eCommerce automation. It's quite the buzzword in the online space and for good reason. Because with advancements in technology, there are so many systems and processes that can be automated in your eCommerce business. And the more you automate, the more streamlined and more profitable it will be.
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Why eCommerce Automation Matters
Before we get into all the details, I want to talk about why this is important because in some cases you’re going to have to spend some money to take advantage of this automation. And I know so many of us, especially when we’re newer to business, are hesitant to do that.
It's an investment in your business
First, stop thinking of it as spending money and instead think of it as investing in your business. Because every investment should produce an ROI, right? A return on your investment. When it comes to investing in automation you should see increased productivity, increased revenue, increased customer satisfaction, and a whole lot more. Ultimately, all of these things together mean more efficiency and productivity, more profit, leaner teams, happier teams, and more growth in your business.
It Lets You Focus on Growth Activities
Automation allows you to spend more time on the things that actually move the needle, or more time away from your business if you want, instead of mundane tasks that keep you busy and essentially unproductive.
For example. Imagine having a customer service platform that was fully integrated with your eCommerce store so you never had to leave the ticket window to take actions for the customer and that automated responses to common questions through chatbots. A tool like that, which we’ll talk about a little later in this episode, could be the difference between having to hire more help to manage your customer service inquiries or allowing your existing team to work more efficiently, accomplishing more in the same amount of time.
So sure, maybe it a piece of software with this functionality costs say $60/mo, but that’s a lot less expensive than hiring a human to answer questions like do you have a size chart, or where’s my order? Because let’s be serious, the majority of our customer service inquiries are questions we’ve already answered on our website somewhere, people just don’t always see them.
Instead of spending payroll on someone who answers silly questions all day… spend payroll on someone who can do what only humans can do. Such as creating great content, finding great products to sell, coming up with great marketing campaigns, reaching out to other businesses to collaborate with, analyzing your marketing data, sending great emails, managing team projects, and so on. You get the picture, right?
And customer service automation is just the tip of the iceberg, so let’s dive in.
12 Things You Can Automate in Your eCommerce business.
Email Marketing Automation
First up is you guessed it, email! I’m not going to go too deep into this one today because we’ve talked about email automation a ton on this podcast, but if you’re new to the show or need a refresher I’ll stick some links in the show notes for you to check out.
What I will say though is if you haven’t taken the time to set up your email automations, what are you waiting for? You’re legit leaving money on the table if you don’t.
And I’m talking about more than just the main 6 must-have email automations for eCommerce businesses, there are also things such as product review requests, price drop notifications, rewards and referral updates, and even wishlist notifications.
Back-in-Stock Notifications for Customers
Another email or SMS automation you can create is back-in-stock notifications. These are great if you have evergreen products that you carry all the time but sometimes run out of. Not only is it good for customer experience, but it can be a huge revenue driver.
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Lead Generation Through Manychat
Another thing you can automate in your eCommerce business, email list growth. Okay, so email list growth is already pretty automated right because people are signing up through forms and at checkout on your website.
But did you know you could automate email list growth on your social media like Instagram right in the DMs! Yep, your interested parties don’t even have to leave the platform to sign up for your email list. You can automate the process with a tool called Manychat.
You set up special triggers through keywords, comments, and even story reactions. Then the person types their email into the DM conversation and it adds it to your integrated email service provider. It’s pretty damn snazzy and super affordable. Take ManyChat for a test drive and get 30 days of Pro for free!
If this is the first you’ve heard me mention the platform, I have an entire podcast episode with the ManyChat CEO, Mike on the podcast.
Website Promotional Banners
eCommerce automation can also be used on your website. And a great way to do this is with your website promotional banners. This is great for promotions that start and end outside of business hours. If you’re on Shopify Plus you can use Launchpad to publish an entirely new version of your theme, but this isn’t exactly enough of a reason to pay the additional fees.
But there is also an app that you can use to add timed sections to your Shopify theme. You add your section to the page you want to use it on and you set the start and end time for that specific section. Then it will only appear during that time.
In addition to the timed banner section they have a bunch of others, you can use if you want to jazz up the design of your store without a developer. Plus, because it only installs code to your theme where you actually use these features, it doesn’t slow down your site like a traditional page builder. It’s called Design Packs. I’ll stick my affiliate link in the show notes. If you want to check it out I appreciate the support for the podcast.
New Arrivals Category
Having a new arrivals category is a great option if you have a wide assortment of products and customers who shop with you frequently. Unfortunately, up until recently, you had to manage these collections manually on Shopify unless you were a plus customer and had access to Shopify flow.
