3 Ways to Use Automation in Your Ecommerce Business

3 Ways to Use Automation in Your Ecommerce Business Tips for leveraging technology to reduce busywork, improve productivity, and save money for your business.

When it comes to ecommerce, automation is a solution to many time-consuming tasks that overfill the typical day of an online seller. From a logistical point of view, automation literally moves data from one business system to another. It eliminates the need for manual data entry and saves you time and money to focus on what you do best—selling. But examined from a broader perspective, the benefits of automation can be total game-changers for an online business. For example, automation can help you increase profits and create a marked competitive advantage. There are plenty of companies that provide software for all aspects of your business—your front office sales and marketing and your back-office operations. In this post, we focus on the back-office, specifically operations and accounting.

  1. Automate order processing. Most successful ecommerce sellers use multiple systems across their business and sell from multiple places—at the very least, on a custom website platform like Shopify or Magento and on a marketplace like eBay or Amazon. This can create operational havoc as data flows through their inventory, shipping, and accounting systems. To get this under control, you want to automate all processing by sending a single, accurate set of order data from inception to the bank account. With automation, you can do all of this with no manual data entry and exactly zero errors. When there are no errors introduced during order processing, correct sales tax is charged, the correct item is chosen, inventory is kept up-to-date across all sales channels, shipping labels are accurate, and tracking information is available immediately to share with the customer.Check out 3 Ways to Use Automation in Your #Ecommerce Business by @paragmamnani #sellmore #unify Click To Tweet

    With manual data entry, when any one of these basic tasks goes awry, the customer’s trust in the seller is lost, sometimes for good. Technology’s role in building consumer trust cannot be understated, according to KPMG’s global report The Truth About Online Consumers: “Regardless of how many attributes a company has that will earn the trust of their customers, not having the right systems in place to protect that trust can be catastrophical.”
  1. Automate tracking of revenue and expenses. As a multichannel seller, it’s easy to lose sight of the financial performance of your business and keep tabs on all the costs you’re incurring. When marketplaces like Amazon provide bi-weekly settlement reports or platforms like Magento create complicated spreadsheets of your transactions, sellers often find themselves down a rabbit hole of data. Unless you’re planning on getting a bachelor’s degree in data analytics, you’re better off using software that can help you bring data and insights from across all sales channels and systems into one place.

Simply put, automating the tracking of revenue and expenses is key for online sellers who want to know their profit and grow their business. Sound like all sellers? Unless you promptly account for both the money coming in and the money going out—in payment processor fees, marketplaces fees, warehouse fees, fulfillment expenses, and shipping costs—of your business, you’re flying blind. In fact, operating without real-time visibility into operational expenses ensures the financial growth of your business will be stunted, and puts your business at a high risk of failure.

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Sensible Is the New Sexy

Sensiblel is the new sexyWhy sellers should commit to back-end operations before pursuing just another pretty piece of SaaS

At the risk of over-simplifying the ecommerce industry, most of its software falls into one of two categories — sexy and unsexy. Inevitably, the more seductive side of selling entices business owners to buy tools they must have to attract customers, such as beautiful websites, video tools, artificial intelligence, marketing automation, and the like. Because owners think they need customer-facing tools in order to sell online—and because they’re more fun to use—they put tremendous business resources toward these shiny objects.Why #online #sellers should commit to back-end ops before pursuing another pretty piece of #SaaS… Click To Tweet

The truth is, sellers who first invest in the software that does the heavy lifting around data and order management are far more likely to survive their first year. Because the less showy, “boring” side of the business is what sellers actually use to run the company, without it, they are sure to fail. Among dozens of other tasks, this is the software that allows them to

  • automatically post and sync sales data to accounting, inventory, and shipping
  • easily track expenses, fees, and costs to calculate profits
  • process returns and exchanges
  • transfer payment from their customers to their bank account
  • manufacture or source their products
  • ship products, track inventory, see what’s in and out of stock
  • calculate, validate, and collect sales tax

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Foolproof Hacks for Small Marketing Teams, Part 2

Foolproof Hacks for Small Marketing Teams, Part 25 Advanced solutions for managers who want to take it up a notch

Aside from working an unsustainable 70-hour work week and hiring expensive contractors, there are few additional—somewhat more complex—things managers can do to get the work done, run an efficient department, and foster a sane work environment for all.

