Ecommerce automation is the only way to achieve sustainable growth in your online business operations. However, the term doesn’t necessarily mean leaving everything to robots and algorithms.
Contrary to what most people think, ecommerce automation is not about replacing human efforts. Instead, it’s about transformative power. It’s about merging the technological prowess with the nuances of human touch. Striking the balance between the power of technology and human smarts allows you to operate more efficiently while you scale seamlessly.
In a perfect world, you could automate everything and achieve the elusive 4-hour work week. In reality, however, things are not that simple. ecommerce automation is a process that takes planning, research, and often tedious implementation.
As we dive deeper into ecommerce automation, we’ll explore its core benefits, the various facets of implementation, and how it can drive your business’s success.
What is Ecommerce Automation?
At its core, ecommerce automation streamlines online business operations by combining the prowess of human decision-making with technological precision.
But it’s more than using technology. Ecommerce automation is all about empowering human potential, not replacing it. Imagine having an assistant who never gets tired and executes tasks accurately.
From customer segmentation to inventory management, from abandoned cart recovery to marketing campaigns – ecommerce automation can help you in nearly all aspects of your ecommerce business.
Sounds amazing, right?
Unfortunately, most businesses can’t take advantage of ecommerce automation because they don’t know how to do it properly. At the end of the day, it’s all about striking a balance between using technology and human power, allowing you and your team to save time, money, and resources so you can focus on your business strategy and growth.
Benefits of Implementing Automation in Your Ecommerce Store
- Efficiency and Scalability: Automation’s transformative power is its cornerstone advantage. As ecommerce platforms expand, operational intricacies multiply. Processes manageable at inception become challenging as business scales. Automation ensures consistent business operations, even amidst rapid growth, acting as the infrastructure for expansion.
- Reducing Human Errors: Businesses constantly strive for excellence, but humans can occasionally falter, especially with repetitive tasks. Automating such activities minimizes errors, ensuring customers experience consistent service quality, pivotal for sustainable growth in the competitive e-commerce domain.
- Enhancing Customer Experience: Today’s digital customers demand prompt, seamless interactions. Automation accelerates everything from order confirmations to shipping notifications, refining the customer journey. Efficient systems that provide instantaneous responses can be the linchpin for customer retention, which is vital for successful online business operations.
Different Ways to Automate Your Ecommerce Business
Logistics can be scary and super time-consuming. Order fulfillment is the backbone of your operations and one of your most complex processes. That is why many ecommerce businesses start by automating it and choose to drop ship.
On the other hand, if you’d rather do everything in-house, you need the right resources to invest in scaling the infrastructure yourself.
If that’s not up your alley, outsourcing order fulfillment to an automated secondary platform is a terrific option.
One of the prime examples of quality fulfillment and logistics is Amazon. But there are many other companies out there, both domestic and foreign, that offer great physical and cloud infrastructure and integrate with most of the leading ecommerce hosting platforms (like Shopify and WooCommerce).
Here are a few notable examples:
- Oberlo – Platform that automates your order processing.
- Darkstore – Provider of full-stack fulfillment.
- Fulfillify – Provider of US fulfillment with a precision, technology-driven operation.
- Whiplash – Highly scalable modern fulfillment provider.
Specialized providers can not only offer better margins, but they are also better equipped to scale when your volumes pick up.
Nobody likes to count endless piles of products, but inventory management is something ecommerce stores of all sizes face. While you might be tempted to do it manually if your volume is low, using a secondary platform is necessary when expanding your product line and scale.
Ideally, you want a cloud-based solution that integrates with your store’s or marketplace’s hosting platform.
The key is to find a SaaS platform that integrates with most of the tools you already use and can scale with you. Your goal is to minimize errors and speed things up, ideally generating reorder suggestions and even sending emails directly to your suppliers.
StitchLabs, for example, is an inventory management software that integrates with all major hosting platforms.
Accounting & Payroll
Accounting and payroll are not something to be taken lightly, even if you are running a small ecommerce operation with just a few employees. Spreadsheets can only be optimized so much, and filing away invoices and documents is not fun.
At some point, it is worth it to delegate these tasks to one of the many secondary platforms that can automate your accounting, time tracking, and invoice payments.
Remember that some SaaS companies offer full-stack accounting services while an in-house accountant or a third party must manage others. Whichever solution you choose, automating accounting is a must-do step to scale and get your hands free from routine paperwork.
Some leading providers include
- QuickBooks – An all-around solution with invoicing and payments.
- Xero – Highly integrated accounting solution.
- Bill.com – One-stop shop for all financial transactions.
- Gusto – Simplicity-boasting, powerful payroll platform.
Have you ever gone through a whole day and wondered how you got so little done? You probably lost a lot of time in those small, forgettable tasks that take away from your focus and interrupt your day.
That is what platforms like If This Then That and Zapier are best for. They create custom solutions that link different apps and platforms, like merging meeting apps with calendars. They can also repost your social media posts across channels and update your team on key happenings.
Your team also probably loses loads of time trying to get your product photos just right. If so, consider automating your product photo editing with apps like Pixc. You upload your images and get them back within a few minutes, professionally edited and uniform on a clear-cut white background.
