Why Going Paperless Can Help Your Retail Business (And How to Do It)

Why Going Paperless Can Help Your Retail Business (And How to Do It)

Why retailers should go paperless | Shopify Retail blogWhen it comes to running a business, adopting new technologies can often feel daunting. After all, learning how to use new software is challenging, and innovation can sometimes slow down productivity as employees adapt to new systems.

For hundreds of years, we’ve relied on paper to run businesses, whether it’s in offices or in retail storefronts. But in the past decade, more and more businesses have reduced their paper trail — some choosing to eliminate paper altogether.

There are many reasons for a business to go paperless, and it’s not only about saving the environment. Today’s shoppers are Internet savvy. They spend most of their lives on computers, tablets, and smartphones (around 8 hours and 41 minutes daily, based on one study). They crave efficiency and opt to spend their dollars on experiences that are streamlined and customized. When it comes to point of sales, the use of credit and debit cards over cash and checks are at an all-time high. The last thing any customer wants is another paper receipt cluttering their wallet.

It’s time retailers caught up, and the good news is that going paperless can be relatively simple for most businesses. Here, we’ll discuss a few reasons why it makes sense to reduce the amount of paper used in your business, and more importantly, provide ways you can implement digital solutions into your operations right away.

Let’s get started.

Reasons To Go Paperless

iDatix data on reasons to go paperless | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: iDatix

We’ve already mentioned the environmental factor, and perhaps this is the most obvious reason to go paperless. According to an article on SafetyCulture, a whopping 250 million gallons of oil, 10 million trees, and 1 billion gallons of water are used to create receipts in the U.S. each year. Eliminating paper receipts not only considerably reduces a business’s carbon footprint, but it ensures that receipts aren’t later discarded as waste.

While environmentalism might be good PR for a company, that may not be enough incentive for some businesses to make the change. So, here are a few more reasons to ditch paper.

Increased Efficiency

We’ve all had that experience: searching through a box or filing cabinet for a single sheet of paper. Perhaps it’s an invoice, an employee’s timesheet, or an inventory checklist. Either way, looking through stacks of paper can be a waste of time.

According to a study done by ILM Corporation, searching through paper can take up as much as 30% of an employee’s work time.

“Going paperless allows you to [be more efficient], and efficiency equals money,” says Matt Peterson, president and CEO of eFileCabinet. “Responding to customers quickly is your edge as a small business, and being efficient and paperless gives [you] that edge.”

Ensuring that the majority of documents your business uses are digital makes retrieving them that much easier. Rather than digging through a filing cabinet or box, pulling up a document requires only a quick search on a computer. And if you opt for cloud-based storage, those documents can be accessed anywhere and on any device, and docs can be automatically backed up — so no more losing important files.

You can use something as simple (and free) as Google Drive or DropBox to store your docs online, or opt for a solution that’s a bit more robust (like LiveDrive).

Money Saved

While purchasing software and training staff might seem like an added cost, the long-term cost-saving benefits of going paperless are worth it. Not only will you no longer need to purchase receipt rolls, reams of paper, and envelopes for your business, but you also won’t need to buy printers and ink, or containers for file storage. By losing physical filing cabinets, you’ll likely reduce the amount of floor space required for storage, and that might even open up an area for new retail opportunities.

According to a recent study by Cisco, retailers that implement technologies such as multi-channel selling, digital and interactive signage, and efficient customer delivery systems including paperless receipts, can stand to improve profitability by over 15%.

Customer Optimization

Providing digital receipts to shoppers allows a business to have direct access to customers. According to a survey from Epsilon of 3,900 retailers, about a third of retailers offer digital receipts but interest is growing. One of the main reasons they’re going digital is because online receipt gives them access to a customer’s email.

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"An email address can be worth hundreds of dollars to a retailer,” Epsilon president Andrew Frawley told USA Today.

Email addresses enable retailers to send out newsletters, promotional and sales notices, restock information, and keep the conversation going after the original sale. Plus, many retailers add links to their business website and social media accounts, helping to increase online awareness about their brand.

