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eCommerce Automation: Learn What It Is and How to Do It Right

January 18, 2023 | Oro Team

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Originally published February 9 2021, updated January 18, 2023

For the vast majority of businesses, automating their eCommerce business just makes good business sense. While individual sales processes may differ, most are repetitive. Automating some aspects of the process keeps eCommerce businesses running smoothly while channeling resources to processes that grow the business and improve the customer experience.

To help you better understand modern eCommerce automation capabilities, this guide will cover automation types, examples, and tools. Read further to learn the fundamentals of eCommerce business process automation to make informed decisions for maximizing business performance.

What is eCommerce Automation?

ecommerce automation

By the broadest definition, eCommerce automation is the use of technology to help eCommerce businesses grow sales and increase staff productivity. By automating eCommerce processes, businesses can cut down on order costs, re-direct staff activity, and deliver personalized customer experiences.

Benefits of eCommerce Automation

benefits of ecommerce automation

With eCommerce automation, you improve all of the following:

Efficiency
According to research by Oro, over 85% of B2Bs are realizing that their eCommerce strategy is an underutilized revenue opportunity.

Time spent on filing or data entry is time that’s not available to complete more crucial tasks. With eCommerce automation, these bottlenecks are reduced and those manual processes are digitized. This efficiency can extend beyond the team and impact other departments within the organization.

Data accuracy
According to Gartner, the average cost of poor data quality to businesses can range between $9.7 million and $14.2 million annually.

Accurate data management is a must in eCommerce. But if data is shared manually, there will always be a chance for human error. And, in a large eCommerce operation, even a tiny error can balloon into large problems that impact customer experience and your ability to fulfill orders – sometimes without you even knowing it.

Team productivity
According to RetailTouchPoints, B2B eCommerce automation is able to increase team productivity by 45% and overall revenue by 49%.

With eCommerce automation software, businesses can keep their employees productive, which leads to better engagement and a more fulfilling work environment. By automating back-office tasks, employees have more time to help customers, improve the product, or work on their skills.

Customer experience
According to Bain, a customer experience promoter has a lifetime value to a company that’s 600 to 1,400% that of a detractor.

Customers increasingly look for purchase experiences that are memorable and effortless. Customers also value transparency and speed when it comes to product search, order tracking, and notifications. Businesses that make it easy for customers to find products, manage and track their orders, shipping, and returns without staff involvement save money and build customer loyalty in the long term.

Sales and average order value
According to Forrester, product recommendations, like upselling, are responsible for an average of 10-30% of eCommerce revenues.

Personalization and incentives are critical in boosting sales and average order values, and automation allows you to apply these strategies reliably. For example, you can automatically personalize your pricing calculations, discounts, promotions, or shipping options for high-value customers. You can also automatically set minimum or maximum order limits to help you reach your minimum order value or revenue goals.

eCommerce Automation Addresses Common Challenges

automation addresses challenges

  • Challenge 1: Your sales, marketing, CRM, ERP, and fulfillment systems are disconnected.

When data is duplicated across multiple systems or is difficult to locate it creates a high risk of customers receiving inaccurate inventory levels, untraceable orders, or wrong shipping data.

With the help of integrations, data transfer between systems is automated, keeping your data consistent and up-to-date.

  • Challenge 2: Your staff is saddled with manual tasks and processes that require multiple steps to complete.

Most eCommerce sales reps only spend half of their time interacting with customers. It’s a poor use of customer-facing employee time to shuffle paperwork and perform manual data entry.

When you streamline business processes, you free up time, money, and human capital that you can reallocate to more critical aspects of your business.

  • Challenge 3: You lack relevant data for informed decision-making

As your eCommerce business grows, more and more finance, operations, inventory, and customer data are generated.With the right eCommerce automations, more data doesn’t harm your business, it makes you a more effective decision-maker.

When you have the right data and that data is accurate, you can create contextual, relevant reports. This empowers your eCommerce staff to stay on top of customer expectations, offer personalized content, and make the right business decisions.

  • Challenge 4: You want to improve the customer experience with more control, personalization, and a self-serve business model.

Customers seek transparency into order status, want access to order history, and the freedom to change their orders. At the same time, they don’t want to answer unnecessary questions, respond to extra commands, or complete added steps.

Automating customer interactions during the ordering step using self-service frees up company resources. It also leads to a better understanding of the customer, improves customer satisfaction, and increases sales.

Types of Automation in eCommerce

Workflow automation

workflow automation

Customer onborading, order approvals, price negotiations – business has a lot of workflows that lend themselves well to automation. Here are some common applications of workflow automation in eCommerce:

RFQ and quote automation
According to Startus.cc, human error is the largest cause of procurement mistakes, including budgeting, communication, data transfer, and accountability.

