There was a time in the past when it took hundreds of people to complete a mundane, repetitive task. With the advent of intelligent technology and e-commerce automation, we have enabled machines to take over the mundane tasks while we make more time for business.
E-Commerce Automation is a term used to describe any tool or software whose purpose is to help your e-commerce business convert some or all of the manual, repetitive tasks into self-fulfilling, automated tasks. The defining characteristic of e-commerce automation is that it requires minimal human intervention.
There are various tasks of e-commerce businesses that can be more time-consuming than you think. Some aspects where automation applies are:
- Marketing automation
- Customer fulfilment automation
- Fraud detection and RTO automation
- Purchase order automation
- Inventory automation
- Sales automation
We will be looking into all the above aspects of automation and how using appropriate software to do so can scale your business. Automating the above processes can tone down a lot of workload for your staff and can save a lot of time and money in the long run.
But first, let’s look at the underlying mechanism behind how an automation system works.
The principle behind automation is quite simple and involves only three action points. Let’s look at an example of where it would apply.
Scenario: You want to provide a ?300 discount to every customer who purchases products worth ?1500 or above.
The logic behind an automation tool can be segmented into three steps (TCA):
Trigger: The customer places an order
Condition: The order size is more than INR 1500
Action: INR 300 discount is applied at checkout
This simple three-step process can apply to the root of any e-commerce automation. Once you set the trigger, condition, and action, the rule-based system will do the rest for you.
Does your e-commerce business need automation?
There comes a stage in every business when you realise that there are many tasks that take up a lot of time. The primary rationale behind automating your business is to enhance customer experience while also making sure that you allot time for more critical tasks that require cognitive and interpersonal skills.
If you’re faced with the following challenges while running your business, you may want to consider automating a part of your business to make things easier:
- Your business is in dire need of engagement with high-value customers through different channels like email, SMS, etc.
- Your sales folks are having a tough time following up with every customer
- Your sales team spends hours getting together and shipping out one order because they have to deal with multiple systems and platforms
- Your business is faced with a considerable amount of returned orders and is having a difficult time processing them
- Your business inventory is out-dated and cluttered. Reports are slow to load, buggy and inventories often ‘run out of stock’ because of process inefficiencies
- Your e-commerce business spends a considerable amount of time in handling a large amount of sensitive data that needs to be moved daily
- Employee and system updates need to be regularly updated, which often lead to lost information or mistakes in crucial data
Benefits of e-commerce automation
Here are a few reasons why automation will benefit your business:
Efficiency is reduction in the number of wasted resources that are used to produce a given amount of goods or services. Imagine an instance where a staff member has to manually enter the data of every order that is placed on your website.
This is not just a mind-numbingly tedious process, but can also be highly time-consuming. With an Order Management System (OMS), you can keep track of all orders that are placed, along with detailed information on customer details, timestamp, shipping information, etc.
The order management process starts from when a customer places an order, to keeping track of that order until it is fulfilled and helps in automating data entry, process details, etc.
Once you employ e-commerce automation systems along every step of your business as it grows, you can be sure to see a visible drop in operations costs. These costs come from reduced workload and money spent on hiring resources.
All humans are prone to a small margin of error over time. Sometimes, the magnitude of mistakes are not always in our control and can lead to drastic consequences.
Studies show that with the best automation tools, the chance of negative customer service due to human error can get reduced by as much as 65%. With automation software in hand, you can be sure to see high levels of accuracy, and at a significantly lesser cost and effort, too!
As your business grows over time, and you accumulate a sizeable amount of customers, individual interaction and monitoring may become extremely difficult to monitor. Cast your worries away with a tool that remembers to get in touch with every single customer of yours!
All the pointers that we listed above may give the impression that automation tools can put your staff workers out of a job. On the contrary, automation tools help you make the most of your employees and their time.
When you automate crucial but repetitive processes, your resources can put their time into other things. They can give their attention to tasks that need aptitude and personal service. Automation frees time up to build or nurture relationships with customers.
Six areas where you can apply e-commerce automation
As we mentioned earlier, we will be looking at parts of your business that can be fast-tracked with the help of e-commerce automation tools. Let’s look at how you can do this!
Whether it comes to email marketing or social media, you can now track, schedule and measure different marketing activities using an efficient marketing automation tool. Here are a few examples of how you can automate marketing tasks:
Schedule social media posts
With a tool like Hubspot or Omnisend, you can automate social posting on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Some exclusive features include scheduling posts, central posting from a single dashboard, etc.
As your business requirement grows, it may be challenging to keep track of all social posting requirements in real-time. Software like these can help you stay ahead of your schedule without wasting your valuable staff-hours.
Different marketing efforts like content, email and social media marketing can help you obtain leads from a variety of sources. But, is there one way to keep track of them all? Well, yes!
With a centralised marketing dashboard, you can employ lead generation aspects like forms, downloadable reports, custom URLs, etc. and track their performance too. A marketing automation tool can help you get a bird’s eye view of different marketing campaigns, performance and generate reports at the same time.
Just to give you a context of how effective email marketing is, here’s an interesting statistic: The average expected ROI for every $1 you spend on email marketing is $42!
