The Holidays Are Coming – But Are You Ready and Will You Cope?
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year are nearly here, so are you fully prepared for the holidays? Perhaps not. What some online retailers don’t always realize is that there are actually two distinct areas of holiday season preparation, which both come together to ensure success at this very busy time of year.
The first area of preparation is the most obvious: preparing to attract more customers at a time of year when customers are in a position to spend. They are actively looking to spend with online retailers.
The second area of preparation is one that is most likely to be overlooked: preparing to cope with the increased demand on the business that naturally comes with more customers and increased sales.
The solution for successfully managing both of these areas of preparation? Automation.
Automation in business
Automation is taking over practically every industry, and while there have been some concerns about the impact that automation will have in the future (some are claiming that 800 million jobs around the world could be made obsolete by it), it appears that the benefits far outweigh potential negatives.
Business applications of automation eradicate some of the more challenging and frustrating obstacles standing in the way of success: time, money, and valuable human resources, for example, along with the possibility of human error, or even the potential for unintentional influence or discrimination. Automation is a way to drive sales, enhance customer support, and derive more value from employees.
Automation in eCommerce
The role of automation in ecommerce is a particularly hot topic right now. In fact, a number of online retailers have started to use automation to help them attract and win more business, especially at this very competitive time of year. While there are many ways in which automation can play a big part in customer acquisition during periods of great opportunity, there are two ways which really stand out:
1. Automatic Product Optimization
Software can be used to automatically tailor product information to match each sales channel’s individual data structures, meeting the needs of modern sellers who utilize multi channel selling to expand their reach. The aim is to ensure that product information is clear, visible, and accessible by customers across all channels that are used, without the need for time consuming human input.
2. Automatic Product Listing
This is a time of year when customers are looking for discounts. A great deal is the number one influencer for holiday shoppers, according to the Deloitte Holiday Retail Sales Consumer Survey 2018, beating high quality products and website design! If you’re thinking of reducing prices, software automatically pushes your updates across all channels for consistency; something customers look for.
But these ways of automating customer acquisition aren’t always enough around the holiday season. With increased sales comes the urgent need for improvements in both performance and efficiency.
Coping With Holiday Demand
As discussed, preparing to win customers during the holidays is one thing, but preparing to cope with the effects of winning more customers is quite another. If you’re actively trying to make more sales, but do not have the right processes in place to handle these sales, you stand the risk of causing significant damage to your brand’s reputation. Still selling an item that’s just sold out? As the Harvard Business Review says, ‘stock outs cause walkouts’; between 21% and 43% will choose a different retailer if their chosen item isn’t in stock, rather than waiting. And 86% won’t buy from a brand again if they experience poor customer service.
Are you up to the challenge? If not, here are 5 ways automation can help:
1. Inventory Management
Automation software takes the lag of inventory management, bridging the gap between actual stock levels, and the stock levels that customers see. It ensures customers have access to real time stock data, not only to help them in making a purchasing decision, but also to minimize the risk of disappointment.
2. Order Management
With multi channel selling comes multi channel order management… along with the frustrations that come with it. Automation software can be used to consolidate all orders, from all compatible channels, into a single entity viewed through a single interface; it allows you to manage your orders all at once.
Did you know that 84% of small businesses still rely exclusively on manual processes, with around three quarters using spreadsheets to track spending and invoicing? Automation software not only minimizes errors in invoicing but also makes the particularly tricky bits, like calculating tax, much more simple.
4. Shipping & Fulfillment
Automation software allows you to use the same picking list for all your channels, meaning just one trip around the warehouse rather than five! It also makes it easy to print all your shipping labels (for a variety of different carriers) at a single time, regardless of what channel each order has been made through.
As the statistics above show, being able to provide excellent customer service is essential to customer retention, but at this busy time of year an increase in inquiries can be hard to manage. Automation software provides a centralized messaging system, meaning you’ll never miss an important message.
Are You Ready to Automate?
What’s a little worrying is that North America seems to be lagging behind in terms of automation. A McKinsey research report shows that just 12% of American businesses are fully implementing automation solutions into the workplace; a figure that’s relatively low compared to the 17% in both Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and the 19% in developing markets. So what’s the reason?
Experts claim that American businesses are not ready for futuristic technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. But automation doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. Sometimes, the best automation solution is one that simply takes over the more mundane and predictable of tasks at busy times, leaving you with more time to focus on your core business.