Tuesday, September 9, 2014

2 Simple Steps for Massive eCommerce Automation

Your time is your most valuable resource and let’s be honest, there’s only so much time in the day. It’s funny how we never run out of things to do but we always run out of time to do them. When time runs out, so does your ability to grow the business. Once you reach this point, further growth can only come from automation, outsourcing or hiring employees to help you carry the load. What I like to call selling smarter.

With the holiday season fast approaching let me show you two powerful yet simple steps I use every day to automate and grow my business that you can quickly setup and use yourself. Let’s free some of your time right here, right now.

Daily Intelligence

The first step to working smarter instead of working harder is to understand your numbers. Knowing what’s working and what isn’t working will help you make better day-to-day decisions. Many sellers find themselves deep into their daily routine they allow little to no time to step back, take a bird’s eye view of their business each day and see how things are moving along. eCommerce success comes from a good balance of knowing both the art AND science behind your business. If you ignore too much of the science side of your business, you’re relying too much on the art side of things. The easiest way to ensure you have the science side covered is to add it to your daily routine through some easy automation.

For me, my morning routine starts off with the click of a single button. This button is my “Daily Links” button. Daily links is a simple tool that will open a list of web pages you have selected with a single click. You can setup which websites to open for each day of the week. So on Monday your daily link list may be different than on Thursday.

With the click of my Daily Links button I have instant access to all the “Intelligence” I wish to gather and review at the beginning of my day. For example, I review my Google Analytics for my websites, I review my Google and Bing Webmaster reports, and my Google AdWords activity. I review Amazon sale reports, my eBay feedback page, my bank accounts, affiliate revenue and YouTube activity. I also review my social media activity once per week, my top competitors once per week to see if they’re adding any new products and how their sales are going. I also have a dash board that tracks the time my VA team members are working and what tasks they’re working on “real time”. There’s nothing like the feeling that you have your finger on the pulse and have a solid understanding of what’s really going on. If you don’t feel like you have your finger on the pulse, it’s time to review your metrics daily.

This approach to starting your day “Intelligently” also helps you make better decisions on what to work on during the day. It helps you learn what things worked yesterday and what things didn’t work as planned. All this with the click of a single button. On a typical day it only takes me 5 minutes to review my metrics unless something catches my attention and then I’ll dive deeper into the numbers. For example, today I notice more of my sales traffic came from coupon websites this week than ever before. This is a growing trend that I’ll research further to better understand and leverage to my advantage in the near future.

Using a tool such as Daily Links or something similar is as close as it gets to flying on Auto-Pilot for your eCommerce business. You don’t want to wake up looking out the window and realize you’re miles off course. Read your numbers each day to know if you’re one day closer or one day farther from your destination.

Marketing with Auto-Responders

I know what you’re thinking…You’re thinking you already have your email automation all setup. You email the customer when you receive their order and you email them when you ship the product. It’s automated. You’re done. NOPE, I’m sorry this is not what I’m talking about. You need to take things to the next level. You need to remind your customers you’re still here for them.

How do you communicate with your customers “After” they buy from you? You’ve already earned their trust once. The second time is so much easier if you just ask for the sale. Do you send them newsletter emails highlighting new products? Do you ask them for product or service reviews? Do you give them a special offer they can’t refuse? Do you tell them to tell their friends about you?

For most sellers, after sale emails such as these are in the “I wish” bucket. I wish I did a better job communicating with my customers after the sale. Are you also at the “I wish” stage?

Most sellers never get this step setup because they don’t automate it. They fear the time it takes to sit down and write a newsletter email from scratch each time. This is another one of those tasks that never finds room into the “daily routine”. However if you automate it using auto responders you’ll finally take your customer base that you spend so much time and effort to acquire the first time and leverage them into repeat customers increasing their lifetime value.

Using auto responders is a process of taking a customer’s email address and with their approval sending them automated emails on a pre-determined schedule that you wrote one time. The schedule is typically a number of days after they are added to the list. Day 1 you might send them an email that sets up expectations on when they’ll receive their product and any additional information you can offer to help them use or benefit from your product. You want to send them information that is of value to them to increase their desire to open future emails and keep them “on your list”.

Down the road, say on day 5 or 7 or 12 you can send them an email that still keeps their interest while also introducing them to other products you offer or you can ask them to do things to help you out such as tell a friend, post a review or share on social media. The key is to make it simple for them with the click of a button, and “ASK FOR IT”. People like to be told or asked what to do.

I know, you’re thinking about what happens if you upset the customer with too many emails? I get that. You need to learn what degree you can communicate with your customers in this way by watching your metrics everyday like I talked about earlier. Watch for open rates, click rates and unsubscribe rates. If you see too many negative responses, adjust your message or the frequency until things balance out. The key is to stay in front of your customer from time to time to remind them you’re here for them and to give them information they value at the same time. You can then suggest additional products or things they can do to help you out.

Remember that a customer that was never going to order from you again because they forgot about you, was never a repeat customer to begin with. But a customer that was never going to order from you again but is reminded of your business and offers with your help can become a repeat customer.

For auto responder email software there are many on the market that are well suited for eCommerce sellers. I use both Aweber and Mailchimp myself. I like to test different strategies at the same time to learn what works.

The key to automating your eCommerce business

The key to automation for your eCommerce business is finding tasks that you can setup once and it will add value to your business over and over in the future. There are many things that fall into your “I wish” bucket but never fall into your “Get R Done” bucket due to your day-to-day routine taking over. These are tasks that can add value to your customers, give you insight into what works and what doesn’t and can add profits into your pocket.

Spending a few hours today setting these tools up will benefit you over and over for months and years ahead. For example, I have auto responder emails I wrote 2 years ago still cashing in from time to time.

Cheers to Selling Smarter!

If you’re interested in more eCommerce automation ideas, visit Brandon’s website called eCommerce Money for Nothing (www.eCommerceMoney.com).