For 20 years I have consulted with ecommerce merchants, from startups to multinational companies. This post is the second in a series that focuses on innovation in ecommerce.
The first post addressed advancements in drone delivery. In this installment, I’ll review progress in ecommerce automation to streamline routine tasks.
Ecommerce automation refers to using software to automate a manual process. An example is verifying images associated with a product. Instead of having a person confirm each image for every product in a catalog, image recognition technology can review each image automatically and flag the images that do not meet predefined thresholds, such as 50 percent recognition. Only the flagged images would be reviewed manually, resulting in reduced human involvement and a faster path to publishing product images.
Automation works best for repetitive and cumbersome tasks that follow consistent steps. These tasks, if assigned to a person, would be time-consuming and monotonous. Automation enables the ecommerce staff to focus on higher return tasks, such as interacting with customers.
Other examples of ecommerce automation include:
- Escalate support tickets when customers send multiple emails or initiate multiple calls for the same issue.
- Forward negative product reviews to the manufacturer or distributor to address customer concerns.
- Help shoppers find similar products based on a product’s description and images.
- Recognize customers for loyalty.
- Flag customers with a history of high product returns.
- Create tags for products based on search terms from customers.
- Remove out-of-stock products from site search and product offerings.
- Notify customers of delayed orders and new delivery dates.
- Define customer marketing segments based on shopping activity.
- Adjust overall product pricing — up or down — based on sales history.
- Answer routine questions from shoppers with an automated agent.
There are many automation vendors for ecommerce. Here are three.
Kit automates Facebook and Instagram advertising, as in:
- Create Facebook dynamic ads and retarget shoppers most likely to buy.
- Build lookalike audiences for the best targeting.
- Post Facebook updates to drive customer engagement.
- Send personalized “thank you” emails to generate repeat purchases.
- Create and promote discount codes to acquire and retain customers.
- Generate reports on sales and marketing performance.
Kit is available on the Shopify App Store and integrates with other Shopify apps, such as Retail Ready Photos, SEO Manager, customer reviews by Yotpo, and many more.
Zendesk focuses on automating customer service. It offers an artificially intelligent bot that can understand questions and provide responses, reducing customer wait time as well as merchant staffing costs. Complex issues that cannot be resolved by a bot go to customer service staff.
Consistent Cart automates abandoned cart recovery, push notifications, and add-to-cart pop-ups. Like Kit, Consistent Cart is available on the Shopify App Store. It requires a few minutes to set up. It can contact customers via email or text. Consistent Cart’s “Smart Auto Stop,” is, to me, the best feature. It verifies if the customers have purchased products before sending an email or text.
Ecommerce automation can help sell more effectively and efficiently. It lowers operational costs, allowing merchants to compete better on price. It’s a competitive advantage, in other words.