What is Ecommerce Automation?
Ecommerce automation is part of the comprehensive “retail automation” landscape.
Automation tools are software solutions, built around intelligent workflows. These innovations convert processes, tasks, and campaigns within a business into jobs that can be done autonomously, without the need for input from a human worker.
Although not every business will rely heavily on ecommerce automation, these tools tend to become more essential as a business begins to scale. The more a company grows, the more jobs, demands, and complexity ramp up over time. This is one of the reasons why so many companies start hiring new staff members the bigger they get.
While automation doesn’t completely eliminate the need for human input, it does reduce the number of repetitive tasks team members need to do, so they can focus more on value-added work. Rather than focusing on the same repetitive tasks every day, staff members can work on actively growing the business and unlocking new opportunities.
Ecommerce Automation Examples: How Does it Work?
Ecommerce automations can come in a range of different formats, from tagging customers for segmentation and marketing, to streamlining tracking and reporting, and standardizing visual merchandising. With each workflow, the goal is to simplify and eliminate as many tasks as possible.
Some of the tasks companies can address with workflow automation may include:
- Fulfillment: Various aspects of ecommerce fulfillment can be automated. For instance, when an item is ready to be sent to a customer, an automatic message can be sent directly to the customer to let them know their product is being shipped.
- Inventory management: When stock levels are running low for a specific product, automation tools can send messages to the business leaders, or even submit new orders to suppliers in some cases.
- Product updates: When an item runs out of stock, or regains new stock, the information in the product page can be updated. This removes the need for team members to automatically keep track of and update inventory levels.
- Customer loyalty: Using automation tools, companies can tag high-value customers for segmentation purposes, and use email marketing tools to automatically send specific offers or “thank you” notes to customers. Organizations can even use automation to create unique discounts and deals for customers who purchase a specific amount.
- Security: Automation can help companies preserve the security of their ecommerce business. For instance, if a high-risk order is placed, internal security teams can be notified rapidly. For instance, if a bot may appear to be “buying” all of your stock, you’ll get an instant alert.
- Financial tracking: Automated tools can keep a close eye on how much money you’re earning from an ecommerce store. You can track things like donations and sales separately, and even find out which products are generating the most sales.
- Order tagging: Ecommerce store owners can use automated tools to tag restricted shipping zones, and temporarily hold payment from customers attempting to ship to these locations. A tool can even alert staff to provide customers with store credit they can use on their next purchase, or issue refunds automatically.
- Preferences: With automation, companies can adhere to specific customer preferences. It’s possible to identify, tag, and segment clients purchasing from different sales channels for marketing purposes. Users can also show and hide different payment options relevant to each customer segment, history, location, or device.
- Sales: Business leaders can use automation tools to automatically schedule sales which run for a specific period of time, or adjust prices at checkout based on product combinations. For instance, a company might automatically offer a discount when various items are bought at the same time.
- Product releases: If companies are introducing new products at a specific time, they can use automation to preload new products, and send information directly to social media, stores, apps, and various sales channels simultaneously.
As the world of automation becomes more advanced, the number of tasks a company can complete with automation tools is beginning to grow. Countless manual tasks can now be automated by business leaders, ranging all the way from fulfilling an order, to updating site themes.
How Can Companies Automate Ecommerce Stores?
There are various ways for business leaders to leverage the power and benefits of automation for ecommerce stores. For organisations with pre-existing developers or technical knowledge, it’s possible to create systems for automation in-house, using intelligent tools. However, for smaller businesses without this functionality, there are easier options.
Tools like Shopify and WooCommerce come with access to apps, add-ons, and even built-in tools which allow for the creation of simply workflows without in-depth knowledge. These out-of-the-box solutions are beginning to appear throughout countless ecommerce store builders.
There are also dedicated “low code” and “no code” tools with automation capabilities baked in. For instance, Shopify Flow is a popular automation tool among ecommerce store owners. The technology follows a logic based on triggers, conditions, and actions, created through easy-to-use visual builders. Workflows can be deployed and built in minutes, or users can access pre-made workflow templates.
These intelligent tools often work alongside a number of other solutions built into the ecommerce landscape, to give companies more opportunities. For instance, an automation system might link directly to “Back in Stock” apps, customer experience tools like Klaviyo or LoyaltyLion, and more.
Which Team Members Benefit from Automation?
In the transformational business landscape, automation tools can support virtually every team member in an ecommerce environment. These solutions work best when adopted by interconnected departments and staff within an organization.
Here are some examples of how automation technology can support different team members when combined with your ecommerce platform:
- Operations managers: The individuals responsible for ecommerce operations can use automation to deal with a range of shipping, inventory, and product-based workflows. Products can be automatically tagged and added to collections based on type, title, or SKU, to help standardize visual merchandising. When stock levels drop, these individuals can receive rapid alerts, or send a new order directly to a partner or supplier.
