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Great remote productivity techs for every small business.

Today’s world is a remote world. Your employees not only want to work out of the office once in a while, but they expect to. People don’t expect to sit in a cubicle all day. They travel. They’re on the road visiting customers and vendors. They are part-time. They are contracted. They are located in your town. They are located around the world.

They are sending emails, answering texts, responding to calls and following up on tasks wherever they are because that’s now part of their job.  The owners and managers I know who are running today’s growing and profitable companies know this and so they invest in the right kind of technologies that will help their employees be productive and profitable, whether they’re in the office or not. 

What kind of technologies? Here are five that I recommend.


Because of the cloud, users can now access a company’s financial system while on the go. That means they can generate quotes, look up orders, complete estimates, log in their time, record expenses and find out whether or not a customer has paid before the next meeting. The best fintech applications are easy to use and simple to access. They are customizable and have security that limits data entry and retrieval depending on an employee’s access rights. If deployed the right way they offer your employees the ability to get rid of paper and get things done faster and more accurately.

Recommended technologies: Freshbooks, Xero and Expensify.


Today’s “office” systems have completely changed over the past few years. Sure, you can still do word processing and spreadsheets. But the term “office,” particularly when applied to applications, has now been expanded to include workers both in your building and working remotely. These applications allow teams of your employees to message, share data, record videos and gather documents, store web links and access databases all within shared folders and groups. The collaboration apps are, of course, mobile-compliant and include workflows and automation to automatically accomplish tasks and remind users of deadlines and deliverables. 

Recommended technologies:  Microsoft Office 365, Google G-Suite, Box.

Customer Relationship Management.

Sorry, but it’s no longer OK to wait for customers to come to you. Remote employees at today’s growing businesses leverage customer relationship management (CRM) systems to nurture and develop their communities. A CRM system is just a cloud-based database but one that everyone can access wherever they’re located.  Deployed the right way, a good CRM system will ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and that all information – notes, emails, activities – are shared by your employees and remote workers. Another plus: a great database creates intangible value for a company.  If you have remote workers you’ll want to ensure that your company has a CRM database that includes records of all people that have “touched” your company so that you’re continuously “touching” them back, building relationships and developing opportunities.

Recommended technologies:, Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics


Gone are the days of communication systems that require expensive in-house servers, clunky headsets and a receptionist taking your calls.  Today’s businesses that leverage remote employees also leverage communication systems that are easy to setup and deploy. In addition to IP-based phones, today’s state-of-the-art communication systems have mobile apps so that employees’ smartphones can become their business phones too. The best systems are plug-and-play and administered online. They support inbound and outbound calls, allow their customers to setup their own phones numbers and include virtual receptionist functionality where users can setup their own message boxes, create customized messages and activate a dial-by-name directory. 

Recommended technologies: Ooma Office 


Human resources applications are exploding in popularity and are changing the way employees – both in-house and remote – are managed. As they mature, these applications are downloaded to employees’ mobile devices and enable them to check prior payroll information, enter contact data, request vacations, notify when they’re sick, check insurance status and even collaborate with their bosses on performance reviews. When used the right way, a company’s internal HR administrator is freed up to do more planning and strategy and remote workers are able to get the information they need faster.

Recommended technologies:  Paychex, Gusto, BambooHR


Every company has remote workers. It’s just that some companies don’t invest in the right technologies to best manage them. My recommendation is to invest in all five of the above technologies. Over the long term, the productivity gains you’ll realize will significantly outweigh their cost.

Plan ahead to increase sales this holiday season


The holidays are getting closer, and now’s the time to act if you want to increase your 2017 ecommerce sales. No need to feel overwhelmed — here are 15 ways to gear up for the next few months.


Get rid of old stuff
Inventory takes up space, sucks up overhead, and drains profits. Get rid of your older inventory: Sell it at a discount, or even scrap it. Do this and you’ll find you have room for newer, more profitable products.  A.J. O’Donnell, who runs Shop E9, a site that sells clothing specifically geared towards climbers, holds special promotions to clear out old inventory and make room for newer gear. “We’re focused on moving last year’s stuff,” he said, “so we can stock up on more products that are in-demand.”

