2022 surely won’t be the merriest year in history, but some can’t complain. Among the lucky few are those eCommerce businesses that adapted to the pandemic reality and made it through the geopolitical turmoil and supply chain disruptions.
For eCommerce, 2023 may very well turn out to be a historical year—in a positive way. Insider Intelligence projects that US eCommerce sales will cross the $1 trillion mark this year for the first time. Though the growth is far from the unprecedented spikes of the early COVID times, 2022 sales still increased by a modest 7.3% compared to 2021.
So, things must be looking up for online retail, right? Yes and no. Though eCommerce is on the rise, it’s not free from challenges: catering to the ever-changing customer needs, gaining an advantage over competitors, ensuring data security and effective logistics operations… To put it bluntly, if you want to stay on par, you must stay ahead.
In their pursuit of a competitive edge, more and more online retailers are turning to eCommerce automation, including Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Read on to learn what challenges RPA helps address, how to use it, and why embracing it will help your eCommerce business flourish.
Learn more about using Robotic Process Automation in other industries, like RPA in insurance, logistics, real estate, retail, manufacturing or automation for consultancy.
Why is eCommerce automation essential?
There are 12-24 million eCommerce websites worldwide in thousands of niches. But no matter what your company’s selling or where it’s based, some challenges are universal for all online businesses. The good news is that eCommerce automation can deal with some of the most challenging difficulties.
Boosting efficiency and reducing costs
With millions of eCommerce businesses, saying that the sector is competitive would be an understatement. High saturation means that all improvements are priceless since they can give you the leverage necessary to outdo other retailers in your niche.
Another reason you may seek efficiency is to dampen the impact of growing production and distribution costs.
When it comes to doing more for less, automation solutions like RPA are second to none. Here, the advantages of automation are threefold:
- They increase the output,
- eliminate workflow inefficiencies and errors,
- and free up your staff.
If all that sounds vague, that’s because automation can apply to various processes, from finance to stock management—don’t worry, we’ll talk about them in a bit!
Enhancing customer experience
According to a report by Gorgias, shoppers who make multiple orders from one store constitute just 21% of a brand’s customer base on average. Yet, at the same time, these loyal customers account for a whopping 44% of the total revenue, showing how crucial it is to care for your clients.
That’s easier said than done, but luckily, many customer-facing tasks can be optimized using automation. What’s more, automation may have an additional, indirect impact on your clients since it contributes to the overall better quality of your services. Double score!
Unlocking the power of data
Cart abandonment rate, bounce rate, conversion, customer lifetime value, average order value—modern eCommerce uses these and many other metrics to predict client behavior, evaluate current operations, and find improvements. But as your company scales up, so does the volume of data you need to consider.
That’s where automation steps in. Crunching numbers is one of its major strengths, no matter how many spreadsheets and databases you throw at it. And, unlike human analysts, automated systems make no mistakes.
What are the benefits of eCommerce automation with RPA?
Now, “automation” is a broad term encompassing various solutions, including RPA. But what is RPA exactly?
The name—Robotic Process Automation—says it all: it’s a bot-based automation solution customized to perform individual workflows.
Pre-programmed RPA algorithms are perfect for repetitive, time-consuming, and data-heavy processes. Once implemented, they can run these tedious tasks precisely and without stops, allowing human employees to focus on tasks requiring creativity or expertise.
RPA is especially fitting for eCommerce because its versatility allows use in diverse processes. Let’s discuss those that show the most potential for RPA automation, both from the customer and business perspectives.
Customers are now more conscious and demanding than ever, so ensuring exceptional shopping experience and support should be one of your top priorities. RPA makes it possible by optimizing a range of customer-oriented processes:
- Order tracking and status updates — Following the order at every stage of its journey from your warehouse to the customer’s threshold have become the standard. On a larger scale, giving every customer this degree of visibility can become difficult or impossible if you manually do that. Bots can handle delivery status updates, sharing the current progress with your customers in near real-time.
- Automated support — Nothing can replace the human touch in customer service, right? If the query’s answer is short and easy, an RPA chat or voice bot can do the job just fine. In addition, handling common, simple support cases such as questions about refund policy or delivery methods over to bots will spare your customers the wait and your human agents the hassle.
