If you own a growing e-commerce store, you’ll know how small tasks that used to come up every so often can now come up every single day.
From emails to social media to inputting pricing and data on many products (across every channel you’re on), these tasks can be time-consuming, even if they don’t offer a lot of value in exchange for completing them.
At the beginning of your store, these tasks are fine to deal with as they come up. But as you grow, these tasks get more and more frequent, and the demand on your time and your team’s time becomes even greater.
After a while, these small tasks can significantly eat into productivity; reducing output, creativity, and even profit margins.
Thankfully, there is a way to deal with these tasks quickly and effectively without allowing them to eat into your time.
Ecommerce automation is an easy-to-implement solution that can help deal with recurring tasks, help streamline processes, and make your business more efficient.
A more efficient business means better results, so ecommerce automation has the power to significantly boost your bottom line.
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Perform a time audit in preparation for ecommerce automation
Before we can dive into some of the ecommerce automation tools, it’s important to figure out how time is currently being spent.
Figuring out where you’re spending your time, or where your employees are using theirs, allows you to improve your workflow and your ecommerce business.
This helps you delegate tasks and work smarter, not harder.
You need to identify repetitive tasks, so you can see what and where to outsource, delegate or automate. The result should be that your time is better spent on the things that matter, so your business can continue to grow and improve.
To do this, take a day, or even a week, to monitor your time expenditure, and note down how long you spend doing each task.
Once you have an idea as to where your time is going, you can separate HVA (high-value activities) from low-value tasks.
The goal here is to focus on the items that offer the most value to your business and look for ways to automate or outsource the low-value ones.
So to recap, before you can automate your ecommerce activities, do the following to find what you will be looking to streamline first:
- Create a list of tasks you perform every day.
- Separate high value from low-value tasks.
- Get rid of as many low-value tasks as you can, either by automation or delegation.
Example ecommerce tasks you can automate
In the next section, we’ll explore all the tools and strategies you can employ to make your ecommerce business run better.
By making an effort up front to set up processes and software, you’ll save hours each week on what used to be manual.
Here are the most common tasks your ecommerce business should automate.
- Virtual assistant management
- Inventory and sales management
- Task and project management
- Customer support
- Marketing: Email campaigns, social media, and analytics
Tools for ecommerce automation
These are ecommerce automation tools you can use:
1. Hubstaff — Delegate tasks to virtual assistants
Unfortunately, you can’t automate every repetitive low-value task with software. In some cases, you may have to outsource, and a virtual assistant is the perfect solution to bringing on additional employees. Read our guide on commonly outsourced business services.
A virtual assistant can provide many services including:
- Responding to and sending emails
- Customer service
- Updating product pages and inventory
- Managing calendars and appointments
- Helping organize projects to outsource more tasks
- Monitoring your automation so you can focus on HVA’s for your business
In fact, hiring virtual assistants can help with many of the automation responsibilities mentioned in this post. Keep that in mind as you scroll; your solution may include software and a VA to complete the tasks.
Finding remote VAs
There are multiple platforms to find great freelancers and virtual assistants. Hubstaff has its own, Hubstaff Talent, and there are countless other freelancer websites on the web.
Managing and paying virtual assistants
While VAs are great, managing them can quickly turn into a duty of its own.
Keeping track of how productive each VA is, how much work gets done every day, and how effective they are at their tasks can be almost impossible when you aren’t working in the same room every day.
The top things you can do to improve the process of managing your ecommerce team, in-house or not, is to use task management software and employee time monitoring software.
Hubstaff allows you to track the hours, performance, and activity of each of your ecommerce team members every minute of the workday, so you can see which are performing up to standard and which might need a little bit of encouragement.
Hubstaff’s tracking tools incorporate simple time tracking apps for desktop, mobile, or web, along with keyboard and mouse activity usage, and optional screenshots.
Combine that with Hubstaff Tasks for project management, and it’s extremely easy to assign tasks to your team members, communicate, and provide all the details needed to complete a job.
Hubstaff Tasks features let your team create automated processes with checklists, recurring tasks, kanban boards, Scrum sprints, and more.
Manage and pay ecommerce VA's
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As you scale your team, other responsibilities will take up more of your time, including scheduling, paying team members, and managing time off.
Hubstaff also prepares real-time cost reports so you can see exactly what you’re paying for on an hour-by-hour basis.
2. Shopify Flow — Fully automate inventory
If your ecommerce store runs on Shopify, you’ll love how easily you can inject some ecommerce automation into your life with their latest product.
Flow allows you to automate a whole host of common tasks, such as:
- Re-ordering products as they go out of stock
- Tagging high-value customers and ping your customer service team to send them a personalized welcome
- Adjusting prices at checkout automatically based on a customer’s location, purchases, or more
- Showing and hiding different payment options relating to a customer’s location, purchase history, or more
- Identifying and tag customers who purchase from a specific sales channel like Google, Pinterest, or Instagram
- Applying auto-discounts for loyal customers
- Automatically unpublishing out-of-stock items so customers aren’t met with disappointment
Being able to automate these tasks can help save significant time and can allow you to focus on what really matters: growing your ecommerce business by getting to the important tasks.
