Enhanced Automation For Ecommerce Efficiency — Guest Blog by Eastside Co
Coined in the 1940s, automation originally related to the use of automatic devices in vehicle production lines, but nowadays the term is used to describe technology that operates without human intervention, in order to speed up a process or make it more efficient. When it comes to ecommerce, automation has had growing importance and a profound influence on the way business is conducted, creating e-commerce efficiency for both merchants, their customers, and interactions between the two.
During the 2020 pandemic, automation took on an even more important role, as people around the globe were forced to work from home, and business operated at reduced staffing levels. With fewer people available to carry out tasks, automation came into its own.
What kind of challenges can automation solve in ecommerce?
- Manual administrative tasks, spreadsheets, data entry (and resulting human error)
- Limited ability to scale because of lack of bandwidth
- Common customer service tasks taking up time
- Complications sending comms to the right customers or prospects at the right time
So what tech is available for ecommerce businesses, and how can they take advantage of it to enhance automation and increase efficiency? Eastside Co are the Shopify and ecommerce experts, so in this article, we’ll look at some of the ways you can free up time by automating tasks.
The Shopify Plus Platform
Shopify Plus is the world’s leading ecommerce solutions, and as such, has been designed to make things as easy as possible for the merchants running their businesses on it.
It comes with a certain amount of automation baked in to make it easy for store owners to get on with running their businesses – not the front-end and back-end of their ecommerce store.
Alerts when you get negative reviews
Good reviews are good. But bad reviews are not necessarily bad. Yes, it’s frustrating when a customer says negative things about your business on a public forum, but it’s your opportunity to take that review and turn it around, correcting things for that customer AND demonstrating to anyone else reading that you take complaints seriously and take corrective steps. Shopify Plus alerts you to negative reviews, giving you the opportunity to contact the customer and resolve any issues quickly.
The store will hide or show products depending on stock levels: items that are out of stock will be automatically hidden to avoid annoying customers, and store owners will be notified of items they are low on so they can re-order.
Personalised discounts and gift cards
This is a really neat way to use automation to not only create efficiency but to increase customer satisfaction. By segmenting your customers, Shopify Plus is able to utilise data points to trigger rewards, so, for example, it can generate a discount card on their second order, and a gift card on the third. It can also utilise birthdays and geographically relevant promotions to create contextually relevant incentives for your customers.
Taking that idea further, you are able to segment customers by what they’ve bought, how much they’ve spent, or what they’ve left behind. Within the platform you can send personalised emails with recommendations based on their purchase history. By setting up rules, you can send an abandoned cart email to someone who left an item behind. Also, you can include a discount to encourage them to complete their purchase.
As well as the flexibility of Shopify Plus itself, there is an entire ecosystem of apps and plugins to help augment your Shopify or Shopify Plus store, and provide more specific functionality. Here are just a few examples of some of the apps available and how they can help automate areas within e-commerce:
- Now Back in Stock automatically sends email, push or or SMS alerts to your customers to let them know when their chosen item becomes available. The messages take them straight back to the site and allow them to make the purchase quickly and easily. It’s an easy way of automatically capturing sales that otherwise would have been lost.
- It’s well known that customer reviews and UGC are a powerful tool when it comes to helping persuade new customers to purchase from you. The hard part is the manual process of getting customers to leave the reviews in the first place. Yotpo is a product review app that helps you leverage the power of social media to increase the trust of your brand. It automatically sends review request emails to your previous customers. They can publish their reviews on social networking, increasing visibility. You can also publish the reviews to your Facebook and Twitter profile to drive new traffic and sales.
- This Wishlist app allows customers to save products for later, meaning they are only one click away from purchase. It also allows unlimited wishlists to be created and shared on social media for free marketing! The app allows you to see what is being added or deleted to give insights into product demand and popularity.
- If you also sell your products on Facebook, this app could save you a lot of time: Flexify syncs your products with Facebook’s Product Catalog to create Dynamic Product Ads. It takes away a lot of manual work, works cross-device and always stays up to date.
- If you are looking to boost your average order value, then Cart Convert works wonders by automatically creating bundled offers for customers based on predefined rules (for example ‘customers who buy X often buy Y as well’ or ‘spend another $X to qualify for free shipping’).
