E-commerce Automation: How It Works and The Top Benefits

e-commerce automation

For any e-commerce business, securing new customers and closing orders is their number one priority. 

Coming in a close second (but going hand in hand with the first place spot) is e-commerce automation. Every day, e-commerce retailers across the globe are performing hundreds, even thousands of small tasks behind the scenes in order to delight their customers and ensure they continue to come back. Each one of these tasks can take two to five minutes for every customer interaction.

That’s a lot of time dedicated to task management. All of that time adds up and can prevent your business from performing at its highest capacity. If your team is manually managing customer support tickets and communicating with customers where you could use automation to save time and energy, you’ll eventually run into a wall and burn out your employees. All of this combined with their other assigned work can be overwhelming, stunting productivity and business growth.

Studies show that to truly scale, businesses should invest in software that can fundamentally change how business is run rather than smaller, incremental changes. In other words, leaning into automation software will get you ahead.

The purpose of e-commerce automation is to give back precious time to your team so they can focus on high-value work and have the opportunity to brainstorm meaningful, creative ways to interact with your customers. In this article, we’ll talk through the process of automating your e-commerce business so you can turn those repetitive tasks into a streamlined, clean process for both you and your customers.

What is e-commerce automation?

At its core, e-commerce automation is the implementation of technology and software solutions to streamline and automate various operational tasks that happen behind the scenes of online retail. These tasks can include inventory management, order processing, payment handling, customer service, and marketing activities.

The primary objective of e-commerce automation is to enhance efficiency, precision, and scalability for online businesses. In a rapidly evolving and highly competitive e-commerce landscape, automation plays a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth functioning of essential processes that would otherwise be daunting and time-consuming if executed manually.

Why is automation so important?

The significance of e-commerce automation is underscored by the inherent challenges of managing an online retail business. As e-commerce businesses grow and evolve, the complexity and volume of tasks tend to increase exponentially. Without automation, companies often resort to labor-intensive workarounds or hire additional employees, both of which have limitations.

Automation offers a compelling alternative by freeing up valuable time and resources, allowing teams to focus on strategic and creative endeavors. This results in improved efficiency, reduced errors, and a consistent customer experience. Moreover, automation is scalable, enabling businesses to handle surges in order volumes and customer inquiries without the need for continuous expansion of their workforce.

urgency automation in activecampaign 1
Creating automation workflows is made easy with ActiveCampaign.

While e-commerce automation offers numerous advantages, its implementation should be approached thoughtfully to avoid potential pitfalls, such as excessive automation, loss of personalization, and reliance on outdated data. Striking the right balance between automation and human involvement is crucial to harnessing the full potential of e-commerce automation and maintaining a competitive edge in the dynamic world of online retail.

How does e-commerce automation work?

When thinking of how e-commerce automation actually works, there are a few crucial steps. Most automation you’ll deploy happens through an automated workflow. These steps are:

  • Trigger
  • Condition
  • Action
In its simplest form, this is how automation works.

Let’s say you run a plant shop and are running a sale. This sale will offer discounts to customers who spend a certain amount within a set time period. You can segment your customers based on their spending.

Gold customers spend over $100 and get a 50% discount
Silver customers spend over $50 and get a 30% discount
Bronze customers spend over $20 and get a 15% discount

Based on these conditions and the automated workflow you create, a customer will be segmented into the correct group and receive the right discount coupon.

Real-world example: Customer Joe buys a few plants and spends $52. His purchase will activate a trigger which will then move him into an action (being placed in the Silver customer segment) based on the condition (spent over $50).

Because the customer spent a certain amount, that action will automatically segment him into the right category (and he’ll get his discount code, yay!)

With this automated workflow, you won’t have to worry about these smaller tasks. Your team can say goodbye to repetition and instead, watch as your customers seamlessly flow into the right segment and get the coupon they were promised.

E-commerce automation gives you an extra hand

E-commerce automation is like having a helpful robot that takes care of repetitive tasks for online stores. It works using special software and technology to make running an online shop smoother and more efficient.

