An e-commerce store continuously works 24 x 7 without any break in between. It should be running and accepting orders all the time. As it is not possible to have a team managing the store all the time, every e-commerce business requires some level of automation.
Innovation in ecommerce technology lets business owners eliminate or shorten workforce functions. The newcomers may feel that it is a luxury, but they will realize that it is a necessity after a time. Those running B2B ecommerce stores or more complex marketplace management scenarios often find they suffer from growing pains. These can be high order volumes to manage, inventory management challenges, and lowering customer satisfaction.
For most online businesses, it would be a great decision to bring automation into their functioning. While individual sales processes can differ, most are repetitive. Automating some aspects of your business can keep the ecommerce business going while channeling resources to grow the company with a better buying experience. In this article, we will go through all the aspects of automation in the e-commerce industry:
What Is Ecommerce Automation? & How It Is Used In Apps?
As per its definition, ecommerce automation employs technology to increase your business’s sales and the productivity of team members. By automation, the companies can reduce running costs, re-organize staff activity, and deliver a better customer experience.
There are a series of actions in e-commerce automation that are configured and customized. There are 3 significant components in e-commerce automation:
- Triggering of an event indicating that automation should start:
- Next is the condition that defines what the automation will do.
- Ultimately, the result is an action that performs a function without any human intervention
Many processes are executed between the order placing and delivering of the order. Firstly, the order will be retrieved & processed, and an inventory will be packed, and then logistics will be performed. That’s why a B2B ecommerce store with heavy automation can help sell effectively, increase the accuracy of orders, and improve employees’ productivity.
How Do You Automate Ecommerce App Tasks?
There are many benefits of automation in ecommerce: workload reduction, improved efficiency, happier customers, and increased sales. But how to begin with automation? You can follow these steps to start automating your e-commerce business:
1. Identify The Areas Of Automation
There are many processes in ecommerce that you can automate. Generally, if any process requires manual work, takes time, and is repetitive, you must automate it. E.g., activities involving order processing, order tracking, or inventory management are the potential candidates of automation. Similarly, product information with pricing, payment, etc., across different e-commerce channels can also be automated. After knowing the areas of automation, you can find what connectors and integrations are required.
2. Select The Right Solution
There are many ecommerce solutions available in the market. It is challenging to find the right option with all the required features and functionalities for successful automation. As you will explore vendors, you will come to know their strengths and weaknesses. You could understand how to handle the systems’ product, order, customer, inventory, and fulfillment data internally. Also, check the case studies, previous clients’ testimonials while choosing your vendors.
3. Look For Existing Connectors
If you can find existing connectors which are pre-built for the same purpose and can integrate with your ecommerce platform, then the automation becomes easier. You don’t require hiring a complete team of developers, but a single developer would be enough to integrate. It is especially true if your vendor has connectors that can dynamically and reliably transfer product, order, customer, and other data between your systems.
4. Real-Time Data Processing
A massive team of sales has the responsibility of taking follow-ups, updating inventory & shipping, etc. Real-time automation will exonerate this team from manual, repetitive tasks, switching between software, or logging data into Excel spreadsheets. Ensure that the data is synchronized and transferred in real-time, not in periodic batches, as it can result in a poor user experience.
5. Monitoring And Data Validation
In the e-commerce business, a huge amount of data moves within or between systems. Automatic audit trails and logs document data flow regarding every transaction. You have to identify systems that resent, recheck, or repeat activities manually. There should be a process to maintain and check your data’s completeness, quality, and security.
6. Hire A Winning Team
Ideally, your systems should work 24 x 7 x 365. But if there are any hiccups, problems, or roadblocks, you should have a backend team that can manage things if they go south. Thus if an order or return fails to work as expected, you should react to the issue quickly and work on a solution.
eCommerce Automation Resolves Common Challenges
1. Teams Of Marketing, Sales, ERP, Fulfillment, Or Logistics Aren’t Connected
In the e-commerce business, there are multiple systems involved for marketing, sales, order processing, and shipping. If there is data redundancy between these systems or is difficult, customers may receive inaccurate information about the stocks or inventory, untraceable orders, or wrong shipping data.
After the integrations, the data sync between these systems becomes automated, so the data is uniform and consistent. When the information is up-to-date across all systems, there is a single source of truth and no problems arise.
2. The Team Is Frustrated Because Of Repetitive Manual Tasks
Most e-commerce sales teams spend just half of their time interacting with clients. The other half just shuffle paperwork or perform manual data entry, especially when the sales process is repetitive or requires multiple manual steps. After making the business processes faster and easier, you save time, money, and human capital, which you can utilize for more crucial tasks of your business.
