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Behind the Gavel: Finding more time in the day with online tools

In his latest Behind the Gavel column, Wayne Jordan offers a primer on using online resource IFTTT (If that, then this) to make efficient use of marketing and obtaining fresh inventory for an antiques business.

This time of year, many antique dealers are breathing a sigh of relief. The holiday selling crush is over. For the past month or so, administrative chores have been put on hold in order to service in-store and online customers. Hopefully, most of us have

Catching up on administrative tasks and end-of-year/first-of-the-year paperwork is a necessity of doing business.

Catching up on administrative tasks and end-of-year/first-of-the-year paperwork is a necessity of doing business.

fattened bank accounts to make up for all the hard work. Now, it’s time to buckle down and address those year-end administrative chores like taking inventory, catching up on payables, scouting new inventory, and contacting customers that we were too busy to contact during the selling season.

As we “catch up” in January, we often realize that in our holiday haste we missed some opportunities. Every January, I speak with customers that I had put on a back burner (in order to deal with the customer in front of me) only to discover that they had made their purchases from a competitor instead of me. My competitor (or his advertisement) was in the right place at the right time, and I wasn’t. When I consider the missed sales, I wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t have advertised more, or posted specials more frequently to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, my blog, or email, or a half-dozen other digital channels.

In order to “be where the customers are” we have to “go where the customers go.” Sometimes, that’s hard to do. We’re on Facebook, they’re on Twitter. We’re on Twitter, they’re on Pinterest. Or eBay, or Etsy, or Google. It’s all a matter of visibility. These days, the internet has made visibility cheap: social media platforms are often free, and the major selling platforms are cheap relative to the cost of running a bricks-and-mortar store. The problem is that when we’re real busy (like during the holiday season) who’s got time to maintain a presence on social media? And even if we did have the time, how much difference would it make to our sales anyway?

It makes quite a bit of difference, actually. According to the results of the 2014 Omnichannel Retail report published in November 2014 by RichRelevance [], there is a direct relationship between our online visibility and sales revenues. The Omnichannel report states that digital channels influenced 50 percent of all in-store retail sales in the U.S. in 2014, up from 36 percent in 2013. These percentages correspond with recent data suggesting that 72 percent of shoppers “showroom” (find products in-store and look them up online) and 78 percent of consumers “webroom” (look up products online before going into a store).

So, three out of four consumers reference digital sources (at home or in a store) before

This illustration depicts some of the various online elements which contribute to the visibility of a business.

This illustration, from the Omni Channel Report, depicts some of the elements that contribute to the visibility of a business.

making a purchase. Dealers, your customers are probably checking your prices and product conditions online before they buy from you. Perhaps not for impulse purchases, but certainly for your high-dollar items. Knowing those statistics, though, doesn’t create any more hours in the day. What’s needed is a way to leverage one’s time without hiring another employee to deal with social media and multi-channel marketing.

Enter I’ve been using to scout for inventory and leverage my social media posts for some time now, and I’m absolutely delighted with the results.

IFTTT stands for “If this, then that.” This free service has been around for several years and is growing in popularity. Essentially, the service allows you to connect your most-often-used online services with each other. Users set up a condition in one account (“if this”) that triggers a response in another account (“then that”). For example:

I regularly search craigslist in five separate categories. Within my geographical radius (75 miles), there are four craigslists. That’s 20 or more pages to search on each visit. With IFTTT the process is much simplified: I perform a search on craigslist, and then copy the search URL. On the IFTTT website, I create a “recipe” in the “if this, then that” format. IFTTT provides the format in big, bold letters. I click on the word “this” and follow the prompts to insert my craigslist search URL. Next, I click on the word “that” and choose the option to send me an email whenever a new item is posted to craigslist in a category I’m interested in. Then, every time someone posts a desired item to craigslist, IFTTT sends me an email to notify me of the post.

Ifthisthenthat ( is an online resource that can streamline some of the most essential aspects of doing business, like marketing.

Ifthisthenthat ( is an online resource that can streamline some of the most essential aspects of doing business, like marketing.

I repeat this process with each category I want to follow on craigslist, and I get regular updates in my inbox. No more performing twenty searches with each craigslist visit. The information comes to me as soon as it’s posted, and being “quick on the draw” with sellers is a great competitive advantage.

Other recipes that I have set up with IFTTT are:

  • Email (or sms-cell phone) notification of selected eBay searches
  • If I post a new blog it is automatically posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
  • If I upload a video to YouTube it is posted to my blog (which is then updated to Facebook and Twitter)
  • If I pin an advertisement to Pinterest, it is posted to my Facebook and Twitter pages.

The number of channels on IFTTT are limited, but the number of recipes that can be created are almost endless. And, users can adapt thousands of pre-existing recipes created by other IFTTT users. Users must connect the desired IFTTT channels to their existing channel accounts in order to use the service.

Altogether, I’d estimate that I save about five or six hours per week by using the IFTTT service; I get back roughly three days a month and it doesn’t cost me a dime.

Snazzy Labs posted an IFTTT tutorial on YouTube a few years ago when IFTTT was brand new []. Though the video (view below) is slightly dated, it’s still the best one I can find online.

If you think that IFTTT might be a useful tool for your business, then the video is certainly worth the six minutes it will take to watch. If you are able to save as much time as I have with IFTTT, you’ll find yourself with an extra 300 hours in 2015. What will you do with all that extra time?

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