Many small businesses selling on e-commerce platforms like Shopify begin by doing everything themselves. From product procurement and inventory management to customer service and packaging, all of these relatively small duties combine into a hugely time-consuming enterprise.
Your marketing alone can quickly become a full-time job. You end up juggling multiple projects, deadlines, and can quickly get lost in the spaghetti of hundreds of small tasks that only take a few minutes to perform. Even as you prioritize your projects and cleverly allocate your resources, as your business expands, it just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day.
Initially, the remedy can be to hire a larger marketing staff or outsource your marketing to an external company. But as your business scales you’ll find yourself wishing that you could use your valuable staff for more useful tasks instead of the minutiae of marketing tasks.
This is where you should look to automate as much of your business as possible. Many of the small tasks that you are your staff are performing daily can be automated, freeing you to work on things that require human interaction.
The automation of tasks can begin very simply, and as your automated workflow improves over time more and more seemingly complex tasks can be performed automatically by your software. The smarter your software, the less work you’ll have to do.
With good e-commerce automation in place, it feels like you’ve hired someone to manage your online store’s sales. Smart e-commerce automation offloads manual chores to automated systems. Automation is also faster than any human-operated system could be. You can use e-commerce automation to lower the number of abandoned carts, automate order fulfillment, get more customers, get higher-value customers, reduce the costs of advertising campaigns, and ultimately get a greater return on investment.
Multiple e-commerce automation systems for e-commerce platforms like Shopify exist. Shopify itself offers Shopify Plus and a number of apps compete to be the ultimate e-commerce automation solution for businesses. Which work for you depends entirely on your business and your requirements.
In general, these systems work through trigger conditions and actions. This is just another way of saying if this happens then do this. For example:
- If a customer spends over $500, then tag them as a VIP.
- If a customer adds an item to their basket, then tag them as being interested in that product category.
- If a customer adds an item to their basket and doesn’t make a purchase, then tag them as an abandoned cart.
These trigger conditions and actions are easy to understand and implement. Nevertheless, they can be extremely powerful. From there, other systems like email marketing, PPC advertising, and on-site personalization can automatically adjust their actions on an ongoing basis. E.g.:
- Marketing emails can be automatically sent that include information based on customers’ previous purchases and interests.
- Visitors who have abandoned their carts will see increased PPC advertising for your products on other websites.
- VIP customers, having been tagged by e-commerce automation, can be automatically offered special deals or added to a specific database for later human interaction.
Marketing Automation Ties your Marketing Channels Together
Marketing is an area of your e-commerce business that is ripe for automation.
Most businesses, whether online or not, share a set of long-term objectives. They want more sales, more customers, better profits, and retain more customers for longer.
Marketing is at the heart of achieving a lot of these goals, and there’s a lot of ways to go about it. SMS marketing, email marketing, traditional marketing, PPC advertising, mail marketing, search engine optimization — these all work, but if there was a set route to success for all businesses then there wouldn’t need to be guides such as this one.
You won’t have a problem finding tools that perform all of these forms of marketing for you. The challenge typically comes from getting them to work together. There are hundreds of popular email marketing apps for example, but they usually run as isolated systems. How can your email marketing automatically take into account how your PPC advertising is performing, for example?
One huge advantage of marketing automation is tying all of these systems together in a coherent package so they can work together.
What Else Can Marketing Automation Do?
The sky's the limit. Automated marketing is most typically used to:
- Build brand loyalty
- Build awareness of your brand
- Engage with your audience
- Learn about the needs of your customers
- Track customer behavior
- Improve conversion rates
- Automate meaningful one-to-one communication
Marketing automation is extremely versatile and it’s up to you how far you use it to automate your business needs. You might want to start with the automation of some simple campaigns, but as your understanding of automation and your business grows, you can perform more and more complex workflows. As your business grows, marketing automation grows with it, eliminating a common bottleneck of growing companies.