3. No Proper Data For Informed Decision-Making And Addressing Growth
With the growth of your e-commerce business, the costs and time required to maintain it also increase. Similarly, more finance, operations, inventory, and customer data are generated.
But if you are using the right e-commerce tools, there will be no issues with huge data; it will make you a better decision-maker. When you have lots of accurate data, you can generate certain reports, which can help in intelligence decision-making. This empowers your e-commerce staff for customer expectations, offers personalized content, and makes the right business decisions.
4. You Want To Improve UX With Personalization, Transparency, And A Self-Serve Model
Online business automation likes to have control over online transactions. They want transparency into order status, order history, and the flexibility to change their orders. They also wish for efficient interaction. They don’t want to encounter unnecessary questions or engage in multiple checkout steps. Such an experience results in poor UX and leads to disappointment.
Automating support using self-service frees up company resources. It improves the UX and increases sales.
eCommerce Automation Benefits
With e-commerce automation, you can benefit from all these things:
As per the research of Oro, more than 85% of B2Bs agree to the fact that their e-commerce strategy is an underutilized revenue opportunity.
Every task in the e-commerce ecosystem is important, but tasks such as filing and data entry are strenuously repetitive, time-consuming, and prone to error. You may feel that the current processes are highly effective while there are unknown bottlenecks in your operations. If the team spends time on these tasks, then other crucial tasks will be missed. Automation reduces these bottlenecks and eliminates many time-consuming manual tasks. This increases the productivity of the team and impacts other departments within the organization.
2. Data Accuracy
According to Gartner, the average cost of poor data quality to businesses can range between $9.7 million and $14.2 million annually.
Accurate data management is crucial in the e-commerce industry. The ever-changing data is of huge amounts such as order details, customer information, or inventory numbers. If you share this data manually, there will be a huge chance of errors. And in the e-commerce industry, even a small error can result in huge problems that impact customer experience and your ability to fulfill orders.
3. Productivity Of The Team
As per the research of RetailTouchPoints, B2B e-commerce automation can increase the productivity of the team by 45% and overall revenue by 49%.
A smart e-commerce business always has new opportunities for maximizing the value of the resource, including human resources. With e-commerce automation tools, businesses can retain the productivity of their employees, which motivates better engagement and a more fulfilling work environment. By automating the manual tasks, employees have more time to resolve customers’ queries, improve the product, or improve their skills. If the employees have the freedom to test and implement new strategies, it will be great for your business.
4. Customer Experience
According to Bain, a customer experience promoter has a lifetime value to a company that’s 600 to 1,400% that of a detractor.
Customers want to purchase experiences that are memorable, easy and help them save time & money. They also appreciate transparency, tracking of orders, and receiving up-to-date inventory, and fulfilling information. If you can make it easy for your customers to check orders, track status, shipping, and returns without staff involvement, save money, and build customer loyalty in the long term.
5. Sales And Average Order Value
As per Forrester’s report, product recommendations like upselling or cross-selling are responsible for 10-30% of e-commerce revenues.
Personalization and incentives are essential factors in boosting sales & average order values, and automation helps apply these strategies. E.g., you can give personalized recommendations of products as per the user’s history or location, promotions, shipping options, or any other incentives by customer or customer class.
According to Mckinsey, B2Bs with digital automation capabilities generated an 18% total return to shareholders, compared with 10% for the rest of the field.
If your staff is not equipped with time-consuming tasks, they can utilize more creative processes such as expansion or growth strategy. Sales representatives and e-commerce professionals possess a wealth of customer information, so with market research, together, they can make the best business decisions.
Automation Types In The eCommerce Industry
1. Workflow Automation
What is the first thing a visitor does in an e-commerce store? Register for an account. While in some e-commerce stores, visitors have to sign up using their password, while in other stores, there may be additional requirements. And during the purchase process, approvals may require different stakeholders, especially in the B2B business. Vendor and supplier onboarding can be different and involve input from other decision-makers. But a powerful workflow engine can configure any workflow you may require. A few applications of ecommerce workflow automation are:
- RFQ and quote automation
The B2C transactions are generally simple, but on the other side, the B2B purchases are quite complex. There are negotiation chances on an individual basis or offered at a custom price. If you give buyers the option to request quotes and arrange for payment, the process gets automated. Also, you can personalize the pricing for each customer and automatically calculate as per the customer or company criteria.
- Checkout Automation
Checkout is a very crucial step in the e-commerce store. Checkouts with numerous steps discourage customers from completing their purchases. Automation in checkouts lets you run multiple checkouts in parallel, allowing you to A/B test and find which is best.