Average value of a receipt | Shopify Retail blog

Image Credit: Receiptful

How To Go Paperless

Now that we’ve established some of the reasons to go paperless, let’s explore some ways to do it.

To get started, the first thing you want to do is account for all of the aspects of your company that currently run on paper. That may include the following:

  • Receipts
  • Bills
  • Supplier invoices
  • Shipping forms
  • Inventory forms
  • Timesheets
  • Employee files

After establishing how your company uses paper, here are some digital alternatives you can use to eliminate each one.

Email Receipts

For most retailers, providing paperless receipts is the most obvious way to eliminate unnecessary paper. Apple was one of the first major retailers to offer digital receipts, and now other big brands like The Gap, Nordstrom, and Macy’s have jumped on board.

According to Macy’s, about 6% of all store transactions were paperless in 2013. When offered the option, about 12% of customers chose an email receipt instead of a printed one. Moreover, adoption of electronic billing was even higher. Nearly 18% of shoppers with Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s credit cards converted to paperless billing statements and electronic bill payments, saving about 745,000 pounds of paper in 2013.

To implement paperless receipts at your business, install a point of sale program for online receipts, such as Receiptful or TransactionTree. Once you have that set up, introduce digital receipts to your customers by having cashiers offering the option at checkout.

JOIN NOW: Send your customers digital receipts seamlessly with Shopify POS. Try it today.

According to research firm J. Gold Associates, adoption of paperless receipts is generational. Younger shoppers have been quick to embrace electronic receipts while older shoppers still tend to feel more comfortable walking out of a store with a paper receipt in their hands. The trend is also more popular in large metropolitan areas but is slow to penetrate smaller cities and towns.

Electronic Bills and Invoices

While digital receipts might be the most obvious way to go paperless, electronic bills are without a doubt the easiest. Many banks offer online services so you can manage and pay all of your bills online, at any time and from any device. Opt to receive electronic financial statements, and consider making all your payments — from rent, electricity, and Internet bills, to those for suppliers — online. Not only will you be able to track all of these bills more easily, but you’ll spend less time standing in line at your local bank branch.

For invoices sent to vendors and suppliers, there are a wealth of free or inexpensive programs to digitize and automate this tedious process. Investigate tools like Sufio and Invoicify, which also integrate seamlessly with your Shopify store.

Paperless Inventory

Imagine no longer needing to sort through filing cabinets of inventory checklists and spreadsheets, and instead, finding all of that information accessible online. Paperless inventory is now possible with inventory management software, which allows users to organize and classify products, assign barcodes using a wireless barcode scanner, track stock counts, and more.

Digital Calendars and Employee Management

Many of us already utilize the electronic calendars on our phones, tablets, and computers. They're efficient, user-friendly, and can be accessed anywhere. It’s time to consider a digital solution for managing your retail business, and this includes handling employee schedules and timesheets.

According to a SafetyCulture article, virtually managing a team allows you communicate with your employees from anywhere. For example, Damon Chiesa, who owns a chain of boutique clothing stores in Australia called Elsewear23, uses the app Deputy to manage his staff online.

“I was looking for an app that could keep all of our rostering, timesheets, leave requests, availability and staff communication in one place,” he says. “Deputy has a news feed where I can communicate with staff individually, in a store group or as a whole company. It has a task menu that lets me assign tasks that need completing and set due dates.”

Other tools to digitally manage staff schedules include Schedulehead, WhenIWork, and ShiftPlanning. For more information on the best tools to create digital staff schedules, read our guide.

A Final Word

Going paperless is all about running your business more efficiently. It’s about reducing the amount of time you and your staff spend on inventory checklists, sort through filing cabinets, manage invoices and bills, and work on scheduling.

Offering email receipts is about saving money, eliminating unnecessary waste, and keeping up with digital-savvy customer demands. Most of all, going paperless is about bringing your business in line with the times and discovering what can be gained through new technologies.

About the Author

Michelle da Silva is a writer and editor. When she isn’t sitting behind a computer screen, she can be found biking around the city in search of Toronto’s best ice-cream.

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