E-Commerce – Automate, Automate, Automate

I have made my living in e-commerce since 2002. Time to share what I’ve learned. This is the first in a series of blog posts I will be writing on general e-commerce topics.

E-commerce is about a whole lot more than ‘which shopping cart should I use?’ Many businesses are now managed entirely online – everything from catalog display to marketing to LTL shipping to accounting. Your e-commerce strategy should come directly from your business plan – how are you unique? Your uniqueness is what will bring in customers and earn profits.

The first area to think about is automation. Online software is all about automation so when you build a new website, you have the opportunity to review all of your business processes to see where you can streamline and automate – this is where all businesses, not just online ecommerce businesses, have improved profitability from the industrial revolution forward.

So where are the opportunities to automate? Redundant processes, labor intensive processes, inefficiencies, re-typing information, applications that add customer value, streamlining sales and customer service or eliminating clicks. These are hard to see yourself. People tend to get entrenched – ‘We’ve always done it that way and it works so why mess with it?” A review of your processes and business model by an e-commerce consultant or e-commerce expert can pinpoint areas where you can automate – just like factories use process improvement specialists to observe operations to recommend ways to streamline and increase productivity.

Improving productivity is not a new idea. Companies spend a lot of money on developing process improvements because of how profitable they are. The US government tracks productivity – increases in productivity are a huge part of why our economy continues to grow. Productivity online involves either using existing software to your advantage or developing custom software for your specific process.

Lets look at a simple and inexpensive example of automating an e-commerce process. The process is adding pictures of new color variations of products to your website.

For our example we will use a flag store that sells flags for commercial properties. I’m sure you have seen them waving outside buildings and stores – “Welcome”, “Now Renting”, “T-Mobile”. So for our example, you are buying your flags from a manufacturer that offers 30 color choices. The flags can be one color, two color, three color or four color in any combination of colors. They come in horizontal, vertical, or diagonal stripes and in several shapes. Today, you display each flag style in all possible variation of these 30 colors – thats a lot of flag pictures to make. So if the supplier decides to add 4 new colors, you will need to make and post pictures of all these colors and add new variations for existing flag shapes to your website so customers can order them.

Consider automating. The basic flag shapes can be drawn on the HTML5 canvas. The customer could then choose from your list of colors to see what the flags will look like in the various color combinations prior to ordering. Very interactive. If the manufacturer adds a new color, all you do is add it to the list of colors. If they make a new shape, all you do is draw it once. So much simpler than showing a static product in all the possible combinations of colors and styles. Updating the website becomes quick and easy – much more labor efficient. Your graphic designer and the people who load your products can focus on other things to expand your business. Plus your customers will be happy – customers like interactive websites.

 

I am happy to act as your e-commerce consultant and examine your business processes to suggest areas where you can automate. Call anytime or contact me ds@orderstorm.com.

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