Running an eCommerce business can be one tough cookie.
Whether you’re chatting with leads or delivering customer support, you’re always nose-deep into work. So much that you may start to experience stress or, even worse... burnout.
Maybe you’re heading in the direction of burnout or have already hit this not-so-great milestone. You’re not alone! The US eCommerce industry grew by 32.4% in 2020. Online businesses, like you, need to streamline tasks now more than ever.
Why not invest in eCommerce automation? eCommerce automation is an opportunity to outsource day-to-day tasks while giving your time back.
This article will go over all the details of eCommerce automation—what it is, how it works, and how to get started.
Let’s dive in!
What is eCommerce automation?
eCommerce automation automates repetitive tasks like inventory management, email sequences, and data tracking so that you can focus on other business demands.
But what does eCommerce automation look like in real life? Let’s go through a few examples.
#1: Customer support
One way to nurture shoppers is by sending an automated email to shoppers as soon as they request support.
BetterHelp informs customers when they’ll get back to them and how to find help now. Adding a simple email like above is reassuring and tells users, “Don’t worry! Help is on the way.”
#2: Abandoned cart emails
Chances are, you have an abandoned cart email set in place. Well, guess what? This strategy is a form of eCommerce automation!
Sending abandoned cart emails at the right time can increase your chances of “reconverting” leads into customers.
#3: Delivery and shipping
Are you tired of shipping your products manually? Use an automation tool like Zapier to connect all of your eCommerce software into one streamlined process instead.
Automating your shipping and handling can reduce shipping costs and improve order accuracy. Score!
From nurturing your customers to delivering items, automation can support your team and business goals. The sky's the limit.
What can be automated?
There are numerous ways to automate your eCommerce business. Check out six of the most common ways below.
1. Inventory management and fulfillment
Keeping track of your online products sounds simple, but the task itself can take up hours of your time… no thanks!
Ditch the manual labor and find an inventory management software that can:
- Analyze your sales data and recommend the best items to stock during that season
- Track all customer orders post-purchase
- Accurately count your inventory
Marketing is an umbrella term for many strategies, like social media, paid media, and content marketing. Here’s how to automate each of these.
- Social media: Schedule posts, use an AI-content machine to produce social copy, and manage your direct messages from one internal platform.
- Paid media: Use a keyword research tool to identify competitive keywords, retarget users with dynamic ads, and manage social media campaigns from one dashboard.
- Content marketing: Schedule blog posts, proofread your posts with an AI-editing tool, and promote content with social media automation.
3. Email marketing
Don’t worry. We didn’t forget about email marketing!
Let’s start with the basics. First, find an email platform to schedule emails, trigger email sequences, and segment subscribers. Think of these tasks as the foundation of your strategy.
Now let’s get to the good stuff. With artificial intelligence, you can dive deep into your subscriber’s behaviors and:
- Boost email opens and clicks with multivariate testing (Think A/B testing, but you can test more than one variable at a time)
- Segment and identify what your customers are most likely to buy and send targeted emails featuring those products
- Determine when subscribers are most active online and send your emails at the right time
Psst... Sendlane can do all of these fancy things for you!
4. Customer loyalty
Loyalty programs and rewards are key to retaining customers and increasing lifetime value. There’s something special about getting a gift on your birthday or racking up enough points to get something for free.
Most reward-based systems rely on… you guessed it! Email marketing. Below are three rewards emails to automate:
- Birthday: Reward users on their birthdays with a free product or sample.
- Loyalty: Did a shopper reach 100 points? Congratulate and remind them to redeem their rewards.
- Exclusive discounts: Segment users to receive special discounts and offers throughout the year.
As mentioned in our loyalty programs article, REI’s reward program even offers outdoor adventures and classes to co-op members.
And what about you? Maybe you can offer free webinars, Q&A sessions, or live shopping drops. Choose something that will truly “reward” your audience.
5. Customer preferences
The best automation software compiles your buyers’ likes, dislikes, and expectations into customized emails and ads.
