What is eCommerce Automation?
eCommerce automation is the process of using software tools that will complete various tasks for you, rather than needing to do them yourself. While some aspects of business will still require human input, a significant number of eCommerce tasks can be automated quite successfully. Automation works best for small, repetitive daily tasks that are always performed in a consistent way.
How eCommerce Automation Works
eCommerce automation is driven by smart platforms that adjust to the actions, input, or feedback of website users. At the core of these capabilities is artificial intelligence (AI), which can mimic human actions and thought processes to a limited degree — although not nearly so limited as it was in its earlier days. Basic types of automation, such as those listed above, are performed by a simple AI with a list of criteria that triggers certain tasks like sending an email after a pre-set period of time following a customer’s action.
AI is capable of more advanced tasks as well, and some AI can improve and expand upon its own programming via machine learning. Machine learning is a method for improving the “intelligence” of AI by absorbing new information based on interactions with users. This enables the AI to become more efficient with time and to give visitors a more personalized experience.
For example, machine learning can be used to enhance search functions in an online store by using the data provided by customers when they perform searches: the keyword they search for, and the products they click on. From that information, the AI can learn which products in the search results are most likely to be relevant to the keyword that was used. These items will then be moved to the top of search results for that keyword.
Machine learning can allow a website to customize itself for individuals too. You’ve seen this yourself every time you visit a website that displays recommended products. Those products have been chosen by an AI based on what it has learned from you through your interactions with the website.
A customer service chatbot is another form of useful eCommerce AI that relies heavily on machine learning. Chatbots simulate a live chat with a representative of the business. Chatbots aren’t meant to duplicate a conversation with a human, but they can gather information through the customer’s chat responses and use that information in several ways. Chatbots can answer some questions and refer a visitor to the correct department based on their responses if needed. They can also make product recommendations and help the customer find what they’re looking for. Machine learning allows the chatbot to improve its automatic responses and feel more organic — and more “human” — to customers.
Smart search solutions, recommendation engines, and chatbots can all be very helpful in providing a solid customer experience. You can use these features in your online store to streamline your interactions with customers and improve your website’s usability. On the business management side, you can use other types of automation that can benefit you and your business in several ways.
Benefits of eCommerce Automation
Automation provides numerous benefits to your eCommerce business because it allows you to accomplish things you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. Some tasks can be extremely valuable to your business but just aren’t feasible to perform manually. Many such tasks involve constantly monitoring and collecting information, looking for certain parameters, and then acting upon them by following a certain procedure (e.g. sending an email, flagging orders, adding customers to specific segments). Automation provides a means for the software to handle all this data and proceed accordingly, without you needing to intervene once you’ve set it up.
The most obvious benefit to eCommerce automation is the amount of time it frees up for you. When the menial part of the workload is being handled by the software, you can focus on growing your business and engaging your customers.
Consistency and accuracy are related benefits. Since you’re letting a computer handle these tasks, you can be assured that they’ll be handled in an appropriate and consistent manner. With automation, you only need to set up the tasks according to how you want them to be performed, and then the software takes care of it for you. Contrast this to manual work, in which you’d constantly need to keep track of which procedures to follow and when, always with the possibility of human error.
eCommerce automation allows you to run your business in a more professional way while easing some of the burden. You’ll be able to devote your time where it truly matters, and provide the human touch where it’s needed.
How Can You Automate Your eCommerce Business?
Different types of automation are handled by different software you can use in your eCommerce business, including your shopping cart software itself. 3dcart has grown to include several built-in automation features, specifically developed to meet the needs of eCommerce business owners like you.
Workflow marketing automation tools are made to handle the administrative and organizational tasks of your business. These help with day-to-day work such as inventory control, customer management, and refining your marketing strategies.
Automation Rules are a powerful and versatile 3dcart feature. They make it easy to set up automated actions that take place when a customer’s order meets certain conditions. These actions can be applied to orders and customer records in a variety of ways. Here are some examples of what you can do with
- Add a customer to a specific Customer Group when they purchase a certain product, like a membership card that gets them access to the VIP group with special pricing.
- Set all orders of a certain status to be flagged with a specific color in the 3dcart order management interface to make them easier to see at a glance.
- Set all orders from a specific customer group to trigger a certain email autoresponder campaign.
- Combine multiple automation tasks under a single rule to all be triggered by the same event.
- Automatically change the order status of any placed order that includes a certain product, uses a certain shipping or payment method, includes products from a specific distributor, and more.
- Send a specific email campaign to customers who register on your ecommerce website under a certain Customer Group, e.g. “businesses” and “individuals,” so you can easily sell B2B and B2C at the same time.
- Add a customer to a group based on the total amount of their order, with the capability to define a minimum and maximum range rather than a specific amount — so you can add customers who spend $100-$350 to Group 1 only, and customers who spend $350.01-$500 to Group 2 only.
These are just some of the ways you can use Automation Rules to streamline otherwise time-consuming or confusing work. You (or your employees) won’t need to manually group customers, add them to email campaign lists, comb through orders and manually change status under special circumstances, or any other task you’d otherwise need to do to develop a highly personalized marketing strategy. Instead, you can lay out your Automation Rules to handle the organizational and administrative side of customer segmentation and order management.
SmartCategories are dynamically-generated product categories that automatically fill with products that meet certain criteria. SmartCategories are very helpful for collecting products onto a single page for customer convenience, without having to alter your normal category structure or spend the time adding or removing products from extra categories, e.g. for a promotional event.
You can use SmartCategories to let shoppers quickly browse all products that are on sale, or all products with free shipping. SmartCategories can also be used to display your 50 newest products as well as products based on a search keyword.
Newsletter SmartLists automatically group your customers and mailing list subscribers based on customizable criteria, providing a hassle-free method to designate different customers to receive specifically targeted newsletter campaigns. SmartLists can create dynamic groups based on customer order status, location, purchase date, signup date, location, order amount, and much more. Customers are automatically added and removed from SmartLists according to whether they meet the conditions.
Several preconfigured SmartLists are already available for use in the 3dcart dashboard, so you can immediately utilize the most common or useful methods of splitting up your newsletter recipients. You can also perform some deeper customization by editing the SQL statements that control the SmartLists.
3dcart provides a method for you to export a great deal of your online store’s data into a CSV file format, including orders, customers, Reward Points, products, categories, pricing, and more. Some businesses need regular CSV exports for various purposes, whether for accounting, recordkeeping, information backup, inventory ordering, or other reasons. 3dcart makes it simple for you to schedule periodic exports of these CSV files that will be automatically sent to an email address or FTP account of your choice.
When scheduling CSV exports, you can choose the type of data you want to export, specify the filename, designate an email address or FTP server to receive the file, choose how often the file will be exported and saved, and more.