July 10, 2022

5 Steps To Improve Operational Efficiency For Your Shopify Store

Hi there! 

Josiah here from Bloom.

Today I'm writing about an aspect that isn't talked about enough when running Shopify stores.

Operational efficiency.

There's no lack of content out there on the importance of designing nice brand visuals, creating irresistible offers, planning a well-thought out marketing strategy, understanding your unit economics....and the list goes on.

I tried researching about operational efficiency for my own education, but surprisingly it's rarely mentioned. I suspect it's because this aspect doesn't have a direct impact (read: visible) on sales and revenue.

When done properly, it frees up precious time for business owners to slow down and review their business holistically. To think about the outcomes rather than focussing on outputs. To work on the business rather than work for the business.

Ever heard of the term "you're just buying yourself a job"? Lack of time to work on the business is a common barrier to business growth. I've witnessed it first-hand multiple times in my career working for different employers, and also experienced it first-hand running my own Shopify stores.

I won't dive deep into the details of our experiences in this article just yet (that's for another time), but I'm going to share 5 steps you can take action immediately to start smoothening your operations, increase its efficiency, and save time!

Task batching

Just as you would buy all the groceries you need within one trip to the supermarket, or do all the laundry in one go - you can apply the same concept to your Shopify store's operations.

Task batching is the process of planning ahead, grouping up relevant tasks, then dedicating a block of time to complete them altogether.

This gives us a longer periods of focus time.

And if you want to take one step further, you can categorise your tasks based on the stakeholders you're interacting with. E.g. Replying emails > replying to suppliers > logistics > influencers/agency > customers.

This will further help reduce context switching and improve your productivity.

Also check out the article Maker's schedule, Manager's schedule if you haven't already. It should help you understand and appreciate the type of schedule you should be running as a business owner.

Build repeatable processes and templates

Sometimes at the start of our business journey, we have to do things that are unscalable.

E.g. Talking to your customers 1-1 to understand their wants and needs. Hand-writing thank you notes for your first 1000 customers. Writing every single social media post yourself.

But we can find smaller details that can be duplicated, thus building repeatable processes and templates along the way.

Ever heard of the term "Create once, distribute forever"? It's a popular content marketing saying by Ross Simmonds, and we can apply it to our operations too.

Talking to your customers? Create a template used for reaching out to customers. A list of questions used in every 1-1 chat. Turn it into a (growth) loop where you ask them to refer friends who'd be willing to chat to you for research purposes (doesn't hurt to ask)!

Hand-writing thank you notes? Build a template where you personalise the name and the first paragraph, but keep the rest of the thank you note the same.

Create once, distribute forever.

You can document them in good ol' Google Drive Suite, or try out Notion (where you can customise and build your own knowledge base the way you want, for free).

Automate where possible

For tasks such as keeping up with the latest news in your industry, checking your website's performance, and sending customers emails, you can automate these tasks as they don't require too much personalisation or customisation, but are usually tedious to complete.

There's no lack of free tools out there for automating your general and specific tasks - here are some of our favourites:

  • Google Alerts; automatically sends you daily/weekly email updates of news you want to monitor
  • SEMRush; its free version offers automatic email updates to monitor your website's keywords ranking
  • MailChimp; its free version allows you to build email automation flows based on conditional logic. So you can automatically follow up after an online sale or reach out to customers for feedback. With a daily limit of 2K emails and monthly limit of 10K.

Also check out IFTTT's free plan if you haven't already, or Zapier's free starter plan. Both can help you with tasks such as:

  • Turn emails into Trello cards (Trello is a free but popular project management tool)
  • Track time in your Google calendar and add to your time tracking software
  • Automatically message your team after you've completed certain tasks
  • Automatically generate a social media post from your new blog articles and publish across your social media accounts

Just to name a few!

Communicate effectively

Clear communication makes for a smooth-running operation. How often have you had to go back and forth with your team on bottlenecks that could have been avoided in the first place?

Your team needs to understand how their specific task fits into the overall business plan. By establishing context, it'll help set clear expectations of the outcome and deadline.

Depending on the size of your business, the 3 sets of questions below (commonly used at startups) may help you communicate effectively with your team:

When you want to convince others on a new idea or new campaign:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What is the current state?
  • What is the opportunity (market size)?
  • I - What is the potential impact?
  • C- How confident are you about this impact?
  • E - How easy will it be to implement?

