Automation the key to SMEs competing with Amazon

Aussie businesses can take a page off Amazon’s playbook by embracing automation.

Many e-commerce businesses are concerned about their future as the impending new-year Australian launch of Amazon creeps closer. The online retail giant’s sheer size, international market share and aggressive tactics pose a serious threat to small businesses and online stores.

In the US, Amazon accounts for an incredible 50 per cent of all online retail sales and is responsible for a third of the country’s retail growth revenue.

Years of working in my own small businesses have taught me that to compete with the major players you must streamline the way you work and take advantage of all the technology now at your disposal.

That’s why in order to tackle the Amazon threat, Australian businesses need to embrace automation so they don’t risk being run out of business by the big players.

This automation includes your business’ CRM, marketing apps, productivity and note taking tools; even the apps you use to run your personal life. The level of automation is going to differ from person to person and business to business, but even starting to set up an automated system can massively impact your productivity.

Here are three tips to help your get started on automating your business to develop a competitive edge:

Find the right automation solution for your business processes

One of the most popular automation platforms is Zapier. We use it extensively to make sure that our platform is working smoothly. It shares data with the tools we’re using to communicate with customers, bill, run marketing and analytics, do reporting and so on. When we’re using the tool, we’re paying not just for the functionality, but the reliability. Automation only works when you know that you can trust it.

Microsoft Flow is a new platform and a great enterprise pick as it works particularly well with Office 365 and other apps you’ll already have running. It can do the job effectively, but there’s not as many options as there are with Zapier, which supports almost any platform under the sun.

An excellent small business solution is IFTTT (If This Then That) that works in a similar way to Microsoft Flow and has a pricing point that’s more SME friendly.

But… don’t automate anything that needs your voice

Any service, skill or communication that needs a personal touch should not be automated. A great example is automated messaging – we’ve always hated it when we follow someone on Twitter, and the first thing we get is some crummy marketing DM straight in the inbox. It doesn’t make for a good connection or experience, and it often turns potential customers off.

We try not to automate in areas where we’ll offend or bother people if they can tell that we’re not being genuine. Instead, we automate in areas where we can maximise impact and create the most value for others.

Make it part of the culture

For our team, automation is the crux of how we operate. It has to be considering the service we provide is an automation solution itself. If you emphasise the benefits of automation to your staff – from top down – you’ll find they too can utilise it in a way that improves their own personal productivity.

Ultimately, a work culture built on automating the minute tasks of running a business will give your team more time to focus on innovating and working toward the long-term goals of the business.

Jon Westenberg, Chief Marketing Officer, Speedlancer

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