Photo by Brett Jordan
Automation has become a real obsession when it comes to technology and making life and work better for everyone. We can see it everywhere in our daily lives, from programmable coffee machines, fridges that order groceries when you’re getting low, the artificially intelligent bots that answer simple questions on websites, to Google Maps that offers the fastest route to our destination. Sure, those are simple examples. But it just shows how focused we have become on cutting out the manual work and streamlining our day; because time is precious and the more time we save the better.
This translates directly to businesses as well, automation is the key to cutting costs and boosting productivity. It is also not that difficult to implement and is just as advantageous for small businesses as it is for larger ones. Automation has been most influential for ecommerce, as there are so many tasks involved that are manual and time-consuming and which threatens stunting the business’s growth potential.
As a business scales, so the demands on the resources mount, processes that may have worked flawlessly before will start to buckle under the pressure and essentially become inefficient. The mad scramble to do what is urgent trumps what is important, and time is sacrificed on the wrong things. The simplest solution, but not always the right one, is to hire more people - but that becomes expensive and has its own time-consuming processes. This is where Ecommerce Automation takes care of the repetitive tasks and effectively gives you back your time, energy, and cuts costs. Soon you will start to invest your new saved time on creative experimentation and product development - which is a much better use of your time!
What is Ecommerce Automation?
Ecommerce Automation is the software that converts manual and time-consuming tasks and processes, or even campaigns, to automations that execute what is needed without your intervention. You simply set up the parameters and let it run on its own. These can be a myriad of processes but can include monitoring and collecting information, looking for parameters and acting on them, eg. receiving an order/payment/return and triggering an email or flagging a task on another productivity program.
Typical Ecommerce Automation includes:
- Transaction emails such as Welcome emails to new customers and vouchers
- Flagging orders for review that have ‘suspicious’ traits like mismatched billing and shipping orders
- Customised sales emails that recommend new products that match previously bought items
- Emails sent after a period of time requesting service or product reviews of a purchased product
- Automated purchase order generation when inventory starts to get low on a particular product
- Abandoned cart follow-up emails when customers leave the website with items in their cart without completing a transaction
How does Ecommerce Automation work?
Ecommerce Automation uses past human behaviours on the website to predict what they will want next. Certain tasks require you to set up parameters to trigger events, such as a 30-day delay after a product is purchased before automatically sending out the product review request email. The great thing about automation is that it is not set in stone, but rather changes and adapts according to the customer data it collects.
Where is the best place to implement Ecommerce Automation?
The number of places that you can introduce Ecommerce Automation are endless and very much based on your own setup, however here are a few typical instances:
- Automatically schedule Sales: apply price changes and promotions for predetermined time periods
- Market new products: automatically load new products to the online store, as well as on social media, apps and sales channels
- Customer retention: flag high-value customers and send a task or email to sales staff to send a personalised message or reach out
- Live stock numbers: automatically unpublish out-of-stock products and show live updated stock numbers on the store
- Manage stock: send a notification to staff of products that are out-of-stock and to marketing to pause advertising on that product
- Adjust pricing: automatically adjust the pricing on checkout based on product combinations or quantities
- Manage risk: automatically flag high-risk orders at checkout
- Loyalty programmes: easily manage discounts or shipping rules for loyalty members based on their email addresses
- Seasonal promotions: switch on entire theme changes for seasonal promotions or product launches and automatically roll back once the promotion ends
What advantages are there of Ecommerce Automation?
As we’ve already touched on, Ecommerce Automation saves you time, money, labour and allows you to grow your business with your saved resources - but it’s much more than that. Here are the top 4 departments that it is going to make the most difference to for your business:
Ecommerce operations has a whole host of manual tasks and processes that can be automated. This includes inventory, shipping, and other product-related workflows to make product discoverability easy such as being automatically tagged and added to collections based on their title, SKU numbers, and type. Stock can be automatically managed both on the online store as well as in the back end processes. Items will be out of stock for shorter periods of time (if ever) and the stock management process will be streamlined and rely less on human intervention over time. Less human intervention also results in less human error.
Very often the communication between sales and marketing isn’t instant, but with automation when new products are added to the store, the marketing team can be automatically notified as well as supplied with all the product details, enabling them to start marketing the product instantly. Advertising teams can also use low stock flags on specific products to pause promotion and optimise their advertising spend. Customised newsletters can be automated to include products that are most likely to convert to sales based on previous purchases and browsing behaviour. Less errors will occur if sales and promotions are scheduled for uptime and downtime rather than relying on someone to physically remember to make the changes to the website.
As mentioned before, Ecommerce Automation helps you mitigate risk by flagging high-risk orders based on IP address checks, address verification systems (AVS), and Shopify’s own database. These flagged orders can automatically notify your sales team to follow up on, which can save you thousands in chargebacks and lost revenue.
Seasonal theme changes as well as product campaigns can take a lot of time, however with Ecommerce Automation these can be automated and scheduled. Other development tasks such as transactional emails, free-gifts on selected purchases, and displaying best shipping options can all be configured with Ecommerce Automation. Once these rules and processes are initially developed there is no need to repeat the code updates as they can be automatically switched on and off, saving your developer’s resources and time. Web development, especially if outsourced, is also often one of an Ecommerce business’s highest expenses.
What Ecommerce Automation Apps are there for my Shopify store?
There are a number of third-party apps that provide Ecommerce Automation, including Shopify’s own enterprise app:
Shopify Flow, for Shopify Plus merchants, has automation software built into the Shopify platform that enables a whole range of automation across the store and apps. This includes tagging customers for segmentation and marketing, standardising visual merchandising, streamlining tracking and reporting, pausing high-risk orders, and more. Shopify Flow makes this easy to set up using a visual builder where you can set triggers, conditions and actions, without the need to code anything.
Back in Stock
Back in Stock takes care of notifying customers when an item is back in stock in the store. Customers are able to let you know if they are interested in purchasing an item that is currently out of stock, Back in Stock then emails them as soon as it is available without you having to intervene.
Klaviyo is a marketing automation tool that allows you to easily recapture lost sales through pre-built email flows, including abandoned cart and winback emails. You can also segment your audience using both Shopify’s and Klaviyo’s data to send super-targeted, personalised email campaigns.
SmartrMail takes marketing mails to the next level by using customer behaviour, browsing history on the store, email clicks, and previous purchases to recommend a personalised selection of products that they are very likely to want to buy. They also have an abandoned cart email series feature to pick up on those potential sales.
Prisync helps you keep your pricing market-related and competitive. It is a competitor price tracking and dynamic pricing software that automates collecting price and stock availability data to help you make informed decisions about pricing and marketing.