With profit margins intrinsically linked to how efficiently you can deliver your product or service, improving operational efficiency is high on the agenda for every business.
The good news is, there are plenty of tools out there that are designed to do just that.
Implement a few of these, and watch your business save both time and money.
1. Universal Product Codes
UPCs are the 12-digit numbers that appear under the barcodes of some goods. Most eCommerce stores can generate stock information and descriptions from their barcodes, saving considerable time usually spent typing up descriptions.
2. World Lister
Word Lister is a free, cloud-based application that helps you list new and used items on eBay faster and with more detail. It makes it easy to include pictures from any device, make changes to products on the fly, or relist items that haven’t sold.
The Nimbus Cloud Dome is an accessory designed to help photographers take professional-looking pictures of jewellery and other small products from their smartphone. Essentially, it’s a portable and durable mini-studio that eliminates harsh shadows and strong specular highlights, helping to create evenly lit product shots of shiny objects. This simple tool can save hours of editing.
When you’re continually uploading photos to your website, it can slow it down significantly. To prevent this from happening, you’ll need to reduce the size of the images you’re uploading. Compressor.io makes downsizing images easy and helps to protect the image quality. This means fast resizing of images, so they still look great but won’t slow your site down.
Zendesk connects email, chat, social media, and phone channels in one dashboard. Since it’s online, your support agents can help customers from anywhere.
Gorgias is an email template tool for Gmail, Outlook and LinkedIn that helps you respond faster to your customers. It’s designed to recognise repetitive pieces of text, display relevant customer information, and suggest a response. Gorgias is also developing a desktop version of the tool, which will integrate with other tech tools that hold customers’ information and let you complete more complex tasks quickly, such as refunding customers.
Every eCommerce store should have a good newsletter system. A newsletter is a cost-effective medium for building relationships and maintaining regular contact with customers and prospects. Mailchimp is one of the best emailing tools out there, and if your contact list is less than 2,000 and you send less than 12 emails a month, it not only makes emailing easy, but is completely free.
Project management and internal communication
Trello is a project management tool that works almost like an online version of sticky notes. You can create cards with ‘to do’ lists, attach files, add comments which alert different team members, and move the cards around into various stages, such as ‘ideas’, ‘in progress’, or ‘for approval’.
Slack is an instant messaging tool that’s great for communication amongst your team. You can set up open channels including staff both inside and outside your business, helping to cut out huge email chains. You can also set up private groups for sharing sensitive information. It’s a smarter, more efficient way to manage projects and teams.
Created by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Asana is a workflow and collaboration tool that allows you to manage all of your team’s tasks. Like Slack, it aims to reduce the need for email, which can be a huge time waster for employees.
Mindmeister allows you to capture your ideas, develop them and share them in collaborative, visual mind maps. It’s a shared platform for brainstorming, allowing your team to be more efficient at innovating.
If you find yourself getting easily distracted when you sit down to work, installing a blocking tool can be of great assistance. Freedom allows you to temporarily block whatever sites you find the most distracting (think Facebook and Instagram), so that you can focus your attention where it needs to be. It works across all your devices (so there’s no cheating!) and you can schedule productivity time in advance.
Wunderlist is an easy way to get things done. It’s a place where you can capture your ideas, create to do lists, set reminders and manage multiple work projects.
14. Rescue Time
This time management app tracks the time you spend on websites and apps to give you an accurate picture of how you spend your day. If you’re not sure where all the hours in your day go, this is a good place to start.
This app lets you schedule time in a calendar with related notes and create a schedule to get your to-do lists completed. Its insights feature shows you how much time you’ve been spending on each project over the past month, and separates how long you’ve been in meetings compared with how long you’ve spent completing tasks.
Install this tool and you’ll be able to launch your documents, files, folders, and bookmarks with just a few keystrokes. While it sounds simple, it’s the little shortcuts like these that add up to much greater productivity throughout the day.
AutoHotkey is a free, open-source software for Windows that allows users to automate repetitive tasks. You can use it to expand abbreviations as you type them, and automate almost anything through sending keystrokes and mouse clicks.
SmartPayroll automates the payroll process, making paying wages and fulfilling tax obligations easy for small and medium Australian businesses. Paying wages can be stressful, and this simplifies the process and stores all your information online for easy access.
19. Receipt Bank
Receipt Bank extracts the information from your receipts and invoices quickly, accurately and efficiently. Rather than manually typing in data from each of your receipts, simply upload a photo and all the data will be added for you and published to your cloud accounting package. If you find yourself spending hours scrolling through receipts for your data entry, this tool is a must.
If you want to know how well your advertising campaigns are working, Google URL Builder allows you to create custom links, so you can get exact results on how effective each particular campaign was and find areas for improvement.
Using this tool you can easily add a contact form to your website so that users can quickly contact you should they need to. You can also add exit pop ups or launch a referral programme on your site.
Bitly is a great tool for sharing content on social media, offering shortened links (bitlinks) you can easily monitor. You can view how your bitlinks perform on Bitly’s user interface, save all your links and make notes on them. It’s also possible to check out if someone else shared a bitlink related to your content. It’s a more efficient way to garner information about how users are interacting with your campaigns.
If you use social media, you need to be using Hootsuite. Hootsuite allows you to schedule your posts, comments, tweets and other updates across all social channels from one platform. By scheduling in advance, you’ll create more time for other important tasks.
If you struggle to find interesting titles for your blog posts, Portent’s Content Idea Generator will generate some possible titles for you based on what people love to hear. While its suggestions aren’t always on point, it can churn out some crackers too and will certainly get you thinking when you feel you have writer's block.
Dlvr.it helps you share your blog posts post by automatically linking them to your social media. It’s the fastest way to share great content with your audience and makes it easy to manage and measure the flow of your content everywhere your audience is.
26. Google Alerts
If you want to know whether or not people are talking about your brand, you should utilise Google Alerts. It ensures you are notified every time someone mentions you on the internet, allowing you the opportunity to respond accordingly. Google Alerts can also notify you on new content related to a subject you are interested in, making social media sharing and articles for your newsletter easy. No more trawling through the web to find newsworthy items!
Reporting and analytics
Cyfe is an all-in-one business dashboard app that helps you analyse all your data, whether it’s from social media, analytics, or sales. Features include pre-built widgets, real-time reports, historical data, domain name mapping and more.
If you’re a visual person, you’ll love Heatmap.me, a tool which allows you to quickly view how people are interacting with your website. It gives you an instant peek at how your site is performing and allows you to see quickly the areas that are gaining attention and those that are causing headaches or being neglected.
An excellent tool for checking out your competitors, Alexa Traffic Rank Toolbar allows you to see information related to their website with just the click of a button. You can see how popular it is, which queries drive traffic to the site and related sites.
Another great tool for finding information on your competitors is SimilarWeb, which allows you to learn more about how your competitors generate traffic to their websites. You can see which is their preferred social platform, and who are their top referring sites.
When things are so busy, it can feel like you don’t have time for new tools - but spend a little time familiarising yourself with the ones that will help you most, and you’ll soon see that time repaid several times over. Once you work out a system that makes you more productive, you’ll see the benefits it provides to your efficiency levels - and eventually, to your bottom line too.