Efficiency Up, Stress Down: the Top 7 Business Automation Tools for Small Businesses in 2022

Technology advancements have been allowing us to do more in less time, with the help of numerous business automation tools. These tools make it easier to boost productivity, automate tedious tasks, and scale your business in ways never before possible.

However, with so many business automation solutions available, choosing the right ones can be challenging. Especially when most of the automation tools on the market are still geared toward medium and larger businesses – but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! 

This article has picked the top 7 best business automation tools designed for small businesses in 2022. Each of them would be conducive to a particular area of the business process, helping you take your venture to the next level. Let’s get started!

(In case you haven’t already seen Shoeboxed’s Guide to Business Automation, take a moment to read about what it is, how your business can benefit from it, and discover the most common uses of business automation tools.)

Zapier for workflow automation

Zapier is a simple business tool to automate your work by offering ways to connect many different software and apps. This app comes with predefined example templates that help users turn actions between essential applications into automated workflows. By doing that, Zapier saves you time and money on repetitive manual tasks, enabling you to spend more time on more profitable actions. 

business automation tools zapier
Zapier’s display and features

Some common uses of Zapier are the following: 

  • Automatically save attachments in Gmail to Google Drive
  • Save all new Google Docs files to OneDrive and then back them up in Dropbox
  • Create a new Trello task when a specific email arrives
  • Automatically share content on social media

ActiveCampaign for customer experience automation

ActiveCampaign is a cloud software platform that offers customer experience automation features. The software combines advanced marketing features, such as email marketing, sales automation, and CRM categories. This software is optimized for businesses of all sizes, with different packages and reasonable prices for the provided features.  

business automation tools activecampaign
ActiveCampaign’s display and features 

ActiveCampaign automates your entire customer experience by providing tailored guidance for all the automation goals, dynamic content, and email marketing automation, which enhances the customer reach-out as well as engagement rate. 

Xero for accounting automation

Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform that enables small- and medium-sized businesses to synchronize their bookkeeping, accountants, and bank apps. This accounting software is very flexible and keeps track of all users’ business finance-related activities using only a mobile app.

business automation tools xero
Xero’s display and features

Using Xero, business owners can check on bills, cash flows, and even clients’ claims to expenses and reimbursements. Users can automatically get all the necessary documents and key data without putting in any manual effort. Xero also offers special features such as transfer of payments, bank reconciliation, and data capture, making it the most helpful business accounting automation tool. 

Shoeboxed for receipt scanning and expense tracking

Shoeboxed is a painless receipt scanning and organizing solution for freelancers and small businesses owners. This versatile app serves many purposes, including:

business automation tools shoeboxed
Shoeboxed’s display and features

Shoeboxed’s OCR (Optical character recognition) engine and human data verification features ensure that your paper receipts are legibly scanned, clearly categorized, and approved by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Service in the event of an audit. Moreover, Shoeboxed enables users to create clear and comprehensive expense reports that include images of their receipts. From there, users can export, share or print all of the information they need for easy tax preparation or reimbursement, all within just a few clicks. 

Freshservice for IT management

Freshservice is an internal IT service management platform that assists businesses in streamlining and automating their IT operations. This software enables your IT department to collaborate with developers remotely and act quickly in response to requests, threats to service availability, and security. With IT service management tools like Freshservice, you can gain the ability to put your developer team’s and employees’ requests first.

Freshservice’s display and features

Freshservice outstanding features, including: 

  • Incident and Case Management feature helps address IT questions remotely
  • Knowledge Base feature provides IT, Service, and HR information
  • Service Catalogue feature helps simplify requests 
  • Asset Management feature updates asset details 

Buffer for social media management

With the rapid growth of social media platforms, building social media awareness is essential to almost all kinds of businesses. However, working consistently on various social media platforms can be very time-consuming. That’s why you need social media automation tools – like Buffer!

Buffer’s display and features

Buffer is an easy-to-use automation tool with great scheduling features that will bring your business to the next level on social media. This automation tool can help in the publishing process and even provide accurate campaign analytics to check what works better. Buffer makes it easier than ever to build a brand on social media! 

