E-commerce has been booming for quite a few years now and does not seem to slow down anytime soon. Today, around a fifth of all purchases are made online globally, and according to other, more daring predictions, the number is around $6.4 trillion by 2025.
The predicted steady and unhindered growth is actually fully possible. Due to its unique nature, e-commerce is always ready to meet new challenges and integrate new solutions to serve customers faster and better.
So, to ride this wave and stay on top, your online retail needs to stay flexible and open to innovation. It’s also a good idea to identify possible bottlenecks in your online sales before they become problematic. Streamlining routine processes and automating repetitive tasks is one sure way to improve the performance of your company. It will also make it more resilient and profitable. Smart automation helps you scale operations rapidly and securely and serve customers without failures. It also keeps accurate track of what’s going on in different company segments.
The currently available automation toolkit is great in that it can be applied at any step of the sales process. From inventory management and customer support to shipping, everything can be optimized. Let’s look at every stage and what can be automated in a smart and beneficial way.
How to Automate Your E-commerce Business
All that your company does is ultimately about sales, so let’s look at where automation tools fit in here and what they can do for you.
Inventory and Order Management Automation
Basically, you should have already installed some kind of order receiving and tracking system in your shop. It’s the shop foundation. E-commerce means that orders can be placed in the system any time 24/7. Thus, the system should be ready to take the customer’s details and record the order. It can also set an alert to a sales agent to call the customer back during working hours, if required.
Furthermore, every step of a deal closing can be automated a bit to free the minds and time of your team. For example, all calls made to prospects should be tracked automatically in the system. Then the team will have the progress information on their fingertips.
A first unsuccessful call should be marked in the system as a reason for a follow-up call later. The whole process, from data storing to the targeted email or call scheduling, should be set up and done automatically. Salesforce software has become the household name for this kind of automation tool, so start from there.
Inventory management is one more area to automate as much as possible because you rule out the possibility of errors. Automation can cover the whole process of new suppliers’ onboarding, regular reviewing of stock levels, and its distribution in warehouses, overstock/understock issues, and many more.
Automated Abandoned Cart Emails
Customers often put items into a cart and quit the purchasing process, and it’s the headache of many online shops. It may happen because they lose desire to buy or because they have reasons to delay the purchase. Reminding emails can work wonders alerting customers to complete the order and pay for their purchase.
To do it, you can integrate your e-commerce software (usually, a CRM) with the email operator, and emails will be sent automatically according to the schedule.
Real-Time Monitoring Of Your Inventory
Placing an order in an e-commerce store is basically marking the desired item as reserved for a given customer in the system. Next, the reservation information is sent to the most appropriate warehouse. Shipping labels and all necessary papers are generated, and the item is packed and shipped. The order is marked as complete.
It all can be done with the help of an automation tool (except packing and dispatching), including real-time monitoring of amounts of items in stock. If the level is too low, the system generates alerts about what stock needs to be replenished, for example. This real-time database is also a valuable insight into what items are hot sales and what is skipped by customers.
Automated Shipping Label Printing
Accurate shipping label printing is a part of smooth order completion. Incorrect labels can delay delivery or lead to a package loss, damaging your shop’s reputation. Use automation tools to generate accurate labeling by extracting the details right from the order record. Our go-to solution is Foxy Labels, an easy and reliable tool. Print the labels, pack the items and ensure the flawless delivery, thus boosting customers’ satisfaction.
Currently, marketing automation deserves a book of its own, so diverse are its options. We will point you to the most obvious and easily implemented automation tricks to get you started.
Email Marketing Automation
You can and should run wide multistage targeted email campaigns using automation and scheduling. As said, integrate your e-commerce CRM with the email service. Then, you can schedule everything once, from prepared letter templates to the time of sending, and don’t waste time on it anymore.
Relations with customers don’t end with the initial order; that’s the rule. Add the customer to the emailing database and set up the reordering reminders. They will gently nudge clients to buy the item again (especially important for consumables). Or else, they can include a promo code or a special offer. In such a way, customers get used to reading all your emails because they can contain really valuable offers.
Cross-selling and up-selling are a must for e-commerce. By offering suitable accompanying items or by giving a discount on the second purchase, you subtly hook the clients. They feel encouraged to buy on the spot, while they are still engaged in the process. So obligatorily add the tools of the kind ‘Products you may like’ to your website. Then try software like Omnisend to roll out automated cross-selling campaigns for targeted product pages without doing it manually.