Shopify Flow is an ecommerce automation platform available to Shopify Plus merchants that helps store owners reclaim their time and focus on growing their business. With Flow, it’s easy to automate tasks and ideas within the store and across apps.
Choosing from a library of templates it’s easy to get started straight away, or use the visual builder to customise workflows for the business.
Flow also syncs with many other apps and software that merchants might be using. Some examples include Asana, LoyaltyLion, Nosto, Trello and more. Linking with these other tools helps automate tasks further and save even more time.
Automated Email Flows
It’s oft-quoted that email marketing yields the best returns, and it’s true. Once you set up your workflows, they largely run themselves and can generate revenue for your business automatically.
We mentioned an ‘abandoned cart’ email functionality baked into the Shopify platform, but to really maximise your email strategy there are a whole host of email service providers available who specialise in email automations and workflows. They’re automated, targeted and personalised to the customer, so work brilliantly for your business and for the recipient. From welcome email series, post purchase flows, automations based on shopping behaviour and more, the possibilities to automate your email marketing to great financial effect are almost endless.
How Automation Helps
Where automation can get really effective and interesting is when you expand automation flows out across different behaviours/triggers, over extended periods of time and adjust/personalise them as people’s behaviour changes. Some platforms offer simple automations and others more complex, behaviour-based automations.
With a good email marketing provider that has a solid integration to an ecommerce platform like Shopify, the foundation automations could be set up and running in less than one day depending on the complexity of email designs and personalisation elements. You can then work on expanding them bit by bit until eventually you have expansive, data-driven, heavily personalised email marketing that works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Integration platforms like VL OMNI allow ecommerce business owners to easily connect different multichannel, ecommerce, ERP, EDI, and many more systems together. With their iPaaS point-to-multipoint approach, VL OMNI is able to incorporate business rules to an integration solution, focusing on business strategy and goals over tactics.
On your Shopify store, VL OMNI can provide an integration solution to help unify and consolidate your sales channels together, solving the problem of integration and channel visibility for scaling Merchants. Their existing Connectors are independent of each other, allowing for scalable and agile automation across all your channels, trading partners, systems and applications. Integration and automation are critical to the success of growing Merchants.
Chatbots and Live Chat
Customer service has likely been more difficult to run as smoothly for many businesses during the recent pandemic with staff furloughed or working from home. Chatbots are a great way of automating that element of the business without sacrificing the quality of service you offer.
Chatbots process the user’s question or request before responding according to algorithms that interpret and identify what the user said, infer what they mean and/or want, and determine a series of appropriate responses based on this information.
We’ve all interacted with chatbots – probably sometimes when we’re not even aware of it. Their ability to mimic human speech in order to facilitate a conversation or interaction with a real person is getting better all the time. Our advice is to also make it clear that your customers are talking to a bot. It’s better to be up front rather than trying to pretend the customer is talking to an actual human.
Automated Onsite Content
It’s now easier than ever to automate what is presented to your customers in the form of your onsite content. For example, Nosto analyses every interaction from across your store to build a deep understanding of your business and every visitor interacting with it. Using Machine Learning algorithms and advanced statistical techniques, it can predict – and automatically deliver – the most relevant experiences in real-time to increase customer engagement and maximise revenue potential.
It’s even possible to add an element of automation to your shipping and fulfillment. Apps such as ShippingEasy are able to automate inventory management, manage suppliers, print labels, process orders from other selling channels and auto-populate forms, and track deliveries for both merchants and customers.
Automatic For The People
Hopefully it’s clear that there are a whole host of ways that ecommerce businesses can increase their efficiency using automations, across a wealth of areas. The aim of all the technologies, apps, companies and products described here is to help ecommerce business owners automate dozens of time-consuming processes. With the right set-up, partners, and integrations, you can automate nearly any element of your workflows, allowing you to concentrate on what you’re best at: growing your business.
About Eastside Co
Based in Birmingham, UK, with offices in New York, Frankfurt, London, and Dubai, Eastside Co is one of the world’s most trusted and experienced Shopify Plus Partners. Established in 2012 as a full-service digital agency, we’ve helped hundreds of aspirational brands with our world-class ecommerce solutions.
From beautifully designed, intuitive Shopify stores and in-depth business audits, to data-driven marketing strategies and best-in-class applications, we help online businesses achieve ecommerce success.