Dec 10 2020
11 minute read

How E-Commerce Automation Works, And Where to Start

What is E-Commerce Automation?

E-commerce automation is the use of software to complete repetitive tasks that would have otherwise needed to be done manually. Rather than manually sending out hundreds of emails, a marketer can schedule automated email sends for specific times. Instead of building a new creative for every promotion, try using a template editor

Some automations are so ingrained that we don’t even think about them anymore: can you imagine if you had to manually send a “Thank you for shopping!” message and receipt for every single item sold?

E-commerce automation isn’t one thing you do, it’s multiple small fixes that add up to a whole lot of saved man-power, which can then be applied elsewhere.

Why is E-Commerce Automation Important?

You’re wasting time. We all are, really. Time is a finite resource: you have (on average) 40 hours in the work week. That’s 160 hours a month, and 480 hours in a quarter. 

480 hours to accomplish your quarterly goals.

Now take a look at how much of  that time the average marketer spends manually sending emails and gathering / analyzing data: 16 hours a week. More than a third of the total time!

16 misallocated hours a week means 64 misallocated hours a month, and 192 misallocated hours a quarter.

Now I’m not saying there is never a reason for manual work. There will always be a need for e-commerce marketers to get their hands dirty, but should you really be spending 192 out of 480 hours every quarter on it? That’s 40% of your total time at work. Time that could have been spent strategizing, creating, or otherwise moving forward.

The answer isn’t to automate everything; the answer is to automate everything that you can. Some things will stay manual, but for everything else, there’s a faster way.

Let’s say you can only reduce the manual time spent by half. How much more could you achieve with an extra 96 hours every quarter?

Best Practice E-Commerce Automation Tactics

So what should you automate in order to save time and increase profitability? There’s an endless list of possibilities, but here are some classics.

Set the Right Goals

Before you do anything, you need to be certain you’re working toward the right goals with your automation. You don’t want to automate the same message to go out to every visitor; you want to hit each visitor with the right message at the right time.

So determine what you really want: more customers overall? Larger order values? More insight into product performance? Once you have your first few automation goals in mind, you can put them into action before thinking up the next few.

Welcome Email Series

74_emailsSource: newsletter

One of the most popular automation strategies is a series of welcome emails for onboarding new customers. A new customer’s first experience with your store affects their future with your company, so you want to make a great impression. 

Their first purchase should trigger a welcome email to be sent, ideally with a personalized voucher or offer based on their purchase. Considering that welcome emails have an open rate higher than any other emails you might send, and generate up to 320% more revenue than a standard promotional email, this isn’t an opportunity you want to miss. It’s one of your best chances to persuade your one-time-time customers into making a second, (or even a third) purchase.

Keep this email brief, but use it to introduce your brand, and earn some goodwill by incentivising their next purchase. If you’re unable to personalize the offers, use a selection of your bestsellers.

Follow-up emails in the series can espouse the virtues of your site: do you have an amazing return policy? Tell them. Do you offer free shipping under the right conditions? Let them know. Is there something that makes your business unique? Definitely put it in an email.

It’s a good idea to read welcome emails from other companies in order to plan out what you want yours to say.

Inventory Management

If you don’t already have one, you should look into an automated system for inventory management. While it’s possible to keep track of your inventory manually, it’s an enormous time-sink. 

Automated software can regularly check your stock levels against the reorder points you set to ensure you have the right quantity in stock. In order to accomplish this manually, you’d need to count out the stock of each individual SKU in your inventory (we’re talking all color variants, size variants, etc) several times a day.

Automate Reviews


Social proof like positive customer reviews is a powerful tool for pulling in new customers. That said, negative reviews tend to have the opposite effect. Knowing this, you want to set up an automated workflow to deliver positive reviews, and avoid negative ones. 

One way to accomplish this is through feedback questionnaires. Send a survey out to customers asking about their experience (consider including a reward to encourage responses). As part of the survey, ask them to rate your company (either with an NPS score or a traditional 1 - 10 rating). 

Now for the automation: set up an automated email for any survey that rated your company 8, 9, or 10. In this email, ask them to leave you a review. This way you know that everyone you’re requesting a review from has had a positive experience with your company.

Don’t just ask for reviews on your site; find out which independent review sites in your region are most relevant for your company, and direct happy customers there! Having a large number of positive reviews on a site like Trustpilot will deliver more social proof for your company than a review hidden in your About Us section. If you find a site specific to your region (e.g. Heureka for the Czech Republic, Product Review for Australia), you can create a potent channel for finding new local customers.

Connect Your Data Streams in One Location

74_data converging

Some software makes it possible to automate the way your data is collected, generating new opportunities for analysis. By gathering data from across your channels into one central location, you’re able to create a dependable source of truth. With this source for comparison, you can find more accurate performance information that’s representative of your overall brand, rather than just individual channels. 

ROI Hunter’s Product Marketing Platform takes this a step further, automatically collecting and integrating product-level data from across your channels within the same location. The inclusion of product-level data (margin, stock level, chance of return, etc.), makes it possible to filter your catalogue based on pretty much any metric you’d like. 

For instance, you could find your overall top performing product across channels, rather than just your best performing campaign on Facebook. You could find which products perform well on Facebook but not Google, and vice versa.

Abandoned Cart

Another popular automation tactic for e-commerce is the abandoned cart email. Considering that the average abandoned cart rate for 2020 in fashion is over 90%, this isn’t much of a shock.

Abandoned cart emails remind visitors of items they placed in their cart, but never purchased. They are triggered to be sent out once a customer with items in their cart has left the site, and they can be powerful (like the fact that abandoned cart emails get an average open rate of 45%!)

This is one of those automated campaigns that isn’t really a should have, it’s a must have. Why? The average conversion rate in e-commerce hovers around 1-2%. Abandoned cart emails have an average conversion rate of over 10%.

Track VIPs

It’s a fair guess that about 80% of your sales are coming from just 20% of your customers. The more you know about these VIP customers, the better you can sell to them.

Create requirements for customers to hit in order to be considered a VIP (made over X purchases, spent over X amount, etc.) and set a trigger that adds customers to a VIP segment once they meet the requirements. 

Now that you have a segment of your VIPs, you can target them with special promotions, unique bundle deals, and make them feel taken care of enough to continue spending on your site.

What's Next?

If you’re already familiar with (and using) some of these tactics, then try out some of the more advanced ones: connecting your data streams is a powerful move toward data-driven marketing that many e-commerce companies still need to make; an automated review process can really put your social proof into high gear. What will save you the most time and deliver the greatest result?

If you’re still new to automation, start with the basic use cases. Make sure you have some sort of inventory management system in place. Try out a few abandoned cart emails and pick the one that works best. Find an activity that you feel is taking you or a team member too much time. Can that be automated? Now make it happen.

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