Plan your inventory ahead 
Look at your customers’ buying patterns and plan inventory purchases well in advance. O’Donnell spends time looking at prior purchases before deciding how to stock inventory levels. Melody Godfred, who sells self love rings and accessories from her online store Fred and Far, plans extensively. “We look at prior sales trends to see what styles have been the most popular,” she said. “Then we amp up production and purchases based on that.”

Check out forecasting software 
“We use inventory forecasting software, and I adjust all my figures and assumptions based on the statistics it provides me,” said Yotam Tavor, who sells specialty shoes from his site Kyboot Walk On Air. “It helps me build inventory with more confidence.” Consider using inventory forecasting applications like ProphixDemand WorksAdaptive Insights, or tools provided by your ecommerce platform provider. These applications will allow you to spend less time on data consolidation and more time analyzing trends and patterns in data, ultimately enabling you to prepare for whatever situation may come your way.

Play with packaging
Packaging plays a key role in Godfred’s branding. “We take a lot of care in how our products are packaged,” she says. “Our packaging is incredibly unique and very rich in terms of both content and presentation.” Re-designing your packaging may get you more attention — certainly it puts a fresh face on your existing products. Why else would the big brands do this?


Price strategically
Set different prices depending on the time of day, proximity to Christmas Day, region, or other customer behaviors by reviewing purchasing patterns and historical product sales. Tavor, for example, frequently bundles products or includes free shipping for certain items depending on their popularity, the time of year, or customer status.

Offer special promotions
Consider holding a special holiday deal or promotion. O’Donnell prices unique offerings and special promotions strategically, then gauges response and engagement. He also discounts older-moving stuff so he can clear it out to make way for new product. Of course, don’t give away the farm — be wary of any potential brand devaluation in your offering. But, if you can, consider a special promotion this holiday season.

Give stuff away
Luc Bergevin owns subscription wine company Foot of the Bed Cellars. At times, they offer discounts for first orders or give free bottles for referrals. People like free stuff, whether they’re your biggest or most loyal customers, or new customers. Offer up samples and freebies, and give your customers opportunities to buy gifts for their friends and family, too.

Expand your offerings
Although Godfred specializes in pinky rings, she’s growing her business to include items that cater to her market’s needs and wants. “We just launched an expanded jewelry collection and even developed new non-jewelry items to make gifting during the holidays a bit easier,” she said. “We’ve really made an effort in terms of product development to offer a more robust selection of giftable items that still maintains our brand quality and messaging.” Her business fosters a community and mission of self love that has resonated with customers globally, and they asked for more. Look at your prior sales and think about additional items you could offer that will appeal to existing customers or attract new ones. If people are asking for more, you’re lucky! Make sure to build to fit that need.

Make shipping easy
Customers aren’t excited about paying shipping costs, so make your customer experience better by offering free shipping or very simple shipping options. If you have to absorb any additional costs for shipping, build it into your sales price. “We have one domestic option for shipping and one international option,” says Godfred. “We don’t typically offer expedited shipping, since our product gets to your doorstep within two to three days regardless of what shipping option you choose. When it comes to holidays though, people procrastinate and do a lot of last-minute shopping — that’s when customers really need that overnight option.”

Advertise online  even on social media
You and I search for gift items and spend time on social media, and so do your customers. Be sure that your business gets exposure on search engines and social media platforms by engaging in strategic digital advertising campaigns. Consider a budget for Google AdWords, promoted tweets, boosted posts, and other online tools to drive more visitors to your site. Tavor, like many others, relies heavily on Google AdWords and Facebook advertising to drive traffic to his site.


Most of Tavor’s team is outsourced — he can hire contractors on demand for special promotions or busy times of the year. Bringing on independent contractors from sites like UpWorkFreelancer, or even Craigslist can help provide you with an extra set of hands without committing to employing someone year-round. “They’re more elastic,” he said. Sure, you’ll likely pay a little more per hour, but you have the flexibility to set terms and timeline.

Keep your staff flexible 
Rather than outsourcing, Bergevin relies on part-timers for added support. “We have three part-time associates who we can scale up and scale down in terms of hours, based on how busy we are,” he said. Get seasonal part-timers from the community, a local college, or even high school.  Allow them the ability to determine hours and keep things flexible.