Grammarly for content review automation

Grammarly is an online writing AI-powered assistant that helps users compose mistake-free articles and content. As businesses today want to fill their blogs, social media, email marketing, and other publications with high-quality content, using a tool like Grammarly is extremely important to save writers from basic grammar mistakes. 

Grammarly offers some powerful AI features, such as: 

  • Grammar correction and spellcheck
  • Corrections for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure
  • Vocabulary enhancement
  • Suggestions for genre-specific writing style 
  • Plagiarism detector (it checks over 16 billion web pages)
Grammarly’s display and features

Moreover, Grammarly comes as a Chrome extension that helps you write on various daily tools like Gmail, Google Docs, Facebook, Messenger, Slack, and many more. You can either choose the free version (if you only need grammar and spelling correction ) or subscribe to the premium package to unlock other features. 

The bottom line

Business automation tools aren’t just for the big sharks out there. There is actually a selection of tools designed for smaller enterprises. You just need to determine whether you want to automate all of your business operations or only specific elements that are time-consuming and ineffective. Knowing this will help you set the correct internal expectations as you decide which tools to use and what you expect from them. This practice also helps you reduce excessive costs and focus on what really matters. 

Don’t forget to sign up for the Shoeboxed blog if you’d like to read more business success stories, DIY accounting, together with the latest Shoeboxed product updates!

10 Common Examples of AI in Everyday Life

While we might think that artificial intelligence (AI) is something futuristic, it already has an enormous impact on our daily lives. Artificial intelligence doesn’t only change the way we work but also the way we live and make decisions. In this article, we’ll introduce the top 10 most common examples of AI in everyday life. 

Virtual assistants

Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana are perhaps the most popular virtual assistants available. These AI-powered assistants help users perform various tasks, from finding and calling a contact, browsing websites, to sending commands to other apps. Artificial intelligence has a significant impact on the way these apps work because they learn from every single user interaction. This allows them to recognize speech patterns better and provide users with results tailored to their preferences. There’s no doubt that virtual assistants will continue to grow and become even more capable of assisting us in our daily lives.

Advertising

Have you ever looked at an online advertisement and realized that you were thinking about buying this product? There is no magic here, and AI isn’t reading your thoughts. Instead, it’s about keeping track of your online activities. The search engines record the products you browse on various shopping sites and provide you with advertisements related to these products.

AI also uses demographic data, such as your age, gender, job, etc., to identify which products are most likely to be of interest to you. Today, more and more businesses are using digital marketing tools to target their preferred customers. 

Robot vacuums

Robot vacuums are one of the most common examples of AI in everyday life. They use AI to scan your living area, pinpoint obstacles and remember the best route to clean your house. The vacuum bot can also identify how much cleaning it needs to do based on the size of the room, and some robot vacuums even come with a mopping function. 

Financial services

The banking and finance industry, which plays a major role in our lives, has been using artificial intelligence to optimize customer satisfaction by simplifying payment processes and providing security features. For example, running to the bank for every transaction has become something of the past. Thanks to intelligent algorithms, we can make deposits, do money transfers, and even open an account from anywhere.

Artificial intelligence also increases security, identity management, and privacy controls. A typical example is the automated emails you receive from banks whenever you make an unusual transaction. AI can detect potential fraud by observing users’ credit card spending patterns. The system can create an alert or a request to validate transactions if there is any unexpected activity that doesn’t fit your user profile.

Chatbots

In the past, interacting with customer service was often time-consuming and stressful. Even today, if a company doesn’t offer 24/7 customer service, it will be difficult for customers to have their concerns addressed outside of office hours. One increasingly popular solution to this problem is AI chatbots. 

AI chatbots are set up with programmed algorithms, enabling them to answer frequently asked questions and take/track orders, which makes interactions between the customer and the company easier than ever. Today, advanced chatbots don’t offer only specific output formats such as yes/no questions. They can answer complex questions that require detailed responses. Additionally, if customers leave a poor rating for the response they receive, the bot will identify the mistake and correct it for next time to maximize customer satisfaction.

