e-Commerce Automation: 9 Ways To Do More In Less Time
Table of contents
Starting an e-commerce business isn’t easy. Growing it is even harder.
From inventory management to marketing and customer support, a lot of tasks must be done manually. Very often, these chores eat up so much of your time that you find yourself unable to sit down and think, let alone devise a growth strategy for your business.
So you start to wonder, how can you automate tedious tasks and do more in less time?
Here’s the answer: leverage technology to grow your company through automation. e-Commerce automation not only improves operational efficiency, but also helps you achieve better accuracy by minimizing human errors.
Against this backdrop, this article provides 9 areas in which e-commerce automation can be applied. Read on to see how you can automate the manual aspects of running an online business!
- Inventory management1.1 Inventory restocking1.2 Sending back-in-stock notifications
- Customer experience2.1 Customer service chatbot2.2 Sending cart abandonment emails2.3 Sending order status updates2.4 Sending follow-up emails (post-purchase)2.5 Sending follow-up emails (post-subscription)
- Business financing3.1 Revenue-based financing
- Digital marketing4.1 Dynamic ads4.2 Scheduling social media posts4.3 Customer segmentation
What is e-commerce automation exactly?
E-commerce automation is the process of turning manual tasks into automated workflow.
Used in the right way, automation software are excellent time and money savers.
They free up your capacity, enabling you to focus on higher level priorities, such as the strategic direction of your online business. Costs of human errors and labor hours can be reduced, too.
To enjoy the benefits of e-commerce automation, all you need to do is to figure out which tasks in your business operations can be automated, and when automation should be triggered.
This article has the answers you need.
1. Inventory management
If you’ve had experience with selling tangible products, you’ll know that manually managing inventory could be a real pain in the neck.
To help you with that, this section discusses three aspects of e-commerce inventory management that can be automated using software.
1.1 Inventory restocking
Without a digital log of your inventory, you need to keep an eye on stock levels at all times. Once a product is sold out, you’ll need to place an order with your supplier.
You may also need to unpublish it on your website to prevent customers from buying an item which you don’t have on hand. Of course, you’ll have to republish the product on your website after restocking.
All these don’t seem to pose a huge problem when your business just has a few items to sell. However, when your product catalog gets long and your warehouse gets large, manual inventory management becomes operationally inefficient.
This is where e-commerce automation software comes in.
For example, Shopify and apps on its platform provide solutions of different sorts to automate the inventory management process.
Below are some examples of what these software can do:
- Keep track of stock levels at your e-commerce store
- Send low stock notifications when inventory levels drop below reorder points
- Create ready-to-use purchase orders to be sent to suppliers
With this e-commerce automation, you don’t need to manually check stock quantities every day to see which items are running out of stock and need reordering. It ensures you have adequate inventory on hand and frees up your time to focus on tasks of higher priorities.
1.2 Sending back-in-stock notifications
Imagine this: a customer finds at your online store a bowtie that he really likes. Unfortunately, that item is out of stock. He leaves your site, forgets about the bowtie and never comes back.
You’ve just lost a customer.
Above is just an instance of money slipping through your fingers. Repeated over time, you could be losing thousands of customers and a lot of revenue.
To recover lost sales, back-in-stock notifications could help. Remind your customers of what they love about your store, and bring them back to make a purchase.
But note that you don’t have to send these notifications manually. Many e-commerce platforms, such as WooCommerce, Shopify and Magento, have functions that notify your customers when items are replenished.
2. Customer experience
On top of keeping track of inventory, e-commerce automation can also be used to optimize the customer experience. This can be done by improving customer service response time, engaging customers regularly and keeping them posted on their order status.
Here’s how you can do it.
2.1 Customer service chatbot
We all know that customers hate long waits, but you only have so much manpower to deal with customer enquiries.
The truth is, hiring customer support specialists isn’t only the only way to cure your headache. Chatbots can, too.
Designed to reduce response time and improve customer experiences, chatbots are AI-driven programs that can give answers to customers’ questions 24/7.
They’re particularly useful when your customers keep asking similar questions like “What payment options do you offer?” or “How long does it take for the goods to be shipped?”.
With the help of chatbots, you can cut down time and costs in handling standard or frequently asked questions, focusing your manpower on serving customers that require more personalized responses (e.g. product returns or complaints).
2.2 Sending cart abandonment emails
Some 70% of online shoppers abandon their carts, found Baymard Institute.
Yet, through the act of adding products to their shopping carts, these visitors have indicated interest in your products. These shoppers are easy-to-convert, lucrative ‘low-hanging fruit’, but how can you pick them?
The solution lies in cart abandonment emails.
Schedule emails to be sent to shoppers within an hour of cart abandonment, when they still have a fresh memory of what they browsed at your store. Remind them of what they’ve added to their carts. Encourage them to complete the checkout process.
Sending cart abandonment emails is a great tactic for improving your e-commerce conversion rate. In fact, around 45% of recipients open these emails and 11% of them make a purchase.
Image source: Shopify
2.3 Sending order status updates
In the early days of selling on Instagram, many online sellers relied on direct messages (DMs) to communicate order information. (Actually, many of them still do today.)
The typical buyer-seller conversation would go like this:
In ideal situations, the seller would ship the order and get back to the buyer with a tracking number. In reality, however, sellers might miss out a few orders. Or that’s what customers fear…
That’s why order status updates are crucial. They keep customers posted on the status of their orders, giving them the peace of mind that their orders are being processed and not missed.