Leverage your platform’s analytics
Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and Big Commerce provide powerful reporting tools that track product sales, customer behaviors, margins, and profitability. “Shopify’s analytics are way more robust than any other platform,” says O’Donnell. “It helps me really make better decisions when it comes to targeting my audience on Facebook or targeting on Instagram and so forth.”

Leverage third party applications
Many ecommerce applications, including Amazon and eBay, have large communities of third party developers who have created specific applications to fill niche needs from inventory tracking to specialized pricing. Get familiar with what’s offered with your platform — these choices can have a big impact on your business.

Embrace workflows, triggers, alerts, and other forms of automation that your ecommerce platform provides. Automation tools, like Shopify’s Flow, not only save you time and money, but also provide a quicker response to your customers and thereby benefit your service offerings. Products like Avalara TrustFile can automate even your sales tax filing, saving you time during the end-of-the-year chaos. Tavor says, “TrustFile gives me the most accurate data, lets me manage my sales tax so easily, and gives me time back to focus on my business.” From email campaigns to sales tax, automation solutions are definitely a business plan you want to invest in.

If you take advantage of a few of these tips, you’re sure to see the gift of increased sales this holiday season. Ho, ho, ho!

The Top Tools to Increase your eCommerce Sales

Want to grow your ecommerce profits this year? You can, with the help of some great technology. Here are 12 tools you’ll want to try.

Analytics and data

These tools are all about automating data processes then delivering information back to you so you can better understand what products, companies, and stores are making (or losing) you money.

Virtual Logistics — VL provides data integration between different systems for reporting on order details, shipment data, inventory, and prices. It’s designed for companies juggling different portals, spreadsheets, and partial application integrations that don’t have the resources to manage them all. Its integration and reporting tools reduce data entry errors, increase productivity, and deliver information in one portal from multiple sources at once, from spreadsheets, PDFs, in-house software, and many ecommerce applications.

Teikamatrics — An all-in-one software platform that helps retailers succeed on Amazon and geared toward high-volume Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) sellers. The application’s suite of tools and services automates repricing, advertising management for sponsored products, generation and management of product reviews, and restocking. Its visualized analytics tools help their customers check inventory levels, profitability, and purchase order and shipment status by providing year-over-year trends and variations both with products and suppliers; it also alerts for the best times and quantities to order products. The platform also identifies, alerts, and helps customers take action on stale and aged inventory.

Out-of-the-box tools — Many mainstream ecommerce platforms provide their own analytics tools. For example, Shopify’s analytics and reports give its customers the means to review their store’s recent activity, get insight into their visitors, and analyze transactions. BigCommerce’s reporting features give merchants deeper customer data insights for targeting, segmenting, and driving more sales through snapshots on store performance, orders, sales channels, and conversion rates, as well as many detailed reports that analyze both current and historical productivity of products, customers, and stores.

Email marketing

Successful online merchants know that keeping in touch with their customers – or anyone who visits their site — is crucial for generating additional sales. Most use email marketing technologies and platforms to help them do this. Here are three that work well.

Klaviyo — This platform makes it easy for ecommerce marketers to target, personalize, measure, and optimize email and Facebook campaigns. With its many integrations to popular ecommerce, point of sale, and other marketing systems, Klaviyo pulls data for segmentation and delivery based on schedules and demographics with dozens of pre-built and ready-to-go templates. The system also offers rules-based triggered emails initiated for new customers, abandoned shopping carts, and completed orders.

Active Campaign — With hundreds of templates generated from a drag-and-drop interface, Active Campaign consolidates all communication under one umbrella by providing personalized messages to customers and prospects regardless of their location. Campaign data is accumulated in one location for analysis so users can create and measure goals, integrate with other third-party applications, and pinpoint growth opportunities with detailed reports drawing on data from multiple sources. In addition, the application provides tools for site and event tracking, an integrated forms builder, a Google Chrome extension, and a strong ecosystem of support and training resources.

AWeber — If you’re not an advanced marketer or you don’t have the resources to focus on email campaigns, AWeber provides an additional level of help. It’s a more basic, yet highly regarded, email marketing service that works with more than 100,000 small businesses and helps them set up templates, campaigns, auto-responders, broadcast emails, newsletters, and promotions. The company is known for its excellent and unlimited customer support, deliverability, and educational content.