Text editors and autocorrect

Have you ever typed a misspelled word, and your phone or computer corrected it automatically? That’s because AI algorithms use machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing to identify incorrect language usage and suggest corrections in word processors, texting apps, and other digitally written documents. 

Machine learning is taught by linguists and computer scientists, which results in high-quality language data. When you type an incorrect sentence, the editor will catch it and make suggestions to fix it.

Facial detection and recognition

Many of us are probably familiar with using face ID for unlocking phones or taking pictures with virtual filters on our faces. These activities are typical examples of AI in everyday life, in which the algorithms incorporate face detection, which can identify any human face, then use face recognition to recognize a specific face to unlock the phone or make a command (e.g., confirming a transaction). Facial recognition also helps government facilities with surveillance and security.

Maps and navigation

Artificial intelligence has drastically improved traveling. Instead of having to buy and carry paper maps, you can now use Google or Apple Maps on your phone and search for your destination. How does the mobile app know where to go and suggest the optimal route, road barriers, and traffic congestion? 

In the past, there were only satellite-based GPS available. Now, artificial intelligence is being incorporated into these devices to provide users with a much more enhanced experience. The algorithms employ machine learning to remember the edges of the buildings they’ve learned, leading to better visuals on the map and the ability to recognize house and building numbers. 

The application can also understand and identify changes in traffic flow, such as user-reported incidents or road construction, to recommend a route that avoids roadblocks and congestion. 

Rideshare apps

When you use a rideshare app, how do they determine the price of your ride? How do they minimize the wait time once you hail a car? How do these services optimally match you with other passengers to minimize detours? The answer is machine learning, another example of AI in everyday life. Uber’s Head of Machine Learning, Danny Lange, has confirmed Uber’s uses of machine learning for ETAs for rides, estimated meal delivery times on UberEATS, computing optimal pickup locations, as well as for fraud detection.

Entertainment 

If you’ve ever finished a TV show on Netflix, you’ve probably noticed how Netflix immediately suggests other shows you may enjoy watching next. YouTube is another platform that recommends videos or playlists relevant to your likes. This is how AI works: it analyzes thousands of records to suggest movies, TV shows, and videos that you might like based on your preferences and reactions to previous media choices.

The bottom line

These examples of AI in everyday life prove why artificial intelligence is talked about everywhere: it appeared everywhere. AI has greatly affected nearly every part of our daily lives, making us more productive and our lives more convenient. 

The Shoeboxed app is an AI-powered accounting app tailored to freelancers, accountants, and small business owners. Shoeboxed helps users clear their desks and drawers from piles of receipts and turn them into digital, clearly categorized data. Users can scan their receipts, manage expenses, store business cards, and track mileage easily with the Shoeboxed app

From there, you can generate expense reports and send them in emails for approvals. What’s more, Shoeboxed offers an OCR (Optical Character Recognition) function and human-verification feature to ensure that your receipts are scanned, well categorized, human-verified, and legibly accepted by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Canada Revenue Service. Shoeboxed helps you simplify accounting processes and focus more on your business’s core values. 

Don’t forget to sign up for the Shoeboxed blog if you’d like to read more about how Shoeboxed has helped our clients integrate artificial intelligence into their businesses and other engaging success stories, DIY accounting, together with the latest Shoeboxed’s product updates.

Why Small Businesses Need To Transform Paper Receipts To Digital Data

Long gone are the days when one only had paper and pen to keep records of information. Computers and digital data have dramatically transformed how people work and live, and even decades after the commercialization of the first computer, its potential still seems endless. In the business world where innovations to improve productivity are always welcomed, the role of computers in storing and processing information is indispensable. 

Digital technologies are increasingly replacing traditional manual processes and becoming the key to success in today’s business world. 

The recent pandemic made this urge to transform digitally even greater, as it is a matter of survival for a business to cut down on expenses while aiming to grow. The switch to digitization is urgent, but before adopting any new tool, we have to consider its advantages as well as possible drawbacks. 

For small companies who want to embrace scanning and receipt tracking software to get rid of their paper receipts, our explanation of the pros and cons in this article will help you decide if your business will take the next step and digitize its documents.

What is digital data?