- Order Processing Automation
After placing an order, when it comes to fulfillment, customers always want to know the status of their order. At the very least, they want to know whether the order has been successfully placed like, left the warehouse, and is on the way to them. All these aspects should be automatically communicated with automation.
- Product Catalog Automation
If you are in the B2B business where there is negotiation for prices, payments, and delivery items with the customers, you must offer logical steps for your personalized product catalog. You must offer each customer a record of the products they require at the negotiated price point and all without the unnecessary extras.
2. Sales Automation
Automating the sales funnel of your e-commerce store lets you optimize the lead nurturing, streamline the sales funnel, and close more deals. The most significant benefit of automating sales is that sales representatives have to spend no time personally engaging with prospects or customers, educating them, and answering their queries. A few examples of sales automation are:
- E-mail notification automation
Notifications and e-mail of scenarios such as order placement, order status, or order cancellation are highly important for customers. It can be a simple message or part of a more complex, rule-based workflow. Such e-mails can be anything from abandoned cart notifications to stock updates to time-sensitive promotions that customers find important. Automation of e-mail in e-commerce businesses is a necessity and not a choice.
- Sales opportunity automation
Keeping the sales pipeline full-needs focus on upcoming opportunities and strategies that can work repetitively. The elements of your e-commerce store should work together, including your product pages, landing pages, or forms. Data should flow freely between systems, too. If your ecommerce store is well-connected and synchronized with your CRM, it is easier to move deals reliably to a close.
- Customer service automation
It would be great to have a support team that can work 24 x 7 x 365 without any break and can respond to any queries without any external help. This is customer service automation. Utilizing a human resource for support can be costly and unfeasible for the 24 x7 availability. A Chatbot program can resolve all such issues. Chatbots have become intelligent with the help of AI and capture requests of the customers in the CRM.
3. Fulfillment Automation
After the placement of orders by the customer, the fulfillment processes begin. Efficient order handling is required to process orders and deliver them to customers quickly. Fulfillment automation helps sales reps and customers not engage in a lengthy back-and-forth. Customers will get automatic notifications of status changes or can view the order status from the e-commerce store. Here are some ways to fulfill automation:
- Inventory Management Automation
Suppose you want to make your customers and staff updated on orders and inventory status. In that case, it is crucial to keep numerous systems such as your ERP, warehouse management systems, and other integrations with your CRM and e-commerce platform. These integrations will involve all the important entity updates, such as sales representatives and customers.
- Warehouse Management Automation
The warehouse management keeps an eye on the stock levels of your inventory on the ground. Integrating this system with your e-commerce platform will make your website show updated stock data and avoid any miscommunication regarding out-of-stock products. Also, if there are multiple warehouses, then a warehouse management system automatically helps shift inventory between warehouses to optimize fulfillment.
- Returns Automation
No customer wishes to return his/her product, but they have to. It is a part of online business automation. Just like fulfilling an order, managing returns can also be complicated. Different product types have different procedures for returns. Some products even require approvals from multiple entities, and others may not. Automations can notify the responsible department for the return process and approvals.
Who Benefits From eCommerce Automation?
E-commerce automation makes things easier for everyone, from leaders & managers to lower-level employees. Here’s how ecommerce automation benefits various business scenarios:
Managers require updated status from the sales and customers to make better decisions and to grow your business. They need visibility across every business function by integrating e-commerce systems across ERP, CRM, PIM, eProcurement, and other methods if the data is well-connected and can be present in a well-readable format through custom reports dashboards, managers to make better decisions.
Operations also require automation for everyday processes like sales, inventory, shipping, etc. The job is to make manageable automatic segments, tag and route products or orders based on unique criteria. They can also automate quoting, contract negotiation, reorder supplies, low-stock products, etc.
Marketing departments require accurate data of the customers’ activities and product details for better marketing campaigns and decisions and maximum ROI. Automation helps the marketing team with personalized campaigns, promotions and product recommendations, and shipping options.
4. Customer Service
As we mentioned above, it is not possible to provide 24 x 7 customer service without automation. Automation doesn’t just help you provide timely support to the customers but also tailor answers based on specific customer data, order values, and acquisition characteristics.
5. Customer Success
Customer success managers should find the right time to cross-sell, up-sell or provide extra support to the clients. They should follow up with the customers at important events like promoting a specific product or service.
Last but not least, customers are benefited directly from ecommerce automation. With the help of automation, the brands can offer timely assistance, personalized interactions, and much more.
In this article, we have gone through all the different aspects of automation in the ecommerce industry. At Emizentech, we have expertise in developing ecommerce stores with high-level automation to streamline the workflows across different departments. We can develop next-level ecommerce stores with advanced features and functionalities. Let us know your requirements.