Shipping and inventory

Your products are your profits so managing inventory levels and shipping costs can mean the difference between success and failure. Here are three great systems that can help you automate these processes and make better shipping decisions.

ShipStation — A strong fulfillment tool with easy setup that enables its customers to seamlessly integrate with all major shipping carriers, shopping carts, ecommerce marketplaces, and more. Data is imported from a number of mainstream ecommerce providers (including Fulfillment by Amazon), then selling channels are used to connect to a carrier (or USPS) where batch shipping labels are created and printed, stores are updated, tracking info is automatically sent, email confirmations are generated, and branded tracking pages and a specialized portal help provide an easier experience for managing returns.

FirstMile — Using the USPS work-share program to help their customers leverage the Post Office network to get speedy deliveries at affordable rates, their service solutions integrate into common shipping platforms in the ecommerce marketplace and offer full tracking visibility. Their network reaches every state and over 200 countries and provides strong order management, detailed billing, flexible pickups, and multi-carrier labels.

ShipRush — Celebrating more than 20 years in business, ShipRush automatically import orders from over 60 carts and systems including eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Shopify,, and more, then prints shipping labels for most major carriers as well as offers discount postage from the USPS, FedEx, and others. The platform displays a unique and powerful side-by-side shipping cost comparisons in real time and provides shipping automation rules to streamline operations with easy setup.


All of your ecommerce transactions need to flow back to your general ledger, and your accountant will need to not only analyze the profitability of sales, but how your supply and payroll management figure into your company’s overall operations. In other words, you need an accounting system.

QuickBooks Online — The granddaddy of accounting software, QuickBooks Online is Intuit’s cloud-based accounting offering, which has been available on the market for a few years and continues to grow in popularity and usage. QuickBooks Online offers a marketplace of tools that will integrate with many ecommerce platforms and handles all sides of the financial transactions from order to cash receipt as well as inventory and payables management, payroll, and general ledger.

Xero — A strong and growing competitor to QuickBooks Online that matches feature by feature, Xero is a cloud-based accounting application built from the ground up that also integrates with hundreds of third-party products and ecommerce platforms to provide a fast, mobile, and powerful interface for managing all aspects of your financial operations.

Avalara TrustFile — As sales tax collection and filing requirements have grown, so has the need for a powerful platform to automate this time-consuming process. Avalara’s applications allow customers to import and prepare an unlimited amount of sales tax data from any ecommerce or accounting platform via its dedicated connector or data upload tools. The data is then analyzed and broken down by sales tax jurisdiction and state. The software then automatically prepares and prints completed signature-ready sales tax filing forms for electronic filing from its integrated dashboard, and then migrates this data to their customers’ accounting systems (like QuickBooks and Xero).

Selling online? Hopefully you’re using a few of these great technologies. You could be losing profits if you’re not!

Selling on BigCommerce this Holiday Season

If you’re selling online, or thinking of selling online, there are many great ecommerce platforms to choose from. One of the best is BigCommerce — a platform that supports more than 95,000 users and processes about $8 billion in sales annually. Since 2009, BigCommerce has become a well-known player in the ecommerce field and counts well-known brands like Toyota, Motorola, Ben & Jerry’s, and Gibson Guitars as customers.

What makes BigCommerce particularly appealing to small and medium-sized companies is its ability to serve as a powerful ecommerce platform as well as a software system that can be used in a brick-and-mortar store, with point of sale and other inventory management capabilities. “We switched to BigCommerce just over two years ago, and we immediately saw an increase in conversions in sales,” says Chris Petitt, operations manager for Burlington, Vermont’s BombTech Golf, an ecommerce company that sells golf drivers that combine top-quality materials and innovative design. “When we joined BigCommerce two plus years ago, BombTech Golf was doing below $1 million a year in revenue. This year we expect to have more than $7 million in revenue, and 2018 will break into the eight-figure mark.”

If you’re an owner of any small to medium-sized company, you know the importance of the holidays. With the gift-buying frenzy soon approaching and, for many, seasonal sales accounting for the majority of annual profits, it’s time to get your game plan set and ready. How do you win on BigCommerce? Here are a few useful hacks.

