By Kayleigh Alexandra, MicroStartups
A core part of running a flourishing online business is keeping up with technological innovations. This isn’t to say that you need to live on the cutting edge, admittedly: you can leave that to the startups with nothing to lose or the enterprise corporations with massive budgets. But you do need to ensure that you don’t fall too far behind the curve. If you let your operation grow too antiquated, you’ll soon struggle to compete.
This is where the titular matter of automation becomes so important. It’s hardly a new concept, having been changing industries for decades now, but the prospect of implementing it at a modest level still feels quite fresh for many people — particularly entrepreneurial types used to doing everything manually and are wary about the consequences of relinquishing control.
If you’re eager to move with the times, then, but unsure about how you can practically and usefully implement elements of automation, this post should give you some solid ideas of where to start. Here are four key ways in which you can use automation for your online business (and if you run an office, you can learn much from this piece too).
Keep Pricing Competitive
Trying to get your pricing right isn’t easy when there are so many viable alternatives. If you price too low, you won’t be able to make any money, and you’ll set a terrible precedent that’ll be hard to break down the line. If you price too high, though, shoppers will go elsewhere, concluding that you misunderstand the value of your brand. Automation can help with this, though.
Dynamic pricing software works in the background to monitor the prices of your products (or even similar services) on other sites. When it detects a change in an average price, it can tweak your price accordingly while staying within your set parameters (you might set a price you’re unwilling to beat, for instance). Prisync is a popular choice, but it isn’t the only one out there.
Bolster Customer Service
Customers have greater expectations of companies than ever before. The notion of issuing a query and waiting several days for a response wasn’t too daunting once upon a time, but now that kind of wait feels utterly egregious. Furthermore, office hours have lost their meaning. An online company can attract customers from around the world, with their visits arriving throughout the day and night due to varying time zones.
Manually handling this level of demand is obviously not practical, particularly for a company of modest size — but it doesn’t need manual effort (at least, not in all cases). Implementing a chatbot programmed to deal with common queries and execute basic actions can be the answer. Chatbots don’t get tired or forgetful: they operate at full speed on a 24/7 basis, multitasking with ease and never falling short of their standards.
There are plenty of chatbot solutions out there, so take your pick. G2 has a solid roundup. The more effort you put into programming the exchanges for your chatbot, the better the results will be. It’ll take time, but once you have things lined up, you can greatly reduce your engagement.
Speed Through Tedious Admin
Think about all the basic tasks that go into running a modern business. You need to request and process payments, manage payroll, address HR issues, document tasks, and do myriad other things. Many of these tasks are extremely repetitive and thus tedious, yet you can’t simply skip them. They genuinely need to be done. So what’s the answer?
Thankfully, there are relatively easy ways to automate them. You can implement a system to automate your recurring invoices, for instance, making your recurring invoice template a strength rather than a weakness. You can roll out a payroll tool (such as Quickbooks) and stop worrying about paying your employees on time. In short, whatever dull task you need to get done, you can find a system to effectively automate it.
Expand Marketing Reach
Like it or hate it, social media plays a huge role in today’s digital marketing world and staying on top of the various platforms isn’t easy. In ideal circumstances, you might want to reach Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, and even some more niche platforms like Pinterest or LinkedIn. Each platform has different format requirements, though. It’s a pain.
Using a good social media posting tool, you can not only schedule posts to go out at the optimal times (saving you from having to do it manually) but also create just one source post to be suitably adapted for each platform in turn. Tools like Hootsuite and Buffer are highly popular for a reason, so give them a shot. They might be just what you need.
About The Author
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer at Writerzone and for MicroStartups.org, a site dedicated to supporting startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. She’s curious to see what skills will be required for the workplace of tomorrow. Visit the blog for entrepreneurial tips and follow along on Twitter @getmicrostarted.
A team of writers and marketers, MicroStartups was founded to inspire the entrepreneurial and business community to give back. We believe in business growth through giving and supporting the local community.