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6 Aspects of Your Retailing Business That You Can Automate

Aug 13, 2020 10:00:00 PM

Whether you own an online retail store or brick-and-mortar business, the time will come when you’ll want to grow and expand to other sales channels to extend your reach. But with increased exposure also comes an increased need for employees to help with daily operations — which can lead to additional labor expenses.

For many retailing businesses, however, automation is increasingly becoming a viable option. So, whether you’re planning on entering a high-growth phase or you just want to cut back costs, it may be time for you to start automating key processes. Here, we share 6 main facets of your business that you can automate so you can focus on new growth opportunities.

1. Onboarding of New Workers

The process of hiring new talent normally involves a LOT of paperwork. Without automation, you need to print out forms, waivers, payroll conditions, benefits, and more. These can take a lot of time to fill out and then forward to the right department within your business. You also need to explain the vision and goals of the business to new employees — a time-consuming process if you really want your onboarding staff to be hands-on.

While onboarding does benefit from a little human touch, it’s highly advantageous for your employees and the business to streamline the process to jumpstart productivity and reduce the costs of recruitment. You don’t even need to spend big on automating the onboarding process either. Simply creating a series of modules that new employees can go through can be a form of automation already.

Things such as your company’s welcome message, mission and vision, work guidelines, benefits list, payroll details, and more can all be covered in a simple presentation or delivered through an interactive application.

The best part is that automation reduces the need to handle physical paperwork since most documents will be provided for and gathered digitally. This can also speed up the reporting and documentation process for your HR managers.

2. Payments and Invoicing

You can automate financial processes — both on the accounts receivable and payable side of things. For cash that goes into the business (cash inflow), you can make things easier for yourself and customers who are buying from your retail website.

When you have PayMaya Checkout integrated into your ecommerce platform, for example, customers can use their credit card, debit card, or e-wallet to complete payment transactions. And even if you don’t have your own websites, you can still take advantage of digital payment solutions to ensure that you’re be billing your customers right and getting your money on time. PayMaya Digital Invoice, for instance, makes it easier for you to create and send online invoices to and from anywhere in the world.

Even in your physical store, automation can add a touch of convenience to the business and create a more positive experience for customers. Employing PayMaya QR, for example, gives your buyers the option to go cashless. This is a safer method to make purchases and can often even be faster. This is because the customer won’t need to whip out their wallet and expose their hard-earned money to unnecessary risks. Additionally, it’s also a more sanitary way to conduct a payment transaction since the customer and the cashier won’t have to handle potentially contaminated objects. It’s a definite plus for businesses who desire to protect their customers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you would like to give your business the full benefits of automation, however, PayMaya ONE can change the way you handle payments and invoicing procedures forever. Imagine a small hand-held device where your staff can input payments, swipe credit or debit cards, performs QR transactions, and print invoices. You get all that and more with PayMaya ONE’s device.

3. Inventory Management

Automation can help you avoid common inventory management problems and give you real-time data on your stock levels across multiple channels. Put simply, everyone benefits from an updated list of what the business currently has on stock because this allows your staff to better manage your supply chain. Automation services can provide a single and fully-integrated system that employs an easy-to-use interface so you can manage your inventory across all your retail outlets.

Other benefits of automated inventory control also include a more streamlined workflow on your planning, purchasing, shipping, and fulfillment. With automation, there are fewer chances for human error to occur, and you’ll save hundreds of hours compared to when you hire someone to manually analyze the data pulled from multiple locations and systems.

Here are just a few telltale signs that you need to start automating inventory processes:

  • You are constantly running out of stock or you frequently overstock on items
  • There are frequent inconsistencies in your inventory or even unidentifiable stocks and order quantities
  • Problems often arise from employees not having real-time data on stock counts
  • You are having trouble tracking the inventory across multiple warehouses and sales channels
  • You can’t create an accurate forecast of your inventory needs because of inefficient reporting or lack of data analysis

If the above situations remind you of your own inventory challenges, then it’s time to automate. This will help your business grow exponentially and reduce errors and inefficiencies.

4. Online Customer Support

If there’s any lesson we should learn from the success of Amazon, the American online retail giant, it is to focus on giving customers an unbeatable experience. Their customer support is one of the best in any business, bar none.

Even if you’re currently not at a scale to compete with Amazon, you can also reap the many rewards of giving consumers a positive experience. Automated customer support, along with quick order fulfillment and customized marketing automation, for example, is one way to keep your customer base growing. With automation, you are in a better position to quickly and accurately meet their needs, which in turn scales your growth as a retail brand.

Another worthwhile benefit of automating customer support is consistency. When customers have the same positive experience across multiple channels, your business is also viewed in a more positive light.

