Over the past decade, automation has improved eCommerce by making systems more efficient. It has impacted everything from customer service to inventory to marketing, thereby helping optimise the entire eCommerce lifecycle. As a bonus, eCommerce technology and tools have helped elevate the customer experience as a whole.
Thanks to automation technology, actions that once had to be done manually, such as sending order confirmations and shipping updates, are now just one part of an increasingly automated ecosystem that makes up the broader shopping journey.
Additional eCommerce technology and tools continue to crop up to help make systems even more efficient and work better together to seamlessly underpin the entirety of the customer journey. Today’s eCommerce sellers have the best tools available to them to make their online stores run more efficiently and provide their customers with a better experience.
But that’s not all. Technology enabling automation, analytics and AI go beyond the shopping journey to improve and streamline other areas of the business, including marketing, operations and even finance. This means those running eCommerce businesses can use technology both internally and externally to improve operations all around.
For example, sophisticated analytics technology helps eCommerce marketing teams better understand their customers and be able to deliver more tailored experiences. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology such as chatbots has similarly facilitated better customer experiences by providing useful, timely support. In non-customer facing areas, such as inventory and order fulfilment, AI-powered technology has helped keep a close calculation of inventory on hand. With the help of trend analysis, it has been able to forecast the inventory needed during key seasonal shopping peaks.
Simply stated eCommerce technology and tools power every facet of the online shopping industry.
Let’s look at the latest technologies, tools and trends that are driving today’s eCommerce success stories.
eCommerce technology and tools in practice
To understand the possibilities of technology’s value-add to modern eCommerce sellers, it’s essential to take a closer look at how all of these technologies link together for an all-around optimised experience.
Here is the typical eCommerce lifecycle, as it occurs in the following order:
- Branding & awareness
- Interest & consideration
At each of the above stages, eCommerce sellers have the opportunity to infuse technology-led solutions to improve its outcomes. By implementing the right technology at every stage of the lifecycle, eCommerce sellers can drive greater awareness, pre-empt customer queries, offer customers better experiences, increase conversion, and generate long-term loyalty.
For example, the first stage of branding & awareness consists of marketing actions such as advertising and public relations. Marketing automation software is the powerhouse that kicks this off, helping automate and optimise marketing campaigns using smart analytics. The marketing campaigns that once had to be done manually can now be powered to occur automatically, reaching customers with the right content at optimised times.
In terms of advertising placement, digital ad buys can be further optimised by leveraging analytics insights to not only serve the ads to the desired target audiences but also to then understand the customer profiles of those viewing and clicking through on the ads. Technology that helps sellers understand audiences and how to reach them initiates the eCommerce lifecycle to facilitate improved audience segmentation.
Next, during the interest and consideration stage, when customers are clicking through and demonstrating their willingness to potentially purchase, technology such as retargeting software comes in handy to keep the products in the customer’s awareness. Research shows that when a prospective customer sees a retargeted ad, there is a 70% chance they will buy that product over a competitor’s.
Similarly, repricing software will follow the customer’s browsing habits at this stage to ensure that they don’t find a better price from a competitor. It’s important to add a reminder here that repricing doesn’t mean selling the brand short – repricing software is specifically designed to respect floor prices and maximise profits wherever possible.
Once at the purchase stage, customer service software can help close sales by providing helpful information about products and services that can help customers make a final purchase decision. AI-driven software like chatbots can be useful here, providing up-to-the-minute product information any time of day or night, answering a customer’s questions at a convenient time. At the same time, inventory management software can ensure that the product being purchased is indeed in stock and available to the customer at once.
Once the customer has successfully made the purchase, then automating shipping information and tracked delivery updates further facilitate customer service, ensuring that the customer receives the information they need without even having to request it. This improves the customer experience and helps build loyalty – the next (and final) stage of the eCommerce lifecycle.
At the loyalty stage, marketing automation is again deployed to offer promotions and discounts for future purchases. It is also used to solicit user reviews, which can also be incentivised with discounts offered per review. Using automation, a seller can set a rule to follow up with a customer within a specific period following their purchase to ask for an online review while offering a future purchase discount for writing one.
In addition, marketing technology can automatically offer future product purchase suggestions based on the customer’s prior order. This is a strategy known as cross-selling. Automation can also forecast trends, and in this way, performs de facto market research on behalf of a seller. By using AI to follow and track market-specific shopping trends online, sellers can identify seasonal trends and make sure they are fully stocked on the items that will be in high demand during the next shopping season.
In this way, every part of the eCommerce lifecycle can be supported using technology to achieve optimal results for both the customer and the seller. eCommerce technology and tools help make teams more productive since it removes time-consuming administrative tasks that consume valuable time. When technology is used to make shopping better, faster, and smarter, everyone wins.
How eCommerce technology and tools can help online sellers to be more ‘human’
One common misconception when it comes to implementing eCommerce technology and tools is that it will make an experience less human. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Technology helps humans do their jobs better and opens the door for more of the human element to shine through.
Consider, for example, the implementation of helpdesk software that organises all of a customer’s data, including purchase history, location, shipping preferences, and more, into one centralised location. This means that every time that customer calls to speak to a customer service representative, that representative has all the relevant information about that customer and their order (as well as past order history) to hand in one easy-to-access place. Because the customer service rep doesn’t have to hunt down information each time, technology has succeeded in making customer service more efficient and speedy for everyone involved. The rep can then focus on simply assisting the customer and providing timely, friendly service.
