It seems like everyone is singing automation’s praises these days. While using automation to cut costs and boost productivity can be an exciting prospect for retailers of all sizes, stores can easily get overwhelmed when thinking about drone delivery, virtual dressing room mirrors and robot armies. For starters, many retailers don’t have the excess liquid capital lying around to throw into the next big tech trend and many storeowners fear falling behind as a result of not being able to afford investing in new technologies. Additionally, many retailers don’t want to risk alienating their loyal customers by implementing automation tech into their local stores since – let’s face it – many customers aren’t all that comfortable with ‘stores of the future’ just yet.
If you find yourself relating to either of the above categories, have no fear. Below, gain insight on how automation can be realistic for your business.
Identify Opportunities to Consolidate Your Workflow
Choosing where to automate your store operations is the easy part. Start by taking an inventory of your store, zeroing in on any areas with repetitive, time-consuming tasks, as well as sections of your business with high error rates. If your employees spend large chunks of time sending marketing emails, for instance, or if you have identified that you lose out on income due to faulty inventory counts, these might be the areas where you can boost productivity by adopting an automation strategy. Likewise, look for areas of your business where you and your employees tend to get your wires crossed – such as employee scheduling or payroll – as these are areas that can be often be clarified by a transparent, integrated automation solution.
Implement Automatic Marketing Shortcuts
Upon reviewing your store operations, you may find that you have room for growth in the marketing department. There are many aspects of your marketing strategy that can benefit from automation for less than $10 a month. These include (but are not limited to):
- Creating more insightful, regular social media updates with Hootsuite, Buffer, or Crowdfire.
- Automating your email marketing campaign with MailChimp.
- Hiring freelancers on Fiverr for reviews, follows, or almost any other marketing need you can think of.
- Using Google Analytics to learn valuable information about your customer base. Best part? This is free!
Using some or all of the above cost-effective marketing shortcuts might be just what your business needs to stay ahead of the curve with retail technology.
Reduce Scheduling Errors
With so much free and low-cost integrated scheduling technology available today, there is no reason to struggle with staffing your retail store or planning meetings. Two of these options are Homebase, a top-rated and completely free solution for employee scheduling, and Toggle, an acclaimed complementary platform that tracks billable hours. In addition, Google Calendar is a well-known platform that makes it easy to manage schedules with multiple users, while Calendly focuses exclusively on scheduling meetings. These free platforms can help streamline every aspect of your daily organizational needs…including reducing confusion within your organization by creating public, transparent employee schedules.
Manage Inventory as You Grow to Scale
While it’s true that inventory management can represent a more substantial investment for retail businesses than marketing or scheduling, it’s important to maintain an awareness of your developing inventory management needs as your business grows to scale. Barcoding your inventory and automating your warehouse and shipping solutions with a solution provider such as Lightspeed can integrate with your POS system to help reduce to shrink, save time, and facilitate seamless business operations as you grow to scale. As you evaluate potential inventory management solutions, be sure to find one that allows you to purchase only what you need for your current operations and add more capabilities as your business expands. Additionally, look for a platform that integrates with your existing retail solutions so you are able to add capabilities to your existing operations as your needs increase.
Finally, implementing simple automation shortcuts into your daily operations can save your business valuable resources and billable hours. Don’t let fear of the cost hold you back from putting new retail tech to work for your business. After all, each of the technologies we discussed in this article is either free or surprisingly cost-effective.
Take advantage of ASD Market Week’s 90+ free retail strategy sessions this July 29-August 1, 2018 in Las Vegas.
By Jasmine Glasheen, RetailMinded.com