No matter the size of your ecommerce operation, sometimes there are just too many things to do. You’re only human, after all. Times like these are why you need to consider automating some of your processes. It’s particularly important when you start to scale your business, as the bigger you are, the more tasks you’ll have to add to your to-do list.
In this article, we’ll be looking at why automation software is an important resource for businesses that are growing so large that they can’t mnage without it. Automation is also helpful if you’re looking to stand out in a crowded ecommerce market – embracing new technology will give you a headstart on the competition.
So what is automation, and what does it mean for ecommerce? Automation essentially means using software that can perform functions you’d normally have a human employee do. Usually, these are small, repetitive tasks.
There are plenty of benefits to automating your ecommerce business. With automation removing the need for repetitive manual work, you’ll have more time to redirect labor to other tasks. Also, without the risk of human error, your operations will improve in quality and efficiency. If you’re looking to scale your business, it’s vital that you consider some form of automation.
Automating Your Ordering Process
Implementing automation into your business doesn’t necessarily mean automating everything. Look at the way call centers are automated, for instance. Call center AI takes care of the way calls are routed, the way the call is categorized, and heaps of other tasks, but at the end of the day, the call is still handled by a person.
It’s a similar story when you begin automating the customer order process. You’ll still need a pair of human hands to fulfill the order process; production, packaging, and delivery – but there are many tasks that can be automated fairly easily.
For instance, order management should be one of the first things you automate if you work in ecommerce. There’s a lot of different software tools that will allow you to create a database that logs and categorizes each order placed on your website. This is especially valuable when scaling your business, as the first sign of growth will be an increase in the number of orders you receive.
You can also automate your defenses against fraud. It can be difficult to discern fraudulent orders from genuine ones, so you should look into software that helps tell the difference. This type of software filters out orders that have traits common to fraudulent orders, so you can review them and decide whether not to fulfill them or not. When you scale your business, unfortunately, the number of fraudulent orders tends to increase along with the genuine ones.
Automating Your Data Handling
When you’re automating the way your business handles data, you need to think holistically – consider the business as a whole, not just the single department or process that you’re going to automate. This is because a single point of data can be relevant to more than one department within your business – a single order will be relevant to both your production team and your shipping team, for instance.
In this manner, optimizing and automating your data handling is a form of business process management, also known as BPM. BPM automation is the process of automating the processes that in turn improve your business workflow. BPM involves rethinking processes from start to finish, so it’s hugely relevant to scaling your business. You may need to totally redevelop some of your processes as your business grows.
For instance, an ecommerce business may need to totally reform the way they handle stock data as the business scales up. In order to automate the way this data is handled, you may need to rebuild your website with features that will track your stock as orders are placed. This sort of automation software usually has options that will alert you to low stock, or even automatically generate an order to your suppliers if a particular product needs to be restocked.
You can also automate the way you handle customer data. Fairprice, a Singaporean supermarket chain, utilizes automation to track customer’s order history and buying trends. Their system then uses this data to create unique promotions and discount codes for individual customers. As your business grows, you’ll have a lot more customers to track, so automating your business process in a way that helps you track their data is vital.
Automating Your Customer Interactions
Automating customer support goes beyond just tracking the data of your buyers. There are even ways you can automate the interactions you have with customers. Don’t worry – automation doesn’t necessarily mean giving up a superior customer experience. Larger issues should still be handled by a human agent to ensure that personal touch, but a lot of minor questions and issues can be solved much faster and more efficiently through automated processes.
A lot of useful, customer-focused alerts can be automated. You can set up systems that send customers alerts when their favorite items are back in stock, or when you start stocking items similar to their favorites. A marketing tool like Mailchimp should be able to send alerts like this. They can usually be adapted to send emails that help you as well, such as reminders for your customers to review products or to return to carts they’ve abandoned.
When it comes to customer support, research finds that 88% of customers prefer to speak to a human on the phone. However, when it comes to directing those calls, you can still implement a certain level of automation. A virtual phone receptionist allows customers to select which department their query is most relevant to, then automatically transfers the call to that department.
Performance and Productivity
If you want to grow your ecommerce business, you need more customers. However, once you get those customers, you need to be able to keep up with demand in order to truly scale up your operation. This is where automation comes in.
Automation may not necessarily attract the customers needed purely for growth, but it brings the performance and productivity improvements necessary to sustain a larger number of customer orders. There’s a lot of different ways you can start the process of growing your ecommerce business. However, to truly maintain a high-quality business on a large scale, you’ll need to look at automation.