What is e-commerce automation?
Automation is the use of technology to perform tasks where human input is minimized. Apply this principle to e-commerce and you have the definition of e-commerce automation:
Automation in e-commerce is using technology to simplify tasks and operations in online business transactions.
Automation can be very simple in e-commerce. Automation allows you to set up systems and software that handle repetitive tasks automatically. The result should make work faster and more efficient.
Automation can also handle various tasks when a customer places an order. It can update the inventory, create invoices, and send order confirmation emails. This saves you from having to do these tasks manually. This not only saves you time and effort but also reduces the chance of human error.
The goal should be to have your business running smoother, enabling you to focus on other important aspects of growing your business.
How does automation in e-commerce work?
From a technical standpoint, the e-commerce automation process involves several key components like:
- Integrated data system that allows the flow of data
- Specific triggers and conditioned events
- The predefined workflow executes a sequence of tasks, conditions, and decisions automatically.
- Error handling mechanisms to handle unexpected situations
- Monitoring and analytics capabilities to track performance
The most important part in the automation process is that you continuously look for areas of improvement. Automation processes can always be refined over time. Automating e-commerce often requires integrating data between systems. However, it’s not always possible to seamlessly integrate with an ERP system.
Integration feasibility depends on various factors, including the compatibility of the e-commerce platform and the ERP system, and so much more. Prior to implementing automation processes that require data integration, it is essential to thoroughly assess and evaluate the capabilities and limitations of the e-commerce and ERP systems.
A good idea would be to seek professional guidance or consult with experts to ensure compatibility and successful integration.
Three major benefits of automation in e-commerce
Here are the three main benefits to online businesses who use e-commerce automation:
- Accelerate product launch timelines
- Reduce the likelihood of human error
- Improve overall customer experience
How exactly? Keep reading.
Benefit 1: Faster time to market
Automation in B2B e-commerce allows for easy release of products and services for B2B customers. This then reduces the time required to launch new products in the market.
By automating various processes, you can streamline operations and eliminate the time taken by manual tasks. This results in quicker product launches for your online store. This means faster order processing, and shorter delivery times, ultimately enabling businesses to stay competitive and make customers happy.
Benefit 2: Avoid human error
As mentioned in the technical explanation, automated systems follow predefined rules and workflows. This minimizes the chances of mistakes caused by human oversight or fatigue. Automation leads to increased accuracy and improved data quality which enhances overall efficiency in B2B transactions.
Benefit 3: Improve customer experience
With automated inventory management, businesses can ensure that products are always in stock. By reducing the likelihood of out-of-stock situations and delays, you build up trust in your ability to deliver.
Automation also enables the opportunity to personalize customer interactions, track preferences, and offer targeted recommendations. All of these contribute to a more tailored and satisfactory experience for customers. A positive customer experience not only fosters customer loyalty but also enhances the brand image, ultimately contributing to the long-term success and growth of the business.
What processes can be automated in e-commerce?
Without the use of automation in order processing, the backend of the web store would have to be checked every few minutes to see if an order has come in. Automation saves us this step by sending the data straight through to the order processing system or the ERP.
If you integrate your e-commerce platform with your inventory management system, you can automate tasks such as stock monitoring, replenishment, and order fulfillment. This ensures accurate inventory levels, minimizes stockouts, and enables efficient order processing.
Pricing and discounts
A web store or e-commerce manager’s worst nightmare is making pricing adjustments every time there are changes to account for inflation. Automation can help manage pricing and discounts by implementing pricing strategies based on factors such as demand, competitor pricing, and customer segments.
Automated systems can adjust prices in real-time, apply discounts automatically, and provide personalized pricing options for specific customer groups. This helps when you are looking to build relationships with business customers or want to offer specific incentives to promote adoption of your web store.
Chatbots and virtual assistants can handle FAQs, provide instant responses, and guide customers through self-service options. Automated ticketing systems can also track and prioritize customer requests. This often ensures customer satisfaction due to timely problem resolution.
