The world today is a bit obsessed with automating and expediting just about anything possible. Myself included. I moved to San Francisco from Indianapolis, and in just the past year, I get more things shipped to my office and home than ever in my entire life. Opportunity cost, we understand each other now. Just take a look at Postmates, the mobile-delivery service that can fetch you everything from "a burrito to a tub of Beluga Caviar". The company recently raised a measly $16 million, while passing 10,000 deliveries per week. Yowza.
Immediate gratification has no end in sight. But, hey, who's really complaining anyway?
Sure, in some cases it can be a bit ridiculous. Who really needs a can of Red Bull delivered in the middle of the work day? (I've seen it happen.) But when it comes to your online retail business, automating certain tasks is what will make or break your bottom line. And with all the affordable, accessible options out there, we're sure to find you a great fit. Before we go hunting for options though, let's review some of those business tasks you can automate:
1. Stock quantity tracking
If you are currently selling products and your business is growing, you are naturally going to be faced with expanding to multiple channels. However, the last thing you need to do is create more work for yourself. In order to continue the momentum without being slowed down with inventory tracking on each of your channels, you must implement technology that will do this for you. Most of these inventory management software options will integrate with accounting, shipping and other operational software apps as well, centralizing your entire back-office system.
2. Email marketing
It is less expensive to retain an existing customer than to go out and find new ones. However, the time and effort it takes to nurture your customers, encouraging them to be loyal to your brand, is exhausting. With clever, ongoing email marketing campaigns, you'll be able to continue communication with very little effort. With systems like Bronto, Vero, or MailChimp, you can build triggered emails to send based on certain buying activity. These services will also provide you with analytics regarding open rate and click rate, educating you on what type of language is most successful. Let the systems gather the data, so that you can make smarter decisions.
3. Sales reporting
Paired with ongoing inventory tracking and customer behavior, as you grow, you'll need to implement ways to track sales. The value of knowing how, when and where customers purchase certain product options is vital to growing your business. Make sure with either (free) Google Analytics, your sales channel or your inventory tracking system, that you're able to properly assess the fluctuation in sales data. A smarter seller will continue to increase revenue.
4. Purchasing and restocking
Your selling strategy actually begins long before you transact with your customers. It actually starts all the way back at intelligent purchasing decisions. This is directly tied to your sales reporting, actually. The more you know about sales trends for your business, the more optimized your purchasing funnel will be. If you know that your medium blue shirts sell better than your small red shirts during spring time, then you'll be able to confidently assess what you need to gather from your suppliers and when in order to avoid stockout.... or a whole-lotta shirts you can't get rid of.
Also, if you're working with a small team and restocking products on your own, you'll soon see that everyone involved in your operation will become more efficient since they now have access to proper sales analytics, purchasing decisions, etc. A more informed team will become more tied to your business goals.
5. Shipping and fulfillment
This has to be the least exciting part of selling products online. Unless you get inspired by being tangled in packing slips and sticky tape, then it's safe to assume a task like this should most definitely be automated. Now, with FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) for the larger sellers and small shipping integrations like ShipEasy and ShipStation for those just starting out, there are definitely several options to fit your business. Heck, you could even post something on TaskRabbit if you're afraid of committing to one of these services.
Whatever it is, it's incredibly important to assess your opportunity cost. Is it more valuable for you to spend 4-5 hours on a Saturday afternoon or to use that time sketching up a new product line or, let's say, see your children? You make the call on that one.
Have suggestions on what else you should automate as a small business owner? Let us know in the comment section below!
Now, go order yourself some delivered cupcakes for reading this entire post. You deserve it.