Sam Orders, Head of Business Development, InXpress Asia Pacific
Australians are an entrepreneurial bunch, with over 68% of us wanting to set up businesses and be our own boss. But free time is like gold dust, with another recent survey revealing over a quarter of small business owners work more than 50 hours a week - and it gets more intense over peak periods.
All e-commerce businesses are constantly under pressure to innovate and transform. But with so many options available innovation is often overlooked because it’s too overwhelming. From incorporating streaming into your e-commerce platform, tailored FAQs, smart merchandising and ‘try me’ features, there’s a lot to be considered.
It’s not because there’s a lack of knowledge in your business. It’s because you’re juggling duties such as keeping on top of orders, daily business operations and pressures over customer demands.
Managing and maximising your time is tough. Unfortunately, this means having any free time to dedicate to innovation and transformation is rare. This is especially true if you can’t justify hiring many new people, or if you’re a one-woman/man-band.
We all want to sell more, but you can become your own worst enemy if you just invest in boosting profits. Instead, prioritise saving time to innovate and make better informed decisions. You’ll find you’ll end up selling more without facing burnout or lack of resources.
We put so much pressure on the here and now that it’s hard to focus on the future. Free time is important for innovating but also for mental health and wellbeing, especially during peak seasons such as Christmas. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
Read on to find out how implementing new systems and processes can reduce unnecessary time burden.
One company managed to shave 750 work hours off a project simply by using e-commerce integration techniques. Automation technology saves you time and streamlines your processes, so utilising it can be the difference between soaring and sinking.
As a business scales, demands become more complex, tasks mount and tedious work becomes even more tedious. Systems that used to work can break down at the drop of a hat. Instead of looking into where you can boost efficiencies, companies often end up cutting corners. Of course, if you don’t invest, your time won’t be spent on innovating, it will naturally be spent on what’s urgent at the time.
E-commerce software can turn tasks and processes within your business such as inventory management, online store creation, purchase and payment facilitations into automated systems. These intelligent systems can tackle the above tasks and offer the best, most time-efficient alternative which is tailored to the needs of your organisation. You just need to take the time to set them up.
Shipping can be one of the biggest burdens of e-commerce, racking up heaps of costs and time. In peak season, you are likely to be dealing with high volumes of orders and therefore shipments. Any delay in delivery can mean customer service and social media investigations need to be underway to avoid conflict, spending even more valuable company time.
Perhaps you have been up late processing orders. Or you have stood in line for the Post Office every day this week to deliver the goods that your small business sells at this time of year. Now, something has gone wrong and it is up to you to sort it out. Does this sound familiar?
Invest in a delivery specialist
Occasional issues are bound to happen when you’re shipping in large quantities, whether you’re a small or a larger organisation. If you invest in a dedicated shipping specialist, they can handle the process and deal with any problems that come up. This means your social media team (or yourself if it’s just you) don’t have the hassle of dealing with every single task.
Use price comparison tools to find shipping experts in your budget range without having to scour the net. Just remember, if there’s a delivery problem it won’t just be your customers who will suffer, it will be your reputation. People always remember the bad experiences they have and are often quick to share them.
Have a think about how many hours a week you spend on shipping-related admin? Double it, and you’re probably almost correct.
Now think about the last set of shipping invoices you processed. It was likely a sizeable pile of individual invoices, all with separate payment terms and bank details. Even if you already have them set up in your system, it will have taken a good chunk of time. An alternative solution would be a system that consolidates all of these invoices into a single-click solution. Imagine being able to settle all your carrier payments at the click of a button!
Track your time
If you track your time, you’re also more likely to spot places that are time-heavy and where you can cut back on. It’s just like looking at a bank statement. You’ll identify tasks and duties in which you can cut down on, freeing up time to carry out more profitable and beneficial jobs.
There are also a whole host of apps you can download which allow you to create schedules of tasks. Free apps like Plan have insight features which tell you, without you having to write it out and analyse it, how much time you’re spending on each project. Trust me – you’ll be shocked at how much time you’re spending on internal admin!
A good CRM (customer relationship management) system can work wonders, and increase sales productivity by up to 34%. Not only does it help you to become more customer-centric, a CRM system also creates a single source of data entry for end-to-end business processes. It can look at your site and goals, and by integrating a sales automation system within the CRM model, can help use a process-driven cloud-based software to enable complete control of your business.
You can automatically tailor advertisements to the right person and cut down traditional marketing time. There are less data silos as the quality of communication is increased by more than 50%. You can keep track of your competitors in one single place, boosting the chances of knowing what they’re doing, and doing it better.
‘Tis always the season for brands to push themselves on social media! From working with influencers to showcasing your adverts and keeping in touch with customer enquiries, social media can be a full-time job even for the smallest businesses.
So why not use a social media management tool? You can schedule posts months, weeks and days in advance. You can also keep the regular posts ticking over, giving your team time to be reactive to news stories and responses in the run up to the peak season, and not be thinking of the daily tweet or Instagram post.
Deeper social insights
You’ll also be able to take advantage of analytics features, seeing which posts do well and which don’t. You can innovate your offering and making a much better, well-informed decision on content, timing, and even the platform you’re using. If you only have budget for one marketer in the business, invest in social media management platforms. It’s the best way to use your time more efficiently.
There are a whole host of other factors you can do in peak season and throughout the year to boost productivity. Keep up to date with industry news by dedicating ten minutes a day to looking online or listening to the radio or business podcasts like Xpress Lane.
Use email marketing tools like MailChimp to create straight-forward but effective emails and track the success of your emails. Use website-blocking tools to block sites that might make you procrastinate when you need to be innovating.
If you’re a larger team, invest in team software like Slack or Microsoft Teams to keep communications visible and all in one place. Not only do they enable easy collaboration and integration with other services you use, they’re also quicker than email.
Just whatever you do, don’t stop innovating.