What is ecommerce marketing automation? Can it help solopreneurs boost sales without incurring costs on a sales team?
Most solopreneurs like working alone on their businesses. They’d rather avoid the added hassles and costs of hiring and managing teams.
Yet as business grows, the ecommerce part of business demands more personalized selling. That either means more hands to deck … or a better solution.
This is where ecommerce marketing automation comes in. You can offer your customers faster responses, and more personalized and customized selling … and do this at scale.
In this post, I’ll give you all the ins and outs of ecommerce marketing automation. I’ll show you how you can use it to boost sales and grow your business.
#1. What exactly is ecommerce marketing automation?
The term “ecommerce marketing automation” seems to me, to be a bit of a misnomer. It gives cues of gearwheels spinning and marketing running on auto-pilot, doesn’t it?
But that’s not what it is. It’s about a whole new level of dynamism in customer relationship management … before during and after a sale on your site.
No better example of ecommerce marketing automation than Amazon
The best way to see how ecommerce marketing automation can work is to see how Amazon works.
- Have you seen the way Amazon nurture their leads, in such a targeted and focused way? Before customers know it Amazon leads them from one step to the next till they buy. Then Amazon makes them buy more … and then buy even more!
- Also, look what happens when people browse on Amazon and then don’t buy. They get emails from Amazon saying there are more items like the ones you were last seen browsing.
- When people add items to their wishlists on Amazon, they again get more emails. These emails suggest more similar things they can add to their wishlist.
- If someone buys buy a book, he gets periodic emails saying there are more similar ones he may want, based on his last ten orders.
As an Amazon customer you may wonder: Is someone at Amazon watching your every move? Is Amazon then immediately making you offer after offer? Has Amazon been noticing every little nuance of action you took on their site on your last twenty visits?
Well, this is “marketing automation” at work.
Watching and reacting to “digital body language”
As Eloqua puts it, it’s about watching customers “digital body language”. Ecommerce marketers then target these customers with focused information. This helps convert customers to next steps of their buying cycle.
But what exactly is “digital body language”?
Digital body language takes a holistic approach to customer experience. It tries to get a better understanding of consumer behavior and psychology. Repeated tracking of a user can show patterns that reveal his psychology.
When you understand why people do what they do when buying, you can better tailor your responses. A salesperson would adjust his approach based on both, customer behavior and psychology. It’s the same with ecommerce marketing automation.
To track digital body language look at what emails a user has opened. See who he is interacting with on social. Notice how often he’s visited a site and interacted with online agents. See what content he’s viewed. See if a pattern emerges that gives clues to his state of mind.
This digital footprint can give marketers key information they need. Digital body language tracking should enable better personalization at every stage of buying.
Digital body language is hard to track without extensive resources. But, with the right tracking-and-response software, it all becomes easy. You need to program ecommerce marketing automation software to do this perfectly for you.
#2. The major benefits of ecommerce marketing automation
There are number of benefits to marketers with ecommerce marketing automation. Here are the ones most valued:
Ecommerce marketing automation enables “mass customization” of your marketing
When you have only a few customers, you can, as a brand marketer, track them. You can gauge their preferences and tastes and then make the absolute right offer to them at the right time. You can get them to buy deeper into your product.
But when you have zillions of customers, it becomes impossible to track them on a one-to-one basis. They may be all on their own customer buying journeys. How do then get them to see the exactly right call-to-action that you want them to take?
The marketing technique involved is “mass customization”. It is about reaching the right impetus at the right moment to the consumer.
The word “mass customization” sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t, if you think about it.
At every touchpoint of every customer’s buying journey, you need to nurture the customer. Every single customer has to feel as if he is the only customer you ever had in the whole world. You have make every customer feel this way.
You need one-on-one “dynamic” nurturing … but for all the thousands of customers who visit your site. Ecommerce marketing automation makes this possible.
There are many other benefits too in utilizing marketing automation
The ones most mentioned by the vast majority of ecommerce marketers are these:
- Ecommerce marketing automation saves time: Software helps with the time-consuming tasks … such as populating information, generating reports, and creating workflows. You are then able to spend less time on tedious jobs, and more time crafting winning campaigns.
- Ecommerce marketing automation reduces human error: The tedious tasks we mentioned above can also lead to human errors. Automating your ecommerce can reduce the costs of errors.
- Ecommerce marketing automation increases engagement: You can increase customer engagement without increasing your workload. You can send very personalized messages to hundreds or thousands of customers at a time.