- Emails: Segment users into specific email lists and deliver products, news, and discounts they can’t say no to.
- Ads: Retarget users based on their clicks and purchase history.
Your eCommerce automation tool should also organize your customer data in one dashboard. This way, it’s easy for you to see what’s driving sales and what’s not.
6. Customer service
Isn’t it the best when your support team answers you right away? We think so, too! Provide the same reliability to your customers with an organized system.
- Add a live chat to your eCommerce site and turn your most asked questions into an automated dialogue
- Monitor brand mentions across social media and answer any questions you find
- Trigger feedback request pop-up ads
Wow! The possibilities are endless when automating your eCommerce business, wouldn’t you agree?
What are the benefits of eCommerce automation?
You know what eCommerce automation is and how it works, but why should you apply it to your business? Let’s go over five different benefits of automating your shop—real-life examples included!
1. Boosted efficiency
Automation software is a chance to outsource tasks without hiring more employees. You’re gaining more time on your hands without burning a hole in your wallet.
Kate Krische from Alloy Automation shares how OPTE, a skincare company, increased efficiency with automation.
“When OPTE’s order volume spiked during peak selling season, they manually synced orders and returned data between multiple platforms… SO MUCH that OPTE had a full-time employee uploading this information on a daily basis.”
Yikes! Hiring a full-time employee to enter data doesn’t sound too resourceful.
This is where eCommerce automation came into play. Kate shares, “We worked with OPTE to create customized automated workflows to sync their user data across all of their platforms. This allowed their employee to spend time on strategic initiatives and save the whole team 60+ hours per week!”
A seamless workflow can save you and your team hours of time. Now you can focus on things automation can’t fix, like strategy and planning.
Get started: Track your company’s typical day-to-day operations. Is there anything that could get done more efficiently with automation? Start there.
2. Accurate data tracking
Data tracking identifies the best times to increase and recover sales on your website and through email marketing.
But here’s the thing: Tracking data manually can increase the likelihood of delays and missed opportunities to engage with shoppers.
And let’s be honest—who has time to analyze data all day long, anyway?
Lucky for you, automation can track data and create personalized messaging for each shopper.
Take Sendlane, for example.
Sendlane’s marketing automation features track how customers interact with your store. When the time’s right, Sendlane will deliver real-time messaging based on your customer’s data. Think abandoned cart and browse abandonment emails, product recommendations, and retargeting.
Get started: Find a robust automation software to track your eCommerce data in real-time. Heck.. why not try Sendlane for free?
3. Increased productivity
Outsourcing tasks is a sure way to boost productivity. And it shows! Nearly 70% of small business employees say using automation software has increased productivity at work.
On top of that, employees agree that automated workflows pick up the slack, pivot flexibility, fight burnout, and save time.
Phillip Rivers, the CEO from Tetra Marketing agrees, “Automation has freed us up to be 31% more efficient,” he reveals. “There are clear order consequences of it (all positive). The first is more time. The second is the ability to do higher leverage work. And the third is an increased quality of life.”
Don’t let small tasks chip away at your passion. Hand it over to automation and save the fun stuff for yourself.
Get started: Analyze your workday and decide what does and doesn’t bring you joy. Then, figure out how you can automate that list.
4. Improved customer service
Customer service is the heartbeat of your company. Nearly three out of five consumers believe that customer service is necessary to feel loyalty toward a brand.
MadTasty, a CBD beverage brand, transitioned online in late-2019. Sendlane assisted in the move with tools to customize each online shopper’s experience.
Leila, MadTasty’s marketing director, explains how “There’s so much flexibility with the automations we can create, and they personalize each customer’s experience to help us make more sales.”
Personalization is a big plus to automation if you haven't already noticed.
The right software will:
- Identify when a customer needs help
- Give you specific data to nurture customers as closely as possible
Along with automating customer service, we suggest hiring a support team to chat with your customers one on one. The second most frustrating part about customer service is an automated system that makes it hard to talk to a human.
Automated emails and live chat are great at identifying the problem. But a team of support specialists can solve the problem.