B2B purchases tend to be either negotiated on an individual basis or offered at a custom price. By giving customers the option to request quotes and arrange for payment, this process gets digitized. Furthermore, prices can be personalized to each customer and calculated automatically based on specific customer or company criteria. Combine a robust pricing engine with automated workflows and every quote gets priced correctly every time.

Checkout automation
According to SaleCycle, the shopping cart abandonment rate stands at a whopping 75%, being highest for travel sites (81%) and lowest in fashion (69%).

Automating checkout workflows helps you run multiple checkouts in parallel, allowing you to A/B test and determine which one converts best. Automating these processes also gives you the flexibility to appeal to customers as their needs change, helping you convert more of them and capture more sales. Integrate checkout with your factoring or credit approval and improve cash flow too.

Order processing automation
According to SproutSocial, 86% of consumers want brands to be honest, and 83% say they expect them to be friendly in their communication.

When an order is placed and moves on to fulfillment, customers want to know where their order is and how soon they will get it. At the very least, customers expect to know that their order has been successfully placed, left the warehouse, and is on the way to them. All this, including any delays or changes, should be automatically communicated to the customers using their preferred communication channel.

Product catalog automation
According to Microsoft, almost 90% of customers expect brands and organizations to have an online self-service portal customized to their needs.

For eCommerce businesses that negotiate prices, payment, and delivery terms with their customers, the logical steps would be to offer these customers their own personalized product catalog. This would provide each customer with a catalog of the products they need, at the negotiated price point and all without the unnecessary extras. If you sell configurable products (those with different parts, sizes, colors, finishes, etc.), you personalize them by the customer to further enhance the customer experience.

Sales automation

sales automation

Automating your eCommerce sales process allows you to optimize lead nurturing, streamline the sales funnel, and reliably close more deals. Below are some examples of automated tasks in sales:

Email notification automation
According to HubSpot, about 80% of marketers have reported an increase in email engagement over the past 12 months.

Abandoned cart emails and notifications about things such as order acceptance, order tracking numbers, and new products are incredibly important to customers. It can be a simple message or part of a more complex workflow automation rules. These automations can include everything from abandoned cart notifications to stock updates to time-sensitive, personalized emails with promotions that customers may find interesting.

Sales opportunity automation
According to LinkedIn, The vast majority (94%) of salespeople believe they receive better leads from marketing.

Keeping the sales pipeline full demands a focus on nurturing opportunities and repeating strategies that work. All website elements – not just sales reps – must work together: whether it’s your product pages, landing pages, or forms. Data should flow freely between systems, too. When eCommerce data is closely interlinked and synchronized with your CRM, it’s easier to move deals reliably to a close.

Customer service automation
According to Ameyo, it’s estimated that 85% of customer service interactions are or will soon be automated.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a support agent that operates 24/7, every day, never takes a break, and can capture any request or feedback, and respond accordingly? This is customer service automation in a nutshell. With the help of integrations, you can capture requests in the CRM where customer activity gets logged and updated. This benefits both eCommerce and sales reps, who can market and sell to different customer segments more efficiently.

Fulfillment automation

fulfillment automation

Efficient order handling means processing orders quickly and updating customers regularly on status. Here are some ways to automate your eCommerce fulfillment:

Inventory management automation
According to RIS News, 72% of retailers agree that inventory management is a major factor in meeting goals, yet 49% of retailers have processes for inventory management.

In order to inform customers and your staff on updates on orders and inventory status, it’s important to keep numerous systems such as your ERP, warehouse management systems, procurement, and others integrated with your eCommerce and CRM platform. This automatically informs all involved parties such as sales reps and customers of any developments and the most up-to-date status of their orders.

Warehouse management automation
According to Supply Chain Quarterly, 88% of management view warehouse as a priority, and the use of warehouse management systems is projected to increase by 67%.

Integrating WMS with your eCommerce platform keeps information on your website up-to-date and avoids miscommunication in out-of-stock or back-order situations. Lastly, warehouse management automation helps eCommerce businesses shift inventory between warehouses automatically to optimize fulfillment.

Returns automation
According to ReadyCloud, over 30% of all online purchases are returned, and in about 65% of cases, the return can be the retailer’s fault.

Just like fulfilling an order, managing returns can get complicated. Different product types may have different return procedures, some may require multiple approvals, and others may not. Automations can notify the support department, process the return, update the CRM, inventory, or warehouse data, and credit the customer with the appropriate amount.

Five Examples of eCommerce Automation

ecommerce automation examples

Streamline pricing, quoting, negotiation, and shipping

For eCommerce businesses with large product catalogs and a diverse customer base, it’s challenging to price, quote, and negotiate the sale. Automation helps configure products behind the scenes and accurately calculate pricing for each customer.

Over 81% of online shoppers feel anxious when shopping on a website they are not familiar with. Transparency around availability, pricing, purchasing, and shipping helps build trust with customers.

