Automating your business for growth

During the #Covid19 lockdown, many people found themselves at home with their partners for a longer time than usual. The period also provided an

During the #Covid19 lockdown, many people found themselves at home with their partners for a longer time than usual. The period also provided an opportunity to deepen bonding among siblings and family members alike. It was a good period to cool down and reflect on the future. Some family business owners and entrepreneurs embraced the lockdown period by investing in learning new skills and exploring opportunities to digitize their businesses.  Below are some key terms you need to know when it comes to automating your business.

E-Business

The term e-business (electronic business) is defined as the use of electronic means to conduct business internally and/or externally. Internal e-business activities may include logistics management, factory floor operations and scheduling, finance and accounting, and assets tracking and management.

When you acquire software to automate a specific business function, you have invested in e-business. For example, it may include the linking of an organization’s employees with each other through an intranet to improve information sharing, facilitate knowledge dissemination, and support management reporting. e-Business activities also include supporting after-sales service activities and collaborating with business partners. For example, virtual teams in two firms in different locations may collaborate via a secure extranet on research or new product development.

Despite the distinct terminology that is used, e-business should not be viewed in isolation from the remaining activities of a business. Instead, a business should integrate its online e-business activities with its offline business into a coherent whole. For example, customers may now shop, order, and pay for groceries online. They may choose to either pick up the packed groceries from the physical store or for an additional fee, they may be delivered directly to the home.

You need to have a strategy that defines the choices on how you plan to win. Then define your target market and the products and services you will sell. Then the internal processes you need to invest in and digitize to deliver value.

E-Commerce

Many people have a mobile phone with Internet access. You need to explore how to sell to such people without having them to visit your physical office or shop. That is where electronic commerce comes in. The ability to sell online and reach so many prospective customers.

Simply put, e-commerce deals with the facilitation of transactions and selling of products and services online, for example, via the Internet or any other telecommunications network. It involves the electronic trading of physical and digital goods, quite often encompassing all the trading processes such as online marketing, online ordering (e-procurement), e-payment, and, for digital goods, online distribution and after-sales support activities. e-Commerce applications with external orientation are buy-side (e-commerce activities with suppliers) and sell-side (activities with customers).

To tap fully into the opportunities of mobile, a company could consider fully-fledged mobile e-commerce, for example, eBay customers can download and retain an eBay “app” (application) to their mobile device and then use it whenever they want to search and purchase products. The app stores their login details and payment preferences, which streamlines the purchasing process. Now if you visit the DHL Africa website, you will be prompted to download their mobile app to access a wide range of services. Many companies have developed apps to make it easier for customers and prospects alike to easily access their services.

Social Commerce

The use of the social web to deliver e-commerce activities and transactions, particularly the use of user-generated content and content sharing. From a business perspective, the socialization of e-commerce can strengthen business relationships with customers, increase website traffic, identify potential opportunities, and facilitate product and brand development.

For example, Alibaba, one of the biggest e-commerce companies, provides online discussion areas and facilitates online communities for user interaction. These social commerce features facilitate the exchange and integration of information and knowledge and promote selling and buying delivered through e-commerce platforms. Buyers can use the information and knowledge gleaned through social commerce features to assist in their shopping journeys and purchase decisions.

Omni-Channel Commerce

This refers to meeting customer requirements across a range of channels, which may entail physical stores, websites, catalogues, call centres, social media, and mobile apps. Omni-channel commerce requires companies to conduct synergetic and systematic management of various channels and touchpoints in such a way that the customer experience is optimized across channels and throughout the customer journey

For instance, Amazon launched its cashier-less retail store Amazon Go. Amazon users can go into a store, pick goods, and leave. The Amazon app will automatically fulfil the checkout process and send bills to users’ smartphone.

Secondly, Alibaba planned to open 30 physical supermarkets in Beijing in 2018.

Thirdly, Florius is a US company that offers mortgages via its website. Customers can choose to apply using self-service or with assisted service help.

U-Commerce

u-Commerce stands for ubiquitous commerce. It refers to the wireless, continuous communication and exchange of data and information between and among retailers, customers, and systems (e.g., applications) regardless of location, devices used, or time of day.

For example, a household refrigerator may have inbuilt sensors that record when it empties of specific foods and automatically adds them to a shopping list and sends an order, including delivery, to replenish them. The machine-to-machine process requires little or no human intervention. Ubiquitous commerce creates several new issues including privacy; it redefines how value is created3 and requires new business models.

E-Market

An electronic marketplace where business to business (B2B) buyers and sellers trade. Electronic markets are more flexible, convenient, and generally less costly than physical markets.

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