  1. Templates and themes: Use what you’re already given.

To succeed on BigCommerce (or any good ecommerce platform), follow the paths already laid out by others who have achieved success. Choose a theme that’s best suited for your business and that provides the easiest navigation for your customers. Rely on BigCommerce templates to get your site up and running as quickly as possible — nothing has to be created from scratch. Get familiar with the site’s methods for adding products and creating imagery. Also, consider revising your templates before the holidays to create a theme more consistent with a holiday look and feel. Just be careful — if you decide to customize with code you could have problems upgrading to new themes. “Simpler and easier is better,” Pettit advises.

Most importantly, you want to make sure your themes and templates are set up so you’re able to track visitor data. “The market is driven by data,” says Bill Arnold, president and chief marketing strategist for EYEMAGINE, an award-winning full-service marketing agency that creates success for its clients through ecommerce services and marketing programs. “Data is the most powerful element that you get out of any marketing tool, and BigCommerce provides you with that kind of data so you can see exactly what is resonating, what isn’t resonating, and what techniques you’re using to make it more successful.”

  1. Optimize performance: Remember the three-second rule.

The best users of BigCommerce make sure that their website is fast and responsive. They are constantly checking download speeds and the ease of the buying process. They take care to make sure their images are compressed for fast display. In today’s world of devices, most lean heavily on BigCommerce’s mobile site and functionality to ensure that search and purchases can be done from anywhere, anytime. “We go by a three-second rule,” says Arnold. “If a user can’t ascertain the value of the site — it doesn’t load quickly, it takes more than three seconds — you’re going to see a bounce.”

Arnold is also a big believer in planning and testing your site’s optimization frequently. His firm has a discovery and assessment process and he even likes to study “heat maps” on a client’s current site to see where activity is the greatest. “Over a period of time you get incremental changes, incremental improvements, and that’s really how you win in ecommerce,” he says. “Ecommerce is a game of inches.” The more traffic you’re able to generate the more impact even small tweaks may have on a customer’s buying behavior.

A fast-growing and very important part of a site’s design is the use of videos. “Literally every product page that we have on BombTech Golf has a video associated with the product, and that’s pretty important for golf clubs,” Petitt says. “If you can demonstrate the product, someone’s looking at their screen and video form, that’s absolutely going to help your conversion 100 percent.” Optimizing your site with as many videos as possible is a great way to engage viewers, particularly younger customers who — studies have shown — gravitate more to video content than written.

  1. Marketing: Make plans now.

Experienced sellers are laying the groundwork for their holiday sales today — well before Halloween.  They’ve set aside resources and created their budgets. They’re designing email promotions in BigCommerce and updating their social media sites to make sure information is integrated.

Pettit, for example, began planning for the holidays back in June, with a focus on the kind of offers and deals they wanted to make, how things are bundled, and, most importantly, how these offers are communicated. His company relies heavily on Facebook, which accounts for 40 percent of their revenue, to drive out messaging. “We drive a lot of traffic from social media,” he says. “We try to post every day, and come the holiday season we make our community very aware that we have holiday deals, especially for Black Friday and Cyber Monday for them to come check out.” Pettit also plans holiday email messages well in advance. To him, email gives him much more control over his marketing. “If you’re not building your email subscriber list, you are missing a huge, huge opportunity,” he added.

Another growing area in holiday marketing is the rise of influencers. “Influencer marketing is really key right now,” says Arnold. His research has found that people are more inclined to visit a site and buy a product based on someone else’s recommendation. “There’s so much information out there about what you want to buy and what you need to buy that people need to take shortcuts. And one of the biggest shortcuts they take in life is through what other people recommend and if they’re passionate about it.” Getting both macro and micro influencers signed up now could make a big impact on your holiday sales.

  1. Inventory: Think and plan very carefully.

Successful ecommerce sellers know that having too much or too little inventory can significantly hurt their profits. They look at past transactions and make inventory level assumptions based on prior purchasing patterns and future estimates. They have a documented and customer-friendly return policy. They make sure to bake in the costs of shipping on every order.


BombTech Golf relies heavily on history. Both Arnold and Pettit say they look closely at historical orders and prior years’ sales to determine how the upcoming holiday season may trend. Both also lean heavily on their company’s (or client’s) social media communities to gauge whether there’s interest in a product and what price would be reasonable — Arnold takes this one step further with a deeper Q&A research process well before the holiday season.

