Do you want to become a successful online retailer and increase your online sales? Then the article is just right for you. Without optimization and automation of your online sales and the use of modern technologies, business success in e-commerce is hardly possible.
Optimizing of online sales means automating or eliminating repetitive processes and sharing work differently. If your online store sends thousands of packages and you accept customer calls, you do not have enough time to fulfil more important duties as a managing director. Be brave enough to change your usual working process. Imagine an optimization goal and find the right resources and motivation to take the necessary steps to achieve the goal in word and deed.
Regardless of which products you sell, it is always about the following repetitive activities:
- Purchasing products
- Updating product information
- Setting prices
- Processing of orders and issuing of invoices
- Checking of incoming payments
- Packing of orders
- Shipping packages
- Adjusting of order status
- Processing of returns
- Cultivating customer relationships
- Bookkeeping / providing data to the tax consultant
Optimization and automation of online sales is unimaginable without more intensive use of the benefits of IT technologies. Thanks to IT, you can save a lot of time in almost every field of your activity.
1. Shop system
A right shop system is the heart of the business of every online retailer. There is enough choice on the market:
- open source shop systems - Magento, Shopware, OXID
- cloud-based e-commerce solutions - Shopify, Plentymarkets etc.
- other solutions
The main task of an online store should be to generate orders, and only that. Times when customers find your online store by themselves, are long gone, nowadays you have to invest a lot, not only in the development of the online store, but also in:
- Search Engine Optimization, Onpage and Offpage (SEO)
- Creation of a qualitative product description (also has to do with PIM)
- Content Marketing
- Online advertising (Facebook, Adwords, Instagram® etc.)
Not only the online store optimization for the users should be considered, you should also optimize all related processes. Make sure, that
- Product data can be updated quickly and without errors,
- Orders can be processed without losing time.
2. Multichannel / omnichannel
An online store alone will be not enough, there is far too much competition and the number of customers is limited. Therefore, you should develop and implement an effective multichannel or omnichannel strategy.
Offer your products through the following platforms to reach more customers:
- Google Shopping
- Selected price comparison portals
To be successful in multichannel / omnichannel e-commerce, you should:
- Prepare product information separately for each channel,
- Automatically publish and update your product data on any platform.
Automate these processes with the right tools - use a PIM-system, such as AtroPIM for maintaining product information and a listing tool for publishing your product data on any desired platform.
3. Payment Methods
Offer many payment methods, but not too many, because you must process the incoming payments quickly and reliably, so that the customers do not have to wait too long for orders.
What about credit cards, it is recommendable to choose the providers who do not charge too high fees and transfer the money to your account quickly enough and thus do not impair your liquidity.
4. Inventory Management / Warehouse Management (WMS, ERP)
Appropriate and timely procurement, fast and clean processing of orders - this is a big problem for many young online stores. If the online retailer is overwhelmed with these processes, he can not ignore the use of an ERP system. There is a wide range of solutions on the market that promise you everything possible and the choice is not so easy.
It is less important which system you choose, but it is important that the selected system can cover your business processes as fully as possible and save the working time (your and of your employees). A right WMS (or ERP system) for one may be a wrong IMS for another. Moreover, you will also need a connector between your shop system and your WMS (ERP-system) - it is important that the connector is available.
So, choose a WMS-system that can completely solve your current and future problems and tasks, and one, which price is acceptable. If you already use a IMS or ERP system, find the weak points and eliminate them successively.
5. Product Information Management (PIM)
A PIM software helps to create quality product descriptions by setting and implementing internal quality standards regarding to product descriptions and product attributes. These are especially important when it relates to the increase of conversion rates and sales, as customers buy products where they are better and more detailed described, and where they can find the needed products faster.
For multi-channel distribution, as mentioned above, a product information management system is also important.
Thanks to a PIM system, you can create product descriptions dependent on channels so that cross-channel your product descriptions are not same - thus you avoid the double content problem.
I recommend using an open-source PIM system because it can be quickly adapted to your needs and you will avoid high license costs. Another advantage is the compatibility, because you can also use the PIM system for other tasks. Worth mentioning are the following open source PIM solutions - AtroPIM, Akeneo and Pimcore. The first software is the most flexible as far as the data model is concerned. The others also have their own advantages.
Fast logistics is crucial today. Customers often order where they get the package the fastest, and the price is not always deciding. Organize the processes and cooperation with your shipping provider in such a way that the dispatch as well as the collection of the orders take place as fast as possible.
The management of returns can take a lot of time: generate returns, send to the customer, process returns, increase product inventory. Here you can also automate many things, and the shipping providers offer meanwhile their own solutions to help you.
The accounting and bookkeeping are necessary, but unfortunately they don’t increase sales. Organize your accounting processes so that you spend for it as little time as possible. It is up to you to decide whether you manage the accounting yourself or it is led directly by your tax consultant.
Nonetheless, the data exchange between the systems should be fully automatic. If it is not so and takes much time now, invest in an automation here too. If automation is not possible with the existing systems, you can replace your accounting program with another one, and it is much easier than replacing the shop system or ERP. Because in the end the annual accounting report will be prepared anyway by a tax consultant.
The external service providers can be involved not only in the payment processing and logistics. External help can and should be convened for all the areas of activity mentioned above, among other things for:
- Online store maintenance and support
- Online store optimization
- Online advertising
But keep in mind that the external service providers have to perform in the first place the tasks for the optimization and automation of your processes.
Is your workday effective enough? If not, you know exactly what to do, you just lack the right motivation. Here the art of being a good boss is needed to overcome itself and take unpopular measures or do unwanted tasks if it is needed. It is the role of the managing director to ensure the implementation of the measures that are necessary for optimizing and automating the processes in your online store. Always concentrate thereby on the 3 worst problems and solve them. Then choose the next 3 and so on ...
Many online stores are quickly overtaxed by the influx of new clients - describing and cataloging products, processing orders, collecting returns, sending replacement goods, sending newsletters, checking payments, etc. Chaos breaks out. In principle, all online store activities can be optimized. Ready-made IT solutions exist for everything yet. Some solutions only cover subfields, the others represent a complex system that covers all aspects of online sales. Some solutions can be bought for a fixed price, the others can be rent for a monthly, mostly sales-based fee.
If needed, particular software solutions can be developed specially for your business, which take into account all your particularities at 100%. The best basis for it are open source solutions, such as: Magento or Shopware as shop system or AtroPIM or Akeneo as PIM system. This way often gives you the best and not necessarily the most expensive solution.
The best is to hire one or more competent e-commerce partners who are knowledgeable in online sales and can help you with the implementation of e-commerce goals through professional consulting, planning and implementation of the chosen strategy. Remember, only when you have all your processes under control, the time remains for the most important: revenue growth!