Get started: Guide users to your support team with an automated workflow. Some ideas include a live chat, resource hub, or email sequence.
5. Sales configuration
Sales configuration—delivery, shipping, and handling— is the most tedious part of selling products online. Handing this job over to automation software sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
The best part is that you can get creative with this process. Graeme McLaughlin, the Director of Marketing at EVELO Bikes, uses automation to send a “Thank you” box to each new customer.
He explains, “A ‘Thank You’ box gets added as a line item based on the customer’s bike status and purchase. The goal of the program was to get something physical into the customer’s hands while they’re waiting for the bike.”
Each box comes with:
- A handwritten postcard
- EVELO stickers
- A ratchet tool
- A product guide
Do you want to know the best part? EVELO’s thank you box is a surprise!
Graeme shares, “Automation allows us to add each box to ‘select orders’ based on the products included in the order. Doing it this way means the customer doesn’t get notified, and the box shows up as a surprise.”
Get started: Customers are excited to get your product in the mail. Zone in on that energy and automate shipping updates and “thank you” incentives. Incentives can be anything from a discount on their next order to Graeme’s thank you box.
Overall, eCommerce automation provides a more efficient and productive workflow. Plus, your audience will reap the benefits of messaging based on their personal needs. It’s a win-win!
How do I automate my eCommerce business?
Automating your eCommerce business doesn’t have to be complicated. Get started by following the next five steps.
1. Identify where you’re ‘wasting time’ with business procedures
The first step to automation is choosing what needs outsourcing. ”The tricky part,”
Phillip Rivers shares, “is figuring out what to automate and not overcomplicating it.”
Going back to MadTasty’s CBD beverage brand—they realized that a lack of email marketing stopped them from growing sales. To kick their growth into gear, MadTasty focused on email automation.
And what about you? Think about the following areas we covered earlier and decide where automation can save time.
- Inventory management and fulfillment: Delivery, shipping, and inventory
- Marketing: Automating your social media, paid media, or content marketing strategies
- Email marketing: Tagging and segmenting subscribers into personalized email lists
- Customer loyalty: Retaining shoppers in your rewards programs with automated messaging
- Customer preferences: Tracking data and using it to deliver personalized messaging
- Customer service: Ticket processing, live chat, email support, etc
If you’re still stuck, ask yourself these questions to get the inspiration flowing.
1. What’s stopping my brand from growing? Why?
2. What’s stopping my team and me from working on other important projects?
3. What am I dying to outsource right now?
And don’t feel pressured to automate what everyone else is automating. Decide what will help your business succeed most and go with that.
2. Choose the best solution for your eCommerce business
Now that you’ve identified what needs automating, choose the best software for your needs.
There are five types of automation software you can use:
Managing multiple business tasks across different platforms is exhausting just thinking about it. It’s a good thing you can invest in a CRM!
Also known as customer relationship management, a CRM handles your customer information—purchases, contact, interactions, and buyer behavior—in one hub.
A solid CRM should always:
- Integrate multiple software into one platform
- Use artificial intelligence to predict your customers’ next steps
- Allow team members to join so you can stay on the same page
2. Email marketing
Email automation can segment customers based on their behavior, send abandoned cart emails, customer support info, and product recommendations on its own. It will also track every click, open, and conversion.
As you’re shopping around for email marketing software, make sure it can:
- Automate segmentation and trigger email sequences
- Use data to personalize every email
- Test components of your email (subject line, design, copy) and see what works
Can you guess which eCommerce automation tool can help you with email automation? Yup… Sendlane!
3. Customer service
Tending to hundreds of customer requests is a recipe for overwhelm. An automated system can set your team up for one-on-one support.
For example, if your support runs on tickets, you can automate the ticket processing and tend to your customers faster through live chat or a call.
Another example is integrating a knowledge base software and answering your most frequently asked questions with how-to guides.
Make sure your customers can still contact a real person for additional assistance. Check out tools like Live Chat or Zotabox.
