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Retail online business automation is one of the main requirements for running a successful web store. Increasing sales, attracting new customers, and working with regular clients are just a few business processes that need automated management.
Progress in online retail is impossible without applying special ecommerce automation tools and software. In our article, we discover what problems ecommerce automation can solve, what tools are necessary for this and how to avoid mistakes.
Despite the rapid technological growth, there are still online stores whose managers, before answering the client about the availability of any product, are forced to open an Excel spreadsheet every time.
When talking with the next buyer, the manager cannot see all the previous orders and doesn’t know what to offer as an additional product.
Having completed the transaction, the web store administrator is forced to spend time filling out documents in a text editor: invoices, sales contracts, bills, etc.
Perhaps, it is impossible to do without manual work when you are just launching an online store, when all processes are just being established, for example, interaction with supplier companies. During this period, there are still few customers and the direct ecommerce business owner can also be engaged in service.
When sales start to rise, due to the constant checking of the availability of goods, the increasing number of small questions, and problems with deliveries, the workflow becomes almost unmanageable. In addition, it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of a store’s advertising campaign; there is no way to analyze which type of advertising works best.
You need to take it to the next level with ecommerce marketing automation if you are facing issues such as:
An automated ecommerce website will eliminate the negative points mentioned above and lead to a more efficient business organization due to:
A well-thought-out workflow organization helps to identify errors and shortcomings of a particular seller, which means that automation can be considered the only way to achieve a reduction in such a negative indicator as the human factor.
Any modern ecommerce website is built based on a specialized content management system (CMS). The basic packages of many programs can be used for free – only the provision of additional features and customizations requires investments. Therefore, choose a CMS, set it up, arrange goods on virtual “shelves” – and you can receive visitors.
Consider the most famous ecommerce platforms:
This free WordPress plugin contains all the tools that allow you to quickly and easily launch an online store with any product: the catalogue can search and configure filters, and integrate with various payment systems, discounts, resource promotion mechanisms, and various templates for catalogue design. If desired, paid or free components can be added to the basic version.
This free CMS contains a set of basic functions, which even can collect detailed statistics. The program is equipped with a convenient administrative panel, suitable for beginners and experienced users. Also, to expand the possibilities of OpenCart related to payment, delivery, pricing, statistics, etc., the presence of more than nine thousand widgets and design templates allows.
With this platform, you can create and develop medium and large online stores. The resource has basic and extended paid versions. The functionality provides business management, and any kind of customization is available. Magento is equipped with a built-in page builder, options for the store’s SEO optimization, as well as a system that controls administrator access to different levels of the program.
Below we will consider the ecommerce website processes that need automation.
Automation in this area will significantly reduce time and labour costs. You no longer have to, as before, open many sites searching for the necessary information, study and draw up product cards manually – this time-consuming work can be shifted to an ecommerce automation software that will collect information and update prices.
The stability of any business depends on the correct document management. Each operation of the store is accompanied by the execution of relevant papers: invoices, receipts, or agreements. It makes no sense to waste your time on this work when special sales automation software has been developed for it. However, if it becomes necessary to design an internal document that differs from templates, such work is done only manually. And if you need to create a lot of such documents, then automation should be postponed for now.
Integration with the general automation system helps to control the turnover of goods in the online store. In this case, the sales automation tool will record in one place all orders received through different communication channels (website, telephone, e-mail). Simply put, connecting an online store automation system will allow you to create a single database that collects data on the status and movement of the order, the method of delivery of goods to the client, shipment, stock balances, the person responsible for specific orders, etc.
Owners of small companies can deal with cash settlements without the use of automation. But it is more reliable to control the finances of large companies with the help of special software: this will help to avoid calculation errors.
Interaction with customers is not always properly organized in online stores. Sometimes it all comes down to communication within a single sale. Automating the work of an online store will help build a system of long-term relationships with the clients, transferring them from the category of one-time buyers to regular ones. The functionality of the program includes sending SMS messages, using a bot to call a client, and collecting feedback from customers.
If you have a small assortment in your web store, you can resolve this task manually, but large ecommerce businesses need to connect a program that automatically uploads price lists and updates prices. This way you can avoid a lot of mistakes.
Almost all large stores are equipped with inventory control systems that see a barcode. Companies that were previously presented only in a live format and used an offline warehouse accounting system can automate it after creating an online resource. If a trading company operates only in an online format, then the organization of the accounting system must be dealt with from the very beginning. Then it will be possible to control all processes and the movement of goods.
If the assortment includes thousands of items with different products, manually calculating the cost will take a very long time. It is much more efficient to use special programs that do this quickly, taking into account the specified margin and other parameters. When setting up an automatic program that generates invoices from an online store, you can create a template with a logo, insert a digital signature, enable the functions of sending invoices in a certain period, generate documents, etc.
Today, employees are often transferred to a remote mode of work. In addition, the company can be large, consisting of branches and divisions located far from the main office, and using an automatic system, it is convenient for the manager to control the implementation of tasks and deadlines, pointing out shortcomings.
Sometimes the chain of trade relations is built in such a way that the online store does not need to maintain its warehouse. When an order is received, the manager negotiates with the supplier to send the goods from them directly to the client. This format has many advantages, but consistency in obtaining information about stock balances is necessary. Automation can streamline this process.
