There are only so many hours in week, and as an entrepreneur or e-commerce director who constantly loses hours to bad processes, those hours can destroy your soul. Automating as many aspects of your online store as possible will not only save you time, but give you peace of mind as your sales grow. Not to mention, automation will free up your time to spend it at the beach. But first, concentrate on the following:
Order Fulfillment and Shipping & Inventory Management
There are many order fulfillment and shipping and inventory management platforms that can handle the supply chain management for your e-commerce site. Automating your fulfillment processes is a great strategy when sales are coming in quicker than you are able to fulfill the orders.
Using an automation software, like Sparkshipping, for your online store’s inventory needs will ensure that you are never without product to send to your customers. As businesses grow, order fulfillment becomes increasingly time consuming. Automating your shipping platforms provide peace of mind that your customers are receiving their orders quickly and efficiently.
Don’t forget about automating the returns process as well, especially if you’re a forward thinking company providing free returns. This process is just as vital as the initial ship process, and if done well can lead to happy customers, even if they returned the product.
Another tool, Aftership, focuses on orders that have shipping exceptions, or don’t make it to the customer. While marketing and design are important, the core action is that the customer is purchasing your product. If, for some reason, they don’t receive their order, this will only create additional problems, and they won’t shop with your store again.
Other items to try:
- UberRUSH for same city same day delivery
- Partner with a fulfillment house such as Fusion Fulfillment, which integrates seamlessly and for free with Shopify (all levels). This will significantly help automate the ordering and returns processes.
- If you have the same inventory for retail / wholesale distribution and e-commerce, make sure the systems are in sync, and run tests on every ordering situation to make sure you never run out of inventory on either side.
It’s essential to have all the information before making vital business decisions. Analytics automation software will track all interactions between your online store and a customer, including checkout conversion rates. These platforms will allow you to make decisions quickly and efficiently, as you’ll have all the facts about your customers and how they have responded to certain products.
- E-mail Sign Ups
- Abandoned Carts
- Cost per Acquisition
You can then run these numbers to see how your site is performing. Then, run A/B tests using Optimizely to test copy, colors, and images, starting with your home page and landing pages, and going into your product catalog and add to cart process. This will allow you to measure and optimize your site conversion process.
Industry averages for e-commerce are 1%-3% for conversion rates. If you’re falling below 1%, there are most likely some key items to improve, such as load time and mobile optimization. Review your site at Pingdom and WooRank to see how load time and mobile are looking, respectively.
Lastly, always make sure that your analytics are pure. Bots can get into your analytics and provide a false sense of data. Eliminate bots on Google Analytics when they appear so that you have a true sense of data and can react accordingly.
Without effective marketing, your online store will struggle to gain new customers and retain repeat customers. The marketing landscape is constantly changing, and will continue to evolve as your business evolves. Employing marketing automation software will ensure that your business is doing all it can to reach its target audience and customers. Options include HubSpot and Marketo.
Marketing automation software provides many functions, including email campaign management, landing pages, and content creation. A great way to learn about automation of marketing processes is to take HubSpot’s Inbound Certification program. It takes about 6 hours but really showcases how to generate leads using inbound marketing practices.
In addition, you’ll want to connect to an automated transactional e-mail service such as Mandrill or Klaviyo. Through one of these platforms, you will be able to send potential customers emails about their abandoned shopping carts, or other shopping behaviors. This is huge for customer retention, as people who have abandoned their carts are significantly more likely to complete a purchase if they receive a follow up email.
“A combination of automating Marketing, Analytics, and Operations can lead to a significant increase of beach time and money in the bank as you scale your e-commerce operations.”
While not always personal, automating your customer service needs can make sure a customer’s question is answered quickly through live chat and canned email responses.
HappyFox’s software will help organize emails from your customers so your customer service team can answer them quickly and efficiently. An email ticketing system will ensure that your staff doesn’t become overwhelmed. ZenDesk is another great tool for customer concerns, and Zopim for chat is also a great tool to integrate into your site.
Automated workflows will also allow you and your employees to move through certain crucial tasks quicker, like approving refunds. After an interaction with customer service, many of these platforms have options to collect data from, which can then be converted into leads and customers.
When automating your customer service, be careful to not rely on the software fully, as the personal elements of customer service still have value to consumers. Lastly, have scripts ready for all customer service representatives so that they can answer customer service requests at the drop of a hat.
If you are employing people to assist you with your online store, there are tools to automate the payroll process and make sure it is correct and on time, every time. A popular platform is Gusto, which will also allow you to set up benefits and workers comp.
In the same vein as payroll, platforms such Bench.co allow you to automate your accounting needs, instead of employing a bookkeeper. This specific platform offers bank grade security, which is an important element to look for when choosing to automate certain sensitive elements of your business.
Automation of software and processes is a viable way to keep your business manageable while you scale, especially if resources are limited. Look to invest time and money in automation where possible, and you’ll gain more time to spend on optimization and growth of your brand. While the investment can end up being significant from a cost perspective, the time saving over the long haul can add up very quickly, and allow you to take that much deserved trip to the beach while things run like clockwork.