Marketing Automation Examples
Following up sales with an automated email campaign that advises buyers how to use the product well can increase their happiness with the product, view your company as an authority in the area, lower customer service calls, reduce the amount of FAQs you need to write, build brand awareness, and build customer trust in your company.
The customer will typically receive the first email before they receive the product, so you can head off any potential issues they might have even before they receive it.
Extend your marketing automation by incorporating information on what customers have historically had problems with. Every time a common problem comes up, add it to the FAQ for the product and record how many times it’s come up. For frequent issues, make videos.
Take it even further by incorporating what people are saying about your products on social networking. Negative terms and mentions can automatically be flagged so you can be aware of them before they begin trending and hopefully head off the issue completely by creating new FAQs, fixing issues, or interacting with people through social media.
Your automated emails can then point new customers to the most important things they need to know about getting the most from your products.
Abandoned Cart Campaigns
Abandoned carts (where a customer adds a product to their shopping basket but doesn’t go through with the purchase) are the bane of e-commerce stores across the internet. Around three-quarters of shopping carts are abandoned, but marketing automation can help you minimize this and reclaim the customers who have seemed to drift away at the last moment.
Pause Marketing Campaigns Automatically
Why advertise a product when your stocks are low or you’re out of the product? With a simple marketing automation task, you can pause your marketing automatically when your stocks and low and restart it when stocks are replenished.
Pair this with an alert to the marketing and product procurement teams so that everyone is in the loop and the product is restocked as soon as possible.
Collecting a wealth of marketing data on your customers has added benefits for your website. With personalization from Datacue, your shop can take in account the previous behaviour of your customers and show them a different on-site experience based upon it.
For example, if they have previously browsed a product category, your website will prioritize showing items from that product category or related categories.
If they’ve previously bought something from you or registered with your site, when they come back they can find most of their important details such as shipping address and telephone number have already been filled out. The fewer steps a customer needs to make before making a purchase the better, particularly if it’s an impulse buy.
The type of personalization can extend into every part of your marketing, from emails to social media interaction. Your store begins to feel much more personal to the customer, and this is a very powerful thing.
When is the customer sentiment for your company at its highest? Upon purchase. This is when they’re most highly engaged with your business and a prime time to introduce more related products based on what you know of their previous purchase history.
It may also be a good time to get more information on them or ask them to share their find via social media. A simple way for them to post “I just bought X” to social media channels can start them off on their journey to promote your products to their friends, family, and followers through social proof.
Set criteria for what defines a customer as inactive. This could take into consideration how long since they’ve engaged with your company, how long since they last made a purchase, or how long since they’ve logged into your website.
Inactive customers can then be made part of a win-back campaign that offers incentives or discounts for returning. You could start with small incentives and build to larger incentives if the earlier emails have no effect.
Getting the criteria for what defines an inactive customer right is very important or you’ll either offer discounts to people too early or contact them long after they’ve lost interest.
Reward Your Best Customers
Consider all of the data you have to come up with a way to reward customers who keep coming back and spending more. Those who make repeat purchases, a high average order value, and have a high number of dollars spent could be considered to be your VIP customers and be offered a discount.
Discounts always cut into your bottom line though, so make sure you’re not heavily discounting items that the VIP customer would have certainly paid full price for without the discount. It may be worth it for the increased brand loyalty and to ward off competitors, but setting discount levels for VIP customers is tricky.
Smarter discounting schemes could offer a loyalty discount to those good customers who also haven’t been back to purchase for a while. With this, you hope to entice them to return.
You could consider heavily discounting items that they don’t typically buy, discounting higher price items with a bigger profit margin, or discounting items that you’re looking to clear from stock.
Your best customers are not always those that spend the most. Customers who rave about you on social media or have a large influence should be flagged as important. Influencers should be treated like VIPs (while being careful not to come across as trying to influence how they represent your company unless you’ve entered into a specific contract with them.)
The important thing is that marketing automation gives you all of this incredible power to make these seemingly complex decisions without lifting a finger. Once the system is in place, your marketing will be fantastic, run automatically, and be as good as if you have a team of marketers working for you full-time.