As a business owner, time is your most valuable resource. It can often seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, from building and maintaining your online store to managing social media accounts to fulfilling customer orders.
Although some aspects of running a successful ecommerce shop can (and should!) be handled directly by you—think product development and strategic growth—others aren’t necessarily worth your precious time.
Luckily, for the latter category, there are a variety of options to take these parts of running a business off your plate and save you time each day. Here are five parts of their business that ecommerce shop owners can automate.
5 Business Areas That Can Be Automated
1. Social Media
Monitoring and posting on multiple social media platforms for a growing ecommerce store can quickly become a full-time job. That’s what makes social media automation so valuable for business owners.
At its most basic, social media automation involves scheduling posts ahead of time to post at a specific time and date. For example, you can upload a week’s worth of Facebook posts to an automation platform, set them to post at your audience’s peak engagement time each day, then turn your attention to more pressing tasks.
There are a variety of tools that allow you to queue up posts across ecommerce platforms, including Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social. Some social media automation tools also streamline social listening by allowing you to monitor and aggregate posts from others containing certain keywords or your brand name.
Of course, some parts of social media require a personal touch; responding to and engaging with customers should be done by someone familiar with your brand and products. Robots need not apply.
2. Email Campaigns
If you’re not already using a marketing automation platform for your email campaigns, you’re missing out on a valuable tool to improve your prospect and customer communications.
Marketing automation platforms allow ecommerce stores to create and enter prospects and customers into email “journeys” that automatically send once certain triggers have been activated, such as submitting an order or signing up for a newsletter. These journeys can be personalized based on user data and behavior, such as location or past purchases.
These tools also allow you to create segmented email lists based on user information, easily engage with prospects and customers, and increase the efficiency of both demand-generation activities and current customer engagement. Different platforms offer different capabilities, but some examples of marketing automation tools include MailChimp, AutoPilot, and Marketo.
3. Customer Service
It may sound counterintuitive to automate customer service. After all, a personal touch is key to building and maintaining strong relationships with loyal customers. However, there are certain pieces of the customer service puzzle that can be streamlined via automation.
One way to take some of the customer service work off your plate is by adding a chatbot to your ecommerce site. Chatbots like Drift or Intercom automate communication with shoppers by responding with preset messaging. This can be a great way to collect shopper information and address frequently asked questions without needing a customer service representative online at all times. If you choose to use a chatbot, make sure you monitor the conversations often to keep track of any customer complaints or other unaddressed issues.
Some platforms like Gorgias allow you to automate additional aspects of your helpdesk, including automatic tagging, sorting, and assigning out of tickets based on topics or keywords. You can also set up rules for automatic, personalized responses for certain inquiries.
4. Inventory Management
Up to this point we’ve focused on different aspects of customer communication, but there are also behind-the-scenes operations that you can streamline through automation. One example is inventory management—the activities involved in monitoring stock for your online store. These include ordering and restocking inventory, storing inventory, adjusting frequency and order quantity, and inventory forecasting.
This can often be a tedious, time-consuming task for business owners, but it’s also an important one: Accurate inventory management helps prevent stockouts, saves money on storage, and gives insight into trends in customer behavior.
To automate parts of this process, consider integrating with inventory management software like TradeGecko. Inventory management software helps automate inventory tracking by syncing orders and inventory in real-time. Some software also allows you to set automatic inventory reorder notifications that will alert you to when it is time to restock a specific product.
It’s worth noting that if you work with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, inventory management may be included as part of their order fulfillment software.
5. Order Fulfillment
Shipping is both one of the most important and most time-consuming parts of running an ecommerce business. Many retailers partner with a third-party logistics provider to outsource and automate time-consuming fulfillment tasks that can be too unproductive, costly, or complex to manage in-house.
If you choose to work with a 3PL for order fulfillment, make sure to choose one whose software already integrates with your ecommerce platform. This can help you manage the entire order fulfillment process more efficiently.
For example, as soon as an order is placed on your online store, it will automatically be pushed to the 3PL’s fulfillment team to be picked, packed, and shipped—no manual upload necessary. Similarly, some order fulfillment software allows you to automatically share order tracking information with your customer, creating transparent communication without you needing to keep an eye on every order in the system.
Bottom Line on Automating Parts of Your Business
Running an online store can be fast-paced and oftentimes overwhelming. Ecommerce store owners need to leverage technology and services that streamline time-consuming tasks and simplifies their workload. By automating different processes, you can win back time to focus on high-value tasks to grow and scale your business.