Saltworks, a US-based salt manufacturer, configured a multi-layered pricing structure based on customer groups and applied personalized volume discounts to ensure customers see their exact contract pricing. They also used automated actions to streamline shipping processes such as LTL, UPS, freight quoting, and manage self-serve shipping methods.

Make it easy for customers to place and manage orders

Successful eCommerce businesses align customer behaviors and journeys to their brand experience. Giving customers more flexibility and control over the ordering process can be a powerful differentiator and competitive advantage.

While 48% of B2B decision-makers have implemented order management automation in their eCommerce programs, over 39% estimate that automation gives them more recurring orders.

Samuel Hubbard, a US-based shoe manufacturer, utilizes a product grid on their B2B eCommerce website, allowing customers to populate the shoe type, size, and place a bulk order, all in a single step.

The cart function automation allows users to add a single type of product to cart and change product properties at once. This frees up sales staff from manually entering, uploading, or managing customer orders and customers have the freedom to order when they want.

Coordinate multiple approvals required for purchase

Regardless of how many stakeholders, vendors, or distributors are involved, centralizing the approval process in one place saves a huge amount of time and money. For this to work, your eCommerce system must contain up-to-date inventory, pricing, promotions, and other data.

When you make it easy for customers to reach their goals, you retain more of them, which increases your profits anywhere from 25-95%.

With the power of automations, Testrut, a German manufacturer of home goods, is able to fully lay out and optimize their internal workflows. Testrut’s teams use eCommerce automation service for customer-specific approval processes and personalized pricing calculations. Greater personalization resulted in increased customer satisfaction and, ultimately sales.

Improve reporting, sales, and forecasting processes

Online shoppers generate a sizable amount of data when visiting or purchasing from an eCommerce-enabled website. On the front-end, this data can be used for offering targeted products, prices, and discounts. On the back-end, businesses can use the data to ensure products are available while minimizing a certain amount of inventory and carrying costs.

When you share customer information throughout the company - such as marketing, sales, support, finance & supply chains, it gets easier to deliver meaningful experiences that attract new customers and delight existing ones.

For Petra, a retail products distributor, data is everything. It helps them get a better understanding of top-performing rep activities and optimize the sales process. With CRM capabilities and Enhanced Ecommerce from Google Analytics integrated with Petra’s eCommerce platform, sales and marketing teams have all the needed data and reports to better advertise and sell Petra’s products.

Delivering customer-specific promotions and upselling

Timely, relevant information in the form of nudges, notifications, follow-ups, promotions, and feedback surveys positively impacts the brand experience, customer satisfaction, and ultimately conversions

When you integrate your eCommerce platform with CRM, you can personalize promotions and incentives for each customer, increasing your chances of driving conversions.

ADDEV Materials, the French chemical company, uses eCommerce marketing automation for cross-selling. By automatically sending email sequences, ADDEV can offer personalized product recommendations or discounts, helping them increase the order value of every customer.

eCommerce Automation Tools

Any craftsman will tell you the quality of the end-product is dependent on the quality of the tools used in its creation. eCommerce automation is no different. For the best results, you start with the best tools.

OroCommerce

OroCommerce is an eCommerce platform built for the complex needs of B2B. Oro’s automated eCommerce solution contains many functions to streamline quoting, order management, pricing, payments, and order fulfillment. With robust eCommerce architecture and a wide array of integrations with CRM, ERP, PIM eCommerce, and other systems, businesses can improve staff productivity and retain and attract more customers.

OroCRM

OroCRM helps marketers and sales teams to capture and nurture leads and close more deals. It seamlessly integrates with OroCommerce. OroCRM delivers up-to-date, real-time customer information that enables automation. With marketing, reporting, and customer segmentation tools, staff can access data and make decisions that drive sales.

Automation Enables eBusiness Growth

Digital commerce processes are complex and involve many moving parts. Without automated eCommerce to streamline or enhance processes, it’s hard to focus on the high-value aspects of your business.

Automated eCommerce business is resource-efficient, as it enables teams to focus on tasks that demand creativity, intelligence, and problem-solving. All this is a must for minimizing errors, improving productivity, and increasing customer focus.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is eCommerce automation?

eCommerce automation means the use of software, integrations, and algorithms to increase eCommerce sales, improve customer experience, and make your teams more productive. 

How is artificial intelligence used for eCommerce automation?

AI in eCommerce can help B2B businesses and retailers deliver an optimized customer experience on eCommerce websites by using the company and customer data to make better business decisions. 

Why is automation important in eCommerce?

While eCommerce automation will require some investment and changes to operations, it brings enormous benefits, including: 

  • Increase in sales and average order value
  • Greater efficiency by minimizing repetitive tasks
  • Data accuracy 
  • Team productivity 
  • It helps create purchasing experiences customers expect today
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