If not anything else, the year 2021 has definitely shown the business world how crucial automation is to e-commerce companies at large. If your organization is digitally savvy or is at least beginning to understand and value the many advantages automation affords, you’re probably heading in the right direction.
The pandemic and the subsequent indefinite lockdown have unsurprisingly taken a toll on e-commerce companies globally. Questions as to whether an organization is digitally equipped to handle employees working from home for a considerable length of time and withstand an uncommon economic crisis is something consumers, as well as businesses, are still grappling with.
Simple Automation for e-Commerce Company
The need of the hour, according to longstanding e-commerce platforms that have weathered quite a few storms in their tenure, is the introduction of simple automation tools or workflows to make things easier for businesses. This would mean that companies are able to handle remote work environments, manage customer service and supply chains without a hitch.
To add to all this, a number of brands have understood the importance of workflow automation and how significant a change such processes would bring to e-commerce companies.
What is Workflow Automation?
Before we dive into automation ideas that could turn your e-commerce business around, let’s talk about what workflow automation really is about.
Whether it is to do with posting content on social media platforms tirelessly, nurturing a lead, focusing your advertisement efforts on retargeting, or simply answering the same set of questions asked by customers, repeatedly, automation is the answer in one or all of these areas (depending on how far you want to take automation).
Essentially, as the term suggests, automation allows businesses and their employees to “automate” tasks that are otherwise tedious in nature.
Anything that consumes an unnecessary amount of time (and could alternatively have been completed in a shorter time span) could potentially become automated. This way, employee tasks become simpler, faster, seamless, and oftentimes comes with a string of other new features and advantages as well.
Workflow automation can therefore be termed as a process that automates repetitive tasks that otherwise take up hours of manual work.
Now that we’re clear on what automation is all about, let’s look at some of the simple ways through which it can aid businesses in their online service efforts.
A recent study conducted by Motorola Solutions revealed that a majority of retailers (66% of them) set aside investments of considerable amounts to the management of warehouses and inventory.
The manual management of inventory is cumbersome not only to local brands but to big-time, global e-commerce platforms as well. The task of overseeing products numbering hundreds is laborious and, not to mention, time-consuming.
Enter a workflow automation tool such as ZOHO Inventory or Quickbooks that, aside from keeping track of products, lets customers know when an item is out of stock or has only a limited number of pieces.
Moreover, such software even informs management of the overstocking of products (in order to avoid the overcrowding of your warehouse with unnecessary items).
Enhance Customer Support and Experience Through Automation
It goes without saying that a brand will not flourish unless it knows and listens to its customers. But often, gathering feedback and reviews could become a tedious task.
Through an automation tool, though, you could not only win the appreciation of your customers and prospects but also gather the information you would need to tailor the services you render to your buyers.
This can all be done with just a few clicks by opting to automate follow-up emails being sent to prospects and buyers (the workflow process allows brands to send mails right after a sale and so on). This way, you’re also letting potential buyers know that you appreciate their feedback.
Managing Company Accounts
There is a variety of automation software specifically designed to undertake various tasks in relation to accounting. With such tools at hand, e-commerce companies and their respective accounts departments need no longer worry about sifting through hundreds of invoices, receipts, and business-related documents for hours on end.
Software such as Freshbooks (cloud-based) and Zoho Books can automate the entire account management process through their software platforms as well as mobile applications, thereby minimizing employee workload to a great extent.
Make the Best of Social Media Platforms
Marketing plays a significant role in the success of e-commerce companies. As such, much of its revenue comes from footfalls on landing pages as well as from prospects who are social media savvy.
But the downside to posting regularly on social media, creating monthly social media calendars and schedules is that marketing executives don’t have time for much else.
The good news is, you can now reduce the time you spend on getting content for your various social media channels through automation platforms such as Buffer and Hootsuite. These tools and others allow brands to schedule posts, view monthly engagement reports, create and share a string of advertisements and/or posters that can all be shared at once across several social media channels.
Other platforms such as Shopify allow brands to automatically put up their products on their official Twitter handle as well as the organization’s Facebook page.
A Simple Solution for Cart Abandonment
Several statistics show that 69% of carts are left abandoned on a daily basis. Although reminding a prospective of their abandoned cart might reduce said numbers, the task is painstakingly laborious at best.
After all, there are only so many potential customers you can go after in a day, spending valuable time and resources that you might not even have.
But with the aid of automation tools that do the reminding for you (instead of your sales team doing it manually, one by one), a simple command fed into the tool could solve matters for brands. Some of the applications that serve this purpose are OptinMonster, Jilt, and Crazy Egg.
Automating the Payment Process
Continuing from the last point, in many cases, an abandoned cart is the result of the lack of a competent payment process. If a prospective is taken through a series of steps in order to complete the purchase of a product or service, there are high chances of their patience running out.
The solution – an automated payment process that a potential customer is able to glaze through within a click or two. Also, ensure that your e-commerce platform has various payment gateway options that your customers can choose from.
Simplify How You Catalog Products
If you’ve been in the e-commerce business for a while, you would know how cumbersome product cataloging can be. This is especially true when you have a long line of a variety of products that need to be cataloged.
Imagine having to manually update product catalogs when there’s been a change in price or when a certain product/service has become unavailable or has been upgraded/remodeled?
With a merchandising automation tool, you wouldn’t have to worry about any of the above. You can seamlessly handle listings and give recommendations based on relevance and so forth.
As an e-commerce company, customers and prospects expect some form of online support, especially in today’s competitive market. This could be in the form of FAQs on your landing page or social media channels, live chat support on your website, and so on.
Through simple automation tools such as Scout, Zendesk, and Groove, you will pretty much have a head start in terms of customer support and experience. These platforms are easy to use, customizable (are able to fit your company needs), and can handle repetitive tasks that are otherwise done manually.
Look for a Fulfillment Solution
If your brand has been struggling with making arrangements for the procurement, packaging, and shipping of products aside from the added difficulty of finding appropriate warehouses, you’d be glad to know that there are fulfillment solutions out there exactly suited to your e-commerce needs.
With a competent fulfillment solution in place, the entire process of hunting for warehouses in various locations, considering the charges for each of them, and sifting through the levels of services afforded by the lot of them can all be accommodated into one neat package.
There is a plethora of online tools, software, and mobile applications that all cater to different aspects of the e-commerce workflow automation process. But as a brand, you need to find out what is relevant to your product and/or service and what would work best for your company and your employees.
Another thing to consider while on the lookout for automation tools is how these tools can assimilate into your existing workflows and work environments.
In the end, all that matters is that your employees have an easier time doing their individual tasks and that they aren’t spending too much time on work that can be completed within a matter of minutes.
Jugal Anchalia is the Co-founder of Breakout, a highly customizable workflow automation platform for SMEs. When he’s not helping companies to adopt automation in their day-to-day operations, you can find him curled up in a corner with a book or playing catch with his dog.