Keeping up with business expenses, invoicing, and payroll is doable for one to two people. But an entire eCommerce shop and team? You’re going to need assistance!
Look for accounting software with:
- Automated invoicing
- Business expenses tracking
FreshBooks or Wave Accounting work great with small businesses. And other robust software like Gusto works better with a big team.
5. Social media
Publishing a social media update at the right time can get frustrating. Who has time to log into Twitter at 2 pm and post an update?
Here’s where social media automation comes in. You can schedule posts, track analytics, and send automated messages for frequently asked questions via Facebook.
Some of our favorite tools for B2C marketing include Later, Buffer, and personally, we appreciate our friends at Oktopost for B2B social media marketing.
Shipping items to each customer isn’t just time-consuming… it’s also boring. Find a platform to create shipping labels, generate tracking numbers and audit items for you!
Use an automation tool like ShipStation to:
- Import your orders into their database
- Print each shipping label
- Update each customer’s tracking information in real-time
- Track your inventory and notify you if something is out of stock
7. Business management
You and your team chat daily, right? Get your team on one internal platform so you can easily add tasks, due dates, and messages in one spot.
You don’t have to invest in various automation tools to run an eCommerce shop. Try an all-in-one eCommerce platform like Sendlane to get multiple jobs done for you.
Here are just a few things Sendlane can automate for you:
- Email marketing and segmentation
- SMS marketing
- Personalized customer messaging
- Website tracking
- Real-time analytics
3. Sync existing data in real-time
The foundation of any eCommerce automation software is artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence works best when data and customer behavior trigger events and tasks based on your shoppers.
Queue: Real-time data. Syncing your data in real-time will trigger events and tasks faster so you can move customers along the sales cycle at the perfect time.
Below are a few examples of how real-time data syncing can deliver a positive customer experience.
1. Retargeting customers who left your website with customized product recommendations
Athletic gear brand, On uses a website tracking tool to identify online users’ product preferences and then retargets them with an email. Best of all, they convince users to buy with free shipping!
2. Sending personalized emails to customers based on their spot in the sales cycle
Supergoop! leverages education-based emails for new shoppers to know their products. The 10% off discount and personalized skincare recommendations make it “super” easy to find the product best fit for their skin type. Using real-time data, this skincare line can view what their customers click on most.
3. Retargeting users with paid social media advertisements
J.Crew either targeted users who visited their flash sale and left, frequent customers, or both!
Whatever the case, J.Crew emphasizes their sale deadline with a time-ticking clock image and copy. A limited-time offer? There’s no time to waste! Shoppers should seal the deal now.
4. Sending a “Thank you!” email soon after someone buys an item
Olive and June take this email up a notch and allows users to view their shipping information by clicking “View Your Order.” It’s a thank you and shipping email, all in one.
They also take this opportunity to promote their “Refer a friend” program—another sales-making machine.
Protip: Using Sendlane, you can also use real-time data to segment users based on their clicks, conversions, and opens!
4. Track data
You’ve chosen an eCommerce automation solution. The real question is, is it working?
Only your data can tell you! Keep a close eye on your new software—especially at the start—to ensure it’s working for your business.
Every quarter, review your revenue goals and the following metrics:
- Website traffic: Is traffic increasing? How long are users staying on your site?
- Email open and click-through rate: Personalized emails should result in higher opens and clicks.
- Leads: Check if you’re converting more leads through your automated workflow and how many people you’re “reconverting” to buy.
- ROI: Are you making more than what you invested?
Along with the hard numbers, check-in with you and your team. Has your software positively affected your company’s productivity and well-being?
If the answers aren’t looking great, contact your software’s customer support and find a solution together. Or, give another automation software a try.
Ready to try eCommerce automation?
Ecommerce automation is your one-stop shop for data-driven customer experiences, a boost in productivity, and more time to do the things you’re passionate about.
It’s time to get the ball rolling! When you try an automation software like Sendlane, you’ll get email marketing, real-time data, and a personalized shopper experience, all in one.
Give Sendlane a spin with a free 14-day trial and learn how your business can grow to greater heights.