We want to look at the sales velocity, and we want to know what’s doing well. So that really helps us just discuss our numbers, look at what we need to change, and just keep pushing forward into the future.”

Alexis Lilly Nappily Naturals, manager

Problem #2: Lack of visibility across locations and channels

Regardless of how confident you are in your demand forecast, it’s always a good idea to analyze and readjust accordingly on a regular basis. As a modern retailer, you’re likely to sell products in person, online, and across multiple channels. While taking an omnichannel approach is critical to competing in today’s marketplace, it can undoubtedly make accurate inventory and sales tracking that much more difficult. 

Solution: Real-time stock adjustments from any device

Square for Retail provides accurate and real-time inventory and sales data across all locations and sales channels. Using the stock adjustment feature, employees can change the amount of inventory on hand right from their device to avoid delays. They can also add the unit cost during item creation from whatever device they’re using, so your COGS report is always accurate and up to date.  

Getting a clear line of sight into your stock directly from your POS device makes it easy to swiftly pinpoint which items need restocking or where a special promotion may be necessary to increase sell-through. 

Problem #3: Spending too much time manually managing orders

Fulfillment can be time-consuming and costly for complex retail businesses. That’s why more and more retailers are harnessing technology to streamline the otherwise manual aspects of fulfillment. And if used correctly, automation can free up employees’ time spent on manual tasks so they can focus on making a bigger impact on the business.

According to the Square 2024 Future of Retail report, a full 100% of retail business owners surveyed said that technology and automation have improved their businesses. For those focused on growth over the next 12 months, order tracking (43%) is the top area they’re automating, followed by payroll and benefits (42%).

Solution: Bulk order management

Luckily, managing orders is simple using Square Order Manager. It’s easy to search, sort, and filter to find exactly what you need quickly. Plus, you can manage orders faster by setting the status and printing packing slips in bulk instead of individually. Whether you’re at the counter or on the move, you can also create and print barcode labels in many sizes to fit your assortment’s specifications. 

We chose Square for Retail as we wanted an automated system that would connect our physical and online stores and save us time in manually adjusting stock.”

Alexandra Marcher The Leamington Wine Company, manager

Problem #4: Losing your shirt on shipping costs

Once a customer places an order, you’ve only won half the battle. Then comes fulfillment. Shipping can make or break the remainder of the customer experience.

Offering delivery options that meet the demands of customers while protecting profit margins is the key to long-term success for retailers of all sizes. But it’s a tricky balance and can quickly become complex to execute. 

Solution: Customize shipping rates at checkout 

To help fine-tune your fulfillment strategy, Square now offers retailers the ability to customize shipping rates by weight and the number of items, in addition to offering free or flat-rate shipping based on your predetermined criteria. So you can strategically offer free or discounted shipping without breaking the bank. 

Problem #5: Out-of-box eCommerce experiences

Standing out from the competition means tailoring the customer experience to your business. And there are tools that make doing so less time-consuming than it sounds. While technology can get a bad rap for offering out-of-the-box solutions that may not work for your one-of-a-kind business, artificial intelligence (AI) is charting a new, customized path.

Solution: Using artificial intelligence for personalization 

AI-powered website design can actually make the customer experience feel more personalized. With Square Online, you can choose from 24 customizable website themes to create your eCommerce website and use AI to help fill out the copy. If you have a large assortment, you know how daunting writing unique product descriptions for each item can be. Using the Square auto-generate item description feature, you can simply enter tone, length, and keywords to quickly create compelling product descriptions with help from AI, which are also optimized for SEO purposes. 

Problem #6: Expensive and time-consuming product photography

Professional product photography is a must-have for eCommerce websites, but it can be expensive and time-consuming to get right. It doesn’t matter if customers are ordering items for delivery, buying online and picking up in-store, or just browsing your assortment — professional product photography can have a meaningful impact on your conversion rate. 

Solution: Studio-quality product photography — from your phone

With Square Photo Studio in the Retail POS, you can get studio-quality product photos without having to switch devices during item creation. Just take a picture of your product, select a photo style, edit the background, and upload your photo. Your new item photo will sync with your Square catalog and anywhere that item is sold.

Using the latest advancements in technology can help your business overcome common hurdles and free up time to focus on building a business your customers love.


Alena Courtney
Alena Courtney is an Editor at Square covering all things Retail — She writes about retail trends, retail business models, inventory and supply chain management, ecommerce and in-person growth.


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