4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Automating Your Retail Business

Automation. It sounds very futuristic…and a little scary. In fact, the word might intimidate you so much that you run far from it in your retail business. But by doing so — avoiding really useful automation tools — you’re barring yourself from helping your business truly thrive.

Here are some reasons why you should embrace, not fear, automation.

1. It Helps You Understand Your Business

Because there is such fierce competition in retail, both online and off, you need to be in complete control of your marketing and sales efforts. Using a business intelligence dashboard, you can gain great insights into how every campaign you launch does, and you can use that information to shape future campaigns for even more success.

This information is gleaned — you guessed it: automatically — and can help you understand where traffic to your site is coming from, at what point in the shopping process people are leaving your site, and which marketing channels are driving traffic and sales.

2. You Cut Down on Rote Tasks

How many times have you answered your store’s phone only to answer the same questions?

We close at 9.

We’re on the corner of Myrtle and Central.

9!! We close at 9!

Here’s another way automation will make your life easier: an auto attendant phone system can prevent your sales clerks from interrupting a transaction with a customer to answer the same old questions. The recorded message can provide answers to those common questions. If the caller still needs to speak with someone, she can select the number for the department or person she’s looking for. The number of calls your staff actually has to answer is greatly reduced through technology. You can’t beat that.

Another option is the chatbot. These digital virtual assistants use artificial intelligence to interact with customers through messaging apps. A shopper is on your site and looking for a pair of size 6 cargo pants and doesn’t have time to sift through search results. She opens the messenger and types in “size 6 green cargo pants” and the chatbot finds exactly what she wants. It can even offer her a discount to get her to buy. No humans needed.

3. You Keep Your Marketing Going Strong

What business owner has time to constantly send tweets, Facebook updates, and emails? While you will have to put in some initial legwork to automate social media, once you do, it’s like you’re constantly updating your marketing channels…while in reality, you’re doing something else.

Tools like SproutSocial and SocialJukebox let you create social shares that will then be automatically shared on the schedule you set. You can also automate your newest blog posts to be published to your social channels.

Email, too, can be automated. Create a drip campaign so that any time someone subscribes to your emails, they’ll be put in the funnel and start receiving your emails.

The key for marketing automation is to still check in and measure results. If you see a high number of email unsubscribes after Email 4, look at the copy to see if you can understand what’s turning people off. Recalibrate your efforts and measure again later.

4. Your Shipping is Less of a Headache

Particularly for e-commerce sites, shipping eats up a lot of time…or at least can unless you automate the process. Using shipping automation software like ShipStation, you can start the order fulfillment and shipping process as soon as an order is placed.  Your team spends less time packing boxes and printing shipping labels.

Automation isn’t so scary after all, is it? It can, in fact, streamline your retail business and make your life a lot easier!

Susan Guillory is the President of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and frequently blogs about small business and marketing on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.

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