According to Techopedia, digital data is a binary format of information that can be interpreted by various technologies. In a binary system, complex audio, video, or text information is turned into a series of binary characters, ones, and zeros, or “on” and “off” values.

As computers can only work with digital information, we need input devices to “translate” the data into a language that computers can understand. For example, a scanner or a camera converts an image into pixels (small squares of color that are signaled by a sequence of numbers), so that visual information becomes digitized images that we can see on a computer screen. 

What is good about digitizing your receipts?

Although a scanner is a must-have item in any company, scanning apps or software aren’t as commonplace. However, the idea that you can scan all your bills and other kinds of documents with just a smartphone is tempting. Much like an ordinary scanner, scanning software turns your paper into a digital copy, but that is not all it has to offer. 

There are a lot of apps that also help you to organize your receipts, track expenses, and even create reports. If you are still wondering why you should choose a scanning app for your business’s digitalization, here are some of the benefits.

  • Cost-saving and time-saving

From a financial perspective, switching to digital receipts is undoubtedly cost-effective. Conventional physical documents require various expenses from the users, ranging from paper and ink to printers and scanners. Businesses need to track their operation based on various kinds of documents, so there are storage costs and added unnecessary expenditures. 

Imagine that all your important papers are now digital data safely kept in your computer or the cloud with the support of scanning software. There are several free apps that you can try; or you can purchase one for more useful features, such as linking to your accounting system and customizing your financial reports.

On top of that, working with digital data is quicker than you expect. If you are an accountant or a bookkeeper, you should know better than anyone the time-consuming task of categorizing receipts, inputting data, and then extracting information from them. Don’t waste your energy doing everything manually now that you have apps and software to assist you. Let these digital tools take care of your receipts and spend more time on the essential tasks which will lead to increased profit for your business!

One significant advantage of a scanning app is that you can use it at almost anytime and anywhere. Once the app is downloaded to your smartphone, you can easily scan receipts on the go without waiting until returning to your office. 

  • Easy storage and access

Managing receipts and financial documents in an organized way for ease of tracking and retrieval is a real headache as your business transactions grow in number and scale. Soon you’ll realize you are surrounded by clutter and piles of folders that take up considerable space in your office. However, thanks to digitalization, you don’t need physical cabinets to store the documents or worry about them getting lost or fading. 

Both you and your customers can store digital receipts in your computer or on the cloud, which means easier access, and smoother record keeping and accounting. Receipt scanning software keeps your documents in a central location and helps your team stay on top of all the details even when working remotely.

  • Tax-ready

A recurring question whenever tax season draws near is: How do you know what expenses are deductible without having to sort through each receipt? Good scanning software can get your receipts into action in many ways. 

First, besides scanning, you can use it to add tax information and categorize the expenses accordingly, which makes tax preparation time a breeze. When every expense is precisely recorded, you will also be able to tell how many tax deductions you can claim. 

What’s more, many receipt scanning apps allow you to create financial reports based on the input data and export them into your accounting programs. This means you can minimize errors caused by carelessness, therefore maintaining the accuracy of all reports. 

Even if tax time is over, you’ll never know when the IRS may ask to review your receipts, and this is when scanned receipts and documents come in handy. Because the IRS accepts digital images, you can simply show them the data they need and get the paper copies off your desk! 

  • Increased interactivity with customers 

Another merit of electronic receipts worth mentioning is their marketing role. Email receipts are the perfect tool to promote your services by, for example, featuring links to your business website. Based on the customer transactional information collected through e-receipts, you can keep track of their purchasing habits, know their preferences, and send them personalized offers that match their needs. 

In addition, business owners can use the email list to gather customers’ feedback with surveys. Each receipt sent is an excellent opportunity not only to engage customers but also to improve your products or services. So it can be considered a bridge that brings the retailers and their customers closer together while transforming shopping into an interactive experience.

Disadvantages of digital receipts and documents

  • Technical knowledge required

Although you don’t need to be an expert to use the scanning software, some technical knowledge is necessary if you want to optimize all functions it is capable of. Those who are not used to working with digital data may find it hard to navigate to each receipt and end up using the software just like a normal scanner instead of fully exploiting its potential. 

