What is the best way to automate your e-commerce business? This is a question every e-commerce and marketplace manager is bound to ask. While marketing automation has long since become the norm, the term e-commerce automation is still relatively obscure. What exactly is hidden behind it? Does it simply belong to the marketing branch? Not at all. E-commerce workflows are too complex and important for that.
Brands and retailers that have pursued the automation aspect of e-commerce from the beginning have a huge advantage now in 2023. In an increasingly competitive e-commerce market and rising competition from Asia and China, it’s more important than ever for online retailers to efficiently automate the right processes.
We take a close look at e-commerce automation and what it means specifically by going through use cases. Our ultimate guide is a goldmine for any e-commerce executive. Let’s go!
E-commerce automation refers to the use of software and other technologies to automate repetitive tasks and processes in an online business. This can help save resources, reduce errors and enable more efficient operations (more on this in a moment).
Like all other automation mechanisms, e-commerce automation is composed of three essential elements:
Softwares for automating e-commerce processes are not necessarily more complex than marketing automation tools, but it depends very much on how they are used. Many automation features are not necessarily predetermined; brands and retailers can also design many scenarios on the fly and according to their own needs. This is the complexity – but also an unlimited possibility!
Automation in itself is always beneficial. Marketing automation, for example, has become a non-plus-ultra today. In 2019, 75% of companies had already indicated in a study that they use automation in the field (since then, they don’t even ask about its use anymore, it’s that obvious). A company that doesn’t use automation in marketing today has little realistic chance of surviving. The numbers speak for themselves. Marketing automation can bring in 80% more leads in cases. Three-quarters have also stated that automation has greatly increased conversion (source: Oracle).
Automation is also important in other areas such as support and customer service. 90% of consumers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when they have a question, for example. This is achieved through automation. Chatbots are also important in this area.
And what about e-commerce automation? This type is still a bit younger, but already very widespread – more than you think! You don’t always see it from the outside. In a year or two, it will be the same as with marketing automation: if you don’t do it, you will lose. And why? Because otherwise you’ll be left behind. Here are the reasons:
The last point amazes you? Here’s the explanation: automation can enliven a team’s daily routine by making mundane tasks more efficient, faster and more satisfying. With automation tools, the team can focus on growth strategies and take on more creative tasks that require active engagement.
And this last point is extremely important, because automation leaves much more time to devote to more important business tasks and strategic goals. If this does not happen, then there is much less time to …
E-commerce automation helps companies use their resources more efficiently, increase their competitiveness and ultimately provide a better customer experience. Now let’s move on to the most important, concrete use cases of e-commerce automation.
Below are seven key e-commerce automation examples. There are many more, of course, but these use cases already give a nice overview:
Automated price monitoring is one of the basic automations in business. It eliminates manual tasks such as endless digging through Excel spreadsheets or the Internet. When used correctly, it can also simplify, speed up and make online product pricing more profitable.
Productpine, a sustainable D2C marketplace from the Netherlands, is a prime example of the successful use of such a tool. By implementing the Netrivals pricing automation tool, Productpine was able to increase its sales and reduce its manual workload. Netrivals made it possible to maintain an up-to-date market overview and dynamically and automatically adjust prices to stay competitive. This resulted in a 15% increase in sales for Productpine. Automation saved time as the company now only has to spend 1.5 to 2 hours per day on pricing, which significantly increased efficiency.
The use of Custom Labels in Google Shopping, Google Ads and Facebook campaigns has become indispensable. As a reminder, custom labels allow product catalogs to be segmented according to various criteria.
Automating this segmentation can be a great advantage. To do this, they need an advanced feed management tool that allows them to add automatic rules to their optimized product catalog that can segment your products according to your defined rules. You can create up to five custom labels per product to structure and optimize your campaigns. These labels should be aligned with your previously defined performance indicators to maximize the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Automated A/B tests are another alpha and omega of an online retailer. They help by comparing different versions of Google Shopping ads to see which converts better. The process starts by assigning a common custom label to the products you want to test. Then, an automatic rule is applied to change an attribute in the product group, such as word order, title, or image. Finally, the performance of the two ads in Google Ads is monitored to determine which converts better
L’OREAL LUXE, for example, automated A/B testing of the ad images (e.g., by showing the Armani Privé collection on pedestals vs. without pedestals). This resulted in a tripling of revenue generated via Google Shopping. Full case study can be found here.
To group products automatically according to performance criteria, one needs a powerful feed management platform (such as Lengow), which retrieves the user’s product catalog. Pre-created segments such as TOP 100 sales or FLOP 100 clicks should be available. These segments can be customized and then used to fine-tune sales strategies on different online distribution channels. Users can easily group their products into segments suggested and then use these segments to set up their feeds for each online distribution channel. One can also create their own segments according to specific criteria.
To automatically deactivate products that are not in stock, you must, again, work with a feed management tool. There you need to create a rule in the “Quantity” field to set the quantity to zero, for example, if there are less than three products in stock. This way, products with low stock will not be distributed among your active marketplaces and marketing channels. This avoids the risk of overselling and the associated negative effects, such as customer dissatisfaction and possible account closures on marketplaces (if you sell on them).
If you want to have a thriving e-commerce business, you’re probably already selling on marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. Automated marketplace order management is then a necessity. When one of your products is purchased on a marketplace, you need to be able to monitor all your orders and take action (accept, reject, etc.). The order status (e.g. shipped) is then automatically sent back to the marketplace and the buyer is notified. Finally, depending on your sales, inventory is automatically updated. With a platform like Lengow, you get a global overview of all your orders, regardless of which marketplace they come from, and you can also import your orders into the back office of your e-commerce site (Shopify, Magento, etc.).
Automated categorization is another key example. In the “Category Matching” step, a feed management platform should suggest automatically categories that might match the categories in your catalog. Once your products are online, they are presented in the correct categories. This process minimizes the risk of category selection errors, which means that your products are well-referenced, which is crucial for visibility and findability on online distribution channels.
After the various automation examples and scenarios, it is now time to move on to concrete automation strategies in e-commerce from brands and retailers.
Here are three case studies of e-commerce automation:
In e-commerce, a variety of tasks can be automated including order processing, inventory management, customer service responses, data analysis, and reporting. Automation can also extend to supplier and vendor communications, price tracking, and product listing optimizations.
By automating routine tasks, you can free up time for your team to focus on more strategic and creative aspects of your business. It also helps in reducing human errors, ensuring faster order processing, and providing a better customer experience with timely updates and responses.
Some popular tools for e-commerce automation include Lengow, Magento Commerce, BigCommerce, Netrivals and Zapier. These platforms offer various automation features that can streamline operations, enhance customer interactions, and help in analyzing business performance.
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