Running an eCommerce store is hard – but, if you succeed, it can be extremely lucrative. To increase your chance of success, you’ve got to take control of all the key aspects of your business. And the best way to do this is to optimize your eCommerce business processes.
In this guide, we’ll dive deep into key eCommerce processes. We’ll look at what they are, why optimize them, and, most importantly, how (and when) to use technology to do that.
So, let’s dive right in – starting with the essential eCommerce processes.
What Are Some of the Essential eCommerce Processes?
Your eCommerce processes are all the things that keep your business running. There are literally hundreds of small processes that we could list here. On the high level, they all fall into one of four key categories:
Why those four categories? The answer is simple – here’s what the typical customer flow in an eCommerce business looks like:
Of course, the exact business processes inside each of those categories will depend on the details of your eCommerce business. These include things like your payment and order processing eCommerce workflow.
Other things to look at are your payment gateway, shipping methods, and the data that you collect.
Moreover, depending on how broadly we want to analyze those processes, we could add a few ideas to the list of categories. For example, let’s think about marketing.
If you wanted to add marketing processes to the mix, we could add things like creating content or sending emails. The emails that we send could then be split into newsletters, sales emails, and transactional emails. This creates a list of sub-processes within one high-level process.
Because of how deep we can dig into different eCommerce processes, in this guide, we stick to the high-level view of things. Considering everything that’s been said, we could list eight different eCommerce processes (on a high level):
- Promoting the store (eCommerce marketing)
- Collecting orders
- Processing Payments
- Collecting Tax
- Processing Data
- Managing Inventory
- Shipping the product
- Collecting customer feedback
- Strengthening the relationship
What’s important here is that many of those processes intersect on a lower level. For example, collecting orders requires you to update your inventory.
Similarly, marketing activities are very data-heavy. This means you’re collecting and processing data even before you make the first sale.
The last step of your eCommerce process flow is essentially a marketing step but to a very narrow audience – your current customers.
So, now that we know what are some of the key processes (on a high level), let’s look at them a bit more in-depth.
The goal is to find the things that we can automate in each of those steps.
But first, let’s look at why you should invest in automating your eCommerce processes in the first place.
Why Streamline eCommerce Business Processes?
There are many reasons why you may want to invest in eCommerce process automation. Let’s quickly look at some of the most important ones:
- eCommerce Process Automation Helps You Scale
Whenever you scale, it’s not just the number of sold products that increases. With each new customer or sale come new tasks that you need to complete to fulfill the order. Those tasks very quickly add up. And, let’s not forget that the bigger you are, the more complex your marketing and operational workflows.
Automation helps you increase your margins by reducing the number of things your team needs to deal with as you scale.
Sometimes, a single automation workflow can skyrocket your margins. That’s especially if it takes care of a task that’s time-consuming and present in each sold product.
- Process Automation Is Key to Improving User Experience
One of the great things about automation is that once you create a process, you can be sure it will be executed the way you want it.
This means that you can expect the same outcome each time the automation runs. But, it’s not just you who’ll see the same result. Every one of your customers will experience the same outcome too.
Thanks to that, they all can enjoy the same level of customer experience. This, together with the fact that automation can improve customer experience, gives you a huge competitive edge. That’s as long as you build the right workflows.
- Automation Makes Impossible Things Possible
Automation allows you to do things that would otherwise be impossible to execute. Even a simple welcome or cart abandonment email is possible thanks to the system behind it.
After all, you can’t have people waiting for someone to sign up for your list so they can send them an email.
Same as you can’t expect someone to keep an eye on online carts, mailing people they left something in them. But, automation can do that for you in seconds.
And the best is, there are thousands of things that automation can do for you. Things that would otherwise be impossible (or unbelievably expensive) to do manually.
- It Saves You a Ton of Money
The more you can automate, the higher your margin on each product. After all, if you don’t have to deal with mundane, repetitive tasks, you don’t need to hire anyone to do them.
This drives your costs down and gives you more room when it comes to product pricing. And the best is that automation works 24/7, and scales almost indefinitely.
