Improve Bottom Line Retail Sales by Automating your Life

Automating the regular things in retail leads to heaps of productivity gain

If you look at why productive people are so productive, it’s because they have a good grasp on what things will really propel them the furthest, and what things are wastes of time that other people can do for them. One of my favorite authors in this space is Tim Ferriss, who is a three-time New York Times bestselling author of the 4-hour series. His ideas fundamentally disagree with a non-stop 70–80 hour work-work, but instead one that relies on automation, efficient timing, and chunking of tasks to increase the productivity output. This methodology is heavily centered around Pareto’s Law which states that “20% of your activities will produce 80% of your results, likewise 20% of errors cause 80% of hardships.” It is by focusing on the 20% where we can make improve bottom line retail sales. The very same principles being applied here, can efficiently be applied to almost any major industry or even personal matter. For our case, we will focus on how to use this law to improve bottom line retail sales.

What are you DOING?

Have you ever stepped back to look at the activities propelling you through multiple coffees a day? I’ll be honest, I rarely do this myself, and only until writing this post am I realizing how much I need to take my own advice (perhaps this is why I enjoy writing more and more lately) to look at how I can optimize my own systems. However, for the purpose of this article, we will look at the typical activities of a chief marketing officer or digital marketing manager, who may report to CEO. Your role is primarily concerned with A) bringing in new people to the website while tying this to increases in store traffic offline B) You will largely be responsible for planning PR, loyalty, events, pricing, and promotions. C) This role may also involve bringing in outside agencies to help with development tasks or marketing tasks related to the website. In short, it’s a tall task.

With all these activities, you are not handling them alone (typically). This means you have some sort of budget which you can utilize, and perhaps you already have a few people in-house to work with you. In this circumstance, your position will be best suited making sure everything is super coordinated and delivered in a seamless way. So your 20% activities are the successful implementations of the widespread (organization-wide) marketing campaigns or successful new technology initiatives. Let’s take a specific example.

Assume you will take on the task of local store marketing for a chain of 30 sports and activewear stores. In this role, many times the person would begin creating their own ads, running their own promotions, tracking the results each day/week via a manual (sort of outdated) end of day dashboard. The 20% of things are getting overshadowed because the results are scattered across many areas. In this case, let’s assume you utilize a real-time proximity based conversion system like Proximo to set up in each store. Though this is a simple platform to implement and use, you must think long term, to make a system that will repeat and scale itself, rather than handling the entire task by yourself. Here’s how you could handle it using a 20% methodology:

  • You don’t want to fill your time with implementation. It’s easier to break down the parts (code into website, locations/targeting zones, promotional copy/images, metrics). As the marketing director you want to keep your time free to create the programs at the top, so they are automatically distributed throughout the program once conceived. Now let’s distribute the tasks
  • Send one email to your agency, or in-house tech guy with the snippet of code that will enable this program to work (implementation covered)
  • Locate externally through freelancer, or internally in-house through intern/marketing dept. someone to upload and update all store locations into the new platform (data part one implemented)
  • Locate externally or internally someone to update the web copy/promotions, and where they will be pushed to once you have conceived them (continual promotions updated)
  • Automate report data, so it does directly into your dashboard, or spreadsheet, giving you final numbers on offers accepted, customers converted, etc.

In this way, you sent two emails outlining the tasks of each group (person), you’ve got a system in place for once weekly updates of the content, which is manageable for the team, and you are free to focus on the creative ads/new promotions to specific areas. Just one small example of the real-world impact on a new implementation of a location awareness project to automatically improve bottom line retail sales.

What is “20%” Important Stuff?

Oftentimes the most difficult part of Pareto’s law is uncovering what the 20% activities are that we should be focusing on. While I am always optimizing this for myself, I’ve found a few things work well to help identify these tasks. For one, I choose to have a “default” activity that I know if I do nothing else in a single day, this will help get me to where I want to be. For me, this is sales (calls, emails, in-person etc.). Find this one thing, it may be the creative content that goes out to drive demand, or it could be finding the best retail technology to automate more things (thus freeing you up to do more things, better). Another 20% activity is measuring the “real” results of the effort (sales increases, as opposed to spikes in web traffic that did nothing to sales numbers). Perhaps the 20% activity is to clearly see the results of everything you are doing, so it can continually be adapted. On another note, the 20% activity may include optimizing the tasks and delivery schedules for your team so everything is more systematic.

What to do about “80%” STUFF?

This can creep up on us without even knowing it. One minute you’re forming new promotions for a specific region that will do well, the next you’re looking at how many twitter followers you have. The 80% activities include things that perhaps seem meaningful, but in fact are serious time wasters because they will not have any impact on bottom line numbers. Oftentimes these include vanity metrics, social metrics, handling minutia, and keeping a narrow scope of work top of mind to name a few. These things can be avoided by writing out a week understanding who should be responsible for what, as well as the 3–5 items you will personally be responsible in order to drive actionable data with bottom line numbers increases.

What can be AUTOMATED?

A lot of it, actually. From automated reporting dashboards to outsourced workers, most of the tasks you are doing today can be improved, or replaced altogether by cheaper, better, and more effective methods. In the case of automated, it could be a program or a person that is actually automating the task. So, in the case fo email production for instance. While some digital marketing directors may find themselves compelled to write the emails, this is a lower-level task that should be instead replaced at the top with your system of email production, which can be handed to anyone, for immediate replication. In this way, you actually develop the methods behind the madness, instead of operating in the madness itself. Hopefully, you’re still following me here :-) If so, take a look at sites like Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and others for a sense of where you can find these freelancers. On the other end of things, technology has gotten remarkably easy to interpret without having to be technical. Most data can either be downloaded via CSV, or directly imported into a reporting tool. Take the time to set these things up, it will make your life easier, and automatic since you can always get a quick glance, without having to work hard for the numbers to find you.

What can someone ELSE do?

Though it was just mentioned, this is a big thing to look at. If you can simply be the glue holding multiple pieces together from process driven components it’ll be easier to increase bottom line retail sales. Always see what you could derive a system for instead of creating repeat tasks for yourself across all aspects of the marketing funnel. While someone may not have the resources, access, or talent that you do to create a full-fledged funnel, they most likely can handle one or two pieces of it. This lets you more or less sit from above and observe what pieces are broken, so you can focus on developing high-level pieces of the process that can consistently be improved and repeated. When you find others handling the majority of tasks is when you free yourself up to look at the whole, so it can be optimized. Don’t be afraid to utilize a solid partner, like Orkiv, to handle multiple parts of your overall system. Again here you are looking at how the whole funnel can be maximized, then you can understand what pieces can be improved.

Perhaps this is where you are already operating, or perhaps this is completely new to you. Whatever way you see it, think about how far ahead you can get, so you are ever evolving the nature of your work to become more and more efficient. The goal is for each of your hours to be worth 5x, 10x, 50x or more in the actual output received. This always ensures you are valuable, and shows that you know how to help scale an organization. Companies who do not lend their people the freedom recognize, create, and improve automation systems, will be stuck in the past and steamrolled by the competition. While technology was mentioned here, it cannot be stressed enough to embrace and examine how much technologies role can impact your life. From smart systems, intelligent marketing machines, and “If, then” programs you can create and automate, nearly every function of the retail system. Hopefully, this will improve bottom line retail sales no matter what stage of business you are at. If you recognize the need for automated systems I encourage you to check out Proximo and the Epic Commerce platform, which does much of the re-targeting, and customer data collection, so you can operate an omnichannel presence easier. Email a or call us at 401–300–4653 for more information on automating your bottom line retail sales boost.