Try sending automated order status updates with any e-commerce platform (e.g. Shopify or WooCommerce), and you’d never want to go back to the primitive method of sending DMs back and forth.
2.4 Sending follow-up emails (post-purchase)
The customer journey doesn’t end after customers complete a purchase at your online store. It’s just the beginning.
This is because there’s so much you can do with your purchasers — asking them for feedback on your products, delighting them with birthday rewards, offering freebies to loyal customers, and the list goes on.
And how will you do all these? Automation is the answer.
To give an example, Mailchimp is an email marketing platform on which you can set up automated birthday emails.
Send a pleasant surprise, such as an exclusive promo code, to your customers during their birthday months. It will work wonders on building customer loyalty.
Example of a birthday email message
2.5 Sending follow-up emails (post-subscription)
Another application of email automation can be found in the subscriber journey. This is often done with visitors who have signed up for your email newsletters, but haven’t bought from you yet.
You can set certain conditions, such as time intervals between emails, whether the previous email is opened, etc. to determine when and what to send to your audience. You may also share discount codes to encourage email subscribers to make their first purchase at your store.
Done well, this can improve your newsletter open rates, make people remember your brand and turn subscribers into purchasers.
Example of a customer journey mapSource: Campaign Monitor
3. Business financing
When we talk about e-commerce automation, financing may not be the first thing that springs to mind. But here it is — business financing with vast automation that gives you a painless funding experience.
3.1 Revenue-based financing
Business financing is a centuries-old concept, dating back to the B.C. years when farmers were given “grain loans” for providing grain of equal value.
As humankind progresses and businesses thrive, today we see new forms of financing for new-age businesses (e.g. revenue-based financing). Financial institutions also find new ways to simplify the funding process. An attempt can be seen with bank lenders starting to replace printed application forms with online forms.
That being said, very few funding providers are able to achieve automation and make funding application a quick and painless experience.
Choco Up is one of those few funding providers.
Leveraging data analytics and machine learning technology, we employ vast integration to streamline the funding application process and automate fund deployment. When everything goes well, funding could be available in as soon as 48 hours.
To apply for e-commerce funding at Choco Up, you simply need to:
• Fill out some information about your business here, and
• Connect your sales or marketing account (e.g. Shopify or Facebook Ad account) to our data integration platform.
There’s no lengthy application form to fill, nor do you need to gather extensive documentation about your business in order to get funding from us.
If you’re interested in getting quick, flexible funding to grow your e-commerce business, you can learn more about revenue-based financing here.
4. Digital marketing
Last but not least, digital marketing is an aspect of e-commerce that can be automated to a large extent.
Read on to learn how automation can save you from headaches and sleepless nights.
4.1 Dynamic ads
If you have a choice, would you prefer to do the math yourself or let a calculator do it?
“A calculator of course! That’s a no brainer.” is what most people say.
Applied in the context of digital advertising, think of algorithms as your calculator. They do the spadework so you don’t have to.
A case in point is Facebook’s dynamic ads, which show your products to people who are likely or actually interested in them.
More specifically, Facebook’s algorithms do the following in order to achieve effective audience targeting:
• Analyze general users’ behaviors and interests
• Find people who have indicated interest in your products (or items similar to yours)
• Create a database of users who have interacted with your page or browsed your store (note: you may need to set up a few parameters first)
The above are just some of the powerful things that Facebook’s algorithms can do.
Once set up, dynamic ads run automatically and continuously, helping you reach new audiences and engage existing ones to drive sales and revenue for you. That’s the power of automation.
4.2 Scheduling social media posts
Research by Sprout Social found that the best times to post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are 3am, 9am, 11am and 10am-12pm respectively.
But you wouldn’t ask your social media manager to set four different alarms so that he can publish posts at the best times on different platforms, right?
Given the wealth of social media scheduling tools available, that’s a very unwise thing to do.
Example of a social media post scheduling toolSource: Hootsuite
Try Meta’s Creator Studio, the official tool for scheduling Facebook and Instagram posts (it’s free!). Paid tools, such as Hootsuite or Later, can also be used to prepare and publish posts across social media platforms.
Save yourself (or your employees) from distractions throughout the day and give yourselves a good night’s sleep. No more getting up in the middle of the night to catch the ‘best posting time’!
4.3 Customer segmentation
Different customers have different spending power, buying behavior and varying degrees of loyalty to your brand.
Want to identify the most profitable ones?
Forget about combing through your database and performing in-depth analysis on customer information. The process can be automated with a few clicks.
Shopify, for example, has features that help you group customers into different segments. The dashboard below is where you can save high-value customers (e.g. those who’ve spent more than $300 at your store) as VIPs.
After the initial set-up, purchasers who fit into that criteria (i.e. accumulated spending exceeds $300) will be automatically added to the VIP segment. With e-commerce automation, customer segmentation is as easy as that!
Some last words
To build a successful e-commerce business, it’s essential to be forward-thinking and plan ahead, and e-commerce automation is the future of the business world.
Technology is changing every day, and those who seize the early opportunity gain a competitive edge to stay on top of competitors.
One must embrace and adopt automation to streamline workflow, improve efficiency and optimize the customer experience. If you don’t, you lose not only time and money, but potentially also the loyalty of your customers.
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