- Ecommerce marketing automation helps you improve your selling process: Revising and improving your campaigns become easier. You are not slowed down by the burdens of manual processing. You can create campaigns faster. You can send out more emails at greater frequency. You can also identify the exact areas of your marketing that need tweaking to perform better.
#3. How ecommerce marketing automation software works
There are two aspects to how ecommerce marketing automation works. One, how does the automation system know when to respond and how? Two, what are the different ways in which it can respond?
What are triggers and how do they activate responses?
Most marketing automation programs work by automating tasks based on triggers. Triggers are customer actions that you specify.
Your ecommerce automation software will help you to create email streams. Streams refer to email sequences. Each email stream could start in response to a trigger … which could be an action (or lack of action) taken by a customer.
Common triggers could include actions like:
- Subscribing to your newsletter
- Adding something to their shopping cart or wishlist
- Completing a sale
- Not being active for a certain period
- Abandoning a shopping cart
When these trigger actions take place, your email sequence or stream gets initiated. This ensures that the right people get nudged to take the next action on their buying journey.
You need to program your ecommerce marketing automation software only once. Thereafter it will start email sequences based on triggers. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it situation.
What are the different kinds of responses you can set up?
Most ecommerce automation responses are email-based. In response to certain trigger actions, you can pre-program your automation software. You can get it to start a spate of suitable emails.
Instead of emails, you may optionally like to show another part of your site to a user who engages in a trigger activity. For example, if a user browses a product for a length of time, without buying, you could show him other variants of the product.
How do you know which tactic to use? Try to mimic a real life salesman. If a customer needs a bit of prodding, what would a salesman do?
Would he try to show product variants to the customer on the spot? Or would he prefer not to push the customer and send email streams to him a little later? Or do both?
#4. Five ways to get started with ecommerce marketing automation
When you start out with automated ecommerce campaigns, where you should begin? There are 5 specific areas where your efforts will make the most difference right away:
Every ecommerce business should create a welcome email series. This is your chance to make the right first impression with every new customer or subscriber.
If the welcome series is valuable, your leads will more likely open your future emails. If the welcome series is a flop, the potential for high open rate in the future will drop.
Here are two examples of a good “welcome series”:
- An online education business sends 2 months’ free access to its courses as a “welcome gift”. The welcome email also recommends some best-seller courses to showcase their best programs.
- A fitness brand sends a welcome email series that teaches a simple workout people can start with. A daily motivation series of short emails follows, for people to keep up their workouts.
The example below from Powr is a classic welcome email. It gives readers a bit about the business, links to a few key website pages, and a list of products. It also thanks readers for signing up. Remember, a non-fussy welcome email builds trust because it looks solid. It does not try to be whacky or offbeat. In many cases that approach may be counterproductive.
Case studies or FAQ emails
A lot of customers may show initial interest in your product or service. But they may stay hesitant to take the final step towards buying.
Two things help people who are wary of buying.
- One, it helps people to know that others have gone through similar buying … and felt thrilled with the results. That’s why a case studies series helps. When people read one case study after another, their recalcitrance decreases.
- Two, an FAQ series helps customers immensely. People get reassured by emails that answer all questions about buying the product.
Over time, you could build an FAQ database. You can also encourage people to send you their questions. Collect these questions to build more depth into your FAQ series.
See this FAQ based email from Autogrow:
Another great thing to do: sent your prospects an FAQ email series … where customer testimonials answer all questions.
Abandoned shopping carts are a massive ecommerce problem. It has many reasons and dimensions to the problem … and the solutions.
Revealing statistics that explain shopping cart abandonment:
There is a huge collection of “abandonment statistics” compiled by Grace Miller. They reveal why people abandon carts and how the revenue losses to businesses stack up. Here are some insights:
- Abandonment costs e-marketers about 2 to 4 trillion per year.
- Studies show that abandonment is most common between 6 and 9 pm.
- 61% reported leaving a transaction due to an extra cost such as shipping fees.
- 35% of transactions were dropped because the website required the user to create an account before checkout.
- 27% of carts were dropped because the checkout process was too complex or because the site was slow.
- A slow website can increase abandonment by 75%, and loyalty drops 50% when your site is slow.
- 55% of consumers leave a transaction when presented with an extra shipping cost.
- 35% of individuals will abandon a site if it does not appear to have a security badge.
- 80% of shoppers will not make a purchase unless there is a hassle-free return policy.
- A 65% cart abandonment trend leaves a 97.9% gap in conversions.