Here’s how it works and what some of the steps involve:

  • Inventory management: One of the first steps is to keep track of all the products you have in your online store. Automation software can monitor how many items you have in stock and update the numbers automatically when someone buys something. This prevents you from accidentally selling something you don’t have.
  • Order processing: When customers place orders, the automation system can take care of the paperwork. It generates order forms, sends confirmation emails, and even alerts your team to pack and ship the products. This saves a lot of time compared to doing everything by hand.
  • Payment processing: Automation ensures that when customers pay for their purchases, the money is securely transferred to their account. It can also handle things like calculating taxes and discounts, making the checkout process smooth and error-free.
  • Customer service: Robots can help with customer inquiries, too. They can answer common questions, direct people to the right pages, and even keep track of feedback. This ensures that your customers have a good experience, even when you’re not available to assist them personally.
  • Marketing: Automation can also assist with marketing efforts. It can send out emails to customers with special offers, recommend products based on their previous purchases, and even manage your social media posts, so you stay connected with your audience.
  • Data analysis: Automation software can collect and analyze data about your business, like which products are selling best and which marketing strategies are working best. This information helps you make smart decisions to grow your online store.

Advantages of automating your e-commerce business

Given the rapid growth of data, manually overseeing an e-commerce store has become a huge undertaking. Automation has shifted from being a desire to an absolute necessity. Embracing automation isn’t just beneficial anymore; it’s imperative. Automation offers substantial advantages that can propel your business forward and drive growth.

Cuts down on task time

The first major benefit of automation is that it’s a huge time-saver, particularly in the scope of e-commerce. It doesn’t just streamline inventory management but also various other facets of your online store. By incorporating inventory management software, customer service tools, and even marketing automation systems, e-commerce businesses can significantly enhance their efficiency.

Performing these tasks manually consumes a considerable amount of time and introduces the persistent risk of human errors, which can further prolong the time required for corrections.

E-commerce automation allows your team to put tasks on auto-pilot. No more large chunks of your day publishing social or website content, hiding and unhiding products that are out of stock, manually segmenting customers, and changing your merchandise catalog.

By automating these tasks, you’ll get more done in much less time. 

Improves employee engagement

In a domino effect, saving your team time with automation will also result in an improvement in their morale. It’s never fulfilling to come to work and update a long Excel list, manually copy and paste emails into your chosen software, and keep a keen eye out for products that sell out. These mundane tasks are made simple with automation and give your employees more time and energy to focus on more strategic, fulfilling work that ties into the overall growth of the business.

Employees are sure to have higher job satisfaction and perform at a higher level when their work is more impactful.

And don’t sleep on automation’s ability to manage marketing tasks as well. Things like tagging, segmenting, and scheduling content are all tedious things that marketing automation software is more than capable of handling.

Positive effect on the customer experience

Did you know that one of the biggest things customers value is responsiveness on a website? 90% of e-commerce customers report an instant response to their chat or inquiry is crucial when they need assistance.

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business, and their satisfaction is the key to success. By automating customer service workflows like chatbots and self-service options, you’ll see a boost in customer satisfaction and retention.

A delighted customer is one who visits your online store, makes a purchase, and returns for more. Automation can assist in addressing some of your customers’ requirements. While human interaction remains vital for effective communication with customers, automating routine tasks, like order tracking and handling basic complaints, allows you to concentrate more on providing exceptional service.

Enhancing customer satisfaction is the key to nurturing your online store’s growth, and automation plays a crucial role in managing dissatisfied customers more efficiently, ultimately contributing to the flourishing of your online business.

Types of e-commerce automation

There are several types of e-commerce automation software you can enlist the help of. Each software targets a specific aspect of how customers experience and interact with your online store. 

E-commerce email automation

Email automation is software that automatically sends personalized and precisely targeted emails to customers in response to specific triggers or actions, such as abandoned shopping carts, product recommendations, and post-purchase follow-ups. This streamlines your marketing efforts, saving you time and enhancing customer engagement and connection.

There are many levels to how personalized and complex you can make your email automation workflows. For example, ActiveCampaign has hundreds of free email templates you can use to get started and create a working automation in minutes.

With ActiveCampaign, you can choose a template, write email copy, fine tune, and deploy your first email automation today. It’s simple. Check out a quick walkthrough!

By automating your email marketing efforts, you can save time, increase engagement, and create more meaningful connections with your customers.