  1. Implement a marketing technology stack. To make you all more efficient, accept that you’ll need to leverage the appropriate tools. Sometimes companies make the mistake of waiting too long to implement tools that, in the long run, would save time, help with lead acquisition, increase conversion rates, and provide a better understanding of your different programs. As soon as you can, start implementing modern marketing solutions such as automation tools, collaboration software, and customer relationship management. First you’ll need to figure out what tools are right for you, but the sooner you can start implementing some of that infrastructure, the easier your life will be in the long run.When you take over a small team, look at the historical efficacy of the technology tools that are already in place. Because product improvements and features change quickly, take time to evaluate each tool’s cost and how it’s being used. Take a look at how you can improve their efficacy or get rid of them altogether and find something more useful for the same cost or less.And don’t be afraid to plan for a miracle. In my experience, whenever there’s extra budget at the end of a fiscal year, you have about five minutes to decide what to do with it, otherwise, it’s gone. To prevent impulsive decisions based on panic, keep a prioritized wish list of solutions you would implement if you had the budget such as bringing in a contractor to handle PR, automating workflows, utilizing an A/B testing program, or outsourcing a big web development project. Have a business case about what each of these would cost and help you accomplish so you’re list is realistic and your recommendation is taken seriously.
  1. Develop regular maintenance processes so you can do ad hoc projects without upsetting the apple cart. Maintenance is not the most job in the world, but there will always be basic things that you need to cross off the proverbial list every day or week. The more you can turn those tasks into processed, automatic to-dos, the more time you’ll have for moments of creativity, strategic planning, crisis management, or inevitable ad hoc projects. When your goals and plans are in place and your workflows are predictable, introducing process can help you find some much needed breathing space in your schedule.  
  1. Test, test, A/B/C/D/E test. Be proactive by creating a regular practice of A/B testing. Test everything from messages, images, concepts, forms, etc. This will help you more easily introduce innovation and problem solving to a small team. When you’re a small team, sometimes you’re just trying to get through the day and innovation falls by the wayside. A/B testing your messaging on a regular basis will help you become more proactive versus reactive. It’ll help you get to a message that resonates with your audience faster, and it will actually make your team look larger than it really is.A/B testing can be pretty simple. Whether it’s comparing the subject line of an email that’s going out or the titles of webinars or articles, there are several cost-effective, easy ways to test. In the long run, if you can hone your message and learn what really works for which audiences, you’ll save your team bucketloads of time and money.
  1. Measure. Decide what you want to measure, why and how you will use the information to improve on programs. This can be a bit more complicated than it sounds. Oftentimes, folks want look at the number of leads I brought in. But if the leads themselves aren’t going to sales until they’re sales-qualified leads, then is that metric really helping? Are you looking at the conversion rate versus the number? Do you care if they’re MQL and then SQL? Clearly there are many different ways to measure.First figure out what number is going to help you prove the impact that your marketing programs are having. Then collaborate with the sales and executive management teams to understand what they’re looking at and for. And if you can handle being brutally honest, figure out what measurement is going to justify your existence and budget as a marketing team.
  1. Put your measurements into action. Once you come up with reports, frequencies, and levels of detail that make sense to put everyone on the same page. The goal is to understand the impact your programs are having so that they can be modified, left alone, or enhanced with more budget.It’s a pretty common scenario—marketing managers think their reports are just phenomenal (and they are), but then they don’t do anything with that information. I recommend using those measurements to help you define and inform your next set of programs, or determine the next partnership that you’re going pursue, or guide your next messaging campaign. Use your measurements to leverage resources to then continue planning. When you look at the measurements and are able to start incorporating some of the findings into your future programs, you should start seeing impact on a monthly basis.

