Sustainable business models and social entrepreneurship are currently experiencing an upswing, which is absolutely necessary. It takes holistic approaches to realise sustainability as a company. However, regardless of whether it is a service, product, B2B or B2C: many sustainable business models have to face the challenge of how they can reconcile sustainability with competitiveness. That is why it is particularly important for such companies to make optimal use of the resources available to them. Automation offers one such opportunity.
By automating process steps and entire processes, sustainable business models can ensure that their offer is and remains sustainable and at the same time is accepted by their customers. This is exactly what we did for the Swiss organic local shop Tante Emmer by automating digital customer management, allowing Tante Emmer to focus on its core business: buying and selling sustainable, regional products of the best quality.
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Tante Emmer is a Swiss organic local shop that operates as a cooperative, or more precisely as a commodity cooperative. The aim of Tante Emmer is to sell local, fair and organic products in their local locations at a competitive price. To this end, Tante Emmer makes use of the latest technological possibilities of shopping: the shops at a total of three locations function completely self-sufficiently without staff on site and are accessible to customers at all times by means of their own key card.
Sustainable business models in the form of a cooperative significantly reflect the idea of sustainable business, as all customers are also shareholders and all share in the success of the company. In this way, Tante Emmer creates a sustainable, unique shopping experience that has been enhanced by the automation of the entire digital customer management, allowing the products to be offered at a competitive price.
As mentioned before, the shops of Tante Emmer are accessible to all customers at any time via their own key card. These customers are also members, who in turn are shareholders. This results in a tiered model of member - customer and, in the case of Tante Emmer, a third tier - access authorisation via a key card. Low-code and no-code technology is used for the automated administration of customer management and store management.
In order to realise its own business model, Tante Emmer could spend the entire day purchasing suitable goods, loading goods, writing invoices and sending them to the customers - virtually the entire customer management as well as the entire goods and warehouse management. This is exactly where automation comes in and takes a large part of the administrative work off Aunt Emmer's hands. It works like this:
In the first step, the members aka clients register themselves for the Aunt Emmer offer, subscribe to their shares and apply for their membership card. This process takes place entirely without the approval or intervention of Aunt Emmer's staff.
As soon as the payment of the shares is received by Aunt Emmer, the release is automatically granted and the member can use the membership, receives a key card and is activated for the automated invoices. These are made available to the members via the integration of various applications.
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The automation basically consists of four different applications: bexio for accounting, Airtable as database and spreadsheet, SendGrid for sending emails and Zapier to connect all the previously mentioned applications and enable cloud automation.
Bexio is a rather unknown accounting tool from Switzerland that is great for integration into the process. Accounting, invoicing, quotations and e-banking are all combined in this software and are instrumental in integrating Aunt Emmer's invoicing into the process. Through the API interface, we can pass information from Airtable to send automated invoices to Auntie Emmer's members without the need for staff time.
Airtable is a tool that is mentioned in every no-code post and in our eyes quite rightly so. The tool acts as a mixture between a database and a spreadsheet and allows for great possibilities to define dependencies and automations within a sheet but also to be integrated within a workflow. In the case of Aunt Emmer, we use Airtable as a database for customer data and everything that goes with it.
SendGrid is a no-code tool for automatically sending emails and especially in combination with Airtable a great way to standardise and automate customer communication. Since the members of Aunt Emmer sign up and subscribe to their shares independently, the entire process is accompanied by automated emails. This way, customers receive all important information and the current status of their membership, as well as information about their bills and past purchases.
Of course, Zapier must not be missing! The shooting star among the no-code automation tools that makes the entire integration of the user sign-up and billing cycle possible in the first place. Zapier now supports more than 3,000 apps, including bexio, Airtable and SendGrid. These are connected to each other via a platform in Zapier and thus automatically exchange relevant data(What is Zapier?). This enabled us to link all the apps we use and automate the data flow without having to write code.
This automation of the digital customer management and billing cycle is not only unique, but also scalable. Because no line of code is set in stone ("hard-coded") and all process steps function independently of the amount of data, the process grows with the sustainable business model of Aunt Emmer. And that is precisely the magic of no-code and low-code: The tools enable not only temporary, but also future-proof and sustainable solutions.
By creating a truly sustainable and automated customer experience, Aunt Emmer is able to focus on what they really do for sustainability: buying local products and selling them cheaply to their members in order to be marketable.
Would you like to learn how you can benefit from automation? We are happy to help you uncover potential, highlight opportunities and implement automation. Psst, we grant sustainable companies a 10% discount on the project price.
Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.
But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.
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To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:
The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.
Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:
01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address.
02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.
What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.
But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
We have made a first distinction between iPaaS and BPA here.
We explain the term SaaS in more detail here.
Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.
However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.
As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.