To implement email automation effectively in your e-commerce business, consider the following best practices:

  • Segment your audience: Divide your email list into segments based on customer behavior, demographics, or purchase history to send more relevant and personalized messages.
  • Use email triggers: Send emails based on specific customer actions, such as abandoned carts or product views, to increase relevance and engagement. This timely and purposeful communication can help recover lost sales and encourage customers to complete their purchases.
  • Personalize your content: Use customer data to personalize email content, such as including the customer’s name or recommending products based on their browsing history. Personalization can help make your emails more engaging and improve conversion rates.
  • Optimize for mobile: Ensure your emails are mobile-friendly, as a significant portion of your customers will likely be reading them on their smartphones. Use responsive design and clear, concise messaging to create a seamless experience across devices.
  • A/B test: Test different subject lines, email design templates, CTAs, visuals, and messaging to understand what engages your audience best. Use these data insights to optimize future marketing campaigns and iterate on what makes your brand stand out.
  • Automate follow-ups: Set up automated follow-up emails for abandoned carts, product recommendations, and post-purchase feedback to recover potentially lost sales and enhance customer satisfaction.
  • Maintain clean lists: Regularly clean your email list to remove inactive or unsubscribed subscribers, ensuring that you’re targeting an engaged audience. Cleaning it like this is known as list hygiene.
  • Track and refine: Continuously track key metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to gauge the success of your email automation campaigns and make data-driven improvements. 

With the right approach, email automation can become a contributing factor in your business’ success, giving you the insights, freedom, and power to create exceptional customer experiences throughout the entire customer journey.

E-commerce marketing automation

Marketing automation refers to technology and software that streamlines and automates various marketing tasks and processes. It enables businesses, including those in e-commerce, to efficiently manage and nurture customer relationships throughout the entire marketing lifecycle.

In e-commerce marketing, automation plays a pivotal role in driving engagement and conversions by delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time. It can be used to automate email marketing, lead nurturing, customer segmentation, and more, ultimately optimizing marketing efforts and boosting overall effectiveness.

There are many ways marketing automation can grow your e-commerce business:

  • Personalized messaging: Automation allows you to send tailored messages to customers based on their behavior, preferences, and purchase history, enhancing the relevance of your marketing communications.
  • Lead nurturing: You can automate the process of nurturing leads through targeted email sequences and content, guiding potential customers toward making a purchase.
  • Cart abandonment recovery: Send automated emails to remind customers about items left in their shopping carts, encouraging them to complete their purchases.
  • Customer segmentation: Automatically categorize your customer base into segments, enabling you to send highly targeted promotions and product recommendations.
  • Behavior tracking: Monitor customer behavior on your website and use automation to trigger follow-up actions, such as sending related product suggestions or re-engagement emails.
  • Drip campaigns: Implement drip email campaigns that gradually provide valuable content and offers to leads and customers over time, fostering trust and brand loyalty.
  • Analytics and reporting: Marketing automation platforms offer insights into campaign performance, helping you make data-driven decisions to refine your marketing strategies.
  • Improved customer retention: Automated loyalty programs, post-purchase surveys, and follow-up emails can help retain existing customers and encourage repeat purchases.

By leveraging marketing automation, e-commerce businesses can effectively nurture leads, drive conversions, and enhance customer relationships, ultimately leading to business growth and improved customer satisfaction.

E-commerce customer service automation

As we talked about before, customer service is not only a major part of your e-commerce business’ success but has an effect on the entirety of your marketing strategy. By selecting the right customer service automation software, you can create a workflow that delivers exceptional customer service without sacrificing the personal touch that helps you stand out from the competition.

Automating your customer service process gives you access to a number of benefits, including:

  • Surfacing invaluable insights from your customer data to make informed, strategic decisions
  • Saving time and resources with the reduction of repetitive tasks
  • Shortening response times and increasing customer satisfaction
  • Scaling support operations without having to sacrifice quality

Why should you automate your business?

It’s no secret that any business not leaning into automation is at risk of being left behind. This is especially true for e-commerce retailers as customers start to expect quick response times and immediate assistance when they shop online.

Automation is the future of business growth and success. Automating your workflow offers a multitude of compelling reasons to streamline operations and drive efficiency. Whether it’s automating data entry, order processing, or customer inquiries, the reduction in manual effort not only improves productivity but also minimizes the risk of human errors that can be costly and time-consuming to rectify.

Secondly, automation enhances consistency and accuracy in your business processes. Automated systems follow predefined rules meticulously, ensuring that tasks are executed the same way every time. This consistency results in higher quality products or services and a more reliable customer experience. For example, in e-commerce, automated inventory management reduces the chances of overselling or stockouts, preventing potential customer dissatisfaction. Furthermore, it gives you accurate inventory data so that you can have a bird’s eye view of your business too.

Lastly, automation fosters scalability and growth. As your business expands, automation can adapt to increasing demands without the need for a proportional increase in staffing. This scalability empowers you to efficiently manage higher volumes of orders, customer inquiries, and data, supporting your business’s growth trajectory. In essence, automating your business is not just a modern convenience; it’s a strategic imperative that empowers you to work smarter, scale efficiently, and stay competitive in an ever-evolving market.