Simply speaking, once you set it up, automation can generate absurd ROI with each workflow run.
- eCommerce Process Automation Frees Your Team’s Time
Lastly, it’s important to note that eCommerce process automation frees huge amounts of your team’s time.
Thanks to that, your team can focus on other tasks that can, in turn, lead to higher business growth.
For example, if you can automate the manual tasks of your marketing specialists, they can spend more time working on strategy.
Similarly, your operations team can focus more on further optimizing your processes. This can quickly lead to a snowball effect, where savings in one area lead to savings in other areas.
Of course, the results that you experience will depend on the eCommerce processes that you decide to automate. Luckily, there’s an easy way to pick the winners (and losers).
How to Pick Which Processes to Streamline First?
There are many eCommerce processes that you can automate. However, not every automation that you create will benefit you equally.
When choosing whether a process is worth automating, always think about the following:
- Is the process repetitive enough to automate? Certain processes are just impossible to automate due to the nature of their workflow or the expected outcomes.
- Is the cost of automation lower than the expected benefits? Some processes may be too complex to automate. In this case, the cost of setting up the workflows may not be worth the effort.
Note that even if your processes pass the above requirements, you still may not be able to automate them all. In this case, you can use the below to choose what to prioritize:
- Always start with processes that scale. If automating the process would save you time and money but the savings don’t scale, it’s not the best process to start your automation efforts with.
- Think about the benefits outside of time and money. Can the process improve your user experience or customer service? Some benefits of eCommerce process automation are not easily quantifiable. For example, the process may not directly save you time, but the improvement in customer experience can lead to higher sales.
Here’s what a decision process based on the above could look like:
Now that you know how to choose which processes you want to automate – let’s look at what you should automate.
Key Processes to Automate in eCommerce Business Process
In this section, we’ll focus on the key processes that you should automate. The below is based on the high-level list we developed earlier. When reading them, keep in mind that every eCommerce store is different. This means that the exact tools that you will use in your workflows will most likely differ.
1. eCommerce Marketing
Marketing is the foundation of your store’s success. Without it, you won’t have any orders and, as a result, you won’t have any other processes to promote!
It’s no surprise marketing and communication processes belong to the key processes that you need to automate. These may include email marketing, audience segmentation, or social media management.
For example, if you’re using WordPress, you can use Buffer to automatically share and schedule your social media content. All you need is to install the right plugin that’ll do the work for you.
Another set of processes that you want to automate is all those related to your email marketing. With a tool like ActiveCampaign, you can build highly-targeted email automation workflows. These can be anything – from abandoned cart reminders to complex post-purchase follow-ups.
On top of that, a good automation platform lets you tag and segment your audience. This, in turn, allows you to send more targeted marketing communication, increasing your conversion rate.
2. Customer Service
Next, we’ve got customer service. It’s worth noting that its sub-processes are present in the entire customer journey.
For example, many eCommerce stores use chatbots such as Quriobot to help customers make a buying decision.
That same chatbot can then be used to build workflows to answer any post-sale questions. You can even build conversational automation to provide your audience with customer support.
Still, don’t forget that the best customer service is always provided by a real person. That’s also what most customers prefer.
So, when building an eCommerce service process workflow, you want to make sure that you leave room for your customers to reach a human being.
Of course, you can still let automation answer repetitive, simple questions.
Here’s what such a workflow could look like:
As you can see, if we can’t provide an automated answer, we want to forward the message to someone on your team. To do that, you can use Zapier and connect your chat to a tool like Slack.
3. Collecting Orders
Next, it’s time to collect orders. This step will depend a lot on the platform and payment gateways that you use.
Of course, before you collect those orders, you first need to add products to your store. But, even that process can (at least partially) be automated.
In general, when choosing a platform, you want to look for one that offers many integrations with third-party platforms. Some of the most popular choices include Shopify and WooCommerce.
Another popular choice is Gumroad, which is an excellent choice if you’re selling online courses.
All of those platforms offer a variety of both native and third-party integrations with the use of Zapier.
