Bridging the gap with ecommerce automation

What Is Ecommerce Automation and How Does It Work?

When executed well, ecommerce automation does multiple things. It…

  • Makes your business money
  • Improves your customer experience
  • Frees up labor for work in other, high-priority areas 

If you’re still struggling to understand what ecommerce automation is and how it works, here are a few core concepts you should know.

Streamlining inventory management

The specific ecommerce automations available to you will depend on the tech stack used by your business. 

Having said that, most automation technology runs off of rules-based processing based on a ‘Trigger > Condition > Action’ workflow.

As an example, consider out-of-stock inventory. 

When you run out of a product, you shouldn’t keep selling it on your website. A simple automation can disable the ‘Add to Cart’ button on an out-of-stock item, and add a notification to the product page. 

Such a workflow might look like this:

  • Trigger: Your inventory management system reviews the number of items you have on hand for each of your listed products
  • Condition: If the system detects that the number of items on hand is ‘0’
  • Action: Then the item’s ‘Add to Cart’ button is disabled and replaced with an ‘Out-of-Stock’ notification

Multiple automations can also be designed to work with one another. Pairing this automation with one that reverses the button change when new inventory is detected prevents your team from having to remember to go back and update the page manually.

Other ways to integrate automation into your inventory management process include:

  • Adding ‘low stock’ notices to your product description pages (PDPs) when low inventory levels for particular products are detected.
  • Triggering automatic re-ordering from your suppliers when stock drops below a certain level.
  • Notifying customers who signed up to receive updates when out-of-stock products become available again.
  • Informing your marketing team that products are out-of-stock so that they know to stop featuring them in advertising campaigns.

Fulfillment optimization

Running an optimized ecommerce fulfillment operation requires extensive automation. 

Consider implementing a shipping solution that integrates with your shopping cart to automatically print order details, shipping labels, return labels, and tracking information the moment a customer completes a purchase. 

Or build an automation to prevent purchases where you’re unable or restricted from shipping orders too. 

As your operations scale, look into more advanced automation technology for your warehouse locations and fulfillment centers. 

Enhanced marketing

Marketing automation and ecommerce automation work hand-in-hand to deliver more effective promotional strategies. A number of opportunities exist here for ecommerce retailers:

  • Automatically send abandoned cart emails to your registered users after a certain period of time has elapsed.
  • Send reminder emails to repurchase consumable items as customers reach the expected ‘use-by’ dates of their past purchases.
  • Trigger marketing email or SMS messages to send based on specific on-site actions, such as viewing a particular item a certain number of times.
  • Identify top customers and automate the sending of special promotions based on their past purchase activities.
  • Respond quickly to common customer questions using AI-driven chatbot tools
  • Segment customers in real-time to display targeted promotions or loyalty program information.

Improve returns processing

Returns processing is an underutilized area of automation, but it’s well worth your attention. If you’re using the right ecommerce returns management and tracking software, you can automate any number of critical activities:  

  • Set rules that allow you to automatically reject return requests for specific items, such as those that were sold on final sale.
  • Customize your automated return rules, policies, and fees by product or customer segment to create a more personalized experience. 
  • Issue return shipping labels to customers, process exchanges, or send free shipping incentives for exchange orders automatically when customers request refunds.
  • Use workflow logic to determine where returns should be sent, and ensure this information flows over to your return shipping labels.
  • Send automated notifications to warehouse and other reverse logistics staff to prepare them to receive incoming returns.

If your current technology doesn’t allow for returns automations like these, it may be time to look for a new partner.

Amplify fraud detection

Juniper Research estimates that ecommerce fraud losses will top $20 billion dollars. While automation can’t prevent fraudulent transactions with 100% efficacy, it can help you reduce your risk. 

For example, the fraud detection tools built into many popular ecommerce shopping cart engines can flag high-risk purchases based on the buyer’s IP address, mailing address, or past behavior on the platform. When risky orders are detected, the system automatically cancels the transaction and alerts loss-prevention specialists for follow-up.

A final thought…

Automation isn’t going to make it possible for your ecommerce business to run 100% hands-free—but it will save you time and money by eliminating inefficiencies. 

For more on integrating automation into your return policy in particular, schedule a demo of our Return & Exchange solution.

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