If you haven’t bought one yet, help yourself by asking such questions as “What are you looking for in scanning software?” “How can you use its features to your benefit?” “What skills are required to make it work?” Digital transformation can’t happen overnight and certainly entails remarkable cultural changes in the office, so you should at least know what to prepare, including an understanding of the tools you are going to adopt. What is equally important is an open-minded attitude toward new things and the willingness to learn from mistakes in this process.

  • Security problems

Many people are concerned that digital data leaves information vulnerable to greater security risks. Keeping receipts and financial documents online doesn’t guarantee they are safe from hackers’ attacks or system failures. However unlikely such security issues may seem, the far-reaching consequences should be acknowledged and avoided at all costs. When someone compromises the system, the worst scenario may be loss of customer data, so it is advisable to backup everything in advance. 

Shoeboxed as a solution

Given both the pros and cons of switching to digital receipts, are you still opting for scanning software to accompany your office’s transformation? If you say ‘yes’ to innovations and challenges, let’s figure out how Shoeboxed can assist you with its amazing features.

  • Easy scanning with accurate data

Shoeboxed gives you multiple scanning options so that you can do it no matter where you are. After taking photos of your receipts, you can upload them to Shoeboxed software or its mobile app in just seconds. 

Whether you are at home or on a business trip, Shoeboxed makes a great companion that digitizes your receipts and tracks every expense on the move. Real-time reporting is possible so you’ll never have to worry about missing out on some bills.

At Shoeboxed, we also understand that there are important receipts that you want to keep as they are. In this case, or at a time when you wish to outsource your receipt scanning task, you can ask Shoeboxed to send you the postage-paid Magic Envelope, put all the items that you need us to scan inside, and mail it back to us. 

We also accept the electronic images of your receipts 24/7 and help you process to extract key data. With Shoeboxed, you know that you are provided with human-verified information which is easily searchable and editable in your digital system.

  • Improved security for both paper and digital receipts and documents

Keeping your physical and digital receipts secure is a promise that Shoeboxed is committed to our customers. We use Secure Socket Layer encryption for the upload process and do regular backups of your scanned data so you can rest assured that your private information is protected with utmost care. Also, access to the app is strictly controlled and you can decide who will have the right to retrieve or modify the data. 

The same attention to security is applied to storing your paper documents, which are safeguarded in our independently owned processing center with strong monitoring measures. For each receipt you entrust to us, Shoeboxed will do whatever it takes to deliver our best services.

  • Great compatibility with accounting programs

We are partners with several accounting platforms, such as QuickBooks, Xero, and Evernote, which means documents scanned with Shoeboxed can be synced onto these systems and ready for any report. You can also choose to auto-import receipts from your Gmail inbox into Shoeboxed account so you never lose another bill again. 

Forget the tedious manual data entry and get some burdens off your accountants’ shoulders, helping them to streamline the bookkeeping process. You’ll surprised at how the fine combination of a receipt scanner and an accounting program will speed up your workflow and help your financial management. 

  • Tax-friendly

Audits will no longer be a hassle if you have all necessary documents at hand. One perk of Shoeboxed is that it offers clearly scanned images of your receipts which are accepted by both the IRS and CRS. You don’t need to scour through file after file to search for data because  Shoeboxed  organizes and categorizes things as you scan them. 

Calculating tax deductibles will be a lot easier and with precise data, you can also create accurate expense reports that are tax-compliant and share them with anyone from your Shoeboxed app.  

  • Economical plans for small businesses

At Shoeboxed, we have plans for all types of customers, including individuals and businesses of any size. Starting from just $18 per month, you will be able to enjoy our unlimited file storage and make the best out of the Shoeboxed scanning app. Professional users can consider the $36 plan to include QuickBooks Online integration. 

Details of each package are available on our website, so make sure to check it out!

The bottom line

Trying out a receipt scanning software may become the best decision you can make to digitize your office. It offers the convenience and flexibility you need to manage your finances better while solving problems caused by paper receipts and documents. If you are up to this idea, we can’t wait to show you how Shoeboxed can make a difference!