If you run a retail business, you’ll no doubt understand the importance of managing your expenses effectively. It might mean you’ve already invested in expense management software. But what if you haven’t? While you can track your expenses manually, specialised software makes the process easier. More importantly, with it, you can reduce costs and improve your efficiency.
The software you choose also needs features and functionalities that can assist rather than hinder you.
What is expense management?
Before we can consider why it’s worth investing in expense management software. And, before looking at the features, let’s consider the term.
Here it is:
Expense management concerns the systems used by your business to process, pay and review any work-related expenses submitted by your team. In the context of retail, one such example of a cost could be travel. Other costs could be everyday HR expenses or even entertainment.
Let’s say, for example; you’re a retail service provider with a team that travels from store to store. You’d want to capture and manage these expenses as they happen. It’s the same if you have a team of merchandisers or field marketers who regularly travel.
As for the elements that make up a substantial expense management process, there are two. You can find both of these elements in specialised software.
Firstly, you need a process for your team members to follow. That includes setting up steps for them to follow that allows them to submit an expense claim. What do they need to do if they want to claim on an expense? It needs to be as straight-forward as possible.
Secondly, you need a process for your retail business so that you can review and either accept or reject the expense claim. If you were to process expense claims manually, there is a step before this that includes your line managers approving the request and sending it onto your finance department.
With software, which automates the processing and paying of claims, you have the potential to bypass that stage altogether.
Why should you invest in expense management software?
While we touched on why expense management software is essential, we didn’t delve any further than to mention the reasons.
For the sake of this article, we have pinpointed three reasons why you should invest in it. Each is interconnected and has a direct impact on how you run your business.
1. It allows you to save money
The first reason why expense management software is worth investing in is that it can save you money.
Of course, there are arguments that software is costly. Rightly so. The upfront costs of any specialised software can be high. However, anyone who argues this point is only considering the short term.
In reality, the software saves you money in the long-term. How?
In the case of expense management software, you can electronically capture expense claims. What’s more, you can approve requests for travel when they actually occur.
It’s also worth pointing out research conducted by the Aberdeen Group. It found that companies that have fully automated the expense management process spend half of what companies that manage their expenses manually pay.
(Above) Details of a travel expense claim submitted through Activ8
2. You have more control over your spending
The fact that software enables you to process, carefully review and pay any submitted expense claims means you have a system that can assist you to control your spending.
Let’s say, for example, you don’t have software, and you receive many expense claims. How do you expect to keep track of your monthly expenses? How do you account for who approved what? While it’s possible, you can quite easily find yourself spending more than you should over particular months.
With expense management software, which fully automates the processing, reviewing and paying of claims, you have a system that keeps your spending in check. The Aberdeen Group study referenced above confirms that.
There is also the point that software allows you to streamline the process. That means your team doesn’t have to spend time in confusion and back and forth.
3. It ensures employee productivity
The final reason to invest in expense management software is that it ensures employee productivity.
Let’s consider what happens when you expect your employees to submit expense claims manually. If they travel regularly, it will likely include hours of admin work, which takes them away from doing what you employed them to do. Add to that the point that any line managers would also need to approve these claims.
And, it’s not just for one person but your whole business.
What you could end up with is a retail workforce that isn’t as effective or as productive as it should be. In truth, it’s counterproductive and has negative long-term consequences.
However, with software that automates the processing of such claims, you can cut down the time it takes. Again, it streamlines the process and allows for business efficiency.
What features should your expense management software have?
That said, if you can add extra functionality around employee leave cycles, you’ll have powerful software that can assist you to be more efficient in crucial areas of your retail business.
That’s what you get if you use Activ8. A team management software for retail, with Activ8, you get the below expense management features built-in.
(Above) Submitting a new explain claim through Activ8
1. The ability to submit, accept and manage travel claims
If you or your team travel regularly, you can submit an expense claim through Activ8. You can do that by navigating to Expenses under the HR tab in the left-hand column in Activ8. There, you’ll find the ‘My Expenses’ section.
Here, you can fill in a new expense form or monitor pending claims.
For travel expense claims, you would need to include the date of travel, select the person authorised to approve it and the approval document to validate it. If you’re visiting stores, you must also include the customer and person who you visited as well as the kilometres that you travelled.
Thanks to Activ8’s Android and iOS mobile apps, which enables user tracking through phone GPS, you can validate whether or not the person who put in the expense claim did visit the store or location in question. That means you can hold your team accountable for the work they complete.
At the same time, you’re held accountable for approving and paying any outstanding claims.
2. The ability to manage all work-related expense claims
Activ8 doesn’t only allow you to manage travel expense claims. You can also approve other expense claims.
Let’s say, for example; you need to buy office supplies or shelving for your store. If that’s the case, you can fill out the appropriate form. Also found under ‘My Expenses’ section, instead of selecting ‘Travel’ when submitting your new claim, you can select ‘Other’.
In doing so, you must include the date you made the purchase, the customer, a proof of purchase, a description of the purchase as well as the amount you spent.
Lastly, you’d need to include the person who authorised the claim. This is the person who you spoke to before making the purchase and gave the go-ahead for you to do so.
Again, it comes down to accountability and autonomy. It’s also more than that. With this software in place, it also allows for transparency in what you do.
3. The ability to submit, accept and manage all leave requests
Along with the ability to manage any expense claims, you can do the same with any leave requests.
Firstly, you or your staff can submit a request for leave. Activ8 offers you a variety of different leave types, including Paid, Unpaid, Maternity, Sick and Study. Submitting a leave application involves filling in various fields such as the From and To date, as well as a note on the leave if needed.
If it’s an application for back-dated sick leave, you can also include a doctors note or any necessary documentation. Activ8 then automatically calculates the number of work days and non-work days and updates employee leave balances accordingly.
On your side as a line manager, you’ll receive a notification where you can decide to either accept or reject the request. What’s more, Activ8 gives you the ability to manage team leave efficiently and fairly so that you always meet employee expectations.
(Above) An example of the leave calendar as seen in Activ8
4. The ability to monitor employee leave across your company
With Activ8’s live calendar, you can keep track of and monitor who is off work at any time.
If you approve any leave for one or more of your team members, as soon as you do, it populates the leave calendar. That allows you to keep an eye on who is off at all times. You can also see a live version of this on the Activ8 dashboard, which shows you where someone is at any time during the day.
What’s more, you can explore the leave calendar, filtering your search by employee, department, region, leave type and so on. Clicking into any leave segment on the schedule for any employee also enables you to explore the details of the leave taken.
Activ8 is team management software for retail with expense management functionality built-in to help you keep track of all work-related expenses and monitor employee leave across your business. If you’re interested in saving money and having control of your spending, Activ8 is for you. You can learn more by scheduling a demo with one of our sales consultants below.