Pettit and Arnold are also big fans of free, discounted, and expedited shipping, if that’s what it’ll take to make the sale. “There are studies out there that show you that if you do offer free shipping during the holidays, people are more likely to buy because they don’t see the added cost,” Arnold says. “And if you offer free shipping, the conversion rates do go up typically during the holiday, so we do recommend that.” Since free shipping offers can be temporary, they often create a sense of urgency to buy before the deal disappears.

  1. Technology: Ease your burden.

BigCommerce will help make sales easy and fast both on the web and via mobile devices. But today’s ecommerce entrepreneurs are learning that there’s a lot of work to be done after the sale. One of the biggest headaches is sales tax. If items are being shipped from different states around the country, sales tax needs to be withheld and remitted and forms and documentation needs to be filed. More and more companies are using sales tax automation technologies, like the powerful applications provided by Avalara, to ease this sales tax burden and ensure compliance.

Tech tools can also ease your marketing burdens tenfold. Petitt shares that BombTech Golf uses Klaviyoto implement data-driven email marketing. He emphasizes that “the big wins really come if you can control your email marketing” and that Klaviyo is “100 percent the biggest mover we’ve ever had in our business.” Email is a direct way to interact with your customers and present holiday offers, and using technology to optimize content and increase open rates is a value not to be taken lightly.

If you’re using BigCommerce, you’re in good company. To really take advantage of this marketplace during the holidays, you’ll want to rely on optimizing themes, increasing site functionality, and thinking in advance about your marketing and inventory management plans. Smart sellers know that the devil is in the details, and the best time to address those details are well in advance of the biggest shopping time of the year.

Want to hear my full conversation with Bill Arnold from EYEMAGINE and Chris Petitt from BombTech Golf? Listen here.

How to manage your Amazon inventory like a pro

(This post originally appeared on Avalara)

If you’re an Amazon merchant, or plan to be, one of the most important things you need to learn is how to manage your inventory effectively. Why? Because your inventory is your biggest cost. Run out and you’ll lose sales. Buy too much and you’ll lose profit. Hold on to it too long and you’ll hurt your cash flow.

This was the topic of a conversation I had during a recent webinar hosted by Avalara with two very successful Amazon merchants: Adrienne Kosewicz, owner of Play It Safe World Toys and Valerie Milovic, owner of Better Than Coffee. We all agreed there are three key secrets to managing your Amazon inventory.

Secret 1:  Fully understand the Amazon landscape.­­­ Read More…

Four Ways to Maximize Your Amazon Prime Day Profits

By Gene Marks

Originally published on Avalara Blog


Here comes Amazon’s annual Prime Day. It’ll take place starting at 9PM EST on July 10 and go through 3AM EST on July 12. Prime Day is BIG. Last year, the company sold about a billion dollars of products in a single day – which was more than double the previous year – and the numbers are projected to grow significantly this year. With deals only Amazon Subscribers can enjoy, the promotion is designed to grow Amazon’s Prime subscriber base. There’s plenty of advice for shoppers on how to get the best deals possible during this giant sale, but what does this day mean for you, the Amazon merchant? In this blog post, we’re going to look at four suggestions on how you can take advantage of this enormous event and grow your business.

Start promoting immediately. If you’re only learning today that Prime Day is next week, then you know that time is short. But the good news is that it doesn’t take much time to set up and execute an online campaign. Prime Day gets a huge amount of media attention, so leverage that: create email and social campaigns that take advantage of the Prime Day recognition by inviting prospective buyers to visit your merchant site and benefit from your special promotions. Utilize Amazon’s Marketing Services to create specialized pay-per-click ads and measure keyword performance, impressions, clicks, sales, and other factors impacting your return on investment.

Test now. If your business is gearing up for a big sales day, then triple-check your site right now. Make a bunch of sample purchases from various devices to test performance, content, messaging, and images. Ensure that you’ve got enough inventory on hand and be ready to ship. Make sure your top-selling items are Prime-eligible. Consider turning on Amazon’s Bid + feature which could increase your bids across keywords on ads that are eligible for placement. Make sure the data and information about your products (and company) are completely up to date. First impressions matter, and if your Prime Day is successful, you’ll get a chance to introduce your business to tens of millions of new buyers.

