Having a website is a critical component when running a business. Even with the prominence of social media, most users expect companies to have a website where they can find relevant, up to date and official information 24/7. This has become even more crucial during the last two years due to the pandemic. People increasingly rely on digital channels, online shopping and other tools to be in touch with the world and get products and services without needing to leave their houses or workplaces.
While building a website looks like the end goal for most businesses, in reality a website can be the starting point and foundation to enable systems integration, data sharing and process automation. These factors are particularly relevant in small businesses where resources are limited, and growth is critical.
A study by McKinsey* says that 31% of businesses have already fully automated at least one business function, a number that is likely to increase. On the opposite end of the scale, a survey by Zapier found that 94% of workers say they perform repetitive, time-consuming tasks in their role while 88% of Small-to-Medium Businesses (SMBs) say automation allows them to compete with larger companies.
How to use your website to automate your business and where to start
While the path for optimisation and efficiency might vary for different companies, there are common business processes and functions that easily become pain points during the growth phase. And when that’s happening, it becomes challenging to know where to start and where to implement the changes within the business.
In business (and with many things in life) it usually makes sense to start with a simple and small task. Not even a whole process, just one step within a business process.
There are numerous examples around this, but perhaps a common one across many businesses is adding leads into a CRM or at least into a central spreadsheet or database.
Most websites include one or multiple forms to allow customers to get in touch with the business for example, a contact form, a quoting system or a lead generation form. Apart from sending an automatic email to the business, there is usually a manual step where someone needs to manually copy the details into a central database: HubSpot CRM, Capsule CRM or a simple Google Sheet.
This workflow is an easy automation candidate and with the use of API (Application Programming Interfaces) or a third-party tool or plugin, a business can connect those two systems, improving efficiencies and data consistency across the business.
Identifying and describing the steps involved in a process will help you find automation opportunities.
From automation to process optimisation
Each time you identify and automate a step within your business processes, you will learn a bit more about the business which will enable you to see other steps that can be automated, or even steps you are missing.
In the simple contact form example, you can add to the workflow an automatic email to the customer and customise the message depending on the type of request. In some situations, an SMS could be appropriate as well (and sometimes more engaging than a simple email).
While you identify process optimisation opportunities, you will quickly recognise repetitive tasks that will also need to be included into this automation. For example:
- Entering data into multiple systems. Customer information usually needs to reside in multiple operation systems. Once you automate the integration between two systems, businesses begin to see the necessity to connect other platforms like a CRM, a project management system and even your accounting and invoicing platforms.
- Email communication. When sending similar or the same email to customers, it is essential to centralise customer data (and the segmentation information) into one single system.
Forte’s experience with software and website integration
We have had the opportunity to work with clients on many integration projects. In the last couple of years, we have seen an increase in these types of projects. Here are some real-life examples we have developed recently:
We developed a donation platform for a non-for-profit organisation. The platform allows the customer to select a specific initiative that they want to support. The backend is therefore integrated with multiple payment gateways (sending the funds to different bank accounts), as the organisation has different cost centres.
The system generates automated branded emails to both the customer and the donations manager, while adding the donor information into a marketing platform to keep the user up to date about the initiative they are supporting.
Booking system + CRM + Payment Gateway
We developed a custom integration system for a tourism operator. The website offers multiple touch points to the customer in different moments of the purchase experience.
The customer can make an enquiry on a specific tour and that information is sent to the CRM system with all the lead source information.
Once the customer books a tour, the system allows the user to pay using a custom payment gateway. Once the payment is confirmed the customer record in the CRM is either updated or created.
Finally, a few weeks before the tour, the customer needs to submit a form with health and safety information which is also updated into the CRM system automatically.
Solar panel installation live map
We developed a custom integration system for a Solar and Energy business that allowed them to display a real time map of all the installations they have done within the country on a Google Map.
The address information is grabbed from a CSV on a secure FTP server. From there the data is geotagged with the latitude and longitude information using an API, then the data is converted to a specific format which is then sent as a CSV into a different FTP, where the information is finally read by a custom piece of code to display the data in the map.
If you already have a website or are thinking of building one, there’s always an opportunity to go beyond a simple contact form and start connecting other systems within the business. And if you need help during that journey, we’d love to hear from you.