Jon White, MD InXpress, discusses how e-commerce businesses can use technology to maximise their time.
Many have the dream to be their own boss, with 64% of Britain’s workforce wanting to set up their own business. But free time is like gold dust, with another recent survey revealing 39% of small business owners work more than 60 hours a week – and it gets more intense over peak periods.
All ecommerce businesses are constantly under pressure to innovate and transform, but from incorporating streaming into your ecommerce platform, tailored FAQs, smart merchandising and ‘try me’ features, there is a lot to be considered. With so many options available, it can often be overwhelming, meaning innovation is often overlooked.
It’s not through lack of knowledge, but when juggling duties such as keeping on top of orders, daily business operations and pressures over customer demands, it can be hard to maximise your time. Unfortunately this means having any free time to dedicate to innovation and transformation is rare. This is especially true if you can’t justify hiring many new people, or if you’re a one-man-band.
We all want to sell more, but you can become your own worst enemy if you just invest in boosting profits. If you instead prioritise saving time to innovate and make better informed decisions, you’ll be able to sell more without facing burnout or lack of resources.
We put so much pressure on the here and now that it’s hard to focus on the future. Free time is important for innovating but also for mental health and wellbeing, especially during peak seasons such as Christmas.
Some customers have reported saving up to 750 staff hours since using e-commerce integration techniques. One of the main purposes and benefits of automation technology is saving time and streamlining your processes. Utilising automation can be the difference between soaring and sinking.
As a business scales, demands become more complex, tasks mount and tedious work becomes even more tedious. Systems that used to work can break down at the drop of a hat, and instead of looking into where you can boost efficiencies, companies often end up cutting corners. Of course, if you don’t invest, your time won’t be spent on innovating, it will naturally be spent on what’s urgent at the time.
E-commerce software can turn tasks and processes within your business such as inventory management, online store creation, purchase and payment facilitations into automated systems. These intelligent systems can tackle the above tasks and offer the best, most time-efficient alternative which is tailored to the needs of your organisation.
Shipping can be one of the biggest burdens of e-commerce; racking up heaps of costs and time. In peak season, you’re likely to be dealing with high volumes of deliveries and a wider range of goods, and any delay in shipping can mean customer service, social media and investigation needs to be underway to avoid conflict, spending even more valuable company time.
Perhaps you have been up late processing orders. Or you have stood in line for the Post Office every day this week to deliver the goods that your small business sells at this time of year. Now, something has gone wrong and it is up to you to sort it out. Does this sound familiar?
Occasional issues are bound to happen when you’re shipping in large quantities, whether you’re a small or a larger organisation. If you invest in a dedicated shipping specialist who can do all of this for you – handle the process and deal with any problems that come up, so your social media team (or yourself if you’re self employed) don’t have the hassle of dealing with every single task. Look at price comparison tools to find the quickest deal without having to scour the net. After all, if there is a problem it won’t just be your customers who will suffer, it will be your reputation – everyone remembers the bad experiences they have.
Ah, how many hours a week do you think you spend on shipping-related admin? If you double it, you’re probably almost correct.
Think about the last set of shipping invoices you processed. It was likely a sizeable pile of individual invoices, all with separate payment terms and bank details. Even if you already have them set up in your system, it will have taken a good chunk of time. An alternative solution would be a system that consolidates all of these invoices into a single-click solution, allowing you to settle all your carrier payments at the click of a button.
If you track your time, you’re also more likely to spot places that are time-heavy and where you can cut back on – it’s just like looking at a bank statement. You’ll identify tasks and duties in which you can cut down on, freeing up time to carry out more profitable and beneficial jobs.
There’s also a whole host of apps you can download which allow you to create schedules of tasks. Free apps like Plan have insights features which tell you, without you having to write it out and analyse it, how much time you’re spending on each project. Trust me – you will soon be shocked at how much time you’re spending on internal admin!
A good CRM (customer relationship management) system can work wonders, and increase sales productivity by up to 34%. Not only does it help you to become more customer-centric,a CRM system also creates a single source of data entry for end-to-end business processes. It can look at your site and goals, and by integrating a sales automation system within the CRM model, can help use a process-driven cloud based software to enable complete control of your business.
You can automatically tailor advertisements to the right person, and save time in traditional marketing. There are less data silos as it also increased the quality of communication by more than 50%. You can keep track of what your competitors in one single place, boosting the chances of you knowing what they’re doing, and how you can do the same.
‘Tis the season for brands to push themselves on social media! From working with influencers to showcasing your festive adverts and keeping in touch with customer enquiries, social media can be a full time job even for the smallest businesses.
But if you use a social media management tool, you can schedule posts months, weeks and days in advance. You can keep the regular posts ticking over, giving your team time to be reactive to news stories and responses in the run up to the peak season, and not be thinking of the daily tweet or Instagram post.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of analytics features, to see what posts do well and not so well, so you can innovate your offering and making a much better, well-informed decision on content, timing, and even the platform you’re using. If you only have budget for one marketer in the business, invest in social media management platforms. It’s the best way to use your time more efficiently.
There are a whole host of other factors you can do in the spending season, and throughout the year to boost productivity. Keep up to date with industry news by dedicating 10 minutes a day to looking online or listening to the radio or podcasts.
Use email marketing tools like MailChip to create straight-forward but effective emails and track the successfulness of your emails, and you can even use website-blocking tools to block sites that might make you procrastinate, like social media for your own use, at a time when you need to be innovating. If you’re a larger team, invest in team software to keep communications visible such as Slack or Microsoft teams, which keep it all in one place, enable easy collaboration and integrate with other services you use. and quicker than email.
Just whatever you do, don’t stop innovating.