Best Practices for Automating E-Commerce Operations
A recent consumer survey revealed that 76 percent of shoppers say they will stop doing business with a company after only two poor experiences, and these experiences can even occur in the same transaction. As consumers demand more value for their money during an uncertain economy, retailers must deliver a seamless, efficient customer service experience by leveraging automation. To capture customers and keep them coming back for more, retailers must make the entire purchase process — from checkout and delivery to returns and re-orders — as seamless and easy as possible.
Retailers cannot control inflationary pressures, however, they can dramatically improve customer experience while boosting operational efficiencies by implementing a strategic automation plan. This, in turn, will create an ideal e-commerce shopper experience, generating repeat sales and stronger consumer loyalty over time.
Today, shoppers demand smooth transitions from one step of the purchase process to the next. Therefore, retailers must automate and integrate manual business processes to deliver the fastest, smoothest and most seamless buyer journey possible.
Streamline Processes With Automation
Many retailers are discovering that simple workflows carried out by individual employees such as order tracking are too complex to manually oversee. These tedious and time-consuming workflows are taking time away from product development, marketing and customer experience initiatives. At the same time, shoppers are frustrated by inefficient and confusing return processes, slow delivery, unpredictable inventory, and spotty customer service. They also expect personalized product recommendations and offers based on past purchases and/or searches.
Retailers that are eager to personalize and streamline the shopper experience should invest in automation. This will allow them to share data across the systems that handle workflows, ensuring inventory is accurate, providing more connected and personalized experiences, offering tailored customer support, and identifying errors before they impact the shopping experience.
A Plan for E-Commerce Automation
Retailers should build a specific plan for e-commerce automation that addresses three key areas:
- order to cash;
- inventory visibility; and
- returns management.
By leveraging automation during the order-to-cash process, retailers can provide shoppers with 360-degree visibility into their order. This can be done from the moment the order is placed through final delivery. When retailers automate these processes, they can ensure a smooth, frictionless purchasing journey, from one step to the next.
Automation also dramatically improves inventory visibility by tackling common stocking challenges such as underselling, overselling and stock-outs. When retailers use automation to track inventory levels in real time, shoppers avoid long wait times for their merchandise. In turn, speedy merchandise delivery boosts sales and customer loyalty.
Online shoppers today demand a seamless returns process, and automation can guarantee a speedy, hassle-free experience. By automating the returns management process, retailers can generate goodwill and trust among their most desired consumers.
The Benefits of an Automation-First Culture
Some retailers may fear automating key business processes as they don’t want their employees to feel obsolete. Yet, the opposite is true. Automation will actually improve working conditions for retail employees at all levels, reducing the amount of tedious and time-consuming tasks and freeing them up to take on more strategic initiatives. Investing in automation platforms that enable business users to implement integrations alongside IT teams is one way forward-thinking retailers are setting the standard.
E-commerce leaders should create an automation-first culture to help their people embrace this game-changing potential. First, they should encourage employees to provide their insights into how to drive process improvement and innovation. Multiple perspectives will drive a holistic view of e-commerce operations and priority areas that must be automated to drive an exceptional customer experience. To convince C-suite stakeholders about the value of automation, retailers should showcase opportunities for “quick wins” — e.g., back-to-school and holiday shopping, which are critical seasonal events when consumers are demanding specific products and immediate merchandise returns.
While the ongoing economic woes have placed more pressure on retailers, automation should be leveraged to help elevate the customer experience, boost sales, and optimize the return on investments into both systems and people at a time when retailers need it the most.
Mark Simon is the vice president of strategy at Celigo, an integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS).
Mark Simon is the Vice President of Strategy at Celigo. With over two decades of experience in the tech industry, Mark has spent his time leading teams at a number of different companies, such as Explore Consulting and Evo, where he served as Chief Technology Officer.