- Customer support or service: Many ecommerce automation tools allow companies to tag customers based on specific conditions like acquisition channel, or order value. This helps with creating segments for retention and marketing, while also making it easier to deliver rapid customer service. Similarly, when customers return an item, customer service teams can be prompted to follow up with the customer on the last communication channel used.
- Fraud prevention: To assist with safeguarding the ecommerce business, automation tools can automatically track high-risk orders using tools like IP address checking, address verification systems (AVS) and database details. These orders can then be tagged for review. Ecommerce automation can also be configured to notify fraud-prevention or security specialists for hands-on, specific reviews.
- Marketing and advertising: Individuals in the promotional team can be automatically notified when new products are added to a store, so they can begin advertising. The same team can also receive alerts when inventory is running low on specific products, so they can adjust their promotional methods. Marketing teams can also schedule sale changes in advance, to help marketing teams better plan promotions and reduce errors.
- Design: Retailers specializing in customized products can receive order specifications directly. Designers can even use automated tools to access a range of marketing tactics, like “back-in-stock” banners for stores, overlays, and visual cues or CTAs. These tools can be published and unpublished automatically based on specific tags and triggers.
- Web development: Developers may have the most to gain from automation. Theme changes, email captures, merchandising opportunities and free gifts for selected purchases can all be customized using the same ecommerce automation functionality. Once created, these rules can reduce the need to code and recode repetitive updates within an ecommerce store.
The Benefits of Ecommerce Automation
When automation software solutions first began emerging in the business landscape, many employees were concerned these intelligent tools would make them obsolete. However, as various forms of sales, development, security, and marketing automation have made their way into the ecommerce landscape, teams are now recognizing just how valuable automation can be.
Whether it’s sending notifications to team members about stock-outs in real-time, or eliminating human error from the data recording process, ecommerce automation tools have significant benefits to offer. With the right automated workflows, business leaders can streamline their ecommerce operations, and even drive better customer and employee experiences.
In fact, automation integrations can even help to align multiple tools within the ecommerce business strategy, to drive new opportunities for companies. For instance, linking your CRM system automatically to your marketing campaigns can make it easier to create more personalized messages at the touch of a button. Ecommerce automation tools can also:
- Enhance customer service: Ecommerce companies can use automated chatbots to handle everyday requests and transactions. A chatbot can handle the reordering process for a customer, or provide insights into tracking details for a parcel.
- Reduce complex business processes: Automation can also eliminate some of the time-consuming tasks an online business owner needs to handle every day. When automation tools are dealing with things like ordering supplies, and preventing stock-outs, you have more time to focus on building better levels of customer satisfaction.
- Reduce errors: Because automation tools aren’t subject to human error, they make mistakes less likely when dealing with monotonous tasks like order management. This means it’s less likely companies will miss an order, or send the wrong products to new customers.
- Improve sales: one of the best examples of ecommerce automation involves using intelligent marketing messages and notifications to customers to increase sales. You can send messages to customers as part of an abandoned cart strategy, to boost their chances of coming back to your store. Or you can nurture new customers with upsells and cross-sells, send incentives to your most lucrative customers, or automatically launch sales on your ecommerce website.
- Improve alignment: Because ecommerce automation software can often connect with different tools and systems throughout the ecommerce landscape, it makes it easier to align your team and maintain visibility into your business operations. When processes are better aligned, ecommerce companies can build better marketing and sales strategies. Some automation tools can link with everything from ecommerce site builders like BigCommerce and Shopify, to marketplaces like Amazon, and collaboration tools like Slack.
- Optimize marketing: Ecommerce marketing tools with built-in automation capabilities make it easier to nurture customers and increase long-term sales. You can create personalized email campaigns automatically, or dynamically launch unique marketing campaigns whenever a customer visits your website, to increase orders. Automation tools can even allow you to create and publish social media posts according to the perfect schedule.
- Boost productivity: Ecommerce automation software reduces the work involved in keeping track of low stock items, and dealing with order fulfillment. With automation, business leaders can quickly segment customers, send orders, and complete transactions without having to worry about wasted time.
Boosting Business Growth with Ecommerce Automation
Although ecommerce automation might have seemed like a solution reserved for larger, enterprise-level brands only a couple of years ago, this is no longer the case. Today’s vendors know there’s a lot of work involved in running an effective ecommerce brand. As such, they’ve made ecommerce automation features available to suit every business need.
Whether you’re looking for ways to automate sending upsell offers to customers in the shopping cart, or you want to align multiple apps and tools as part of your sales and marketing strategy, there are automation solutions available to help.