How do you know if these advanced hacks are working for you? From an external standpoint, when your brand or company is perceived as larger than it is, you’ll know you’ve done a phenomenal job. And when your partners and customers assume that your business is more established and experienced than it is, you’ll know you’re on the right track.  

Foolproof Hacks for Small Marketing Teams, Part 1

Foolproof Hacks for Small Marketing Teams, Part 15 Simple solutions for managers who haven’t got time for the pain

At the risk of stating the obvious, when retailers first launch, they’re usually not able to expand their marketing team at the rate that they might like. In the meantime, they assess their team and resources and try to figure out how to fill the gaps. I’ve worked with marketing teams as large as 50 and as small as two, and have learned that running a department efficiently comes down to a simple set of best practices.

  1. Be transparent. Create a list of both short-term and long-term goals and share them frequently with your department, sales team, and executive management. Set the parameters of the terms and make sure your goals are in alignment with the company and all relevant departments. This sets both individual and company-wide expectations, gets everyone on the same page, and confirms that your group is moving in the right direction.In setting goals it’s important to know your perspective relative to the size of your company, whether you’re just one person or a team of five or 10. Seeing your team in this context will help you prioritize, keep a realistic balance of tasks that are both easily achievable and professionally challenging, and adjust the lists as tasks are completed, lagging behind schedule, or no longer feasible. This ensures that everyone stays busy but no one becomes overwhelmed, and if a team member does become overwhelmed, you’ll have the freedom and visibility to adjust resources and goals accordingly. Maintain a “no surprises” policy by keeping open and friendly dialogue about team and individual goals at your regular meetings.Foolproof Hacks for Small #Marketing Teams: 5 Simple solutions for managers who haven’t got time for… Click To Tweet Continue reading

The Marketing Mind Meld: Millennials Meet, Boomers

The Marketing Mind Meld: Millennials Meet, BoomersIn a galaxy where the skills of our youngest and oldest generations peacefully co-exist, modern marketing will go where no man has gone before.

We’re at a very interesting crossroads in marketing—there are many Millennials  (hereinafter referred to as red shirts. Just kidding, we’ll call them Ensigns) coming into the profession but there are still plenty of Generation Xers and Baby Boomers (hereinafter referred to as Admirals) who are still working. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough finger pointing about the contrasting styles of each generation. Endlessly debating about our differences gets us nowhere, and considering the pace at which we all must move today, there’s simply no time to waste. Instead, I’d rather explore the anomaly in the space-time continuum that occurs when we fuse the best marketing tools of the youngest working generation with those of the oldest. By melding all of our most efficient tools together and letting go of practices that don’t work, we can achieve a perfect age-blind blend, bringing forth a super-generation of successful marketers. So let’s explore this strange new world together, shall we?

Plan like an Admiral
If my 25-plus years in marketing (in case you were wondering which camp I fall into) has taught me one thing, it’s that Admirals know how to plan go-to-market strategies. In fact, it’s one of their strongest characteristics. Planning and goal-setting creates a sense of purpose and urgency that otherwise just going with your gut never will. Of course, an important part of planning is having a firm understanding of the metrics that are available to you, whether those come from Google Adwords, website traffic, number of leads, or conversion. Without having those metrics planning is fruitless, and without understanding those metrics, you’re shouting into the wind.Marketing Mind Meld: Fuse the best tools of Boomers with Millennials and win a galaxy of customers.… Click To Tweet

Step up to the tech
As adept at planning as Admirals are, they’re equally ineffective when it comes to understanding and embracing today’s social media platforms and technology. In fact, I often run into marketing professionals of my generation who say, “I don’t even have a Twitter account. I don’t need that.” Free social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram are the exact tools that enable all marketers to maximize their planned promotions, increase lead channels, and reach bigger audiences. To discount them as unnecessary is irresponsible marketing.

And when it comes to technology, there’s plenty more to choose from in the areas of marketing automation, artificial intelligence, predictive programs, targeting, segmentation, and personalization. No matter your age, if you’re not leveraging technology in your marketing plan, you’re leaving leads behind. Continue reading