Shopify Flow is available to Shopify Plus subscribers and is a free plug-in. Install Shopify Flow and instantly inject some ecommerce automation to your store.
3. Skubana — Automate tasks
Skubana is all about automation and focusing on the HVAs of your ecommerce business.
Skubana allows you to automate tasks like purchase order generation, setting inventory minimums, inventory allocation rules, and much more.
Utilizing Skubana’s OrderBots™ allow you to designate if / then statements to accomplish low-value tasks without you needing to be hands on.
With their automation features, you can eliminate backorders, prevent mistakes, and ultimately accelerate your sales velocity.
These are the tasks that are going to make you money.
4. Wave — Streamline payments and finances
Let’s take a moment to agree on something: nobody enjoys doing their accounting. Except maybe if you run an accounting firm.
For owners of ecommerce stores with high volumes of transactions and difficult account conundrums, accounting can get complex.
Spending hours and hours going through transactions, discount codes, refunds, returns, invoices, and payments is enough to drive anyone crazy.
Thankfully, Wave is a financial services application that allows you to automate your finances with ease.
Wave integrates with your bank and credit card systems and receives all the transactions and deposits for your accounts. Then, using automation and rules, the system categorizes your transactions, marks invoices as paid, and helps to reconcile all of the payments so that your accounting is done for you.
Wave cuts down the time you spend managing and going through your accounting so you can focus on doing the thing that makes accounting stressful in the first place: selling products!
What’s more, Wave is 100% free and easy to use for accounting. If you’re looking to use its services for other things, too, it also features payroll and payment processing services.
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Hours tracking, payments, invoicing and more
5. Informed.co — Automate your pricing tactics
Looking for prices of your products across the web and on Amazon can not only be time-consuming but also inefficient if it’s not done on time or very frequently.
Setting prices and then changing them according to how your customers react to them is also time-consuming, and requires a lot of back and forth that soon becomes a nightmare for big stores with many products.
This is where informed.co comes in.
It looks at what the competition is selling at, where Amazon is at, and automatically adjusts your prices accordingly. You can choose the lower price, matched price or other rules when you set it up.
6. Zendesk — Make customer support a well-oiled machine
Providing timely, helpful customer support is crucial for an ecommerce business.
As your customers likely aren’t going into a retail location to purchase or try things out, you need to provide customer touchpoints that reinforce your value, not decrease it.
There are a number of tools you can use to help automate customer support, including:
Live chat, email support, tutorials, and demos are all good to consider when you’re looking into ecommerce support.
7. Bonus: Ecommerce marketing automation tools to attract more buyers
Arguably one of the most important tasks for growing an ecommerce business is marketing.
You need to get in front of new customers, at a time when they’re ready to buy. Even better if you can spend the least amount of effort and budget for the highest return.
That’s where marketing automation comes in. Using email, for example, can make a huge difference when it comes to reaching sales goals and customer acquisition.
Social shares are one way to improve your reach, but additional marketing is required as well. Highlighting new products, improving your SEO, and providing product demonstrations, how-to content, and “also bought” (suggestions for customers based on the item they’re viewing) will increase your audience and sales.
Marketing automation can apply to many different channels and approaches, including:
- Email automation and drip campaigns
- Social media marketing automation
- Analytics to help you make smarter decisions
- Cart abandonment and retargeting
You can choose to start with one or all, making sure to test every approach for maximum efficiency.
Marketing automation platforms to consider
- Klaviyo – Creates customer profiles for email, with analytics
- WhatCounts – Email app for customer retention, with list segmentation, analytics, & more
- MailChimp or Drip – Email marketing automation
- CartRocket – Creates calls to action intent on reducing cart abandonment
Take a look at these other useful ecommerce apps
- Jungle Scout – Amazon database for finding the most profitable products per category
- Terapeak – Offers eBay data based on pricing and competitor monitoring
- BQOOL – Compiles product reviews to resolve issues quickly
- Boomerang – Automates emails process with scheduling & response reminders
- Evernote – Upload and track documents, ideas, goals, and more
- TurboScan – Turns your iPhone into a multiple page scanner
- Shake – Allows you to create and sign legal documents using your phone
- Hootsuite – Integrates social media pages and chat into one platform
Start ecommerce automation now
Ecommerce automation has the power to cut hours of tasks from your workweek, and can significantly increase productivity and free up time for you and your team to focus on what really matters: growing your business.
The tools above all offer outstanding ecommerce automation features that can make life easier and better. Don’t waste time on unnecessary tasks, start automating your ecommerce store now.