While e-commerce has always been a lucrative field, the pandemic has skyrocketed it to unprecedented heights. As online shopping continues to remain the safer option and customers get used to browsing digital windows, e-commerce businesses are finding new ways to tackle the increase in demand and handle a surge in customer influx.
Automation remains at the forefront of these e-commerce growth strategies, especially as its wide range of applications and ready accessibility make it a realistic option for most.
Let’s take a look at seven areas of e-commerce operations and marketing that can successfully be automated with the help of the right tools.
Email Marketing Automation
One of the easiest processes to automate is certainly email marketing. Whether you are sending out regular newsletters, cart abandonment emails, notifying customers a certain item is back in stock, you can easily automate this action.
Practically every segment of the process is automatable: email collection, welcome emails, follow-ups, and everything in between. The tools you can use range from giants like Mailchimp to more niche brands like Moosend.
The catch (and there’s usually one with automation) is that you need to ensure you do the legwork right. This will include segmenting your list, writing the best possible subject lines and email templates, and tracking and testing your results.
Inventory Management Automation
The key to e-commerce success is staying on top of your inventory and being able to tell at a glance which products are on their way to your warehouse, which stock you are running low on, and which products might not be selling as well as you had hoped.
Manually tracking all of this data would require an entire army of warehouse workers, so your best bet is to automate the process. Not only is it more affordable, but it also eliminates a lot of room for error. It can’t eliminate all of it, though, as humans are still in control of parts of the process.
Barcodes are a great way to track your incoming and outgoing shipments, so a straightforward barcode software solution can be a prudent investment early on, as it will make scaling up that much easier.
Social Media Automation
Just like email marketing, social media marketing offers plenty of room for automation. Most notably, you can easily make good use of a tool that will automatically publish your posts and Stories after you’ve taken some time to schedule them.
Your choice of tools is quite vast, so you won’t have much trouble pinpointing a solution that works well and is within your budget. The one thing to be aware of, however, is that social media automation is a bit of a double-edged sword.
While automation can save you quite a lot of time in the long run, you still need to interact with your audience regularly, as human interaction gets the best results. Make sure to leave some time in your schedule for manual posting as well, and use your automation tools wisely.
Order and Fulfillment Automation
And just like inventory management, orders and fulfillment need to be managed with the help of a software solution. Whether you have your own storage and packaging space or work with another company on this aspect of running your online store, a reliable tool is simply a necessity.
A lot of tools that offer inventory and overarching e-commerce management and automation also come with the option of managing orders, so you may not need to invest in more than one tool to get the job done efficiently.
Advertising your store will also help you scale quite significantly, especially if you do your research well. The aim is to quickly pinpoint the channels your target audience is most likely to respond to.
From social media advertising to PPC, the best tool you can use is usually the platform’s own: Google Adwords, Facebook’s Ads Manager, and so on.
The key to advertising automation lies in testing, so make sure you use the tool’s built-in analytics features until you figure out the best possible spend and ad format for your brand.
Accounting and Bookkeeping Automation
If all goes well, you will soon need to manage a large number of invoices, and your cash flow will become practically impossible to track manually. Tying them in with your stock lists, inventory statuses, and shipping statuses can be equally challenging, so the sooner you find a way to sync your different tools, the better.
Both Quickbooks and Freshbooks offer numerous integrations. They can be a one-stop shop for most of your tracking and analyzing needs.
And while you’re certainly advised to automate certain aspects of accounting (like sending out recurring invoices, paying your own recurring expenses, etc.), you are still very much also advised to do regular checkups on the state of your finances. Make sure the software is not sending out payments you have canceled.
Workflow Management Automation
When it comes to workflow management, the term itself can be used for anything from meditation and a fitness routine to setting tasks and goals for your marketing and sales teams.
There are countless apps that can help you here: to-do list builders, project management tools, project management tools that manage your other project management tools.
If you are the kind of person (and your business is the kind of business) that can genuinely profit from workflow automation, you won’t have a hard time finding the right app. However, if you are not, and if you keep forgetting to update the app with your latest tasks and reminders, you’re better off foregoing it altogether.
Automation is an amazing way to get more done, but it’s not a silver bullet. There are times when doing this manually, even if it seems counterintuitive, is the best way to do it.
Automation in e-commerce is certainly the way forward. However, you don’t need to haphazardly start automating every process in sight.
Consider the tasks that take up most of your time, that are also repetitive and mundane, and that can be entrusted to a tool. If you only spend an hour or so on them each week, there is no real point in teaching yourself to use a tool when you can just as efficiently do it manually.