Before inventory and before staff, time is your most valuable resource. With so many different tasks, like stocking the right products, taking orders, and managing payments, pulling you in every direction, staying on top of it all is incredibly challenging.
That’s without mentioning your marketing efforts, or your customer service endeavors!
So, how does a growing eCommerce business increase its customer base while still keeping current customers happy? With eCommerce automation, that’s how.
Automation is the future of tech, and with that, we’ve seen a glut of new automation tools being released for eCommerce businesses. As a store owner, it’s the best tool in your arsenal.
eCommerce automation is the use of software to transform manual tasks into automated workflows. These workflows can perform a variety of functions without the input of a human. That can include sending emails, creating support tickets, or fulfilling orders. eCommerce automation doesn’t only mean time saved, either. It also ensures that time is created that you and your team can now dedicate to innovation, customer service, and creativity.
So, with all that said, let’s take a look at six ways automation can help streamline your eCommerce store.
- Inventory Management
An automated inventory management system is software eCommerce stores can plug directly into their websites in order to maintain and monitor stock levels. Wholesalers, distributors, and partners are able to add, delete, and amend stock in real-time, automatically. This in turn reflects on your eCommerce site, eliminating the risk of overselling an item.
Firstly, you save time by no longer needing to update inventory management numbers on a spreadsheet, as the counts are increased or decreased when new stock comes in or when it’s sold or returned. There’s no human needed to do this, removing the chance of human error.
Order management software updates stock numbers instantly, so whether you’re doing a dozen or a few hundred transactions a day, you’re assured that you’ll never sell something you don’t have.
By unifying the back and front end of your eCommerce site, your end-users are given a seamless experience without the need for you to physically change or update anything yourself. This is what’s known as headless eCommerce, and having it function properly is critical for a modern store’s success.
- Customer Management
No matter the type of business, customer retention is critical. One of the best ways to boost retention is by rewarding customers for their loyalty.
You can use some basic automation tools to track and reward loyal customers. Smart workflow automation tools can tag customers based on their purchase history. You can then program them to target these people with emails containing discount codes and thank you notes, adding some personalization as you go. This can all be in tandem, separating
Speaking of email, strategic, and targeted email campaigns are still the best way to generate more sales. Most stores use a dedicated platform to handle email marketing. If you’re the same, automating workflows to improve these processes isn’t too tricky. The easiest way to automate is by syncing an email client with your CRM system. By doing so, you’re ensuring your email list is segmented as well as it can be.
For example, if a prospect shows interest in a particular product, you can have them automatically added to a unique mailing list. That customer will get email marketing more tailored to their interests, increasing conversion rates across the board.
To further improve customer experience (CX), you need to understand your customers’ perception of you and your products. The best way to do this is to ask them, as seeking feedback is how the most successful brands ID and address their weaknesses. Automation can play a role here as well, as you can streamline workflows to collate that feedback automatically. With the right automation tool, you can send instant follow-up emails after a sale that make feedback as easy as pressing a button.
Reviews can be a double-edged sword, though, as customers who go to the effort of providing feedback are more likely to offer negative reviews. It’s just human nature. Workflow management via automation can ensure no negative reviews go unaddressed. If you’re asking customers to rate you from 1-10, you can establish a process that highlights reviews five and under. These can then be instantly referred to a customer service team member who can try and address it.
Lastly, tracking customer behavior will help tailor your CX. The best way to do this is through segmentation, which means dividing customers by characteristics like age, gender, location, and more.
This segmentation improves your offering to different types of customers. It’s a process that can be totally automated with smart workflow tools. The information needed can all be found in your CRM or order management systems. Automation tools can then use this data to organize customers in a variety of ways, all without human input.
- Order management
Order management is vital for online store operations. It’s how orders get tracked and managed from purchase, to delivery, to follow up. It overlaps customer service, project management, and more. Many of the steps involved in order fulfillment can get automated.
The numbers vary, but anywhere from 65-80% of eCommerce carts are left abandoned. Reminding customers of their abandoned carts can bring them back, and can also be an automated process. Integrating your eCommerce software and email platform with effective remarketing is an easy way to send these reminders.
Another crucial process a successful eCommerce business must get right is dispatch and delivery. Failed deliveries become a considerable expense. Often, the problems with distribution come from small, human-made mistakes along the way. A warehouse worker may mistype an address on a label or an order could get filed as complete in your system when it hasn’t actually left.
