E-commerce automation is important, because it’s one of the best ways to ensure profitability and efficiency as an online store grows. Time is money and needs put to good use. In addition, it’s just good sense to streamline your business operations.
The concept of automation has negative connotations to many. For instance, many small business owners see the word ‘automation’ and think of conveyor belts and machines and outraged customers. But automation can be applied on a much smaller and more managable scale. Most of us aren’t running Amazon-sized retail machines, yet.
In real life e-commerce automation needn’t be a big deal, it’s all about reducing your own precious time on repetitive tasks. Letting technology do the boring bits, freeing you up to get on with growing your business (or just relaxing a bit more as the competition sweats it).
Here’s a few examples of business areas which lend themselves well to automation:
- Emails to request feedback
A pretty obvious one, but surprising how few small companies actually do this properly. Feedback from customers is the only way to judge how well you’re meeting their needs. It’s potentially also a second sale from them in the making. Asking for feedback also proves a clever way of prising out potential order issues sooner, stemming the flow of any order queries.
- Order processing + shipping
Shipping agents and courier companies don’t all offer decent e-commerce integrations, so be sure to check into this when reviewing your options. Data entry from A to B can be slow or frustrating when dealing with many orders at a time. Automating shipping operations with your carrier can save valuable hours of time.
- Environmental variables
What is the weather like where your shoppers are? What’s the average income there? Is your customer in a rush or clicking-cooly? Using all the lookup technology and visitor info you can to offer the most relevant products to your customers can be an excellent strategy depending on what you sell. For instance an outdoor-wear shop may choose to market umbrellas to wet areas, and shorts to the dry. Sell time-saving products to the busy, and time-fillers to the bored. Automation can help create value for your visitors. In turn it boosts your sales and keeps you relevant in your marketplace.
Some new store owners are fearful of e-commerce automation and often think it will make their service less personal. The reality is though, that it can be implemented with as much or as little personalisation as you like. Perfect, personal ‘hand-written’ emails, for instance can still be automated.
Another common myth is that jobs should then be cut and work reduced in general. This isn’t always the case, as real human input and contact will always be important for any business. It’s instead better to use the time freed up from automation to actually help staff in their work. Perhaps allowing them to branch out into other areas, using their time more efficiently, and helping the business to be more successful overall. Time saved could be spent marketing (basically anything is better than needless admin work, we’re sure you’ll agree).
One way to think of this approach is “intelligent automation”. Putting these concepts into action can be powerful and profitable, and help to grow your small business dramatically.