Running a retail business means knowing a bit about—and doing a lot of—everything. But at some point, a “master of all” becomes a “master of none.”
As a bustling retailer, it may be time for you to start delegating and outsourcing some of the tasks that are keeping you busy and away from growing your business.
That’s where outsourcing, or offloading some tasks off your to-do list, can come in handy. In this post, we’ll discuss a handful of tasks and projects that you can (and should) outsource in order to run your business more efficiently—and give yourself a break.
Outsourcing in the Retail Industry
Outsourcing is the process of hiring an external expert, agency, or business to provide goods or services as opposed to hiring someone to do the work in-house.
Sure, you can always hire retail positions to handle some of your workload and delegate more of your tasks to trusted employees. But entrepreneurs who run their business entirely by themselves—or aren’t yet able to afford full-time help—can outsource some of their more tedious or time-consuming jobs to contracted, external helpers.
The first step to outsourcing is to figure out what tasks are the most important use of your time. What parts of your to-do list must be completed by you? As the boss, you’ll know best what tasks need your attention and which ones can be the responsibility of others.
Here’s a helpful framework. Consider outsourcing tasks that are:
- Commonly delegated, as there are entire industries created around helping small- and medium-sized businesses free up more of their time
- Cost-effective to outsource, as opposed to those that would cost heavily to delegate
- Simple for others to do
It’s easy to take for granted how well you know the ins-and-outs of your retail business, so be sure to create handbooks and process documents help external staff get acclimated your business and needs.
Here are a few outsourcing ideas to help you streamline your to-do list and stay focused on actually running your business.
1. Content marketing
Many businesses use content marketing to drive traffic and leads to their website and retail store, and content creation is an industry with an abundance of freelancers and companies ready to help you.
Each retail business has unique content needs. The majority of business content is writing, but you can also think about outsourcing photography, design, social media, and paid marketing when the need arises.
READ MORE: Content Marketing for Retailers
While content marketing can be an effective way to drive traffic, build thought leadership, and turn browsers into buyers, retailers often don't have the time to dedicate to creating these kinds of assets. A seasoned freelancer or content marketer can create blogs, infographics, whitepapers, and other assets quickly and effectively.
2. IT and web development
It’s doubtful that you got into retail because of your passion for fixing point-of-sale (POS) systems or managing the backend of an ecommerce website. However, IT and ecommerce are an undeniable part of running a successful, omnichannel retail business.
Retailers often choose to handle IT themselves because it typically involves small upkeep here and there. But what about when something goes wrong, needs to be scaled, or needs a major update—and affects your business or customers?
According to Retail Dive, “...as the digital transformation has taken hold over the last few years, a growing number of retailers are beginning to rethink the role of in-house IT. These teams have had to wrap their heads around how to effectively harness an endless stream of emerging technologies — and for many in-house IT teams, it's become too much to handle.”
When something needs repair on your site, with your POS software, or with your support center, everything grinds to a halt until it’s fixed. Broken IT equipment (even if you are leasing the equipment) costs you time, money, and potentially customers. The peace of mind and security of outsourcing your IT and web development needs takes away that stress and means that your business can grow without the fear of running up against the confines of your capabilities.
Because your POS and ecommerce hosting systems are such an important and confidential part of your retail business, look to bring in someone trustworthy to help, such as a Shopify-approved web developer. Alternatively, ask your network for references, look for reviews, and be sure to do your due diligence with background checks, proper contracts, and nondisclosure agreements (if necessary) for anyone you bring in.
3. Warehousing and fulfillment
Have you been handling, packing, and shipping your own orders? Self-fulfillment can quickly become overwhelming.
You might find yourself spending more time packing boxes and printing labels than working on marketing, sales, and other important parts of your business. This isn’t to mention all the space in your store or warehouse that you need to allocate for inventory and packing materials.
Outsourcing warehousing and fulfillment is an effective way to grow your ecommerce business without increasing the burden on you and your team. A good fulfillment partner will store your goods, quickly ship out orders as they come in, and even manage returns.
The benefits to your business extend beyond simply taking over the work. For example, Shopify Fulfillment Network, Shopify’s own third-party logistics service, offers two-day delivery across most of the US—a major factor in attracting new customers and getting them to come back.
As a high-volume shipper, Shopify Fulfillment Network also gets preferred rates from major carriers like USPS and Canada Post. These are savings you can pass on to your customers, by offering them cheaper or even free delivery to increase your sales.
We even manage the distribution of your inventory across our network of warehouses to ensure your goods are always close to your buyers. This further increases shipping speed while reducing costs.
LEARN MORE: Check out the Shopify Fulfillment Network and how it can help you grow your retail business.
4. Admin tasks
Finally, outsourcing administrative tasks is a quick way for any retail business to free up resources and time. Virtual assistants are a huge help with all your day-to-day office needs, and finding the right virtual assistant is fairly simple with marketplaces like Upwork or Freelancer.com.
For help with hourly tasks, including handing out product samples as brand ambassadors, and setting up and tearing down at conferences and events, check out online neighborhood boards like TaskRabbit.
How can outsourcing help your business?
Outsourcing is a great way for you to find the time and resources to focus on big-picture issues in your retail business, and hopefully also free up time for a healthy work-life balance.
By hiring external experts, you can get back to what you love best: growing your retail business.
Retail outsourcing FAQ
What is the role of outsourcing?
Why is outsourcing good?
What does an outsourcer bring to the retailer in terms of advantages?
- Cost Savings: Outsourcing allows companies to focus on core skills while reducing costs. It can help retailers save money on labor, overhead, and other costs associated with running a business.
- Increased Efficiency: Working with experienced third-party providers can help a retailer improve their efficiency and productivity. An outsourcer can provide the necessary skills and resources to help a retailer complete tasks quickly and accurately.
- Access to Expertise: Outsourcing can give retailers access to experts in their field who can offer specialized services or advice. This can help a retailer make better decisions, increase their competitive advantage, and improve their customer service.
- Flexibility: A retailer can use outsourcing to adjust their workforce or services according to the needs of their business. This can provide much-needed flexibility when the demand for services or products fluctuates.
- Risk Management: Outsourcing can help a retailer reduce their risk associated with changes in the market or technology. By outsourcing certain tasks, a retailer can focus on core activities while avoiding unexpected costs.