Sending targeted emails to different client categories makes mailing campaigns more successful (by approximately 50%, to be more specific). Segmenting emailing lists by categories and sending them on the schedule is just the task for the software, like Drip or Constant Contact.
Automated Social Media
Automation of social media managing and campaigning is also on the list. The simplest approach is to schedule cross-channel posting and updating by timetables. More elaborate effort may include using AI to create fresh updates and teasers instead of doing it by hand. Start with Hootsuite and SproutSocial and see what works best for your shop.
Customer Experience Automation
Customer experience is one of the points that can make or break your business. Automation of many small interactions can actually improve this experience.
Chatbots have already been here for a while and proved to be successful in helping customers with simple tasks. A typical chatbot that accepts questions and guides to a problem solution creates the feeling of live interaction. Automated replies to private messages or comments in social media let customers know they are heard. Botsify is a great option to try chatbots and their capacities, for that matter.
However, the key to the proper use of chatbots is to provide human intervention when bots cannot assist. So, this automation will need some fine-tuning on your part to work properly.
Customers Segmentation Based On Their Buying Behavior
To run targeted email campaigns, you need to know your customers by categories and buying preferences. It helps in many aspects, but let’s focus on emailing tasks. You should categorize your customers based on their main characteristics, like product selection, average cost of order, level of satisfaction, basic demographics, etc. This option is already built into many CRM platforms.
So use it and link targeted emails to specific categories of customers. Or use some basic database management tool to get the process started.
In any case, the goal is to categorize once and then automate the process. Then all following clients will be placed into a specific category by the algorithm and included in mailing lists, special offers lists, etc.
Benefits For The Most Engaged Customers
Customers love rewards, discounts, and special offers, so add this option to the automated emailing you have set up. Customer segmentation really helps to decide what category gets what special offers, so the whole automation process should be fast and easy.
Business Management Automation
Automation is not solely about customers. Your internal team interactions can also be automated – for efficiency, not for the sake of automating everything, mind you. So first, consult your team about what can be automated and what cannot, and then introduce the changes.
Simplified Workflows With Integration Tools
When your e-commerce needs a variety of tools and software, synchronization may become a problem. But there are super-tools that can coordinate data exchange between tools and apps. Zapier or Microsoft Flow are appreciated by many businesses for their capacity to coordinate and manage data and workflows and provide automation for automation tools, so to say.
Trello, Slack and Jira will pop in your mind immediately, we can assume, and you are right. These familiar tools are excellent automation solutions for tracking and coordinating the work. Tasks are prioritized, categorized, commented upon and closed in real-life mode. And this big work plan is perfectly visible and analyzable to everyone. This visual mapping is essential for managing the work of many people, so use these tools extensively.
How to Integrate Workflow Automation into Your E-commerce Business
We explored briefly what can be automated (almost everything, it turns out). Now here’s the explanation of how to implement automation cleverly, without disrupting existing processes.
Pinpoint Routine Tasks
Many small actions that eat up the time and energy of employees can and should be automated. Talk to your team, review the established processes and practices, and decide where tools can step in safely.
Determine The Areas To Be Automated
As said, everything can be automated, yet some areas should be automated in the first place. Emailing and email campaigns, dataset creation and management, segmentation, and categorization, data transfer – all these areas need automation first, as it will reduce the possibility of human error.
Find an Appropriate Automation Solution
When you know what to automate, look for a suitable tool. It may take some time to find the solution that is tailored to your needs, but the search is worth it.
Coach Your Employees
It’s not enough to deploy the tool and expect good results. You should inform your team carefully about its potential and coach them into confident use. Or hire a coach or a mentor, if required. Only when people know how to use the tool, will they use it correctly, and it will bring the desired boost in efficiency and time-saving.
Measure The Tool Efficiency And Track Performance
Follow up on the use of the tool and measure how it impacted the work process. If no positive changes are visible, test if employees use it correctly. Then decide if you need to apply automation in some other areas to achieve the desired improvement.
Speed is essential for e-commerce, but so is the accuracy of fulfilling the order and offering customers what they want, or what they might want. All these factors can be securely tied into your workflow with the help of properly chosen automation tools. Whether you need to improve customer experience or dataset management, the available tools will let you do it efficiently.
We’ve listed possible areas for automation and how to automate them, but the main key is your common sense and e-commerce needs, of course. Test and try various tools and combinations and create really optimal processes, for the benefit of your team and your e-commerce bottom line.