Automation has probably been on your radar for a long time.
Every time you read an article about streamlining your processes, or a cool new software that can handle X, Y, and Z for you, it gets added to your business to-do list.
The only problem is that your list gets taken over with other priorities on a daily basis. You’ve got orders to fulfill, emails to set up, packaging to order, maybe a pop-up or two to shake things up. You’re busy.
But now that you’re getting ready for Black Friday Cyber Monday, automation needs to be at the very top of your to-do list, because it’ll help you get mission-critical tasks handled at warp speed during the busiest sales weekend of the year.
Automation will help you get mission-critical tasks handled at warp speed during the busiest sales weekend of the year.
On top of that, some of these automations will actually handle things for you—instead of just streamlining them. Yup, you’re pretty much hiring software as employee #1, without the hassle of interviews and payroll. (And if you already have employees, this will make all of you more efficient.)
Here are seven must-have automations for BFCM this year, to help you handle the influx of sales and delight your customers at the same time.
Have you ever noticed yourself typing the same message over and over again?
It happens with social media, email, text messaging, you name it. When you need to share the same information over and over again, there’s a better way than just getting really, really good at typing the exact same reply.
It’s called TextExpander.
Getting TextExpander set up ahead of BFCM will save you plenty of time during one of the highest-volume shopping seasons of the year.
All you have to do is:
- Grab your best replies to common questions, your most-used email replies, and your most-sent social media replies
- Add them as text snippets in TextExpander
- Set a custom keyboard shortcut that will trigger that snippet
To really make it work for your business this BFCM, consider everything from your promotional strategies to your shipping strategies. Think about the questions your customers will have, and what your answers will be.
You might be facing questions related to:
- Shipping times, costs, and options
- Return policies
- Sale details
- Order information
- Gift cards
Make a list of the most common questions and comments you think you’ll receive during BFCM, and prep a reply for email and for social media. Save them to TextExpander with keyboard shortcuts that will be easy to remember (and make yourself a cheat sheet while you get used to it).
During BFCM, keep an eye out for any question or comment that you see coming up more than once. As soon as you notice a pattern, and you have a good reply ready to go, you can add it to your TextExpander repertoire.
You can automate almost anything using Zapier—it’s your internet secret weapon for getting apps to work well together, without having to hire a developer to make it happen.
To get yourself set up for a great BFCM, you should focus on building zaps that will take some of the most time-consuming tasks off your plate.
These three, in particular, will make your life and your business a lot easier this holiday season.
FURTHER READING: Here are even more ways you can automate your business using Zapier once you're through the BFCM rush.
Thank you messages
You know how important it is to use emails to build customer relationships, but the idea of sending out a hand-written (or TextExpander-ed) email to every new customer during BFCM is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Luckily, Zapier can handle the logistics for you.
You can set up a zap to send out a personalized Gmail email for every new customer in Shopify, or you can set up a zap to send out a Bonjoro video message (pre-recorded, that is) to every new Shopify customer.
No one needs to know about your internet magic behind the scenes.
Social media monitoring
You probably can’t be on your phone monitoring your social media feeds all day on a usual day, much less during BFCM. Plus, it’s easy to miss a mention here and there, especially if you’re not tagged in the post.
You can use a zap to add every mention of your brand (tagged or not) on social media to a Google spreadsheet. Then your job is as easy as reading through your mentions in one place, and answering them as needed.
You can even set up a different tab on your spreadsheet to monitor each platform.
To-do list updating
If you’re anything like me, your to-do list is your lifeline, especially in busy times like BFCM. Luckily, you can make your list smarter by updating it automatically using Zapier.
Zapier integrates with over 750 apps, so however you like to manage your workload, you’re covered. You could add a new Trello card for every Shopify order, or add a task in ToDoist for every mention on social media.
It’s basically like having a personal assistant run your to-do list for you, except that it won’t pick up your dry cleaning or get you coffee (sorry).
Need even more automation to handle your booming business? Shopify Plus customers can use Flow to handle all sorts of routine tasks, from automatically reordering inventory when supply is low to adding your best customers to a VIP list. Find out more about how Shopify Plus and Flow can support your growing business.
3. Bulk label printing
Lots of orders means lots of shipments to fulfill. Anything you can do to streamline your shipping process ahead of BFCM will make your life a lot easier.
Beyond all of the things you can do to prep for a smooth BFCM shipping experience, one feature you need to add into your workflow is bulk label printing.
