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In an effort to optimise workflows, improve employee experience and save time, more businesses than ever are adopting automation. In 2020, McKinsey found that 31% of global businesses across sectors had fully automated at least one business function. Another 66% of businesses said they were piloting automation in at least one business process, up from 57% two years earlier.
More recently, 2022/23 Square Future of Retail data revealed that automation is continuing to enhance the staff and customer experience across industries. Business owners recognise automation’s ability to free up their staff’s time, especially in light of staffing shortages, and customers reported that they want to see automation in at least one area of the businesses they frequent.
As automation solutions continue to grow and more businesses begin piloting automation, it’s important to know where to start. Below are five time-consuming tasks that can be automated to save time and help your business scale.
1. Inventory management
Manual inventory management is a significant task for any team, no matter the size. But manual inventory management becomes problematic as a business or its products expand and can become especially complicated when businesses sell across different platforms, channels or locations.
To keep up with this shift toward omnichannel commerce and to meet customers where they’re already shopping, adopting automated inventory management across sales channels and locations is essential. An inventory tracking system that automatically syncs all sales, whether they’re made in-store, online or on social media, and tracks products across locations saves substantial time and helps avoid overselling.
2. Customer relationship management
Customer data can provide valuable insight and drive successful business decisions. Leveraging customer purchasing data can increase sales (as in the case of Red Bay Coffee, who used data to successfully forecast popular ready-to-drink beverages), but a host of other customer information gives businesses a view into what customers want and what motivates them to purchase.
Collecting new customer information or tracking repeat customer purchase histories can be time-consuming and often depends on staff to initiate, so automating the customer relationship management process helps ensure you’re capturing and storing the necessary information to grow your business. Automated customer management tools can track and log new sales across all sales channels, capture customer information to create customer profiles and track purchase histories over time. With a database of automatically generated customer information, you can segment customers based on habits, offer loyalty programs and market more effectively.
Marketing is the growth engine of a business. Smaller businesses reported spending a considerable 20 hours a week on marketing, but no matter the size of a business, certain marketing tasks are repetitive and time-consuming, and could be automated to optimise marketing impact overall.
Automating specific marketing functions allows you to reach more customers more often and can even help personalise the commerce experience for customers. Personalised, automated email and text campaigns based on customer segmentation can welcome new customers to your business, re-engage existing customers with a promotion or loyalty program reward, or even remind a customer about an item left in their cart.
As customers navigate your online store, automated eCommerce personalisation tools can show them recommendations based on their purchase history, highlight new products or sales, or point them to related items to encourage a purchase.
4. Employee management
Business growth often equates to staff growth, which can quickly become tricky to efficiently manage. Small-business owners reported spending five hours each pay period on payroll and at least one day a week managing people-related paperwork.
Since ensuring employee management runs smoothly is essential to retaining your staff, automating team management processes can help cut down on errors, paperwork and manual data entry. Adopting roster and shift management, time tracking and attendance and labour cost reporting helps the admin and people-management side of your business run in the background and frees up significant time.
Sales summaries, expense reports, invoices and accounts receivable reminders aren’t favourite tasks for most business owners, and like other business functions on this list, take up time that could be dedicated to growth.
While automating certain reporting and financial admin doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have to deal with them anymore, automation does help organise and streamline financial processes. Whether you’re automating sales and expense reports to be pulled on a certain day of the week, setting up automatic invoices and accounts receivable reminders to clients or even automating your tax filing, small operational automations can have a large impact on your business.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.