As ecommerce growth accelerates, businesses face stressors on many fronts—from demands for omnichannel shopping experiences to supply chain pressures. The to-do list is endless. To keep up, you can automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks so your staff can focus on the most impactful work.
Automation empowers you to achieve better results with less stress and more creativity. Here's how to incorporate it into your business operations.
Table of Contents
- What is task automation?
- Benefits of task automation
- 4 types of task automation for ecommerce
- Task automation FAQ
What is task automation?
Task automation is the use of software to complete tasks without human involvement in response to defined triggers. The goal is to make repetitive business processes more efficient and less error-prone, and to free up human resources for more complex or creative endeavors.
Time-consuming and repetitive tasks like tracking orders, issuing payment confirmations, and answering basic customer questions are ideal candidates for automation. Without task automation, these mission-critical activities require considerable manual effort to complete. As your business scales, task automation can increase the efficiency of these task workflows and ensure critical steps are taken.
For example, Shopify Flow is a task automation tool that has low-code drag-and-drop functionality. Like other automation tools, this software follows a trigger, condition, action format. When a trigger occurs (say, a customer places an order), the software determines whether required conditions are met (the order total must be over $75) and executes an action (the customer is granted free shipping).
Benefits of task automation
As your business scales, you deal with greater workflow complexity, higher demands for your time, and increased repetition of manual tasks. The systems and resources you once relied on may not suit your future needs.
Most businesses have two options: Hire more staff to keep up with demand, or modernize workflows to scale up output. Task automation helps you achieve the latter. The benefits for high-growth ecommerce businesses include:
For 94% of workers, day-to-day work involves repetitive, mundane tasks. Automating workflows can enable employees to spend more time on tasks that require their specialized skills.
Task automation is less prone to mathematical and clerical errors than humans. This ensures that mission-critical tasks are completed on time and without mistakes.
Reduced effects of labor shortages
Automating tasks helps you scale with your current team and sidestep talent shortages and other resourcing challenges. Competition for warehouse and fulfillment talent, for example, is tight, which increases the pressure to use automation in warehousing.
The above benefits have the roll-up effect of increasing business profit. When you automate tasks, you extend your team’s capacity, expedite workflows, and scale without taking on as much additional cost and complexity.
4 types of task automation for ecommerce
- Order management and fulfillment
- Inventory tracking
- Customer support
- Customer retention
Ecommerce task automation can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. The goal is to eliminate as many manual, recurring tasks as possible to help you and your team focus on the most important work. Four valuable types of task automation for ecommerce companies include:
1. Order management and fulfillment
As your business scales, so does the complexity of its fulfillment logistics operations. Manually checking and verifying orders is not scalable or cost-effective, and puts an undue burden on your staff. With task automation, you can:
- Fully automate the order review and validation process
- Move orders that are ready to ship to the fulfillment stage
- Flag and hold orders that require attention before shipment
- Prepare draft shipping labels
- Send follow-up messages to customers as an order moves through the shipping process
2. Inventory tracking
Effective inventory tracking is critical to ensuring you don’t experience stockouts or overstocking. Misalignment between inventory volumes and customer demand impacts the cost of business operations and, as a result, profitably. Too little inventory and you risk losing sales; too much and items can go to waste. With task automation, you can:
- Create notifications that tell you when specific items are low or out of stock
- Remove items from the website when an item is no longer available
- Add items back to the site when new shipments come in
- Monitor demand fluctuations to help you properly meet customer expectations
- Streamline the ordering process and improve the inventory flow from suppliers to your warehouse
3. Customer support
Shoppers expect strong customer service and timely communication. But managing one-to-one support at scale is nearly impossible for businesses with thousands of daily customers. Automation streamlines support requests, freeing your team to focus on higher-priority and complex tasks. With task automation, you can:
- Send order confirmations, receipts, and shipping notifications
- Message customers when wishlist items are back in stock
- Notify staff to connect with a customer personally based on factors like lifetime order value or the complexity of their questions
- Use chatbots to answer FAQs and order inquiries in real time
4. Customer retention
You can maintain a steady revenue stream by prioritizing long-term relationships with repeat customers. Automation can help you nurture these relationships. You can:
- Start post-purchase nurture campaigns
- Tag customers for segmentation and marketing
- Create ideal customer profiles to inform outreach and advertising strategies
- Tag and track high-value and returning customers
- Award loyalty points and perks for purchases and product reviews
- Offer targeted discounts and incentives to customers with high lifetime values
Task automation FAQ
What tools and technology are available for task automation in ecommerce?
Task automation tools and technology range from simple applications like Shopify Flow that provide customizable workflow templates to task automation tools that are purpose-built for inventory tracking, order fulfillment, data and analytics, and customer service. The best task management software depends on your business’s specific needs and desired outcomes.
What are examples of automated tasks in ecommerce?
Examples of automated tasks in ecommerce include:
- Sending automated emails with shipping updates after an order is placed
- Applying loyalty points or credits if a customer hits a certain dollar amount in lifetime spend
- Sending automated messages to team members when a specific item is low or out of stock
- Validating order details and creating shipping labels when a customer order is placed
Is there a balance between automation and human involvement?
Task automation software is an extension of human capacity, not a replacement. Team members should have direct involvement in task management and workflow automation, intervening when necessary. For example, if a customer’s question or complaint can’t be answered automatically, a customer service representative can assist.