7 Ways Small Businesses Stay Competitive With Automation

We’re surrounded by automation in digital e-commerce: birthday email discounts, abandoned cart reminders, newsletters promoting new collection drops.

This approach attracts and retains customers: it gives your customers an incentive to revisit your website and receive real-time guidance from a chatbot, which leads to more sales.

For small businesses (we’re talking 1-249 employees), much of your marketing, customer management and more can be streamlined with automation. And with the right communication tools it’s easier and more affordable than you think.

Why is automation important for small businesses?

Simplifies processes and saves money. For small businesses, this means being able to offer instant support without hiring more agents. Automation also helps maintain your backend system, CRM, email lists and more.

happy cartoon chatbot

Creates a competitive advantage. Proactively approach customers on your website and keep their interest before your competitors can. By assisting in real time using chatbots, you have a better chance at guiding them to a sale.

Enables small businesses to grow. If you’re trying to grow your customer base, automation attracts new customers when they’re on your website, and helps retain existing ones with perks, personalized assistance and more.

More accessible and affordable than before. An AI chatbot and sophisticated automated website features aren’t just for large businesses anymore. Modern software companies have affordable automation solutions that are up and running in just a few hours - without coding.

How many small businesses use automation?

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, entrepreneurship is booming. In 2021, 5.4 million business applications were filed, which includes e-commerce retailers and personal consulting services.

To stay competitive and meet customer expectations, so far 35-36% of these small businesses invested in automation to improve employee productivity and keep up with changing customer demands. Primary areas include sales and customer relationship management.

Two-thirds of a salesperson's time is spent not selling. They're doing follow-up or scheduling things or filing reports. Taking administrative tasks out of people's hands is very important.

Enrique Ortegon, general manager at Salesforce

More than 9-in-10 of businesses in the United States are also using at least one automation platform to run their business, particularly in social media promotion. Compared to TV and radio ads, advertising on social media is considerably less expensive - and sometimes free if you’re lucky to be shared organically.

Of course, there are also challenges when implementing new digital solutions. For example, 40% of small businesses are concerned about security issues and 30-33% lack IT skills and can’t decide on the right software that supports the integrations they need.

It’s right that you shouldn’t implement just any fancy-sounding AI system. Some are too advanced and complicated for support and sales, other rule-based solutions cover only very specific use cases. As an automation software provider, we know the market pretty well and can recommend a variety of solutions that already help thousands of small and medium-sized businesses. Keep reading to learn more.

7 top small business automation strategies for sales and support

The tools and strategies listed below work for the most crucial areas at your business: customer service, sales, marketing, engagement, retention and more.

Have you identified pain points at your current business in any of those areas? Automation can help.

  1. AI chatbots for proactive lead generation
  2. Website chat as instant, personalized help
  3. Responsive contact forms and FAQ to reduce tickets
  4. WhatsApp Campaigns and newsletters for product launches
  5. Email newsletters and automated follow-ups
  6. Ratings and feedback to learn where you can improve
  7. Loyalty rewards to retain star customers

AI chatbots for proactive lead generation

Promoting new products and services can be expensive — you want to make sure customers are interacting with your brand and going through your sales funnel.

According to research by SMB Group, 38% of small to mid-size businesses named sales as their top area to automate. If you want to keep customers interested and eliminate any doubt about buying from your company, use AI chatbots across your website and messaging channels like WhatsApp and Instagram.

Chatbot assists customers on a variety of popular messaging channels
Userlike’s AI chatbot can talk to your customers on every channel, at any time.

A self-learning chatbot can:

  • Ask lead-qualifying questions
  • Quickly answer repetitive questions
  • Proactively approach website visitors
  • Gather account details and grow your customer database
  • Boost customer engagement
  • Promote products and limited time offers

Plus a chatbot can handle 30% of customer inquiries at only the fraction of a cost of hiring more customer support staff.

Three affordable AI chatbot providers:

  • Userlike: all-in-one support & sales automation including customer messaging, chatbots, WhatsApp newsletters and more
  • Dashly: Custom chatbot software for lead collecting
  • MoinAI: Marketing, sales and customer service chatbot software

Premium guide to automation in support

Learn the top ways your business will benefit from AI-driven customer support.

Download for free

Website chat as instant, personalized help

With website chat, there’s more automation features than meets the eye. From the customer’s point of view, they can start chatting with a knowledgeable agent almost immediately, receive fast answers and even use their native language even though the business is in another country.

Behind the scenes, the chat is routed to the best agent on the topic, they can use canned responses to resolve the chat quickly and use a built-in live translation feature to respond to the customer in their language.

infographic of messaging support in the adoption curve, a major customer service trend
Userlike’s live translations feature automatically switches what you type to your customer’s preferred language.

Website chat also lets you proactively approach visitors who land on your site. Greet potential customers with a friendly message to kickstart the conversation.

Live chat agent greets user with automated message
Texas wine company Lost Draw Cellars humanizes their chat with a rancher hat-clad fellow.

During the chat, the information you collect is saved in customer profiles. That way you have a clean overview of contacts and can reconnect on a personal level during the next chat.

Three affordable live chat providers:

  • Userlike: all-in-one support & sales automation including customer messaging, chatbots, WhatsApp newsletters and more
  • Superchat: universal inbox for WhatsApp and web chat
  • Smartsupp: live chat software for e-commerce and support

Want to see more providers? Check out our article, “Live chat software: 5 reliable providers compared.”