Shopify Shipping now lets you print multiple shipping labels at the same time, so you can fulfill multiple orders in under 60 seconds. When you’re staring down a pile of BFCM orders, saving seconds (or minutes) per order can really add up.
4. Out-of-office emails
Give it up for the OG of email automation: the out-of-office email.
This unassuming email feature can save you a world of stress, and help you set expectations during BFCM and the holiday season. Plus, it’s not just for your business email.
One easy way to simplify your life during BFCM is to hit the pause button on replying to personal emails. You can turn on your out-of-office on your personal account, so that it sends a quick reply to anyone who needs you for something non-business-related.
Here’s an example.
Thanks for your email! I want to give you a heads up that I’m in the middle of Black Friday Cyber Monday right now. My focus for the next few days is all things YOUR STORE HERE, so I’ll be catching up on personal emails on DATE. If you need to get in touch with me before then, please OTHER COMMUNICATION METHOD YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO CHECK.
And hey, if you’re looking for YOUR PRODUCT, now’s a great time to order one before the holidays!
Now, you can rest easy and focus on your business and your customers for the weekend, knowing that Mom will call you if she urgently needs a reply about family dinner next weekend, and that your high school friends know you probably can’t meet up for brunch.
It’s also a crucial addition to your business email during BFCM, to help manage your customers’ expectations, and to help them help themselves.
Your business out-of-office email should include answers to common questions you think you’ll receive, as well as timelines for replies. That way, you can check your email when you have the time, instead of dropping everything mid-shipping-session to get back to people.
Here’s an example.
Thank you so much for your email! Here at YOUR COMPANY we’re away from our desks this weekend, getting orders out the door so that your purchases make it to you ASAP.
To help you get an answer quickly, we put together an FAQ of the most common questions you might have about [YOUR PRODUCT, shipping, gift cards, return policies, etc.]
We’re committed to getting you an answer to any other questions within TIME PERIOD. If your email isn’t time sensitive, we’ll be in touch on DATE to follow up, and if you need us beforehand, please reach out to NAME at EMAIL / SOCIAL CHANNEL.
5. Automated customer emails
You want to create a great customer experience, and that involves keeping your customers in the loop about their purchases and when they’re going to arrive—not to mention helping them with things like logging into their account if they’ve forgotten their password (hey, it happens to the best of us).
Shopify has you covered, with built-in customer notification emails about everything from fulfillment updates (“Your order has been shipped!”) to password reset emails. They’re all set up for you, and you can customize the look and feel by adding your logo, logo size, and brand color to the emails.
To make the updates, go to your Shopify settings, and select “Notifications.” You’ll see an option to customize your emails, and from there you’ll be able to make all of the updates.
6. Social media scheduling
Social media is an important channel for your marketing before, during, and after BFCM—but when you’re trying to get everything done during the busiest weekend of the year, you might not want to sit down and get a tweet out the door.
The one thing to watch out for with social media automation? Replies.
The one thing to watch out for? Replies. If you’re going to be posting updates on your sale, behind-the-scenes content, or anything else, you need to be prepared that customers with questions might reply directly on social.
Even during BFCM, you should aim to reply somewhat quickly. Either commit to regular check-ins on your social platforms, or set up a socially-savvy team member (ahem, or family member) with your TextExpander replies and a bit of guidance to handle them.
You could even give them access to that Zapier spreadsheet full of your social media mentions to make the job easier.
Every time you ask Siri (or Google, we don’t discriminate) to answer a question for you, you’re using a bot.
Since you know how helpful bots can be to figure out how many ounces are in a cup, or score easy-to-follow directions to an appointment, you can probably imagine that a bot could make a lot of your business processes easier.
There are several bots that can help you optimize your business, but there's one that's a standout helper during BFCM.
Need to set up a Facebook ad, or get an email campaign off the ground? Kit has your back. It’s a marketing bot that works like your very own artificially-intelligent CMO.
You can hire Kit to help you run social media ads, set up discount codes, promote new or back-in-stock products, generate sales reports, send thank-you emails to customers, and more. The app is free to use if you're on the $29 Shopify plan and above—although you’ll still have to pay for any ad placements and paid services you book through Kit.
If there are any other automations you're relying on this BFCM to help you manage your business, we'd love to hear about it. Drop your suggestions in the comments to help out other entrepreneurs gearing up for the busy season!