Staff up. For 30 hours, things will be jumping. If there’s a problem, a question, a service issue, or a product delay, you’ve just lost sales. If you want to succeed on Prime Day, you’ve got to take it seriously. Make sure you’re staffed for the entire period, checking comments and feedback and responding quickly.

Think today…about 2018. Prime Day has been a stunning, annual success for Amazon, and all indications is that it will be another hit this year. Get a head start and assume Amazon will host Prime Day next summer, too. If you missed registering your products for Lightning Deals – a promotion where you can offer a limited number of discount offers on an item for a short period of time – mark your calendar to sign up for 2018. (The deadline to apply for Lightning Deals for the 2017 Prime Day was this past May.) Also, make sure you’re collecting the names and contact information (particularly emails and social media addresses) for everyone buying from you this year so that you can bring into your customer relationship management system. A great CRM database will then enable you to continue to reach out to these customers throughout the rest of the year, build a community, and hopefully sell additional products to these customers.

Bottom line: Amazon Prime Day can serve two big purposes for your business. It can be an opportunity to move lots of product and generate profits. Or it can be a great time to move product at cost with the objective of acquiring more customer data – with the opportunity of then turning that data into future sales. Whatever your objective, it’s an opportunity to grow your business, if you take the right steps.

Staples Takes Self-Service To The Next Level

Automation is disrupting our lives. You and I see it every day.

Only a decade ago, we waited in line to check out of grocery stores and pharmacies. We were forced to deal with an agent before getting our boarding pass for a plane or checking in at a hotel. We exchanged dollar bills with the taxi driver, signed receipts at the restaurant’s cash register, and called up tech support whenever we had a computer problem. In our businesses, we “called” in payroll to our outside service, mailed in tax returns, and waited for endless minutes for a customer service rep to pick up the phone. Sure, all of these things are still available today. But they’re rapidly changing. Now we have more options. We can do these things on our own: we can scan, swipe, insert, click, tap, and research without anyone’s help. As a result, we find ourselves doing things faster and we feel more productive.

Smart businesses are realizing this and investing in technologies to automate their customers’ buying experiences. It’s what we want.

For the most part, automation has been focused on the consumer – the buyer of groceries, the traveler, the diner. But more and more companies are now focusing on ways to help their business customers realize the benefits of automation. Staples, the office supply retailer that serves millions of businesses – small and large – knows this. Which is why they’re investing in self-service technologies, particularly for their print and copy services. The results are paying off.

“The growth of traditional services like printing and copying has exceeded our expectations and new services like scanning and emailing are growing at a surprising clip,” Joes Bernal, the company’s vice president of Production and Operations, recently said in this online article. As a business owner and long-time customer of the company, I’m not surprised. In fact, I’m elated.

Last year, the retailer teamed up with Xerox Corporation to install more than 3,000 state-of-the-art, self-service printers at its stores across the country. The Do-It-Yourself printers pretty much accomplish everything, from printing, scanning and copying, to faxing. They have a user-friendly and familiar Android-based interface connected to a tablet so that penny-pinching business customers like me can quickly order and pay right there and then – and even take advantage of our customer loyalty cards and coupons. Most importantly, at least to me, is that the machines can access my documents in the cloud from popular storage services (or I can email the documents). This way I don’t need to worry about hard copies, flash drives, or storage disks.

For my business, the benefits have been enormous. I can do large print jobs more professionally than on my low-cost printer in the office. I have more printing, paper, and presentation choices available to me in their stores. Because my company’s business applications are all cloud based, we store our documents on the same services that Staples uses – DropBox and Google Drive – so I can access and print these documents wherever I am, even if I’m out of town. I’ve completely eliminated paying the exorbitant fees that hotels charge me to print documents. I store important documents (i.e. my passport and driver’s license) on DropBox and can print high-quality, color renditions when I travel (I had to do this once when I lost my carry-on bag).

Most importantly, I do this all very, very fast. I don’t wait in line, and I don’t need to deal with a store associate because I know what I want and can just do it and move on. When you’re in business, any amount of time saved is valuable—smart companies like Staples realize this and understand the value of self-service technologies. They also understand that by making things quicker they are helping their business customers make more money. Partners that help other partners succeed remain partners for a long, long time.