Business development · 30 March 2017

Automating business tasks online in five easy steps

PayPal
Payment automation via platforms like PayPal should be a priority for online retailers

Rounding off his business development series, GoDaddy’s VP for EMEA, Stefano Maruzzi, tells Business Advice readers how to save both time and money by automating business tasks.

Open any “how to succeed in business” book, and there’ll be a whole section dedicated to delegation. It’s all very well, but whether you’re in business or not, most people know that delegation can be a task.

We’re only human, and with being human comes error. Errors spell headaches, and a headache is what you’re trying to avoid, through delegation.

Enter “digital delegation”, also known as “task automation”. It’s what you need to be considering if you have a website and business tasks to complete, but are pressed for time and resources.

A recent study estimated that automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually, set primarily within highly structured, predictable environments, or data collection and processing roles.

By the same logic, every structured task (think time charging at the end of the week) or afternoon spent processing data from your business’ orders or email sign-ups could be automated, at the click of a mouse.

Which business tasks could you automate to save time and money? Here’s a run-through of some suggestions of automating business tasks to delegate to your device of choice. And, unless it’s Siri, it shouldn’t answer back.

How to set up your website for day-to-day tasks

There’s not much a website can’t do, but your scope will depend on how it’s been built, and what you’re willing to delegate, digitally. Here are four tasks most businesses love to hand over, with a few pointers for how to set them up.

(1) Payments

First stop on our automation tour is online payments. If you have a website and are using it to sell products or services, it makes no sense to be doing any manual work with your payments.

From established providers like PayPal to newer names like GoCardless, payment gateways automate your online payment collections and run in the background while you work on the day job.

Whichever option you go for, get clear on a few things before comparing plans and bundles. Which countries do you want payments to be accepted from? Do you know the types of credit cards and payments you need to take? Will the gateway integrate with your existing website?

(2) Analytics

How do you track your sales? Do you know who your customers are (and where to find more just like them)? Are people reading your online content? Automating your website to answer these questions could be the smartest thing you do.

From reporting to monitoring, you don’t need to be a data genius (trust me) to pick a provider who’ll integrate with your website to number crunch for you. And most of them will present everything back in a genuinely easy-to-understand report, which you can use to tweak and refine your products or services.

(3) Marketing

I’m focusing on email and social media here. They’re two of the biggest money-spinners in a small business armoury, and exceptionally easy to automate.

From automated campaigns (say a monthly newsletter) to trigger-based messages (targeted and often containing tailored messaging), email marketing can be set up to work in the background, as long as you have the content to pump out.

Depending on your business size, an email solution integrated with your website, such as GoDaddy’s website builder, can offer seamless integration with your website to help make management easier. But there are lots of truly foolproof options.

In the social media world, you’re only as good as your last social media post, and if that was two weeks ago whilst you were flat-out travelling, pitching, or on holiday, that’s not very good.

Social media automation tools take care of everything from your posting schedule to customer service management and analytics, never leaving your carefully-nurtured community cold again. Do a quick search for “social media automation tools” and you’ll get some really handy guides to help you pick out the ones that might do it best for your needs.

(4) Forms, not phones

An online form can cut the time you spend on the phone to almost nothing, if it’s built, integrated and written right.

From basic information to feedback, preferences and even queries, a form can be a data goldmine for any business, running in the background and reporting back, right in time for your next quarter’s inventory session, or marketing campaign.

Content gurus know that it is important to keep things short but sweet. It’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities and make your form really long, or fall into the trap of using language your customers won’t understand.

Read it out loud to a few friends and see where they draw a blank. That’s your cue for clearer wording. Again, there are lots of options for building a form into your website and it comes down to the kind of website you have built.

Some website builders will have the form option already integrated into the website setup, all you need to do is select the feature when building the pages and sections of your website.

If you’re using a site-building platform like WordPress, a plugin such as Contact Form 7 is easy to select and integrate through your WordPress control panel.

And, don’t forget the most important consideration when collecting customer information – data protection. Make sure you’re covering all the bases before asking anyone to hand over personal information.

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(5) Use great UX to nudge your customers

By “UX” we mean “user experience”. It sounds buzzy but it’s a fundamental of digital automation, and with a bit of common sense, it can ignite your website.

With any of the tasks you may choose to automate, it is important to give your customers, or website visitors, a good user experience. It’s about guiding your website visitors, and making sure that their experience is as pain-free as possible.

With good UX, you can help them complete their task with thought-through page layouts, intuitive navigation and copywriting, to help earn you more engagement and fewer queries, or bounces.

UX professionals often refer to the “don’t make me think” mentality, and this can work both ways. Don’t make the customer think too hard about how to move from the home page to the payment confirmation page. Equally, good UX will mean you don’t have to deal with customers giving up on your website and calling or even disappearing, before completing the sale.

You can help improve your UX by reading up on basic principles, and implementing what applies to you. It’s a fascinating topic, if you’re interested in offering an engaging online experience for your visitors.

If not, consider consulting with a professional, or again, just use common sense. Does your website visitor have a clear next step? If not, try to provide one that you and your customer can easily understand.

Read more from Stefano Maruzzi:   

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

At the beginning of his professional career, Stefano Maruzzi made an impact by leveraging his software engineering skills to launch Microsoft University in Italy, while writing fifteen books which have been translated into multiple languages. He then served as MSN Italy country manager at Microsoft, president at Condé Nast Digital International, and Google Italy country director. Maruzzi is currently GoDaddy’s VP EMEA in London, UK, heading the regional team to empower small business owners to build their brand and grow online.

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