I don’t remember exactly when access to Shopify flow was opened up, I figured it out by accident sometime in the last year, but it can help you automate the process of removing products from your new arrivals collection after a specified amount of time.
Low Inventory Notifications for You
Another way you can use Shopify flow is to alert yourself if your inventory is running low. You can set it to send an internal email and even include variables inside the email body with all the information you need about the product that’s low in stock. This can be super helpful if you don’t have anyone dedicated to managing your inventory.
Marketplace Listings & Orders
Whether it’s Google Shopping, Etsy, Amazon, or even Faire there are apps and sales channels that will let you connect the two platforms together. You can sync inventory between your platforms and even pull your orders into Shopify so you only have to log in to one platform to fulfill them. One thing to note here is that if you do connect your Shopify store to other marketplaces, when the orders come in they might going to have a generic email specific to that platform. These will end up in your email service provider so I recommend you create a segment to catch them and delete them periodically.
eCommerce Fulfillment Automation
Fulfillment is another process you can automate in your eCommerce business. If you want to automate the entire process you can farm this out to a 3rd party logistics company, aka a 3PL. But even if you want to keep the fulfillment process in-house you can use 3rd party tools like Shipstation to streamline your operations.
Automate Your Customer Returns
If you want to cut down on the time you spend managing returns there are also apps that will manage this process for you. It creates a portal on your site where customers can initiate the return process on their own and even download pre-paid return labels.
I didn’t use this in my previous job because we needed to have a lot of control of the return process based on the product we sold and always issued return merchandise authorizations in advance and non of the apps I found allowed for this.
It’s been a while since I've researched these so if you typically get a lot of returns and it’s eating up a lot of your time, you might want to do some research on them – maybe they’ve advanced their functionality.
eCommerce Customer Service Automation
One of my favorite things to automate and something I touched on earlier in this episode is your customer service. Answering the same questions over and over again is a total waste of your team’s time, especially when there is the technology to automate this for you.
Using a tool such as Gorgias will allow you to set up an automated chatbot that can answer your most common questions without any human intervention. This is great not only for your team but also for the customer because they don’t have to wait until regular business hours to get the help that they need.
With its deep integration with Shopify, Magento, and Big Commerce, your customer service agents can see the customer’s data right in the same window where they’re communicating with the customer so they can work much more efficiently.
The platform is capable of so much it truly deserves its own episode, which we will have. Someone from Gorgias is going to come on the podcast soon, but if you want to check it out in the meantime, I’ll stick my partner link in the show notes.
Oh, and fun fact… if you’re stuck in a contract on another helpdesk platform that you hate, let me know. They’ve bought out contracts for other clients of mine who wanted to make the switch.
Facebook & Google Ads Audiences
If you’re running Facebook or Google remarketing ads you can also automate your audiences on those platforms. Most email marketing platforms integrate directly with Facebook and Google so you can sync your lists and segments into custom audiences.
Want to target an ad only to your VIP customers? Easy peasy. Just create a segment in your email marketing platform to identify your VIPs and it will automatically update on the other end.
Have a new collection or product launching and want to show ads to those who signed up for your pre-launch list, yep you can do that too!
Or maybe you want to try and win back customers who haven’t shopped with you in a while, it’s all possible.
Identify Micro-Influencers at Scale
There are also tools out there that can help you identify micro-influencers from your existing audience. This in particular works best for those who have a high volume of traffic to their websites, but you can use a tool called Gatsby that will ask for customer Instagram handles and then pull all their engagement data into a centralized platform showing you who might be a good fit to promote your product.
Other Things You Can Automate
Now, this is of course not an exhaustive list of all the things you can automate in your eCommerce business. And within each topic, there are a bunch of small tasks within there that you can automate as well. And some pretty obvious things I didn’t mention like social media posting, supply ordering, and even payroll that you can automate in your business.
When it comes to getting started with eCommerce automation, begin with any money-makers like email marketing and then move on to those repetitive tasks that take up way too much of your time. Then you can dive into more of the advanced things such as list growth and identifying micro-influencers at scale.
The most important thing I want you to take away from this episode is to consistently re-evaluate how your business is running and if you can make it more efficient, less time-consuming, and ultimately more impactful.
I am all for messy action and just getting things off the ground. But so often we forget to take a step back and reassess where we’re at. Especially as our business grows. And don’t forget to tap into your team. Those who are on the front lines are usually the ones who see the breakdowns and struggles before those at the top and sometimes they need permission to say something.
There are so many ways that you can use eCommerce automation to make your business more efficient. It will also give you more of that time freedom I know you probably wish you had – because I wish I had it too!