Automation is not only a strong recommendation for your Shopify store, but it should also be a priority for your store in 2019. That’s simply because automation has so many advantages that it doesn’t make sense for you to keep delaying implementing it.
But there’s actually a serious reason why you should start automating your e-commerce store as soon as you can, even if your store is just beginning.
It’s not just about being an early adopter. Automation is about making your online store as efficient as possible. The earlier you start, the more benefits you’ll have. (And the more time you’ll have to focus on growing your store and honing your products.)
What is e-commerce automation?
According to Shopify, e-commerce automation “is software built to convert tasks, processes, or campaigns within your ecommerce business to automations that intelligently execute exactly when needed.”
Imagine e-commerce automation like a dishwasher. Instead of washing dishes one-by-one manually, you can just place your dishes in the dishwasher, and it cleans the dishes automatically. You don’t have to think about every individual plate or fork.
Also, just like we have vast choices of appliances, there is a wide range of applications that can automate specific tasks for your store.
Automation use cases
Every part of the store process can be automated. We’ve compiled the general implementations you should consider, as well as some specific Shopify apps that you can use.
Marketing is a time-consuming part of running a business, but it can catapult your success. There are multiple online stores that became so big not necessarily because of their products but because of their marketing.
For example, take a look at MVMT Watches. They went from a negative net worth to being worth millions, and they are one of the fastest-growing companies in the world thanks to their strong branding and marketing push.
While you may not get to MVMT level solely through automation, automating some of the on-the-ground aspects of marketing can free you up to think about overall strategy. Which, in turn, might just lead you to wild success.
One of the use cases for email is a welcome email sequence.
When it comes to welcome emails, it can be helpful to think about it like practicing hospitality in a physical store. As a customer in a physical store, you’d feel pretty neglected if you walked in and none of the employees said anything to you. But when someone walks over to welcome you and explain a little bit about the products, you feel more comfortable shopping. That’s the role a welcome email sequence serves for your e-commerce store.
Although some might call it cheesy or just ignore the welcome email, it definitely has a subconscious impact to the customer. It’s a very important step in establishing a relationship.
Ultimately, a welcome email sequence will make your customers more likely to purchase and stay loyal to your store. And the best part? They will also share their good experiences with their friends. Boom, growth.
Shopify Apps for Marketing Automation:
Thanks to Shopify’s intuitive and easy-to-use interface, it’s simple to manage the processes of your store. How about we make even easier through automation?
Shopify has made automation even more convenient than it already was. You don’t even have to program or arrange the automation process yourself. All you have to do is to download Shopify Flow, Shopify’s own automation app.
The possibilities of automating your process are endless (like organizing new product lines, tagging repeat customers and tracking orders), but one of the best cases for process automation is for notifications and communications.
For example, Shopify Flow sends out stock warnings. That means that you’ll receive an email when your product stock is below your minimum threshold. This is very useful especially if that product is a best-seller. You’ll need to track its stock to make sure you always have a product to sell to your customers--and that’s something that gets pretty time-consuming if you do it by hand.
Shopify Apps for Process Automation:
A consistent (and preferably daily) backup is one essential way to secure your store. In case you lose anything, whether, through technical mishaps or cyber-attack, you have your backup. Manual backups are time-consuming, and downtimes on your store will definitely cost you money, not only because of maintenance but also because customers won’t be able to purchase during the closure. And there’s always the terrible chance that customers lose confidence in your store after a security breach.
Having automatic backups makes your store and your customers’ data safe from attacks and breaches while keeping your store fully operational.
Shopify Apps for Security Automation:
Fulfillment involves many tasks and processes to be accomplished. It needs to be properly coordinated and communicated among all departments, especially the logistics. Automation can make this coordination seamless and frictionless.
Shopify Apps for Fulfillment Automation:
Questions are inevitable. Since your store is online, customers will probably have even more questions than physical stores. Because they can’t touch or try on your product, they want to know what it’s really like. They’ll also have questions about the safety of their product as it must travel from your store to their home. So, you will have questions before and after their purchase.
Enter chatbots. These are low-cost, intelligent, automated programs designed to answer simple questions from your customers. You don’t have to hire dedicated customer service right away, but you can still answer your customers’ questions!
Customers online are used to having fast interactions, and they always expect a fast response. If you don’t have fast responses, potential and existing customers will have a bad experience and will turn to your competitors. Employing a chatbot is the best way to accommodate that.
Chatbots can answer the frequently asked questions from your customers while still making it a friendly interaction. Not all customers want to read the FAQs. It’s great to have them.... but most customers will prefer getting their questions answered directly.
If you already have a dedicated customer service team, chatbots could alleviate some of the workloads by answering the easy questions. Your team can, in turn, focus on the more serious concerns customers have about their purchases.
