Consistent large-scale success in the ecommerce world is the result of staying on the right side of some razor-thin margins. Only by finding the optimal balance between your expenditure and your revenue can you truly excel, and all the great products in the world can’t save you from major inefficiencies.
Thankfully, today’s technology makes it easier than ever before to make fast improvements to your operational efficiency, equipping you to rapidly boost your ROI and free up resources to invest in continued growth.
In short: work smarter, not harder. Here are some tips for achieving greater efficiency for your ecommerce business and getting more out of the work you put in:
Implement Real-time Inventory Management
Stock management is a major resource drain for even the smallest of retail operations. With orders being placed, reviewed and fulfilled on a frequent (but not typically consistent) basis, stock levels must be monitored and kept in check. Having too many products wastes money, but having too few loses sales and leads to customer dissatisfaction.
Because there are so many factors that go into how much stock is needed at any given time, this operational element is an ideal candidate for automation. A well-implemented real-time inventory management system can free up time that you can spend on tasks better suited to human direction by accomplishing the following:
- Ordering new stock at the most appropriate times based on pricing, priority, delivery lag and available storage space.
- Pricing offered products in accordance with their availability, popularity and profitability.
- Providing increased tracking clarity at the front end, taking better advantage of fear of missing out (FOMO) in the sales funnel.
- Greatly reducing the possibility of human error causing problems.
There are plenty of solid options out there, and which one you should try will depend on your preferred UI and your specific needs. Look into software such as Cin7, Brightpearl or Unleashed, and compare some trials to see how they perform for you.
Automate Your Customer Service
As ecommerce businesses get larger, they tend to find that a lot of time goes towards handling customer requests, questions, and complaints. This is another area that can be done far more efficiently through the implementation of automation systems, and you’ll find that customers will be happier because it will save them time as well— 85% of businesses will handle customer service inquiries through automation by 2020 anyway, so it’s better to embrace it now.
Here are some features you can offer to make your customer service more efficient:
- Smart recommendations: through using personalization in combination with digital sales channels like Facebook Messenger, you can reach users with offers relevant to their activity and order history, saving you time in your sales efforts.
- Chatbots: handling incoming messages is a massive time sink, so setting up a chatbot and customizing it with set routines will make it possible to ensure that the most common questions get answered without you having to get involved.
- Targeted email follow-ups: automated email systems with detailed segmentation options and triggering make it possible to configure emails to go out in particular circumstances, such as when a user abandons their cart or spends a certain amount of time on a product page without making a purchase.
- Convenient returns: people are more likely to buy from businesses that make it as easy as possible to return unwanted or faulty items. Most hosted ecommerce solutions make it straightforward to install and configure automated RMA systems, which cut down on a lot of administrative effort and instill customers with confidence.
Focus on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
CRO is vital for making the most of your marketing opportunities and all the traffic they drive to your online store. Without a proper conversion-oriented UX strategy, you run the risk of wasting SEO, content marketing and PPC budgets on a website that simply doesn’t perform well.
While every page on your site has relevance, pay special attention to inner product pages from a conversions point of view. They are the final frontier when it comes to sealing the deal and making that sale, so break out all the tools in your arsenal: videos, product guides etc.
Add Trust Features
Especially since GDPR made people aware of how readily some companies will exploit their customers, you need to convince your users that you can be trusted with their money and data.
Use secure connections, social proof, and other trust indicators to combat cart abandonment. Update your security certificates (SSL etc.) and make sure that payment gateways remain secure— it’s super important to maintain peak payment efficiency.
Clear Up Your Layout
Minimalism is a great design trend to follow, particularly for businesses selling specialized products, because customers expect simple search-friendly layouts with clear and easily-accessible product descriptions.
You can build a clean UX from scratch, or just use a template-led builder to ensure adherence to best practices. For instance, you can design a store through Shopify for foolproof UX, or take the WordPress route to pick from its great selection of UX themes for ecommerce.
Usability testing through UserZoom is a good way of ascertaining whether there are any issues in the way your website is functioning. If people are getting lost, you know you have some work to do on the site architecture. Even something simple like improving your breadcrumbs or internal linking structure can have a positive impact.
Following that, consistent A/B testing is important for iterative improvement. Try several versions of your checkout phase to see which one converts most consistently, make that your primary option, then create more versions by modifying other elements and restart the testing.
The more work your sales funnel does for you, the less effort you’ll need to put into driving traffic or winning over reluctant customers through manual customer service.
Merge Offline and Online CX
Your customer experience (CX) must be seamless and of a high standard, no matter where your customers are in the sales journey. Whether they are discovering your products for the first time thanks to a mobile ad, or popping by your retail store on a whim, you need to ensure that you are tracking the right data points and providing a stellar experience across the board.
The same brand messaging and commitment to quality needs to be at the heart of all your sales and marketing channels. To be truly efficient, you need to be omnichannel at all times.
Why does omnichannel commerce matter so much?
- It allows you to properly leverage customer loyalty.
- It positions you to create, launch, and analyze your marketing initiatives more efficiently.
- It produces superior CX by having consistent online/offline customer touchpoints.
- It’s increasingly what customers expect, not just hope for.
Design a customer journey that factors in (and can track) both online and offline experiences (options such as call tracking can make it much easier to move conventional marketing into the digital analytics space) and you’ll have a much more well-rounded view of how customers approach you, making it much easier to address their needs more efficiently.
In a time when the digital world offers an amazing number of possibilities, using the resources available to us to improve efficiency is a fantastic way to achieve remarkable ROI and make everyday business operations a lot easier to handle.
What tips do you have for business efficiency? Do you think that automation and procedural improvements are the keys to success, or are you more likely to advocate for product and people development?
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on ecommerce and how companies can improve the way they talk about their brand.