It’s 2023, and AI is all the rage. The explosion of widespread AI use in the form of ChatGPT, Dall-E, and Midjourney has thrust real-world usage of automation into the spotlight in a way we’ve not seen before, but despite the media hype, these automation applications are just the tip of the iceberg.

AI and automation extend far beyond the simple uses of content creation, especially in the business world, where every company is in an arms race to optimize, optimize, optimize, 24/7. Automation, as you’d probably expect, is one of the simplest and easiest ways to optimize.

Automation has become so commonplace in the business world that chances are you already are automating tasks, without even realizing it, but now, in 2023, there are so many things in your business that you can automate, allowing your employees to be more productive (and increase your bottom line!).

As Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last,” and that’s never been truer than embracing technological innovation. Automation and AI are the future of business, and anyone who doesn’t get ahead gets left behind. Here’s ten things your competitors are automating – so you can at least keep pace with them as the business world enters technological hyperdrive.

AI Automation vs. Augmentation: What’s The Difference?

A key difference to note when it comes to AI is the difference between automation and augmentation.

  • Automation: any process involving replacing human labor with technology, usually AI.
  • Augmentation: any process enhancing human skills with AI use.

The reality is that everyone is augmenting our business with AI. Every time we use voice-to-text or use Siri to set a meeting, we’re augmenting our work with AI.

Automation, though, that’s a different concept! Automation involves offloading the entirety of a job process to AI, requiring little or no interaction from humans. You see this in processes that you “set and forget”, like audience segmentation on Google Ads or inventory management systems that adjust orders based on real-time data.

Managing Multiple Sales Channels

With so many different on-ramps and touchpoints for businesses nowadays, automating your sales data across the various channels is critical to stay up to date. Automation significantly alleviates the manual workload involved in re-keying data across various systems and spreadsheets, unifying all of your various sales channels (and the data they contain) into one single place.

Utilizing business management software as a central hub for all sales information eradicates the need for manual updates on inventory counts whenever a sale is made, ensuring real-time accuracy of sales data. You may already be doing this with Shopify or similar e-commerce software.

As more avenues for businesses to reach customers will continue to open up – like the Metaverse, for example – manually keeping track of all of that data will become not only inefficient – it will become impossible.

Tracking Landed Costs

We all remember the chaos of the pandemic-era supply chain backup. Companies desperate to avoid the incredible costs associated with shipping logistics issues have seen the improvements automation can offer in analyzing these costs and finding ways to adjust and improve the bottom line.

Accurate tracking of duties, freight, and shipping costs is vital for informed purchasing and pricing decisions both in the short term and long term, which is make or break for businesses that sell a physical product.

Automation not only saves time that your employees can use to improve other areas of the business but computerized calculation and analysis ensures precise calculation and tracking of these costs. In short, it makes it easier for your team while also delivering better results. Win-win.

Electronic Document Management

In the digital age, document management has become increasingly difficult as physical storage disappears and digital demands increase. With companies increasingly becoming a disparate patchwork of remote or flexible workers, managing documents across an organization is both more critical and more difficult than it ever has been.

Automation is making huge changes for businesses of all shapes and sizes as we grapple with the demand for digital document management. The automation of document management tasks like data transfer, document retrieval, and document version tracking, enhances efficiency by reducing the manual workload.

Modern electronic document management systems are often cloud-based with impressive search functionality, which makes finding information straightforward. The use of AI in document management systems is increasing, with intelligent document processing being used to automate tasks such as document categorization and tagging, which improves accuracy and reduces manual workloads​.

Examples of Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS) are Connecteam, PandaDoc, and DocuWare – all of which unify all of your data into a centralized location for storing and managing documents.

Inventory Reordering

Along the lines of logistical automation of freight and shipping, automating the inventory reordering process is an absolute game-changer, particularly for businesses dealing with large quantities of inventory movement.

The reality is that humans aren’t that great at managing and predicting inventory supply and demand oscillations. Computers are excellent at processing and analyzing real-world data and using that data to create actionable opportunities for businesses. Without an automated system in place for your inventory management, the reality is that you’re probably falling behind your competitors.