- Review management — On average, 32% of shoppers read online reviews before purchasing, making managing customer feedback a crucial part of an eCommerce business. RPA bots can distinguish positive and negative reviews using natural language processing (NLP) and react accordingly: send an automated response, notify your customer relations team, or save feedback for later analysis.
- Returns processing — If there’s one thing worse than being disappointed with a purchase, it has to struggle with an inefficient return process afterward. RPA removes the friction, automatically informing the customer on the progress, updating the inventory, adjusting the money return, and then updating your internal systems.
- Loyalty management — You may have attracted customers once, but the true challenge lies in making their return. Automation will break up your customer base into subgroups based on their order value or volume and then target them with personalized loyalty campaign messages. If you offer a loyalty points program, RPA can record all earned, reclaimed, or traded points and manage customer profile details.
On the business side of things, RPA can assist all your departments. Here are some examples:
- Stock tracking and reporting — As with order tracking on the customer side, you can program bots to monitor your inventory constantly. For example, they can immediately send automatic notifications when a supply runs low or even issue a purchase order to your vendor, so you will never run dry.
- Payment and invoice processing — Invoicing and accounting tasks are largely based on data extraction and entry, which makes them one of the best processes to automate with RPA, regardless of the industry. Collecting, compiling, and sending invoices, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and reconciliation—RPA can do that.
- Product categorization and store planning — Sensible, well-structured product categories make your store faster to browse and your products easier to buy. RPA enhances product categorization by analyzing user-related data, assigning attributes, creating custom product mapping rules (based on, e.g., product name or image), and placing items exactly where your customers expect to find them.
- Content creation — Your online store can offer thousands of products, each with a listing that must be regularly updated. Doing that manually means hiring dedicated full-time content managers and tons of mundane data entry. Or, you could let RPA handle that and have your specialists work on improving your SEO or social media content instead.
- Day-to-day marketing tasks — The average day of a marketer is filled with dull-but-necessary chores that take their focus away from inventing new ways to attract and engage clients. Sending generic emails, competitive research, SEO maintenance, updating customer data, reporting… All these tasks can be automated to release the potential of your marketing specialists.
RPA eCommerce automation — real-life examples
53% of companies that participated in an RPA market report by Gartner have already started their RPA implementation. It’s no different in eCommerce, where many retailers already leverage automation’s power. Let’s have a look at three online retail RPA success stories.
Lotte — round-the-clock product monitoring
For years, the eCommerce department of the South Korean conglomerate Lotte used to review thousands of its product listings manually. After the company switched to an optical character recognition-based RPA system developed by UiPath, the monitoring capacity has more than doubled. Bots run 24/7, allowing the review team to spend up to three hours each on higher-value tasks.
E. & J. Gallo Winery — start small, go big with RPA
A family business dating back to the 1930s, E. & J. Gallo Winery initially sought to apply RPA in the most standard way possible: finance and accounting optimization. Once the proof of concept passed the tests, the automation got underway in other departments. The wine producer and distributor currently boasts $500,000 saved thanks to RPA and a dedicated automation evangelist in 12 business departments.
DCH — back-office on the front burner
For Dah Chong Hong Holdings (DCH), a Hong Kong-based motor and consumer distributor, the top priority was to reduce the extra time its back-office staff spent on low-impact tasks. These included responding to customer emails, matching invoice data, or collecting and entering payment information. With the help of RPA, the company saved over 10,000 working hours annually and is now planning further automation deployment.
Ready for RPA in your eCommerce business?
Lower operational costs, higher employee satisfaction, improved efficiency, greater precision, and, first and foremost, better customer outcome. We’ve shown you the benefits of RPA in eCommerce—now it’s your turn.
Flobotics’ RPA developers and consultants can help you make that first move toward automation with a free proof-of-concept project. It’ll give you a risk-free opportunity to see the benefits of Robotic Process Automation in e-commerce. Reach out to us, and let’s talk about your online business and how we can improve it through automation.
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