There’s nothing easy about running an independent retail store. But if you’re ready to embrace new tech tools designed to provide shortcuts for time-intensive tasks, a future filled with slightly less busywork and physical labor awaits. Read on for five of our favorite digital hacks.
Social Media Management
Social strategy and management are major commitments for small-business owners. Hiring or outsourcing social media consultants is an option, but often too pricey for single-store proprietors. Enter social media management systems. These low-cost online-based services (Buffer and Hootsuite are two of the most popular) won’t write your social content for you, but they will make managing your networks, scheduling posts, and tracking post performance a faster, more organized affair.
Take a page from fans of time-saving grocery delivery services such as Instacart and Blue Apron and stop sending your employees to Costco for paper towels and hand soap. Sign up for Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service, and arrange for regular deliveries of everything from trash bags to glass cleaner. It’s a near-effortless way to keep your store’s supplies stocked.
If your post office jaunts are frequent, consider a Stamps.com account. The online service offers access to all of the U.S. Postal Service’s mail classes and services, including certified mail. Subscribers buy and print postage on their own computer and printer, and receive a free smart scale to weigh parcels.
There are scores of digital bill trackers (Mint being perhaps the most popular) to help individuals and small-business owners manage monthly costs. And for good reason—they make bill paying a snap. Make sure you choose a payer that can be accessed on mobile and on your desktop, so you can pay bills from the store, your home, or a watch show in Switzerland. Another popular bill-paying hack: Download the official smartphone app for every bill you pay, and organize those apps on a single page of your smartphone. Then, enable Touch ID for each—allowing you to pay all your monthly bills in minutes.
Messaging service WhatsApp, which lets you chat one-on-one or with groups through an easy-to-use smartphone app, is now also a tool for business. With the recently released WhatsApp Business, you can set up a proper corporate presence on WhatsApp, so you can communicate quickly and casually with clients without the risk of sending them a family photo or a friend’s text. The app also allows you to respond to messages from your computer’s browser. And it connects to landlines, so your tech-savvy customers can message you at your store’s main number.