An automated inventory management system is a computerized program that oversees every aspect of the items a business holds in stock, recording how many items there are, and where they’re stored, and tracking them when they move from one area to another. Not only is it a real-time system that tracks inventory, but it can also adapt and manage inventory as it tracks this data in a way no human can.

Like many things in automation, automating your repurchasing is all about down-the-line optimization. It’s about freeing up your procurement team from having to manually submit purchase order requests for replenishment when stock levels fall, especially during peak seasons when inventory levels are low​.

By freeing up your employees’ attention bandwidth, you can not only get more productivity out of those employees but simultaneously increase your throughput as the automated system can perform the job better and more accurately than any human could. This is really an area where automation is better than humans on every conceivable level.

Automated Digital Marketing

Marketing was one of the areas of business to adopt automation en masse. You see automation in every aspect of (effective and optimized) digital marketing, from Google Ads to Mailchimp.

You really see automation tools in segmenting and targeting. Automation can help businesses more effectively deploy marketing in a way that supports their strategic KPIs, whatever they may be, by better-segmenting audiences based on behavior and preferences.

Automation allows marketers to create and foster better relationships with your customers, while simultaneously improving the hard numbers like CTR, conversion rates, and CPAs. In short, automated digital marketing allows for marketing operations to serve both short and long-term goals.

Data Management and Transfer

Who amongst us hasn’t spent an entire workday downloading some important files from someone on Google Drive – only for the download to fail and fail and fail again?

Given the immense need for data and information, ensuring data transfer issues is critical for businesses in 2023. Seamless integration and smooth data transfer between different applications or platforms are quickly becoming essential for businesses in any vertical – and demand for this service is rising.

With teams that are now truly international, having a unified solution that allows employees across time zones and access levels to transfer data seamlessly is a huge leap forward for productivity. Not only does data management and transfer automation reduce the need for manual intervention but also ensures data accuracy and consistency across the board.

Zapier is probably the most popular tool for automating data transfer between different applications. These tools reduce the manual workload your people have to put in, while also ensuring data accuracy and consistency across different sales channels and stakeholders.

Automated Customer Service and IT/HR Processes

If you’ve ever had an issue with an order as a customer of any e-comm business, you’ve probably interacted with a chatbot – just one example of how businesses worldwide are aiming to reduce labor costs and optimize workflows by fully offloading tasks to AI.

Automation in customer service through chatbots and automated IT and HR processes is significantly reducing manual labor, streamlining communication, and improving data accuracy across organizations. So many queries or issues have a discrete and simple solution – and setting up an AI to clear these issues has been saving companies millions upon millions of dollars over the last half-decade.

Big companies like Zendesk and Intercom provide automated customer service solutions like chatbots and automated ticketing systems that help businesses manage customer interactions efficiently across multiple channels.

The ultimate goal is a smooth, seamless interaction for the customer, where they get an answer right away while ensuring your most valuable resource – human beings – are deployed in areas that require our specific skills.

Keep Up Or Get Left Behind

It feels like we’re in Blade Runner these days, doesn’t it? Well, get used to it. The AI genie is out of the technological bottle and let’s be honest, there’s no going back.

Especially in the brutal world of business in 2023 – where a 1% change in the interest rate can sink entire corporations – there’s never been a bigger need to streamline operations; to save money while earning more.

Automation can be scary, but it should be embraced if you want to survive as a business in 2023. These seven things are only the most popular ways companies are adopting automation in their processes. More forward-thinking businesses are already engaging in much more aggressive automation endeavors.

If you want to just keep up with the pack, these places are a good place to start, but it’s up to you to constantly stay up to date with the latest opportunities for you to save money, while also increasing your revenue. Embrace the robot…or be swept away in the digital flood.

Additional Reading

Shopify – How to Sell on Multiple Channels Without the Logistical Headache (2023)
NBS-US – Get Advanced Landed Cost Automation with SAP Business ByDesign
Monday – Document Management System Checklist 2023
FormKiq – Document Management in 2023: Predictions and Trends
Cin7 – Automated Inventory Management: 2023 Guide
AIMultiple – Top 10 Business Benefits of Automated Reordering in 2023
Council Post: Demystifying AI: Automation As Empowerment For The Workforce Of The Future