This is how technology can help maintain the human element whilst maximising efficiency, particularly if the customer must be transferred to another rep in a different department. With all of the relevant information in one place, the customer needn’t repeat their issues and order information all over again to another rep because it’s all there in the helpdesk. Agents can focus on providing the ‘human touch’ as they let the software take care of the more minor details.
eCommerce automation trends you should know about
One of the great things about working in the eCommerce space is that it’s never dull! In an ever-changing industry, new tools and solutions are always cropping up to innovate the art of online shopping.
Here are some of the top business automation trends emerging this year that all eCommerce sellers should be aware of:
eCommerce marketing automation
Marketing automation may not be new, but today, it’s being optimised for and streamlined through all channels. With digital and social media driving post-pandemic shopping, marketing automation solutions are proven to optimise marketing efforts across numerous channels. They also maximise the gathering of analytics in the omnichannel shopping space.
Automating the marketing function within various eCommerce channels allows sellers and brands to increase their visibility amongst their target audiences, helps drive traffic, converts leads and helps build the brand.
Top eCommerce companies already use marketing automation to optimise their conversion funnel, grow their email lists, reward loyal customers, and stay in touch with customers and segment them appropriately.
Investing in marketing automation is worthwhile; recent research indicates that 77% of companies who use marketing automation see higher conversion rates.
eCommerce business management software
eCommerce business platforms help organise and execute online sales transactions. These platforms can facilitate global online payments, manage the entire online check-out process, sync inventory and supplies, provide transaction history for each client account, and help score leads.
Essentially, eCommerce business management software helps everything run more smoothly by managing the day-to-day operations, logistics and finances of an eCommerce business.
Online grocery shopping has increased by 94% since the pandemic began, and almost half of all UK non-food retail sales took place online in 2021. Given the uptake on eCommerce doesn’t appear to be abating anytime soon, it’s clear that business management software plays an important role in keeping operations running smoothly and efficiently.
Content automation software
With mobile usage having increased in the past two years due to the pandemic, mobile ‘real estate’ is hotter than ever. eCommerce sellers must capture mobile screen eyeballs, which means having the right content to attract mobile customers.
Every eCommerce business these days needs to create innovative, attention-grabbing content to stand out from competitors and have their brands noticed. It can be difficult to manage this all in-house, especially when operating with a smaller budget that doesn’t allow for a full team of design and content specialists.
That’s where content automation software comes in. It can both automate the creation of branded content, but can also ensure that it lines up with every part of the content lifecycle, including keeping content fresh and up to date.
AI algorithms can automatically create visual, audio and text content optimised for keywords and search engines.
Social media management software
Once an eCommerce company has created its content, it’s essential to share it via the proper channels and at the times of day that will ensure it is most visible to target audiences.
Social media management software does precisely this, allowing eCommerce sellers to manage the daily ins and outs of their social media presence. Social media management tools enable sellers to curate and schedule their content, using automation to auto-upload the content so that business owners can ‘set it and forget it’.
Typically, these tools also offer analytics reports that provide valuable insights into engagement. As the AI beComes smarter, it can suggest optimal times of day to post or types of content that should be prioritised due to prior engagement.
Clever ways in which eCommerce brands are using AI
It’s not uncommon for eCommerce sellers to use multiple automation tools to achieve different goals in various areas of the business, from powering the website to managing inventory to marketing to creating content. Fortunately, many modern CRMs and platforms provide multiple functionalities in one place, eliminating the need for piecemeal solutions.
Many brands are already using automation to improve all areas of their business, including brand visibility, customer service, and loyalty. Some examples of brands that have leveraged AI to generate brand visibility and exceptional sales results can be found below.
The visual search platform Pinterest, while not an eCommerce company per se, empowers partner eCommerce brands with its application of AI technology. A few years ago, Pinterest added a new feature wherein a user can select an item shown in any photograph online, and Pinterest will surface similar items for sale from various brands using its image recognition software. It also uses personalisation to improve its users’ search results.
When it comes to marketing automation, the beauty discovery brand Birchbox is a great example of a company that does this successfully. It uses marketing automation software to send out onboarding emails to new email subscribers and then follows up those emails with a series of automated emails continuing value-add content, such as makeup tutorials, videos and tips. This helps keep subscribers loyal and engaged while pushing them further down the funnel.
But when thinking about the companies that have most successfully incorporated technology into numerous parts of their operation, Amazon is perhaps one of the most prolific companies to leverage AI in eCommerce throughout all areas of the business.
Its Alexa voice assistant and Echo smart speakers gather voice data to provide better product reCommendations. It also uses AI to power its customer service and manage its supply chain. The company has been a pioneer in automation and AI, using machine learning to understand its customers’ preferences, combining them with demographic and other data to make smart, tailored reCommendations for products they’re likely to want to buy.
Much of Amazon’s supply chain and fulfilment relies on automation, bringing the technology full-circle throughout every stage of the eCommerce lifecycle.
Today, nearly every aspect of online selling can be optimised with eCommerce technology and tools, particularly those that use AI to automate systems and processes. Incorporating automation tools into eCommerce helps sellers move quickly, stay relevant, and continue to deliver optimal customer experiences across all touchpoints and channels.