Nothing turns people away from automation more than the thought that it is just a cold interaction with a computer located halfway around the world.
In customer service, in particular, it is important to keep an element of human touch. Automating customer support, therefore, is always a combination of apps, platforms, and talented virtual assistants who are trained to resolve complex issues with a calm and friendly voice.
As you grow, you will need even more phone lines and VAs, but you can also be proactive about limiting calls and emails in innovative ways.
Create interactive FAQ pages that answer your customers’ routine questions and update them often as new issues arise. You can even hand your FAQs to a chatbot like Gobot that is nested in the corner of your store and ready to delight.
Make reaching you more casual and easy to delight customers and save time. When call volumes become hard to manage, consider employing one of the leading customer service platforms like Zendesk or Desk.com. They can really help you structure and streamline your incoming tickets so your representatives are more productive.
Likewise, consider adding a live chat feature like Chatra to your store, where quick inquiries can be made, shaving off calls from your main lines.
Returns and Exchanges
You can add more grace to your return and exchange process by automating certain aspects. You will still need an employee to handle the transaction, at least with the current state of automation, but you can use apps to speed things up.
Major hosting platforms, like Shopify and BigCommerce, boast great tools and integrations that help you easily create exchange orders. To further speed things up, create a step-by-step process and put it on paper so your VAs can study the flow and become more efficient.
We have put cart abandonment in its own category because it is so important. 68% of all shopping carts are abandoned, but you can improve on this dreary reality with different forms of automated messages.
The best way to reduce cart abandonment is with automated emails, popups, and chatbots offering discounts, free shipping, or other incentives. Often, carts are abandoned because of technical issues, credit card rejections, or site bugs, so reaching out and offering help can delight your customers and close a sale that was dropped not because of lack of interest.
The key to success in social media is consistency and always offering something fresh to your audience. Yet, curating content, tracking engagement, and scheduling posts can be very time-consuming. Fortunately, if done right, you can streamline and automate these tasks in your online business operations efficiently.
- Content Curation: With the AI getting smarter and smarter, you can start using platforms like Quuu or Feedly to automate the process of looking for relevant content in your particular industry. These platforms don’t only help you craft new content, but also choose the necessary content suitable for your target audience.
- Content Scheduling: You can use platforms like Hootsuite, Buffer, and CoSchedule to help you plan and schedule your posts across multiple social media platforms. The trick is curating your content in advance so you can batch schedule it for optimal times.
- Automated Responses: Apps like ManyChat and Chatfuel allow you to automate your responses on platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. This gives you faster query solutions while also improving your customer’s online experience.
- Engagement Alerts: Platforms like Google Alerts and Mention can help you setup alerts for various social media signals like comments, mentions, or specific keywords crucial to your business. With their real-time tracking, it gives your business the advantage of timely responses and maintaining a very active online presence.
- Analytics and Reporting: Your social media strategy will mean nothing if you’re not analyzing your data. Fortunately, you can also use automation tools that give you insights into your social media performance. This empowers you and your team in proper decision-making.
For a modern ecommerce business, manual email management is just too much to handle. For one thing, consumers have grown to expect certain information to arrive in their inboxes – promptly and clearly. For another, you can also use automated email to send regular special offers or updates.
Here are the types of emails you should be sending automatically:
- Abandoned cart
- Order confirmation
- Shipping notification
- Follow up
- Special offers
- Relevant content
Paid Advertising and Data Reporting
Luckily, technology has made reporting and scheduling ads a breeze.
You can easily create dynamic automated reports that give insight into your ads’ performance and store engagement. You can use tools like Google Data Studio to import data from Google Analytics, Facebook, or just about any other source and display it in beautiful interactive dashboards.
Once you set up the data flow, reporting is dynamic and automatically updates for the next period. You get a shareable link and can distribute your reports to everyone who needs to see them. You just saved yourself an hour each week.
In addition, you can employ Adwords scripts to automate and fine-tune your PPC efforts. Consider using scripts to modify bids on an hourly basis based on the competition so you don’t overbid. Also, employ them to automatically disable ads or keywords for out-of-stock items, update ad parameters by ad groups, and other key tweaks.
Challenges in Implementing Ecommerce Automation
While automating your ecommerce business offers many benefits, it’s not without any challenges. After all, technology available today still requires that ‘human touch’ to be used properly.
Unfortunately, that human touch could eventually lead to human errors, especially during the setup phase. Interestingly, using technology can also cause the loss of that personal touch that your online business operations still require.
At the end of the day, emphasizing what was mentioned earlier – the success in ecommerce automation relies on striking a balance between using technology and human power.
The Future of Ecommerce Automation
The bottom line is that ecommerce automation is the most effective way to scale your online store. As technology evolves, more and more tools will be at our disposal to help with ecommerce businesses. The transformative power of automating different manual tasks will only magnify – sooner rather than later.
That is why it is vital to stay informed on the latest automation platforms and apps offering solutions to key ecommerce needs and adopt the ones that best fit your model.
You may not be able to boil down your responsibilities to 4 hours per week but you can certainly save a few hours that you can invest in strategic growth initiatives.