Automation and sales technology go hand-in-hand when it comes to growing a successful ecommerce business.
Chances are you’ve got basic automation processes in place, like checkout notifications to customers, updating inventory based on orders and billing receipts for customer transactions.
But are you aware of the full role automation can play?
It’s not just useful for supporting the basic functions of your ecommerce site. With the right strategies in place, automation can play an active and valuable role in growing your business, maximising sales and retaining customers so they come back to buy again and again.
Here are 8 ways automation can help grow your ecommerce business, when it’s done right:
1) Turn browsers into buyers
What’s the ratio of visits to conversions (sales) on your website?
How many people have items ‘in their basket’ that never seem to follow through on their purchase?
This is one of the most common problems (and profit killers) with ecommerce, but there is a way to optimise this crucial part of the customer journey.
Automation software can be used to detect when a customer has left something in their basket, and nurture them through automated messages to convert. These messages could have different purposes, depending on what you want to achieve.
An automated message could be as simple as a reminder that the customer has left an item in their basket. Another could send a new offer to them, such as a discount if they finish their purchase.
It’s hard to overstate the value of automations like this. Cart abandonment – as it’s commonly called – is one of the most costly and often one of the most poorly addressed parts of the customer journey. And yet its potential for increasing your sales and profits is enormous.
2) Keep customers coming back
Once your customer has made a purchase, this is where the work really begins.
It’s a common misconception that marketing is about putting all your focus on acquiring new customers because that increases sales, right?
That’s only half the battle.
How much of your site’s marketing attention is on reaching out to new customers, compared to nurturing, rewarding and retaining your existing ones?
You should be aiming for 80% of your effort focusing on existing customers.
When someone makes a purchase, you know that they have an interest in what you sell, and generating that interest in a noisy market can be a hard thing to do. So you want to hold on to it and develop it as much as you can.
Automation can help deliver a valuable retention strategy to keep customers coming back to your site, learning about new offers and making other purchases.
They key is to:
- Stay in front of them.
- Send them stuff they actually care about based on what they’ve previously bought from you.
Automation can help you send timely and targeted newsletters, notifications and promotions to help retain customers and keep them coming back to your site.
3) Build better relationships with your customers
Using personalised, automated processes that support your customer through crucial parts of their journey with you, shows that your company cares.
Automation really shines when you use it thoughtfully and strategically, in the right places in the buying process, to enhance your customer’s experience.
If you sell an expensive, high-end product, there may be more hesitation from customers to complete the purchase due to our natural tendency to avoid risk.
Recognising this problem, you can use an automated message sequence to support the customer, help them see the benefits of your product and answer their objections about buying.
Sometimes this need only be reminders of what interested them in your product in the first place.
Other times, your messaging might provide some risk reversal, such as a free trial or specific guarantee.
This not only helps the customer feel ‘seen’ by you, but also that you’re making the effort to help, establishing a powerful emotional connection between buyer and brand.
Continuing messages after an initial purchase also shows customers you still remember and care about them. And depending on how you use this tactic, a customer can feel a deeper connection with your brand, promoting additional purchases and greater loyalty.
4) Manage complex business process
Running an ecommerce business can be complicated. Especially if you’re thinking about long-term business goals.
The more your business grows, the more customers you will have. The more customers you have the more orders you have. The more orders you have the more data you have. The more data you have the more specific your automations can become. And the more specific your automations become, the more of them you’ll need to accommodate the different audiences.
In short: if you want to grow your business, every facet of it will get more complicated.
And that can feel impossible to keep on top of, especially if you have a small team.
Be honest: you didn’t set up your business, and invest your time and money, for it NOT to be as successful and profitable as it possibly can, did you? You want that success, and you want to feel like you’re constantly making progress towards your business goals.
Think about all the different processes in your business. Chances are many of them could benefit from automation, making the whole thing more manageable and your life much easier.
5) Scale your business for long term growth
Good automation software will seamlessly support your plans as your business grows.
The power to readily add to, connect and monitor the different journeys your customer will go through when they interact with your business can be hugely valuable.
You can create many different processes in one platform, that will beaver away in the background with minimal manual input from you, aside from the initial setup and creating the content needed.
This is great if you want to target specific customers more precisely, or create automated messages for new products as your catalogue expands.
An online shop gaining popularity selling premium skincare products, is planning to launch a new electronic facial massager to complement their best-selling anti-ageing cream.
They not only need to add a new automation sequence to their emails for customers who have bought the massager, but also want to target existing customers who have previously bought the anti-ageing cream, to send them on a seperate customer journey promoting the new product.
How easy is it to achieve this?
To answer that question, let’s look at the next point:
6) Deliver a personalised experience
Not all your customers are the same.
We know that of course they’re all individual, different people, but in this case we’re talking from a business point of view.
Even though your customers have all bought something from your online shop, they’ve bought different products, at different times, for different reasons.
Good retention strategies aren’t about just flinging out the same cut-and-paste email to everyone who has ever bought from you.
That’s the sort of thing most basic ecommerce platforms can do, but it’s rarely successful.
Instead, a much more worthwhile strategy is to create multiple pathways and email sequences based on the type of thing each customer has purchased. It takes more time to plan and implement, but the results will far outweigh the effort.
Going back to the example in section 5, how can the premium skincare company separate their customers into the required automated sequences?
7) Track and categorise customers
Sales and marketing messages are always more effective when they are directly relevant to the individual receiving them. Sending the right message to the right person at the right time is a fundamental rule of successful marketing.
When a customer goes through the buyer’s journey on your website, automation technology can help you identify and categorise them based on their behaviours and interests.
Used wisely, this information can be highly valuable for the future.
The skincare company could tag each customer based on what they’ve bought. Then future journeys and individual messages – even the content within those messages – can be personalised based on each customer’s purchase history.
Automation tools like ActiveCampaign do this best. If you’d like to know more about how tagging works in an automated programme, check out their video explaining how tagging works here.
Features like this need careful planning, but it’s worth putting in the work because it becomes so much easier to personalise your customer’s journey and tailor messages based on what they’re truly interested in.
8) Save time so you can be doing other things
Managing an ecommerce business isn’t easy.
When you’re trying to run your business as it is, and implement new ideas on top of 1000 other things, it can be difficult to work out where to focus your time.
Done properly, automation can bring huge benefits in this regard, giving you more sales with less work, and therefore more time to focus on other things.
Automated processes can become a reliable way of performing repetitive tasks and minimising manual labour/input, but still getting great results and climbing sales.
Automation gives you more time to work on reviewing and developing your business, instead of constantly monitoring existing processes.
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