All through the year, e-commerce businesses host a multitude of sales, discount seasons and much more. Email marketing can play a massive role in continually nurturing your customers and keeping them informed of all the updates of your company.
An email automation tool like MailChimp can help you automate your emails and are triggered by a workflow as we explained earlier. Whether it’s a voucher or a unique coupon code or even a product update, emails are your best shot at keeping in touch with the customer.
Customer fulfilment and support automation
Having an e-commerce automation tool to keep track of your customer feedback loop is far simpler than traditional methods. Time is an essential factor in customer fulfilment and automation tools leave no time to waste. Here’s how you can employ said tools to improve your customer experience:
Chatbots are an integral part of every successful website. Chatbots help in successfully sealing the gap between the business and a first-time visitor. 64% of internet users say 24-hour service is the best feature of chatbots and 37% of people use a customer service bot to get a quick answer in an emergency.
Time is money, and every second lost can push you farther away from a potential customer. With chatbots, you can automatically have basic, and custom questions answered swiftly.
Still not convinced? Here’s the best part–chatbots can cut operational costs by up to 30%!
Customer loyalty plays an important role in customer retention. One of the best ways to ensure that your customer keeps coming back is to incentivise them. You can do this on your own website by providing them with discounts as they make the purchase.
Automation tools help ensure customer loyalty by providing rule-based discounts and incentives, according to your requirements.
Dealing with negative feedback
A large part of your business persona is how well you deal with feedback, especially the negative ones. As we specified earlier, time is a crucial factor in dealing with an angry customer.
With automated software, you can trigger a notification or a response to be sent if a rating falls dangerously low or if the customer sends a grievance email. An automation tool can help you process these grievances to a customer support executive without any manual intervention.
Fraud detection and RTO automation
E-Commerce businesses all over the world face an unprecedented, underrated problem– Return-To-Origin or RTO orders. RTO is when e-commerce orders do not reach the customer and end up shipped back to the warehouse.
There are many reasons why an order can get cancelled– impulse purchases, non-deliverable addresses, fraudulent users, user error, among other things. Fraud prevention requires an awful amount of undeterred attention to detect patterns of cancelled orders. With a fraud prevention tool like Razorpay Thirdwatch, let’s look at all the things you can automate to save time and scale your business:
Employing Machine Learning for fraud detection
Catching digital frauds requires us to gather ‘Forensic Evidence’. Every user interaction leaves behind a subtle digital forensics trail like proxy IP, device ID, email address, time to order, etc.
Machine learning models combine hundreds of such innocuous parameters, which are seemingly unrelated, to identify the patterns that indicate fraud. These patterns help zero down on customers who perform fraudulent activities across different websites and make it to the blacklist.
Some significant reasons for order cancellations are impulse purchases, user error and incorrect addresses. With the order confirmation feature on Thirdwatch, the seller can now send an SMS confirmation to customers who have placed a Cash on Delivery order. This message will be sent before shipping the order and will hence, save retailers money in shipping the cancelled order back and forth.
Observing the user
Fraudsters are repetitive in nature. They leave similar footprints on multiple sites. Network effects can be harnessed by pooling in anonymised data to predict and prevent fraudulent behaviour. This de-incentivises and penalises fraudulent behaviour across the ecosystem.
Purchase order automation
Every e-commerce business has to go through a purchase order process. The seller places an order with the supplier to replenish his sources every time his inventory depletes.
With a tool, you can automate purchase orders according to incoming sales. This can be tracked by the tool. When a purchase reduces your stock to a predetermined level, the order can be generated automatically. You can also create rules about first choice suppliers for different items.
Inventory management and automation
Inventory management is a vital part of all store operations, and workflow automation can help you all along the way. Small errors in inventory tracking and management can cause dire consequences and can cost your business slowly.
By automating inventory management, you can make warehousing and fulfilment easier than ever. Here’s a glimpse into how an inventory system will help you process orders:
Customer places an order ? Automation Software allocates stock to the order ? ‘Ready to dispatch’ tag is assigned to the order in your system ? Details of the order, shipping labels, etc. sent to admins ? Order is packed ? Shipped ? Stock discharge logged. New inventory volume recorded ? If stocks are critically low, notification is triggered and sent to the warehouse personnel.
More often than not, salespersons are expected to spend most of their time selling products. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case as other time-consuming tasks like data entry and manual tracking get in the way.
Studies show that considering meetings and other daily duties, their actual selling time is reduced to a mere 24 per cent. With sales automation tools, you can automate mundane sales tasks and instead, use that time more productively.
For example, when a new website lead gets added to a list, automation tools can instantly log their details, schedule a sales call, and allocate that potential customer call to a sales agent.
Automation is a great way to remind salespersons about crucial follow-ups. Since they are time-sensitive too, tools ensure that these happen without a hitch.
That brings us to the end of our blog on why automation is the way for the future! Automation is wrongly perceived by most of the industry as a replacement for human resources. What it does is merely enhance human skills with that extra push it needs. We hope this article helped you in understanding the more profound aspects, advantages and business impacts of e-commerce automation and perceive automation processes better. Stay tuned, and we’ll see you soon with another useful article!
Learn more about how Razorpay Thirdwatch is helping businesses automate fraud prevention here.