Would you like your work to do itself? Certainly, for many of us it would be very helpful in our daily duties. Surprisingly, if you manage an online store, you can make many tasks related to daily order processing done without involving employees. Such a process is called sales automation and that’s the topic we want to discuss in this entry.
Sales automation – what is it and what does it look like?
The automation process is very simple to define. It is any situation in which a machine does a certain job for a human. This trend has been present in our reality for years. We have automatic washing machines, automatic transmission in cars, accounting apps that calculate the appropriate amount of taxes by themselves. We also have hundreds, thousands of other situations in which automation just makes our life easier.
How does an online store without sales automation work?
Automation has also been present in online stores for some time now. How does it look like? To demonstrate its operation ‘in practice’ we described a scheme of handling an online order from an employee’s perspective. His responsibilities are as follows:
- the order appears in the system, the employee verifies it with the store’s stock and orders the missing products from the distributor,
- if all the products are in stock, the status order is changed to ‘in progress’,
- the employee issues a receipt or an invoice,
- then prepares an address label on the basic of data given by the client,
- prepares a delivery note for warehouse so that people working there can complete the order,
- submits all documents to the warehouse
- the warehouse packs the order, sticks on the address label and gives the ready parcel to the delivery man,
- the warehouse changes order status to ‘send’.
Steps 1-6 can take some time depending on the level of advancement in the store. If there are not many orders, an experienced employee is able to deal with them and still have time for other duties. However, when sales stand at a high level, it is necessary to hire more people to handle it efficiently. This, in turn, increases the costs of running a store.
How does a store with sales automation work?
In the case of sales automation the pattern of actions taken by employees differs significantly from the previous one. It looks as follows:
- the warehouse employee prints order documents generated by the system, completes the order and gives it to delivery man,
- the employee changes order status to ‘send’.
And that’s it. The rest is handled by a special automation module, which takes over the vast majority of sales service. A well-set-up automation process works as follows:
- the order goes to the store, the system automatically compares the ordered products with stock level. If everything is in stock, it creates reservation and generates all the necessary documents: stock documents, invoice/receipt, address label, as well as changes status to ‘in progress’. A good automation process allows you to print them all directly in the warehouse, without the need for customer service staff,
- if ordered goods are out of stock, the system automatically places an order and sends it to the supplier. At the same time, the system gives it an appropriate status and sends an automated message to the customer about the extended delivery time,
- if the product is out of stock, the system flags the order and notifies the employee who then handles it manually. A similar scheme can be set when a customer has filled in the comments box in the form so that the employee can react appropriately to the content left there.
What are the benefits of sales automation?
It is not hard to guess that sales automation is a solution with many advantages. The most important are:
- saving time: instead of handling each incoming order manually, a customer service worker can focus only on the problematic orders and other duties (e.g. answering the phone and responding to messages from customers, returns, complaints, adding new products to the store),
- reducing order errors: an automated order processing lowers the number of ‘human errors’, such as incorrectly transcribed customer address data,
- faster order processing: sales automation in an online store means that even with a large number of orders, they are processed much faster than with manual handling,
- lower customer service costs: the order processing running ‘in the background’ does not require hiring additional employees for handling sales which positively influences the costs of running an online store.
When is it worth automating sales in your store?
Having read the above information, you may be wondering when it is a good idea to implement sales automation in your online store. Should you do it from the very beginning? Or is there a specific point from which it becomes not so much a fad, but a necessary business investment? The answer to this question is difficult, if only because each automation is different. In fact, the process of sales automation is a set of actions spread over time. Actions that you can introduce to your store in small steps, as the number of orders grows. In practice you can use the following scheme:
- start with the activities which you are able to automate in the store. If you have a Magento store, there are many solutions on the market that will allow you connect with the accounting program you use in order to issue invoices and receipts faster,
- another step is full, two-way integration with ERP system that provides automatic update of stock level in the store, the ability to automatically issue warehouse documents etc.,
- integration with shipping applications allows you to generate and print address labels with one click (or even without any involvement from you),
- integration with WMS systems improves warehouse management and gives access to even better management of goods storage (which speeds up the ordering process).
Each of the above points you are able to expand with additional features and adapt to the capabilities and needs of your store platform. Bear in mind that to fully automate sales in your store, it is worth choosing a proven technology partner. Only in such a way will you be able to get professional care of the whole process and access to experienced developers.