A warehouse management system disentangles this part of your business, making it more efficient. By adding automation here, you can get multiple tasks, like printing labels and marking orders as correctly dispatched, done in a single click. It can create tracking numbers for deliveries as well.
With a successful order, how can you encourage customers to reorder those same items from you once they’ve run out? If you have a good idea when a customer will need more of the same, you can automate a workflow to deliver reminder emails into their inbox at the right time. So, customers will get reminded to buy from you again within the same email.
- Sales Management
With eCommerce, there aren’t many outbound sales involved. Most stores get their business through visitors to their site. However, if your company does employ a sales team, there’s room for automated workflows to make their lives more comfortable.
Using automated workflows and assessment tools within CRM systems streamlines even further. If, for example, a new prospect is added to your system, an automated tool can instantly capture their details, schedule a call, and allocate that call to an agent.
But we all know, making a sale isn’t that easy. A salesperson may need to make multiple calls to close a deal. Automation is how to ensure crucial follow-ups happen when they’re supposed to. Depending on how a call goes, a salesperson’s next step differs. Automated workflows can reflect this. If a call goes poorly, for example, then that specific prospect can be marked as lost. Automating follow up emails to this segment can be adjusted in terms of the email’s content and when the email is sent.
When a member of your sales team makes multiple calls to a prospect, those calls can be recorded and tracked. Workflow automation plays a part here, as salespeople can establish processes for recording call details and outcomes. When it comes time for a follow-up, that information can then be automatically placed at their fingertips when using a VoIP phone system. By doing this correctly, they avoid repeating the same information and keeping the relationship fresh and personalized.
- Payment management
Ideally, as an eCommerce business, you shouldn’t have to pick up the phone and talk to a customer to accept payments. There are multiple different payment gateways you can automate to make the payment process more manageable. However, there are a few things to consider before implementing them.
- Is this payment gateway user-friendly?
- Does the gateway work in the country or countries you operate in?
- What are you looking to pay in terms of usage fees?
- Is it a payment gateway, a merchant account, or an all-in-one system?
- How easily does it integrate into your website?
- Does it support the preferred payment type your customers use?
- Lastly, does your business provide gambling, adult content, or travel products? If so, does the gateway protect customer’s privacy in these types of instances?
An automated payment management system can integrate multiple platforms and give you a centralized way of managing your payment streams. They can also work out the different VAT payments that change per country, and offer automatic calculations that appear on the final invoice.
- Account management
Accounting needs to happen dynamically, as a sale occurs. Many business owners hate having to keep up with bookkeeping tasks. So, you can make life easier by adding automation processes within your accounting department. Ideally, you want a system that integrates with your inventory management, payment system, and business bank account.
This automation will help provide an accurate depiction of your revenue vs. your expense. Additionally, employees can scan and save invoices that can instantly be assessed by your expense management team. This means no more missed payments or boxes of yellowing receipts.
How to integrate workflow automation today
The six methods above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of smart automation.
So, how do you go about beginning the implementation?
First, identify tasks that are too repetitive and thus time-consuming. Find bottlenecks in your daily processes that are harming productivity. They’re what you’ll want to remove by implementing the right automation solution.
Next, define the goals you’d like to achieve after a set time frame. Think about the degree to which you want to maximize efficiency, and the effects that may have overall. For example, if you found that warehouse staff are using too much time handpicking items for delivery, your aim might be to dispatch 30% more items per week by automating.
Then, find the right automation solution for your budget and goals, and take the time to train the staff on how to use these processes in their everyday work.
Lastly, measure your progress. If it does not have the desired results, then look back at where you’ve come from and identify what’s holding you back.
Working in eCommerce means dealing with lots of competitors. In 2020, it’s never been easier to shop on the web, and there are endless choices. To stand out, you need to get your behind the scenes processes right. This is why workflow automation must be a goal.
Streamlining all of the above boosts efficiency, productivity, and, as a result, your bottom line. Software works much faster than humans. It also won’t make the same small errors, which can grow to be incredibly costly. When those kinds of jobs are automatic, your employees can now make better use of their time. They can complete the tasks that require more in-depth attention and care.
Your eCommerce store has plenty of potential, and by introducing automation, you can begin to unlock it.