Embrace automation or get left behind, urge e-commerce leaders

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In recent months, more and more businesses have embraced digital than ever before in an attempt to claw back some revenue from factors such as store closures and physical restrictions. And, as a result, an omni-channel approach has never been so important.

This move has seen food establishments offer online ordering and delivery services, professional services providing remote meetings, and retailers moving into the realms of ecommerce, all for the very first time.

But what these businesses are now facing is a new set of challenges relating to multi-channel management and the need to nurture and monitor additional sales funnels.  

Daniela Jurado Jabba, Western Europe head at VTEX, global provider of omni-channel services, explains how automation offers a solution to the problem.

“The increase in activity leaves businesses with greater admin burden. Whether that’s monitoring orders from multiple sources, communicating through different channels or managing systems and software in order for the process to continue running smoothly, they have a lot on their plate.

“But what digital commerce platforms offer is a solution that automates these administrative tasks. For example, software updates, inventory levels, supplier information and shipment details can all be managed and monitored from a single, centralised dashboard, reducing the need for paperwork and other time-consuming admin-related activities.”

In this way, automation and AI are on track to propel omnichannel brands into the future. And, below, Daniela explains how.

Better together

Automation in the supply chain can be used to align various points in your commercial network, including suppliers, logistics providers and storage services with ease. The benefit to the business, then, is a reduced need for hands-on management and monitoring, as the automated process takes care of a lot of it for you.

For example, an automated trigger when stock levels are low can then prompt an order to be placed with a supplier, with minimal involvement required from you.

Overall, this creates a more efficient and streamlined process which, looking to the future, will enable the business to become more sustainable and cost-effective – exactly what is required for foreseeable market conditions.

Consistent customer experience

For an effective omnichannel approach, the customer experience across all channels must be consistent. And automation is the best way to guarantee just that.

A purchasing decision takes place within six touchpoints, regardless of sector, service or product. While an omnichannel approach enables touchpoints to be distributed across both online and offline media, the interaction and experience must remain the same if it is to successfully encourage a purchase.

A centralised management system allows all points to be aligned and easily monitored. And integrating an automation strategy within this can ensure every touchpoint is relevant, too.

For example, automated email messages that are triggered by certain actions, including click-throughs and opens, allow marketing to be more targeted and less wasteful of budget, time and resources.

So, as businesses expand their omnichannel offering, automation strategies are key for maximising return on investment against the increased level of activity.

Trend predictions

No matter what market you operate in, trends and patterns tend to evolve, leaving many businesses playing catch up. This can often lead to costly issues, such as overstocking of out of favour products, for example.

But taking advantage of systems and software that have AI and machine learning capability means things like shifts in consumer behaviours and market conditions can be monitored and then used to inform more accurate trend predictions.

With this information, business activities can be planned and adjusted so little disruption is experienced and processes and activities are much more effective and efficient.

The importance of this would have been realised by many when markets shut down earlier this year. So, going forward, solutions that can prevent similar damage and challenges, have real benefits.  

Data-driven marketing decisions

Similarly, a digital platform that aligns and integrates all channels allows for more efficient, accurate and meaningful data collection. Some even offer analysis and interpretation tools which turn data into useful insights, which then morphs into consumer behaviours and channel performance, for example.

This can then be fed into business decisions, particularly those relating to marketing in order for activities to be more effective through accurate targeting and timely execution.  

While this can help to maximise ROI to some extent, Nate Burke, CEO and founder of Diginius, a digital marketing and e-ccommerce specialist, explains that automation and machine learning can take this much further.

“A focus on campaign optimisation through the implementation of automation strategies is one of the most effective ways to maximise your return when it comes to marketing.

“Take PPC advertising, for example. Automated bidding or ad extensions which learn from patterns in users’ actions, can increase conversion rates and consequently, ad success, while reducing the PPC management burden for your business.

“As well as freeing up internal resources, such as employee-related wages and training time and costs, it also allows budget to be distributed more efficiently. As online markets get more competitive and the financial impact of the pandemic deepens, this will only become more important for businesses.”

Without question, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation to an extent that no one could have predicted. But, even as digital becomes more of a focus, traditional channels should not be forgotten.

Rather establishing a collaborative commerce ecosystem which includes all of a business’s routes to market is the best way to adapt to the evolving commercial landscape, while also ensuring consumers remain engaged.

But, instead of contending with increasing overheads to keep on top of increased activity, it’s time to let technology do what it does best and take more of the strain.

The future of omni-channel brands is bright. But only if businesses are open to the benefits offered by automation and artificial intelligence.