“Automation” can be intimidating, especially when you have to invest your time and effort into setting up new software or learning a new system.
But automation is a massive timesaver for indie retail business owners! It’s one of the best ways that we can work LESS. Best of all, the time we can save through automating our repetitive, day-to-day tasks can be put towards the big ideas that help us profit more and grow!
Let’s dive into what automation is, why it’s helpful, and ten tasks that all retailers should consider automating.
What Automation Is And Why It’s Helpful
Automation is the application of processes or systems using technology (software and/or hardware) to do repeatable or predictable tasks without requiring manual intervention.
So why automate certain tasks? Because automation helps you save your time, effort, energy, and hard-earned dollars.
Automating what you can allows you to focus on the bigger picture of your business because you’re no longer bogged down with the smaller, repeated, daily tasks.
As long as it’s set up correctly, automation eliminates human error. Each task is repeated identically and without your (or your employees’) feelings, mental state, level of exhaustion, or distractions affecting the task.
10 Tasks Independent Retailers Can Automate
Automation may be happening in your retail business, and you don’t even realize it yet! Let’s go through ten of the top tasks I recommend that retailers automate so they can work less on the minutia of their business.
#1. Email or Messaging Autoresponders
An out-of-office email is a classic example of an automated task. Before you leave for vacation, you write the email and turn on the automation in your inbox settings.
Anyone that sends you an email during the time period you’ve set gets the email you’ve pre-written in response.
#2. Newsletter Signups
Email marketing is a crucial task for a lot of retailers. Fortunately, part of it can be automated: adding people to your list!
This can happen in a few ways, such as a newsletter pop-up on your website or a checkbox at checkout. Either way, customers enter their information, and your email service provider automatically adds them to your list.
#3. Appointment Scheduling
Not all retailers need an appointment scheduler, but automation is a massive time saver for those who do!
Programs like Calendly, Acuity, and Square Appointments allow you to show potential appointment times to customers based on your availability. No more emailing back and forth with “how about 2 PM on Wednesday?” and “I’m not available then. What about 4 PM on Friday?”
Training new team members is a big task, but thankfully, parts of it can also be automated!
For example, you can record videos of common tasks and then put them in an automated email series. As part of our email marketing challenge, we’ve been talking about this in Master Shopkeepers. One of our group members has an automated email series that gets sent to new vendors at her store!
Another example of automating training is by creating instructional guides that are automatically sent, rather than walking new employees through each step yourself. If you want employees to see exactly what to do when adding a new customer to your point of sale or creating an inventory report, software like Tango can take pictures of each step in the process.
#5. Loyalty Program
Whether you’re using one online or in-store, this is often automated. The customer makes a purchase, the program calculates their loyalty points, and they get updates via text or email.
#6. Abandoned Cart Emails
These emails are classic in e-commerce. You receive these when you add something to your cart but don’t go through with the purchase. Later, the store sends you an email saying, “We saw you looking. Come back and get it with this 10% off coupon!”
That entire process can be automated depending on the cart, tracking, and email service you use.
#7. Inventory Reports
Automating your inventory reports can be very helpful if you’re trying to pay attention to a specific metric. For example, let’s say you’re trying to keep track of stale inventory this year. You can set up an automated weekly report showing exactly what stock is stale and how long you’ve had it.
You don’t have to log in and run the report each week because your inventory management system runs the report for you and sends it to your inbox. It will serve as a weekly reminder to keep your store’s inventory fresh.
#8. Website Chat Support
You know that little box in the corner of a website that pops up? It will often prompt you to ask a question or click on a frequently asked question that is answered automatically.
#9. Task Reminders
If you use a digital project management system, you can set up daily, weekly, or monthly task reminders. The reminder can usually be pushed to your phone or sent via email.
Project management tools like Trello, Click Up, and Asana all have this feature. But it’s also available on Google Calendar or your phone’s reminders app!
Payroll may not be completely automated for some of us, but it can be mostly automated with software. I know running payroll in Square is extremely easy with just the click of a couple of buttons. If your employees are clocking in/out using software, the software is doing the work for you.
If It’s Repeatable, You Should Automate It
Of course, there are other things that you can automate in your retail store! Setting the temperature with a digital thermostat and turning on security cameras to turn on or off at certain times are other examples of automated tasks.
You might think some of the automations I’ve mentioned are minor. But if you add it all up, trust me, it makes a difference! If your automated tasks save you just 1 hour a week, that’s 52 extra hours every year that you can spend doing something more meaningful in your business.
My guess is we can automate MUCH more than what I’ve mentioned here, but you get the picture. It’s the compound effect: making small behavior changes can compound into life-changing results over time.
Special Resource: Tools of The Retail Trade
I know technology can be frustrating, but it’s one of the reasons why I work less in my store. Embrace it. Use it. Set it up. The initial setup on some automations will pay dividends! You take the time to set up your systems so you can save TIME.
If you need some guidance on what software or technology to use, make sure you grab my free Tools of the Retail Trade Resource Guide. It’s made just for independent retailers and is filled with the software, tools, and products I recommend to make running your business easier.
I even have some excellent deals linked inside, like one month of Quickbooks for free or a 50% off discount for your first year of my favorite email marketing software, Flodesk. Visit https://savvyshopkeeper.com/resources to sign up for the Savvy Shopkeeper newsletter and get the guide.
- Tools of the Retail Trade Resource Guide
- Master Shopkeepers is opening again on July 11—be sure to get on the waitlist now for early access to the application!
- Join The Shopkeepers Lab
- [06:31] What Automation Is And Why It’s Helpful
- [08:16] 10 Tasks Independent Retailers Can Automate
- [17:08] If It’s Repeatable, You Should Automate It
- [19:34] Special Resource: Tools of The Retail Trade