Examples of tasks that you can automate to provide customers a better experience include the following:

  • Providing quick responses to common email inquiries from people who use the “Contact Us” feature
  • Following up with recent buyers to request feedback of their shopping experience
  • Responding to chat messages on social media channels using chatbots
  • Updating customers on the status of their order

If you’re searching for the best tools to use for automating customer service and support, you can start by checking out HubSpot Service Hub, Front App, Freshdesk, and TeamSupport.

Many of them offer a free trial for the first two weeks, which should be enough time for you to get a feel of how the service works and if you can actually benefit from it.

5. Marketing

There are numerous tasks and processes within your marketing department that can be automated, which may come as a surprise for some retail business owners.

Automation doesn’t mean ditching your marketing specialist. On the contrary, it means making that individual’s job easier by scheduling, organizing, and prioritizing campaigns so your target buyers are reached more effectively. For instance, you can use email automation for new customers who sign up for a newsletter. Within minutes, they receive a welcome email and a rundown of updates you’ll provide, as well as why they should buy from you.

MailChimp is a good tool for those who are new to email marketing automation. Also, it’s free up to a certain number of subscribers. As your number of leads grow, you’ll appreciate the other services offered by MailChimp to create an effective email marketing campaign.

Other marketing automation tools you should check out are the following:

  • Constant Contact - Offers more unique features and is more suited for those who are experienced with email automation.
  • Pardot - A powerful marketing automation suite that includes email marketing, ROI reporting, and lead nurturing.
  • Campaign Monitor - Similar to MailChimp and offers template management controls so the team can only make specific updates and changes.

Additionally, here’s a list of ideas of marketing campaigns that you can automate:

  • Product updates and launches
  • Testimonial and review emails
  • Survey emails
  • Email re-targeting (especially for abandoned carts)
  • Birthday greetings and exclusive birthday promos
  • Welcome email series

You may also notice a crossover between marketing automation and customer support automation.Indeed, the two can work hand in hand to drive more sales.

Don’t forget to use A/B split testing in your campaign, as well. This is a great way to find more effective strategies and see which specific marketing material your consumers respond to the most.

6. Security and Quality Checks

If you have the budget for it, you can also use automation for security and safety surveillance. The cost of this does tend to be much higher than if you were to spend on conventional security options, but it offers a plethora of benefits.

Security automation can be divided into main categories: physical and digital. You may want to focus on one aspect more than the other depending on your requirements. Which one you choose is highly dependent on the scale and type of retail business that you own.

Security Automation for Physical Retail Stores

One of the upsides of automating security is the prevention of loss of assets, especially from theft. Instead of hiring more security personnel, for example, you can simply attach RFID-based security tags on the items you sell, which will trigger the alarms installed near your exits in the event somebody tries to bring them out of your store without paying for them.

Automation is also one way to protect your physical store from damage caused by fire. For instance, as soon as the fire alarm is triggered, the local fire department can be notified so help is automatically dispatched to your store’s location.

In the US, we are seeing a massive shift in production operations. Instead of people, drones and robots are now responsible for conducting quality checks on retail items. Regardless if this is or isn’t an approach that’s viable for you, there’s no doubt that automation is gradually replacing human work in a wide range of jobs to improve profits and cut labor expenses.

Security Automation in the Digital World

The demand for IT and network security automation is expected to rise within the coming years. This is because there are always new security attacks and breaches being made on companies both big and small. Modern retailers that are operating in the digital world have two choices: either strengthen their security defenses or fall more prone to cyberattacks.

Automation through security services isn’t so new anymore. In fact, simply installing anti-virus software on your system and scheduling regular security checks is one form of automation that even small retail stores can implement. For large retail businesses, however, more advanced digital security solutions or technologies may be needed.

How Do you Know Which Business Processes to Automate?

When considering which exact business processes to automate first, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this a simple workflow? If the answer is yes, then there’s a big chance that it can be automated, such as sending reminder emails to customers or replying to chat messages on social media.
  • Is the task repetitive? Freeing up your employees’ time by eliminating repetitive tasks can reward your business in more ways than you can imagine. So, pick tasks that require little thought and effort, and find a way to automate them.
  • Will it save you time and money? Consider how automation technology will cut back costs and time spent on various tasks. If the answer is “not much,” then it may not be worth the resources you need to spend to implement the automation.
  • Will this allow the business to scale up faster? Nurturing growth while keeping human capital low is one of the top benefits of automation. So, if you stand more to gain than to lose, it’s a clear sign that you should automate.

The above questions will help you clarify which areas of your business can benefit the most from automation, which tasks are a priority, and which ones can wait. Again, this will depend on the scale and type of retail business you own.

Final Words

There you have it, a guide to automating your retail business that you can use regardless of the company’s size. Make no mistake that automation is here to stay, and failing to automate certain tasks as soon as possible may just lead to more losses for your business.

So, if your goal is to get more things done, eliminate inventory errors, boost sales, reach more target buyers, and keep existing buyers happy, you need to start automating soon.

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