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Innovation through Automation: 3 Steps for E-Commerce Businesses

September 2022
Barbora Dostálová
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Automation is revolutionizing the way e-commerce companies operate. Find out how your company can benefit from it too.

The idea behind e-commerce automation is to use technology to automate repetitive tasks so that your employees can focus on more important things. Automating tasks can also improve your business’s efficiency and increase its revenue. 

Investing heavily in automation through artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics makes sense given the many benefits it can provide. In fact, one-fifth of companies report that they will automate some of their processes within the next year. 

Changing consumer behavior is also behind the push for further automation. As a result of the two-year Covid-19 pandemic, many people had no choice but to shop online rather than in physical stores. Now that we are out of the woods, consumers seem to have realized that they prefer online shopping. As physical stores continue to become less popular, automation becomes more crucial. 

How E-commerce Companies Are Making Use of Automation

The best example of the way automation can serve e-commerce businesses is Alibaba’s chatbot, AliMe. China-based Alibaba is the world’s largest e-commerce company. It introduced AliMe in 2015 to keep up with its explosive sales growth. Using transaction data, AliMe analyzes and predicts the needs of its customers. As the crown jewel of e-commerce artificial intelligence, it can also recognize a customer’s emotions and alert human customer service agents when the situation needs de-escalation. Not only does AliMe “sound” like a real human customer support representative, but it can also churn out approximately 20,000 lines of text per second, making it infinitely more productive than even the largest teams of professional copywriters. Alibaba is not the only company heavily investing in chatbots. More than half of customers report that they have used chatbots for simple customer service tasks. 

The Rohlik Group, a European leader in e-groceries, has also embraced ecommerce’s evolution. It invested in robotic carts for its warehouses and fulfillment centers in Prague, Vienna, and Hamburg. These carts can select customers’ items from the warehouse’s shelves without the need for human operators. This will consequently increase order preparation productivity threefold and save 60% on storage space. It will also free up human employees for more important tasks, especially considering that order pickers spend 60-80% of their workday transporting orders from point A to point B.  

Erik Čomor, CEO of Knuspr.de (a German branch of Rohlik Group), said, “Efficient and effective logistics, together with increasingly automated warehouses, are one of the keys to success.” We could not agree more! 

In the United States, Best Buy is also making strides in innovating the way they automate the e-commerce side of their business. In 2015, they debuted Chloe. Chloe works like a vending machine, but instead of snacks, she dispenses Best Buy products. Customers can order items using her touchpad interface. It takes less than a minute for Chloe to prepare the customer’s order and present it to them in a convenient collection bin. It is a pity that Best Buy is not in the business of selling Chloes that prepare cups of coffee and bring them to you—I can think of a number of offices that would invest in Chloes like that! 

However, not all businesses believe that every process that can be automated should be. Some of the arguments against full automation include the risk of losing the “human touch” entirely as well as the cost of developing systems that are complex enough to run fully automated processes. The maintenance and upkeep of such systems is an additional and expensive consideration. 

Simple Ways to Automate Your E-commerce Business

Time and budget limitations are the most significant challenges facing e-commerce marketing teams. Both issues can be addressed through automation. 

We recommend automating these tasks for your e-commerce business: 

  1. Do not let abandoned carts eat away at your profits. Nearly 70% of all online shoppers browse your e-commerce store, add items to their carts, then abandon them before checking out. Abandoned carts cost the UK $18 billion in e-commerce sales every year. That is a whole lot of revenue going to waste. An important first step that every e-commerce store should take is to send automatic reminders to customers about items they have left in their carts. 
  1. Get those five-star reviews. An e-commerce business’ reputation is built through positive online reviews. Sadly, customers are more likely to leave a review after a bad experience than after a good one. Post-service review reminders are therefore important. Sending them out manually would be time-consuming but automating them is simple. Many companies use software applications to automate review reminder emails, but it works equally well when your online store automatically prompts customers to leave a review at the point of sale or upon delivery. Both options can be incorporated into the way your online store fulfills orders. 
  1. Let automation help you revolutionize your customer service. Earlier in this article, we discussed AliMe, Alibaba’s customer service chatbot. AliMe is incredibly advanced. You do not need a program of the same caliber to reap the rewards of automated customer support. Automated customer support systems can transform the way you provide customer service, whether they answer basic questions or handle tickets and verify accounts. Every e-commerce business should consider automating at least a few of their customer support functions.  

Conclusion 

A business’s decision to automate processes depends on how it perceives its customers and how it intends to scale. Nonetheless, automation is an emerging trend that will continue to grow in popularity.  

We believe the questions e-commerce companies should be asking are, “Which processes should we automate?” and “How soon should we automate them?” 

Almost half of CMOs and CEOs report having a shortage of internal skills and expertise. This contributes to the difficulties companies encounter in automating their processes. Stanton Chase has been helping companies achieve success for over 30 years and knows the importance of appointing the right executives at the right time. A skills shortage can be a challenging situation, but our consultants are here to help

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