Customers could also have this choice. If they want easy answers fast, they can just interact with the chatbot. If they have a more complex concern, the chatbot could then connect them to the dedicated customer service team.
Shopify Apps for Customer Service Automation:
Rewards and Loyalty Programs
Having hundreds of customers is great, but having a core group of repeat customers is better. Loyal customers make your store grow. You want to always keep them coming back.
Customers might come back due to the mere quality of your product or services, or they just come back on their own. But you don’t want customer loyalty to rely on just luck. Instead, create automated programs that will ensure they come back.
Having an automatic rewards/loyalty program means that existing customers continuously have positive experiences with your store. Such programs can also free up some time, allowing you to focus on other customers on your marketing flywheel.
Existing customers, especially those who spend their time and money on your store want to feel special, and they should be. They are one of the reasons that your store is still up.
There are many benefits in having a loyalty program. Having a dynamic automated app to determine the purchases and the time spent of any specific customer allows you to target your best customers for your program. Such data would be incredibly hard to track without automation.
Shopify Apps for Customer Loyalty Automation:
Benefits of automation
Automation helps your customers, and it saves you and your team time and money. Here are a few key benefits of automation for your Shopify store:
Lower error rates
Since multiple processes can be batched and automated into one continuous action, errors are minimized. It is definitely easier to check for quality and errors after all of the processes have been completed, instead of checking the quality every step of the way.
Also, automated processes can be tested with multiple variables at very high speed and consistency. So you can test out the processes first and implement the version that worked best with less time and fewer errors during operations.
The automated process can do repetitive tasks with precision and speed.
We mentioned earlier that you can group multiple processes into one automated process which makes processes even faster. Let’s look at an example.
Handling returns involves multiple steps:
- Reading the reason why the customer wants to return the product
- Getting the order details
- Getting the contact details of the customer
- Processing the return shipping
- Paying for the return shipping
- Receiving the returned product
- Adjusting the inventory
Then processing the replacement is another bunch of tasks. It’s incredibly time-consuming if done manually. Of course, if you’re a giant store and have dozens of employees, it could be faster manually, but small businesses don’t have that luxury.
Grouping multiple, easy and repeatable processes together can reduce processing time at least 50% while not sacrificing the quality (and without you having to pay for more employees).
Better customer support
Support for customers can vary depending on their concerns and their stage on the marketing flywheel. That’s why personalization is the name of the game when dealing with customer support.
Humans have the amazing ability to adapt to whoever they are speaking to. However, it might take some time for your customer service team to adapt to the most appropriate approach to the customer, simply because they don’t yet know anything about the customer.
But if the customer went through an automated response system first, such as chatbots, customer support will already know what the customer wants and how to approach the customer. So, they will be able to provide the solution faster.
More in-depth analysis
One of the best ways to capitalize on automation is to use machine learning/artificial intelligence.
One of the biggest benefits of an online store is having a treasure trove of data from customers. These are all valuable pieces of data that can be analyzed to further improve your store.
Automation software specializes in specific, repetitive tasks. Finding trends, having detailed reports, tracking variables and many more can be automated and further improved through machine learning/artificial intelligence.
You get to focus on growth
Managing your store hands-on is time-consuming. And there may be some aspects of your store that need your focus, but you never get the time because your hands are full of less important but more urgent tasks.
Automating tasks and processes frees up a big chunk of your time so you can focus on plans and strategies instead of the day-to-day operations.
Better team morale
Having freed a chunk of your team’s time as well, they will have time to further improve existing processes or solve complex problems that they didn’t have the time to attend to before. This makes them more satisfied and feels less pressure.
It will also be easier to spot the errors on the process chain if there are any. Automated notification and messages can make coordination easier. The team will immediately know what the problem is and provide solutions on the spot.
Automation is like a kitchen appliance–designed to make our lives easier
Think of automated apps as appliances. To have cold water and store food, you might need a refrigerator. While having a refrigerator means that you don’t have to lug a block of ice into your kitchen every week, it’s an investment. It’s going to cost you some money upfront. But remember: good investments give you bigger, better returns than their cost.
All of the applications that we listed above are essential for your store, and there are many more that you can further explore. Here are some questions to determine if you need to automate a specific process:
- Do I have people in charge of this process?
- Does this specific process take too much time?
- Is it hard to communicate and coordinate the details of this process?
- Do I need more data to be analyzed?
- Does the process need a faster response/feedback?
- Does the process get inaccurate results/details?
If the answers to these questions are yes, ask the main question:
Can the task be automated?
After determining that you need the automation, see if it’s worth it.
- Is there a free option available?
- If it’s paid, it is worth the time and hassle saved?
- Will my team benefit from automation?
You could still live in your home without a dishwasher or refrigerator. But would you want to? That’s automation. It’s not just for leisure, it’s a necessary upgrade and investment for your online store.