Most growing eCommerce businesses face growing pains. With more orders coming in, your manual processes can start to break such as shipping products on time, keeping inventory levels accurate online, and processing financial data. While growing pains can be a good problem to have, they can plague your customer experience if left unchecked.
During this growth period, some merchants find they’re spending more and more time in customer service, fixing their own mistakes. They try to dedicate people to push and monitor data between their systems, but would rather them spend their time on more important tasks.
If these scenarios sound familiar, then it’s probably time for you to consider integrating your online business and automating these critical processes like order fulfillment, inventory synchronization and finances. Read more about the benefits of eCommerce automation.
What is eCommerce Automation?
Merchants usually use many different apps and software technologies to run their business. You’ve got your eCommerce platform, marketplace accounts, shipping apps, returns apps, ERP systems, order management systems and more. While today’s eCommerce platforms are powerful, they don’t run every aspect of your business so you look for other technologies to fill the gaps or manage other areas of your business.
The problem is that the more apps you use, the more order, customer, inventory, item, and shipping data you need to flow between those systems. Many processes must happen between the time a person places an order on your site and the package shows up on their doorstep. That orders passes through a lot of hands and systems to ensure it’s recorded, processed, and shipped.
Without automation, merchants rely on human beings to enter and re-enter that same order data between multiple systems. When you start manually entering data for hundreds to thousands of orders, you can see how it starts to bog down your processes.
eCommerce automation helps integrate your people, processes and systems so you don’t have to rely on manual data entry. For example, as soon as an order is placed online, the order will sync to an ERP where it’s processed, and then shipping/tracking info is passed back to the eCommerce platform. It can cut down order fulfillment from a couple of minutes to mere seconds.
The benefit of automation between your systems that run your eCommerce business include eliminating manual data entry, increasing data accuracy, and increasing process efficiency. eCommerce automation solutions range from affordable apps to full-blown integration solutions that handle complex business processes like supplier integration.
Regardless of what solution you need, the first step is identifying if you’re ready to automate your business.
Telltale Signs You’re Ready to Automate
Look at the following telltale signs that you’re ready to automate parts of your online business. How many of these do you experience on a daily or weekly basis?
Overselling, Stockouts, Cancelled Orders
As you grow, one of the hardest things to keep in check is your inventory management. Do you know how many items you have available and how many you sold? Are your inventory levels accurate online for customers?
When mismanaged, merchants often deal with overselling and constant stockouts. Nothing frustrates a customer quicker than when they find out after checkout that their item is either sold out or backordered. If you’re selling on marketplaces like Amazon, overselling is a quick way to get booted off the platform for good.
Keeping accurate inventory levels is key to customer satisfaction online, especially during peak times like the holidays and flash sales.
Employees Dedicated to Manual Data Entry
When your online business is first starting out, it usually works to have a staff member or two handle hand-keying order, inventory, or financial data between your eCommerce platform and order management system like an ERP. As you grow, however, manual data entry can quickly consume an employee’s entire time. Do you have staff members spending hours, even overtime, manually entering data?
Some merchants estimate that manual data entry was costing them tens of thousands of dollars in annual staff time!
Order Delivery Delays and Issues
Without automation, increasing order volumes can routinely result in delays of business processes. You might notice that you’re shipping more orders out later than promised and having to apologize to customers. Are you pushing back promised delivery dates further than your competitors?
Also, you could be seeing an uptick in customers contacting you because they received the wrong item or their order never showed up on their doorstep. When you trace back these issues, you’ll realize that manual data entry is prone to mistakes like fudging a shipping address or item number. While these mistakes are honest, they can take a toil on your customer experience.
Inconsistent Product Information
Product information can make or break a sale online. It’s crucial for customers to be able to evaluate an item by descriptions, reviews, and images. It ensures they’re buying the right item.
On the other end though, product information is one of the harder tasks for merchants to manage. You have to keep information clean, consistent, and be able to push it to your website in a timely manner.
It can take merchants days, even weeks, to manage and upload large product catalog updates to their online storefronts. Product information management is a common headache for growing merchants.
What to Do Next
Overall, these are a few of the bigger, more time-consuming tasks that can benefit from automation in an eCommerce business. In reality, there are endless possibilities for automation for small to large tasks, like tagging customer segments based on purchases to automating order processing from your eCommerce platform to your ERP.
The important thing to think about is how you’re spending your time. Are you spending more on manual tasks and business processes or on improving your site and customer experience?
When you get a new influx of orders, do you dread it because you aren’t sure how to handle it or are you excited for the new business?
If you think you’re ready to explore eCommerce automation solutions among your eCommerce platforms and backend systems like an ERP, 3PL or POS, check out the following articles:
- How to Choose an eCommerce Integration Solution
- Evaluating Risks When Integrating Your Retail Business Systems
nChannel empowers retailers, wholesalers and technologists with integration tools to sync data and automate processes between their eCommerce, ERP, POS and 3PL systems.