Automation Tools for Scaling an E-commerce Business
During the early days of your e-commerce business life, it’s hard to keep anything other than survival in mind. After all, close to 90% of online stores fail within their first four months.
As your marketing starts picking up traction, you build a loyal customer base, and your sales volume gathers pace, it’ll become necessary to start thinking about more than just staying afloat. Ensuring your business practices are scalable should be one of your first goals, especially if you’re seeing rapid growth.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how you can automate business functions that are often major culprits in sucking up time and keeping your business maintaining its growth rate.
Workflow Automation Tools
I’m mentioning this business area first because it’s arguably the most frequently overlooked. When thinking about improving their businesses, e-commerce founders often think “outwardly” – they focus on how they can automate interactions with suppliers and customers.
When automating workflows, you’re looking at your business critically and thinking of ways to make internal processes more efficient. There are many ways you can address this, and fortunately, there are also many tools to help you do it.
File sharing and digital asset management tools allow your team to work together on files without the hassle of manually managing ownership, versioning, and approval processes.
- Google Drive and its G Suite offer more than enough functionality for a small business to manage their workflows effectively.
- Dropbox is arguably the industry leader in this space, and it is definitely worth considering.
- Other specialized tools for larger teams who need more advanced functionality are also worth a look, and they often justify their extra cost.
Project and productivity management software allows businesses to get the most out of their staff’s time. This is becoming increasingly important as teams get more global and remote.
- Asana and Trello are probably the most commonly used in this space.
- There are some excellent, highly affordable alternatives, like ProofHub and Airtable.
- Other tools in this category allow managers to get quite granular when building information on their team members’ activity. TimeTackle offers a number of features that allow detailed reporting on what’s taking up staff’s time.
Real-Time Customer Service Automation Tools
While a high-touch customer service approach is sometimes ideal (nothing beats interacting with a human representative when you have questions about a specific product), it’s not the most scalable approach.
A real-time chat feature is becoming ubiquitous on e-commerce sites, with good reason. Potential customers may have questions they want to be answered before committing to a purchase, and they don’t want to go searching for an answer.
Unfortunately, the number of queries your staff will have to field as your online store grows may make this an unsustainable practice.
Having a live chat feature available on your e-commerce site can dramatically increase conversions. But, as I mentioned before, staffing this feature with an always-available human being isn’t always possible. Enter the chatbot.
These guys have come a long way since their first introduction into the customer service arena. Advancement in machine learning has meant that chatbots are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their interpretation of a customer’s queries and the responses they can deliver.
Beyond delivering intelligent responses, chatbots are also able to integrate with your CRM, meaning that you can create information about the person the bot is interacting with. This is information that can help you nurture and convert the lead as they move down your sales funnel.
Currently, Intercom is leading the way in terms of chatbot functionality. A number of great e-commerce-specific alternatives, like Chatfuel, are also available.
Hyper-Intelligent Amazon Repricing
If you’re selling on Amazon, you’ll know the importance of keeping your prices competitive. The world’s leading e-commerce platform offers its retailers a massive reward if their prices are consistently at the lower end of the spectrum: the Buy Box.
To Amazon, it doesn’t matter which of their sellers makes the conversion. They want to see transactions. They want to see low prices. Amazon is incredibly invested in creating a cutthroat retail environment because it means more sales.
Amazon retailers who take this seriously often make use of repricing tactics to stay competitive. Repricing involves comparing your products to direct competitors and lowering your price to a point where it’s the cheapest on the platform but not destructive to your product margins.
Years ago, this was mostly a manual activity, but automatic repricing tools are quickly becoming one of the best ways to scale back the massive research and admin effort this represents.
If you’re selling on Amazon and you’re still repricing manually, you’ll be facing an administrative nightmare when your inventory of products starts expanding. Check out what’s on offer in the world of intelligent repricing tools and switch over to an automated solution as soon as possible.
Many repricing software solutions offer an impressive level of sophistication and configuration to ensure maximum competitiveness with as little impact on the bottom-line as possible.
Offer Your B2B Customers a Unique Experience
If you sell to consumers as well as businesses, you’ll be well aware that these two have very different needs. Business customers are often retailers themselves and don’t need to be sold on a particular product in the same way that a consumer does.
The two customer types need two different user experiences, and some inventory management tools automatically create them. A B2B sales portal doesn’t need the bells and whistles that a consumer-facing store offers.
Business customers are more interested in a “showroom” interface that offers easy ordering and payment. Certain VIP B2B customers may even want a store that’s specifically been designed and “stocked” for them.
What you, as the store owner, want is a tool that minimizes the administrative effort in managing the various stores’ front-ends. When looking for inventory management software, keep this in mind. Many of these tools offer automatic B2B portal creation functionality that massively reduces the overhead of creating and maintaining more than one storefront.
Some Final Thoughts
There’s a reason you’re reading an article on scalability. Maybe you’ve heard about the concept and you’re interested in planning ahead. Or maybe your online store is showing signs of growth and you need to accommodate it.
Either way, automating your core business processes is one of the most important ways to create space for growth with minimal effort. This is the fundamental principle behind scalability – seeing your efforts yield disproportionate rewards.
Take these tips into consideration, but don’t stop there. There are countless products that help achieve greater e-commerce scalability. Acknowledge the need for research and bravely implement what’s necessary.