Automation of an online store must be carried out according to a clear plan. We suggest including the following items:
Stage 1. Goal setting
Having precisely set goals, it is much easier to solve any problems. You can use any existing goal-setting method – choose the one that is closer to you.
It is important to understand that having a goal allows you to specify the result. For example, the goal of automating the warehouse of an online store and sales is necessary to increase the company’s profits.
Stage 2. Allocation of resources
To perform any work, it is necessary to determine the resources. Therefore, you’ll have to:
Stage 3. Formation of the team
One of the most difficult tasks is to select competent specialists for the team. Here are the following options:
You assemble a team of specialists from your company. Do it personally or entrust the recruitment of employees to the head of the relevant department. It is also necessary to assign a person responsible for project management.
When inviting a third-party consultant to provide ecommerce development services, it is necessary to discuss the terms of cooperation and describe duties and responsibilities. For example, a consultant will help to select a sales automation CRM system and train sales consultants, but the implementation and adjustment of the service falls on the shoulders of the company itself.
When using the third option, you get turnkey automation. There are many specialized agencies, IT generators, ecommerce developers, and consulting companies on the market that are ready to develop and implement an online store automation system.
When choosing a contractor, you must take into account the needs of your company, cost and timing. Make sure the agency is qualified to do the job. Check their previous cases, bearing in mind that they may not always guarantee the quality and proper treatment of your project.
Stage 4. Description of business processes
Before automating an online store, you will have to put things in order in documents, arrange, structure, and audit. If the business is in chaos, then you need to deal with it first.
The primary task is to analyze business processes, describe everything step by step, and collect information. Use the following instruction:
Stage 5. Selection of tools
To get a completely automated sales process, it is important to choose the most optimal automation tools suitable for your business to solve the problem of automation and increase profits without overpaying.
The following methods of work are most often used through the automation of email newsletters:
Stage 6. Plan implementation
At this stage, the direct introduction of automation into your business takes place.
If you decide to do the work on your own, then you need to appoint a responsible person. This task is entrusted to the head of the sales department, the leading manager, or the entire responsibility lies with the director of the company.
The specialists involved in the project should not act in isolation – they need a constant exchange of information. After the launch of the automatic system, most likely, it will take some more time to refine and optimize all processes.
Stage 7. Optimization of results
At the final stage of automating the online store, we proceed to optimize the system. If after the implementation you do not like the results, then you need to improve.
Don’t panic if you’re not happy after automation. Deficiencies need to be identified and corrected. What errors occur when connecting the system:
Be careful and consider these errors in your work.
The result of automation should be the elimination of routine operations and an increase in business profitability. In addition, it is important to train employees to work in new conditions, to redistribute competencies.
Automating business processes is not easy, but it is a requirement of time, on which the efficiency of your work depends.
For example, you own a small online store with only 20-30 items of goods and get only a couple of orders every day. Perhaps, in this case, an Excel spreadsheet is enough for you to do bookkeeping since this system was perfectly mastered by you back in your school years. At the initial stage, it is simply unprofitable to invest in automation.
As the business grows, it will become more difficult to work in such a program, and errors and inaccuracies may appear. You should also have control over the turnover and accounts from different computers and even from home.
You can solve the problem by connecting special accounting programs.
In most cases, online stores operate without their warehouse, supplying goods directly from supplier companies. Managers receive data on product balances from partners every day or as agreed. You can use Excel spreadsheets for that.
As the business develops, the number of suppliers increases, which negatively affects the efficiency and reliability of the information.
The problem is eliminated when connecting a CRM that controls price updates from the Excel spreadsheets.
Without setting up automatic notifications about the status of an order, managers have to spend their own and other people’s time talking with customers by phone, which is extremely inconvenient.
Well, if you need to inform the buyer about an additional discount on a product: such a call will only please. But distracting people for any reason with text messages and conversations is inconvenient, and it is also burdensome for employees.
You can reduce the number of calls to customers by connecting the SMS mailing service and emails with notifications of the delivery time.
To place an order, customers can:
If the company also has a brick-and-mortar store, then accounting systems are likely to be maintained separately. Therefore, there is no information about previously made purchases, which makes upselling difficult.
The second problem is the execution by the manager of the order in the form on the website of the online store directly during the conversation with the visitor. This happens quite often because this approach is convenient for the seller and the client, but it complicates the analytics (it is not known who created the request).
But the connection for employees of the CRM, integrated with the ecommerce software, will eliminate the problem.
How do such errors appear?
First, the online store uses an analytics program that does not provide detailed information about orders.
To solve the problem, they combine the data of the CRM of the online store and the online cash register, connecting the latter with the help of a payment generator.
Secondly, data is collected, but not used to optimize work, referring to the fact that this is not so important for a small business.
But experienced marketers recommend analyzing the activities of a web store from the very beginning. Don’t you want to understand why, for example, customers place an order, but do not pay for the goods? The collected indicators help to study the target audience, and better customize contextual advertising, email newsletters and other advertising tools.
Sales process automation is a necessity for every ecommerce business wishing to develop and grow. It is a long and difficult process, but the results are worth the effort.
On the way to complete sales automation, you may need a reliable ecommerce software development partner. With all the experience, NEKLO can become such a partner for you. Just contact us through the form on our website – and together will build a custom solution tailored to the needs of your exact business.