What to consider before you automate

There are endless options when it comes to e-commerce automation software. Before you go looking for the perfect solution to automate your e-commerce store, there are a few things to consider before you make that decision.

What are your business pain points?

Identify where your workflow might be experiencing bottlenecks. If you’re uncertain, take a moment to consider the problems customers have reported and the feedback you’ve gathered from your team. These are the priorities to tackle first, as they often have the most significant impact.

If you find issues spanning multiple areas, explore e-commerce automation solutions that can address the intersection of these challenges. For example, if you require enhanced customer communication both pre and post-sale, you might want to seek out a more robust customer relationship management (CRM) tool to streamline these processes.

What business goals are you working towards?

While it can be challenging to gain perspective when deeply immersed in your business operations, taking a step back can reveal areas where improvement is needed. Consider which aspects of your business’s growth consistently face obstacles. Are there specific initiatives you’re struggling to launch? Introducing e-commerce automation can add valuable time and resources in these areas, enabling you to engage in more profound strategic planning, research, experimentation, and, ideally, foster growth.

How will you implement an automation tool?

You may want to think about crafting a detailed roadmap that lays out the different phases of implementation. This roadmap should encompass tasks like establishing crucial integrations, fine-tuning workflows and automation processes, and providing effective training for your team on the use of the new tools. By following a roadmap, you can significantly increase the likelihood of a seamless transition while minimizing any potential disruptions to your daily operations.

Automation doesn’t replace the human touch

Did you know that 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies offering excellent customer service?

It’s crucial to understand that automation does not replace the role of your team altogether.

Teamwork between you and the tools you implement will make interacting with your brand both easy and familiar. While automating manual tasks enhances efficiency, it’s essential to remember the significance of human connection in customer interactions. Personalized and empathetic customer support plays a pivotal role in boosting customer loyalty and satisfaction.

The role of AI in e-commerce business

Artificial intelligence plays a pivotal role in revolutionizing e-commerce automation by infusing intelligence and adaptability into various aspects of online retail. Leveraging AI technology empowers e-commerce businesses to deliver personalized customer experiences, optimize operations, and make data-driven decisions.

Examples of AI-powered e-commerce automation include:

  • Product recommendations: AI algorithms analyze customer browsing and purchase history to provide personalized product recommendations, increasing cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
  • Chatbots and virtual assistants: AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants offer 24/7 customer support, answer queries, and guide customers through the buying process.
  • Dynamic pricing: AI adjusts product prices based on market demand, competition, and customer behavior, maximizing revenue and competitiveness.
  • Inventory management: AI predicts demand patterns, helping businesses optimize stock levels to prevent overstocking or understocking.
  • Fraud detection: AI algorithms identify and prevent fraudulent transactions in real-time, protecting both the business and customers.
  • Predictive analytics: AI analyzes customer data to forecast trends, helping businesses make informed decisions about marketing, inventory, and product development.

When you embrace artificial intelligence in your e-commerce business, you’ll unlock another level of marketing possibilities and be able to drive business growth into the future.

How to choose the right e-commerce automation software for your business

There are a plethora of options when it comes to e-commerce automation tools. Here’s what you should look for when choosing one for your business.

  • Customization: It’s important to adopt a tool that offers customization options and can adapt to your specific business needs. This ability to customize will enable you to tailor the software to your business’s unique processes and perform at maximum efficiency.
  • Ease of use: Choose a tool featuring an intuitive user interface and a wealth of training materials. This will simplify the learning process for your team, enabling them to effectively grasp and utilize the software, thereby maximizing the advantages of automation.
  • Scalability: Select a solution that can scale alongside your business, easily managing rising order volumes and heightened complexity as your online store expands. This will guarantee that your automation software continually supports and enhances your operations as your business grows.
  • Integration with your e-commerce platform: Verify that the software integrates with your current e-commerce platform, whether that’s Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, or another tool. This will facilitate a hassle-free transition and reduce the risk of any operational interruptions.

Work smarter, not harder

E-commerce businesses should adopt and embrace automation as much as they can. Doing so will not only lighten the load on your team and reduce the resources needed to interact with customers, but you’ll also be able to take insights from the data you’ll have to tweak strategies and improve future marketing campaigns.

Interested in taking the first step? Sign up for a free trial of ActiveCampaign and start automating today. Showcase your product catalog, cross-sell relevant products, send follow-up emails at the right time, and never let a cart go abandoned. Sign up below!