4. Collecting Payments & Tax
Next, let’s look at processing payments and collecting taxes. In general, these two are handled by your payment processor, like Stripe or PayPal.
However, some of the key things that you need to pay extra attention to include:
- Does your store calculate and display the right amount of tax?
- Does your payment processor collect that tax properly?
- Do your customers receive properly formatted and filled receipts and invoices?
The first two will depend heavily on the eCommerce platform and payment gateway that you use. But, there’s a lot you can do to automate the third process.
For example, you could use Zapier to generate a new Quickbooks invoice.
You could then add two more steps: one for sending the invoice and another one for marking the transaction as invoiced.
In general, the workflow could look something like the below:
Naturally, this is a very simple version of the workflow. It doesn’t include things like data formatting or taxation that are often included in those workflows.
5. Processing Data
This step is all about collecting and processing user and transaction data. Key eCommerce sub-processes happening here include:
- Adding new clients to a CRM and triggering a welcome sequence.
- Logging the transaction and assigning it to the customer.
- Collecting analytics data
The easiest way to automate the first process is to create a Zap between your eCommerce platform and CRM. Then the Zap can trigger the welcome (or thank-you) sequence, log the transaction, and assign it to the customer:
Then, there’s also data collection. On top of customer and transaction details, you collect data any time someone interacts with your store. Those data points include store visits, popular product pages, and add-to-cart button clicks.
Of course, some data points are more valuable than others. For example, sales data helps you find top performers.
Don’t forget that collecting data is just the first step. You then need to establish clear processes on how you collect, save, and regularly review that data.
After all, if you don’t work on drawing the insights, what’s the point of collecting the data in the first place?
6. Updating the Inventory and Shipping the Product
If you’re running a small eCommerce business, your inventory is probably tied directly to your eCommerce platform. However, if you’re selling in different channels, you may need to update your inventory each time there’s a sale.
Ideally, you want the inventory to be updated anytime:
- There’s a new transaction
- Someone returns a product
- You add new products to your inventory
Here’s an example of the processes you need to keep your inventory up-to-date:
The good news is, many inventory and fulfillment apps can integrate with eCommerce platforms.
7. Collecting Customer Reviews
Once you deliver the product, it’s time to collect customer reviews. It’s one of the most neglected eCommerce processes – yet, it’s also one that can generate huge ROI.
After all, people trust reviews more than anything else. Creating social proof is what then drives new sales which, in turn, helps you get more reviews. And the cycle continues.
The good news is that it’s also one of the most straightforward eCommerce processes to automate. Usually, all you need is a good email sequence asking people for a review.
The key here is persistence. Why?
Most people won’t leave a review after the first email. Yet that’s where most businesses finish their workflows. They send one post-purchase email asking for a review and call it a day. Instead, a review workflow could look something like this:
Of course, the number of times that you ask for a review will depend on several factors:
- The kind of products that you’re selling
- Whether the client is a new or a recurring customer
- Whether you’re offering an incentive
- Where do you want to publish the reviews
- The kind of review that you want to get. For example, video vs. text or a product review vs a service testimonial.
For example, getting a video testimonial is a lot more complicated than a written one. In this case, you might want to both ask the customer and educate them on how they can record the video.
Ideally, you also want to point them to a tool they can use, such as boast.io.
The key is to use your eCommerce process automation to make things easy for both you and your customers.
Build (and Automate) Better eCommerce Processes
The global eCommerce market is expected to be worth around $5.42B by 2025.
But, if you want to get a nice share of that eCommerce pie and stay competitive, you’ve got to build strong eCommerce processes.
Ideally, you want to map them and then pick the ones that you can automate. That’s where I come in.
If you need help setting up automation for your eCommerce store, don’t hesitate to reach out. Let’s talk about your business and automation needs.
Hey, I’m Jacek. I’m the founder and Chief Automator at Clickleo.com
I’m on a mission to help you use automation to reclaim your time and achieve more in your business.
You can find out more about me – and why I started Clickleo – over on this page