Ecommerce is a force to be reckoned with. This is evident from the fact that the most valuable company in the world – Amazon – is an ecommerce company. Amazon is an absolute juggernaut when it comes to sales, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any thriving small ecommerce businesses. In fact, there are thousands of small ecommerce stores opening each day. Thanks to the ease of use and affordability of the best ecommerce platform such as Shopify, it is entirely possible to launch your online business within a matter of days.
However, where most of these businesses struggle is when it comes time to scale. Scaling an ecommerce business is much more complex than scaling a brick-and-mortar. It depends on a mix of traffic, digital marketing and advertising. Behind the scenes of the business there are countless operations and processes at play. Scaling up usually means shifting a larger volume of goods for the same time period. This requires more time and resources. However, if a business’ expenses increase in proportion to its revenue growth, it cannot be really called a successful scaling strategy.
That is where ecommerce automation comes in. This is a strategy that can be used by virtually any ecommerce business to scale successfully while saving both time and resources. In this article, we’ll show you how it’s done.
Ecommerce Automation – What is it?
To put it simply, ecommerce automation is a set of processes and methodologies by which an ecommerce business is able to:
- Minimize redundancy by automating repetitive manual processes
- Streamline integration between different management systems
- Establish and automate clear lines of data transmission where it is time critical
- Simplify workflows
The above is just a sample of what a typical ecommerce automation strategy might involve. Remember, ecommerce automation isn’t a singular process. If you’re familiar with search engine optimization, then you must know that it covers a set of different techniques and processes that ultimately lead to better search engine rankings. In the same way, ecommerce automation comprises of processes that ultimately result in the business functioning better and scaling without any wasted expenditure.
To help you understand better the processes involved in this strategy, let’s look at the important components.
Analysis and Research Automation
Did you know product and competitor research can be done by simply using a computer and a few online tools. Gone are the days when you would have to conduct time-consuming and expensive surveys to gauge user opinion.
For example, you can use Google Trends – a free tool – to gauge user interest in a particular product. Google Trends will even tell you which time of the year the product comes ‘into season’. This way, you will know exactly when to stock items.
Other useful tools for research and analysis are keyword research tools such as Ahrefs, Moz and SEMrush. These will help you identify you top competitors, and will provide you with some useful high level data. Of course, a keen business sense is still required to understand this information.
At the heart of any ecommerce business is an online store. It’s where the business’ products are advertised and sold. The thing is, an online store needs a dedicated development team. Each day there will be need to be some adjustments made such as adding new products, editing existing product pages or simply backend optimizations.
However, modern ecommerce businesses simply do not need to deal with such complications. These days, there are affordable and easy to use hosted ecommerce platforms (such as Shopify and BigCommerce) which allow anyone to create and launch a professional online store. These platforms do not require a whole development team to run. Rather, they can be run by just a single resourceful person. No development experience is required to get the best use out of these.
Did you know that there tools available today that completely take care of package, storing and shipping your store’s products? These tools are part of what’s called the dropshipping business model. Essentially, you simply have to import a set of existing products into your online store. When a customer places an order, the order is automatically (or manually, if you prefer) forwarded to a fulfillment company.
The fulfillment company is responsible for procuring, packaging, storing and shipping products. When it gets your order, it will simply ship the desired products to the shipping address recorded in that order. This greatly simplifies the operations of any ecommerce business, allowing owners to focus on marketing and advertising.
How an Organization Benefits from Ecommerce Automation
If implemented wisely, ecommerce automation will always benefit any business as a whole. However, there a few specific personnel in the business who will benefit from it more than the other staff.
The operations manager and department will benefit from the automated workflows and processes created by ecommerce automation tools. There would be no longer a need to keep a constant eye on stock and inventory levels. Instead, the automation tools would automatically generate alerts or notifications when the stock falls below a pre-set threshold.
What’s more, automation tools can even be setup to automatically send procurement emails to suppliers when stocks start running low. These conveniences take off a lot of unnecessary burden from the operations department.
The marketing department and the operations department are usually not very interconnected. One is in charge of promoting and advertising products, while the other is in charge of making sure business operations are running smoothly and products are always in stock.
However, there are scenarios when timely communication between these departments is necessary. For example, if the marketing department is promoting an item that is in fact out of stock, it’s simply wasting money. With automation software, this will not be the case as an automated alert will be generated, advising the marketing team to halt all promotions for out of stock items.
The Future of Ecommerce
Ecommerce businesses that are looking to truly grow their revenue simply cannot avoid modern automation techniques. It saves time, money and makes an ecommerce organization vastly more efficient.
Every ecommerce business should try to incorporate automation as a key part of its overall strategy, right from the start. As it grows, this strategy can be evolved and thus there would be no sudden changes that disrupt the operations of the company.