The convenience store industry is full of challenges for owners and managers working under fast-paced conditions. With minimal staffing to provide a great experience and memorable service to customers, owners have a lot of there plates when it comes to running a successful convenience store operation.
Behind the scenes, retail operations are highly complicated with many components that must be managed and balanced. Whether it’s inventory management, weekly sales reconciliation, employee payroll, all of these tasks and more have historically required a hands-on approach in order to ensure the business runs smoothly.
The hands-on approach, however, is quickly becoming obsolete. With the market for automation anticipated to reach a value of $18.9B by 2023, would you be surprised that there are likely cloud-based software and back-office solutions for store automation you could be taking advantage of in the daily operation of your retail business?
In this piece, we’ll detail how to best identify workflows to help create convenience store automation. We’ll also provide examples of easily automated business tasks to help streamline your operation and free you up to spend more time focused on guest satisfaction and driving sales.
Convenience Store Automation
Before exploring software options for automating small business practices, it’s vital to analyze your day-to-day business routines and find out where you’re spending the bulk of your time and effort.
Once you’ve established your manager’s path, and tweaked it according to feedback from your employees and customers and even an exploration of industry-standard best practices, you’re ready to ask yourself four key questions to determine which tasks on your daily and weekly agenda can be automated.
Is the task repetitive and repeatable?
As an owner or manager, there are countless ways to get bogged down in daily operations. As a leader, you need your hands and eyes free to lead your team, troubleshoot problems as they arise, and in general keep the operation moving forward smoothly and uninterrupted. Any task that requires little effort and doesn’t benefit from the direct involvement of you or another person on staff are excellent candidates for automation.
Is the Workflow Simple?
Many tasks in your management path are likely simple, but even the simplest tasks require the time and attention to accomplish. But what if they didn’t? What if you could find a way to automate your weekly newsletter sent to members of your loyalty program?
Or set up your social media posts for the month in a single day and set the posting schedule and forget it until the following month? How much time could you save automating the small but necessary business-building activities in your day?
If You Automate This Task, Will the ROI Be Positive?
To be clear, automating business tasks requires an investment in cloud-based, back-office software services. However, if a deep dive into your daily and weekly manager’s path reveals a number of tasks that can be automated, and automating them gives you time to focus on building the business and otherwise making improvements and profitable changes over time, and that increased profitability pays for your investment in the store automation systems, then it’s a wise investment.
Does the Task Scale with Business Growth Over Time?
The final qualifier is the trickiest to answer because it requires an insight into the future growth of your operation. In the beginning, there are a number of tasks that could be considered to be necessary during the phase of getting the business up and running and stabilized. Over time, however, new processes will replace unnecessary or obsolete methods. Once you identify processes that will grow and evolve with your business, you can look for ways these tasks can be automated in the same way.
Three Proven Convenience Store Automation Strategies
While your company might have a unique vision and mission statement, the underlying operational framework is fairly standard across the industry. This is a very good thing!
Remember that we talked at the beginning about simple, repeatable tasks? These sorts of tasks are scattered throughout the retail business model, and automation is truly your best path to success when it comes to certain components of your operation. Three such avenues where the automation industry has made significant strides in the retail industry are human resources, marketing, and inventory management. Let’s see how a software solution for store automation can be implemented within each category.
Human Resource Tasks
Regardless of the segment in which your retail business operates, there’s a high likelihood you have a number of employees working for you in order to meet guest needs and keep the operation clean, organized, stocked, and generating income. There are a number of business tasks associated with employees, several of which are clear candidates for automation.
- Onboarding is the time-consuming process required in order to hire an employee. The challenge here is that while the process is the same for every potential hire, the average hourly employee turnover rate sits at around 65 percent. What this translates to is one of the biggest time-sinks in the industry: the churn of interviewing, hiring, and onboarding new employees. This process requires employers to collect the same mountain of information from each new hire in the form of paperwork relating to employment status, taxes, benefits, payroll, and other associated information. Automating the onboarding process and allowing much of it to be completed prior to orientation can save managers a measurable amount of time better spent elsewhere in the operation.
- Scheduling and payroll are processes that have to be completed on a regular basis and are easy targets for automation. Without automation, scheduling can take up a large portion of your time trying to fit every employee’s specific availability into the flow of your business and manually calculating your projected labor costs. Payroll is a similar candidate for automation, as automation allows employees to self-manage their hours and managers to make quick corrections based on easily accessible reporting. Weekly reconciliation becomes a quick review instead of time-consuming deep dives on punch reports and manual submission of time cards.
You need your marketing efforts to generate income, rather than cost you time and money in the long run. While you might have had to play both manager and marketer in the past, automation means that you can quickly develop data-informed campaigns and at the push of a button launch highly targeted and personalized initiatives. Loyalty programs and advertising campaigns benefit greatly from this automated approach.
- Customer Loyalty Programs provide your company with the opportunity to capture customer attention and draw them back into your store. With 87% of consumers beginning their shopping journey on a digital platform, and the average household active in about 8 loyalty programs, automating and tracking consumer activity through an integrated loyalty program software solution is an ideal way to build sales with very little hands-on effort. As the algorithms behind the loyalty programs build profiles and track behaviors, customers can be provided with personalized and guided shopping experiences while in your store, resulting in members of your loyalty program spending 12-18% more at the register than non-members.
- Advertising Campaigns in a general sense are the same as they’ve always been – promotions, targeted specials, discounts dependent upon purchasing activities, and other ways to get consumers more active at the register. With integrated and automated software driving and informing the structure of your advertising campaigns, however, you’ll be able to build better targeted and more effective marketing initiatives and combine this with automated elements from your customer relationship management platforms to send out emails to subscriber lists. Installing automated management for store promotions can save you time and money.
Effectively managing the flow of products throughout the store from receiving to point of sale is perhaps the most profitable tactic for owners and managers to improve profitability. However, manually managing the inventory process can be extremely time consuming and prone to human error. An automated solution helps to streamline the ordering process and track inventory usage, simplifying the inventory process and overall freeing you to worry about how to get more items off the shelf and into the hands of the customers who need them.
- Automated ordering is your best friend. Without automation, the ordering process requires manual detailed analysis of product sales trends, establishing par levels, matching product sales pars to delivery cycles, and hoping that you’ve not missed anything that could impact the flow of business and that you’ve ordered enough product to carry you through to the next delivery cycle. Or you could identify a software automation solution and allow it to handle all of this, review orders as they’re generated and adjust for outliers, and click “Approve,” so you can move along with your day.
- Inventory counts are one of the most time-consuming processes and, depending on the scale of your operation, could require outsourcing and additional expenses in order to perform on a regular basis. Tying an inventory management system into your point of sale system allows detailed sales activity tracking at the product SKU level, and provides managers with highly detailed product sales activity so that inventories can quickly be verified and submitted during the weekly reconciliation process.
C Store Automation Experts
Your time as a retail owner and operator is valuable. You cannot afford to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks. While some tasks do require a human touch and benefit from your involvement, there are numerous tasks throughout the operation that would benefit from our convenience store automation solutions at Success Systems.
From inventory management to electronic price books, and everything in between, Success Systems can help your retail operation to find the right mixture of hands-on and automated convenience that will help your company thrive and grow. Contact us today to schedule a demo of our services and solutions.