When you brief in your team or vendors to help deliver work:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What is the objective?
  • R - Who's responsible for delivering the work?
  • A - Who's accountable for overseeing this project?
  • C - Whom should the team consult/look for advice?
  • I - Whom should the team inform and update about progress?

When you're sharing results with your team (or if you're reporting to stakeholders):

  • What did we do?
  • Why did we do it?
  • What was the investment (monetary, time and effort)?
  • What was the return and impact?
  • What are the next (actionable) steps?

Not at that stage where you need sophisticated frameworks yet? Maybe something as simple as Loom is all you need. Loom is a free screencasting tool that allows you to share on-screen recording whilst capturing a video of yourself narrating it.

I'm a big fan of Loom - it works great especially for remote teams or if you have staff who needs flexible schedules (e.g. working parents).

Identify what's urgent, what's important , and what's simply "nice-to-have"

Most businesses face the same challenge of spending too much time on tasks which don't have an impact on the bottom line. Everyday they run on a hamster wheel, then wonder why they haven't been able to achieve business growth.

Often, urgent tasks can seem more important than they really are, and it's easy to get bogged down in them. You could work on 10 tasks, but if these tasks don't contribute to sales and revenue, they're just outputs, not outcomes.

The solution? Cut out the excess and block out time each week to work on the important tasks. These important tasks may not always be fun to work on, but they have a direct impact on sales and revenue. You will have to learn how to say no to most requests, but it will help you stay focused on growing your business.

If you haven't already, check out Gary Keller's book - The One Thing. Here are some of our favourite key insights from this book:

  • Extraordinary results are determined by how narrow you can make your focus
  • Do fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects
  • Small dominos can topple much larger dominos; stack them right
  • Not everything deserves equal time
  • Multitasking is a lie and it does not work
  • Purpose without priority is powerless
  • To experience extraordinary results, be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon (See Paul Graham's article: Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, which we've also included in the Task Batching section above)
  • Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity
  • Your environment must support your goals

Now, to recap the 5 steps above and put them into action:

  • Create a success list, and a to-do list
  • Group up relevant tasks, then block out time to do them all at once
  • Build repeatable processes and templates
  • Automate where possible to save time from tedious tasks
  • Reduce context switching to improve your productivity
  • Communicate effectively with the ICE and RACI frameworks
  • Start using Loom to keep your team up-to-date instead of waiting for meetings
  • Identify what’s urgent, important and nice-to-have tasks
  • Learn how to say no more often to protect your time
  • Determine how you work best and work out your own Maker’s & Manager’s schedule
  • Pick your ONE thing, then block out weekly non-interrupted time from your day only to work on your ONE thing

I'd love to hear about your experiences improving your store’s operations as I'm also learning along the way. What has worked for you and what not. Feel free to email us at to start a chat!

Bonus: Tips and advice from other SMB owners

We shared an excerpt of this blog post on Reddit, and here are some additional tips and advice from other SMB owners:

Hiring a VA:

  • "I hired a VA for adding products, price checks and down the line some firsthline customer service. I've also automated a bunch of stuff through custom apps and Hextom's Bulk product editor (I believe it's called). Now I have more time to record podcasts, and work on promo and marketing."
  • When asked about finding a reliable and knowledgeable VA: "I found someone on Upwork at first. But also sent a message to the "runner up" to keep in touch. The first one ended up with a full time job elsewhere so I contacted the runner up for the job. He hiked up his price but recommended his sister (who's also on Upwork). I've been working with her for a couple of weeks now and so far, so good."

Automating inventory management:

  • "We have fully automated our products availability, we use short codes on our products that are meant to guide how we set availability, whether a customer can backorder a product or not.

    Using Mechanic and Flow, Shopify reads this code and sets how the product is available in our store, it also automatically publishes products when they are in stock and unpublishes out of stock products.

    This has freed up a lot of time for the people that work on the products frontend so that they can focus more time and energy on product descriptions and images."


  • "I find documentation useful. Right now things are small enough that I know how to make every product I have by memory, but little things like machine settings sometimes do escape me.

    I've started slowly documenting step by step how I do each project, trying to break things down into sub assemblies as well. When I write up instructions draft 1 is for me, then eventually I try to rewrite things so that someone who hadn't made the product before would stand a good chance of succeeding at making it should they follow my instructions.

    Documenting helps standardize my process, find efficiencies I may be missing, and opens up the door to have others help me without needing to handhold the whole time."

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