Responsive contact forms and FAQ to reduce tickets

Often customers reach out to your team without realizing the answer is already on your website. You may have a FAQ page, but if the customer doesn’t quite know how to phrase their question or know what to look for, they’ll likely just contact you.

This is where smart FAQs, contact form suggestions and a central knowledge base come in handy.

Interactive FAQ that auto-predicts questions and displays relevant answers

At Userlike, for example, you can import your business data into a knowledge base, which powers a responsive FAQ page and contact form. The Smart FAQ auto-predicts the user’s request as they’re typing, suggesting relevant topics near the search bar. Same with Contact Form Suggestions, which helps the customer find an answer to their issue from your central knowledge base directly in your contact form before they can even hit send.

AI chatbot understands customer question with recognizable keywords

Auto-suggestions will help reduce the amount of repetitive tickets your team receives on a daily basis. Plus, your knowledge base’s accuracy will improve on its own by learning from each customer interaction.

Three affordable self-service support providers:

  • Userlike: all-in-one support & sales automation including customer messaging, chatbots, WhatsApp newsletters and more
  • Shelf: knowledge management for self-service portal
  • TeamSupport: customer support hub with forum-like community feature

WhatsApp Campaigns and newsletters for product launches

Keep customers in the loop about product launches, sales and more with WhatsApp. Earn a spot in your customer’s personal contact list and grow long-term relationships with minimal effort.

Whatsapp newsletter message with subscribe button

With an impressive 10x higher open rate than traditional email campaigns, WhatsApp delivers broader reach and increased engagement.

Create campaigns to grow your customer contact list, and send newsletters with dynamic content to guide users to your products.

This is all possible with the WhatsApp Business Platform — a powerful, GDPR-compliant solution that works for small businesses in any industry. To use the full automation capabilities of WhatsApp Business, which includes chatbots, intelligent routing and auto translations, you need a WhatsApp Business Platform from an authorized WhatsApp Business Partner, such as Userlike.

Customer support contact channels displayed on online shop support page
Customers can get in touch with sportswear shop Blue Tomato on multiple channels.

Check out our post, “WhatsApp Business pricing: What costs you can expect” to learn more about the benefits and costs.

Three affordable WhatsApp newsletter providers:

  • Userlike: all-in-one support & sales automation including customer messaging, chatbots, WhatsApp newsletters and more
  • Wati.io: WhatsApp API platform for marketing, sales, service and support
  • Brevo: marketing and sales software that gets you closer to customers via WhatsApp, SMS and email

YSK: Userlike charges one of the lowest processing fees per message at just 0.1 cents.

Email newsletters and automated follow-ups

Even though WhatsApp has better open rates, email is still a crucial communication channel for many small businesses. Particularly when it comes to newsletters and customer support — Gen X still loves a good email over an instant message.

Boost your retention efforts by setting up automated emails that send discount codes, personalized product selections and more.

For software companies, if a customer signs up for your free trial or to receive a lead magnet, you can use automated emails to educate them about your brand. They know they want your product, but may not know how best to use it. Email lets you send instructions so customers can educate themselves in their own time.

Three affordable email newsletter platforms:

Ratings and feedback to learn where you can improve

Customers are quick to share their experiences with a company on social media. If you’re not giving customers an easy way to let you know how your business is doing, or monitoring your social mentions, you miss out on helpful feedback for growth.

Survey chatbot asks user to leave feedback at the end of the chat

Asking for feedback also looks good to your customers. According to Microsoft: “77% of customers have a more favorable view of brands that ask for and accept customer feedback.”

There are simple methods for using automation to collect feedback at every stage of the buyer journey:

  • Star ratings at the end of a website chat
  • Interactive chatbot satisfaction surveys conducted in-chat
  • Email surveys after a purchase or with longtime customers

Loyalty rewards to retain star customers

Keeping a customer loyal can be difficult if you have competitors trying to earn their business. We recommend giving rewards to existing customers to show that you value their interest in your company beyond the first sale.

For example, you could give exclusive discounts to long-time customers. Create an email/WhatsApp segment list for those who have been with your company for a year or more and time emails accordingly to collection drops or promotions.

VIP early access email
Source: Pinterest

You can also send automated limited time offers to new customers after their first purchase to encourage them to buy again. For all existing customers on your email lists, tease them with a sneak peak of an upcoming product or feature launch, and perhaps the promise of first access.

Userlike: 20+ automation tools in one that you’ll use daily

Userlike is a well-rounded customer support software with automation tools you’ll actually use at your small business.

Don’t waste money and effort on multiple sales and support tool providers — our all-in-one solution has everything you need.

Our software includes the following highlights:

  • Website chat for personalized, instant conversations with all of the automation features mentioned in this post.
  • AI Automation Hub, which includes modern automation modules connected to a customizable central knowledge base.
  • Central message inbox where you can receive chats from your website, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, SMS and more all in one place (email channel coming soon!).
  • Integration support for all your favorite tools, including MailChimp, HubSpot, Slack, Jira and more.
Userlike message center for responding to customer chats across multiple channels

Sign up for free to test our software. If you like what you see and want to use our automation features full-time, reach out to a member of our team! We’re AI enthusiasts who are ready to help you figure out an automation plan for your small business!