Returns and refunds
Similar to customer support, timely problem resolution when it comes to returns and refunds can go a long way. If customers can return products and get refunds just as quickly as they ordered them, you can leave a lasting impression. By implementing automated systems, businesses can streamline the return authorization process, generate return labels, and automate refund processing. With improved customer service, you can retain customer loyalty.
Personalized content management
Through automation, businesses can segment customers, target them with tailored content, social media posts and content updates based on customer interactions. With this automated workflow, you can save time and allocate marketing resources where they matter most.
By integrating automation tools with your e-commerce platform, businesses can automate tasks such as catalog management, product data synchronization, and bulk product updates. This is helpful when there are hundreds of variants that need updates at the same time.
Practical examples of e-commerce automation
Example: Customer-facing conversation (self service)
In the case of setting up an online store, conversational commerce involves providing merchants with conversational assistance. An automated workflow comes into play by offering tools such as chatbots or virtual assistants that can guide merchants through the store setup process. These automated systems can provide step-by-step instructions, answer questions, and offer support. This makes it easier and more efficient for organizations with B2B web stores to establish their online presence.
Example: Customer segments
Segmentation helps businesses allocate resources effectively by focusing on the most profitable customer segments. By identifying the segments that generate the highest revenue or have the greatest growth potential, businesses can allocate their marketing budgets and sales efforts more efficiently.
This personalized approach enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty, as customers feel understood and valued.
Example: Email marketing automation
With e-commerce automation tools like MailChimp, you can choose which triggers send ‘thank you’ or ‘welcome’ emails. This makes a big impression on how customers see you.
Email automation assures customers of payment capture, updates tracking info, and sends promotional materials about customer-specific deals. This is a marketing tool that can be used to strengthen relationships between business and customer.
You can read more in our blog: 7 reasons why IT leaders want full digital process automation now.
How does Sana Commerce Cloud use e-commerce automation?
Automation is at the heart of everything we do at Sana Commerce. Since we focus on ERP integration in e-commerce, real-time automation is an important part of how we make our customers successful. By leveraging the power of automation, we reduce the headache of having to update your web store with data manually. But this isn’t the only way we incorporate automation in our e-commerce platform: Sana Commerce Cloud.
Here are some other examples of how we use automation in e-commerce:
1. Checkout automation
Sana Pay and its integration with DotDigital allows for automated checkout. This means the customer is shown only relevant purchase methods based on their shipping address. This improves customer experience with checkout since they don’t have to sift through hundreds of options before finding the methods commonly used in their region.
2. Product management automation
With effective automation product management, distributors and retailers always have access to the most accurate product data available. Sana Commerce Cloud offers a range of capabilities for automating product information updates and enrichments.
Users can export basic product details such as ID, title and description. Additionally, options are available for exporting product specifications, bill of materials (BOM) components, translations and so much more. These export functionalities provide businesses with the flexibility to extract and utilize product data for various purposes, including generating reports, and managing multilingual content.
3. Customer segments
With Sana Commerce Cloud, automation enables businesses to segment their customers based on various factors such as demographics, purchase history, browsing behavior, and preferences. Once customers are segmented, automation can present different content and web pages based on customer specific segments.
By leveraging automation for customer segmentation and tailored experiences, businesses can provide a more relevant and engaging customer experience. Customers feel understood and valued when they encounter personalized content and pages that align with their preferences.
4. Open AI product descriptions
Sana Commerce Cloud retrieves the product attributes and other product fields from your ERP system automatically. These attributes become available in the product add-on fields in Sana Admin. By running a product import task in the Sana Admin, products with the assigned attributes and other product fields will be available in the Sana web store.
Read more in our in-depth blog on how OpenAI product descriptions work in e-commerce.
In conclusion, automation plays a crucial role in B2B e-commerce by streamlining and simplifying various tasks and operations. It allows businesses to achieve faster time to market, avoid human errors, and provide better customer experiences.
Automation can be implemented in processes such as order processing, inventory management, pricing and discounts, customer support, returns and refunds, personalized content management, and product management. By leveraging automation, businesses can save time, improve efficiency, and enhance the overall success of their e-commerce operations. Embracing automation in B2B e-commerce is essential for staying competitive, meeting customer expectations, and driving growth in the digital marketplace.