- 40% of surveyed consumers responded that they abandoned their shopping cart because they had been just browsing in the first place.
Devices used for online shopping affect abandonment rates:
It gets even worse, when more and more people use their mobiles for online shopping. Abandonment of carts rises as screen size shrinks.
The current breakdown of shopping cart abandonment rates by device is:
- Desktop Computers: 73.1%
- Tablets: 80.7%
- Mobile Devices: 85.6%
“Win-them-back” emails need to use very sensitive language:
The good news is that you can use an automated abandoned cart email to stem the problem right away. But on the flip side, your emails have to use very careful language, and not make the customer feel “caught out”.
Here’s a good example of one of these emails from … who else, but Amazon!
Notice how they include some key elements on this email:
- It’s very simple email, straight to the point.
- It reminds you where you were shopping.
- It includes a photo of the item left in the shopping cart as a reminder.
- There’s a link to the item so the recipient can head straight to checkout, without intervening steps.
- The bottom of the email has plenty of other Amazon links … typical of Amazon.
- Amazon never offer a discount for people to come and complete the shopping. They never devalue the initial impulse to buy.
One of the best things about this type of automated email is that there’s no downside. There’s no pressure on the customer. It’s a respectful reminder.
It’s no guarantee that someone, who is happy with their purchase, will be a source of returning business. They may sign up for your service but not pay much attention thereafter. Long periods of non-engagement make cancellation an easy decision sooner or later.
This is why an automated re-engagement campaign can be so important. Like an abandoned-cart program, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So do try to re-engage people who are lying fallow for long periods after they have bought from you. What does it cost to send one more reminder email?
If they do re-engage think how much gain there could be to your business. You may wake the sleeping giant into a whole lot of new spending at your site.
Marketing Sherpa say marketers lose 25% of their email list each year (simply to attrition). So, list retention should be an absolute must for all email marketers. After a set number of inactive weeks or months, look to re-engage your inactive subscribers.
Most marketers gauge “inactives” as anyone who has not responded in the past 6-12 months. This would include people who have not opened, clicked, or acted on any email sent to them. You can set your own limits.
Here is a great example from Lowe’s on their re-engagement emails. Notice how they give a good reason to return and use the FOMO formula. What is FOMO? It’s the acronym for “fear of missing out”.
Many studies have shown that requesting ratings and reviews increase ecommerce conversion rates. If you’re not asking your customers for feedback on their purchases, you could be losing money.
Conducting a feedback survey helps you get analytical insights to improve the product. It can also help you improve your sale process and marketing strategy.
It can also make the customer feel “wanted” in your business. If you show you value customer feedback, your brand creates a sense of belonging in the customer. He feels valued not only for his dollars but for his opinions.
Marketing automation makes it very simple for you to encourage reviews. Most ecommerce marketing software automates the feedback collection process.
One retailer that does review email well is Biscuiteers. See how simple their feedback request is, and they never devalue a review by offering a discount for it. Also see how personalized the email feels. Notice too how they insert the idea of “continuing to serve” (a way to not let the person feel like a one-time buyer).
#5. Selecting the right ecommerce marketing automation software
If you are looking around for ecommerce marketing automation software … here are some steps to take:
Decide your goals and needs
Determine your needs in at least these three areas:
Identify all your marketing channels. Your solution may need to be one that supports sales via all the marketing channels you operate on.
Determine your marketing goals and KPIs. Ensure that your software can measure and report the metrics important to you.
Check all integration possibilities. Your software must integrate with all systems and solutions you already use.
Examine all available software platforms
You can begin Googling for good automation software. Beyond that here are some other ways to do your research:
Talk to other marketers running similar businesses. Find out how automation has worked for them. Ask them how they selected their service providers. Find out if they’ve a good experience with their software platform so far? Nothing like a candid discussion with those who’ve bought and used automation software.
Consult service providers you have in your current technology stack. They can tell you which software works best in tandem with their services or products. Ask them what glitches you can expect when you install ecommerce automation software. Ask them also if there are workarounds for these glitches.
Check out software review websites. See if you can chat one-to-one with a few expert reviewers. Some of the good software review sites are:
Always try before you buy
Ecommerce marketing automation software is not a small investment. So never buy without giving your shortlisted programs a try-out.
Book demos with the providers that you’re checking out. If you’re new to the whole thing, never do a try-out on your own. Get guided help.
Make a list of questions that arise as you go through the trial. Get answers for all these. Make full use of the trial period that providers give you.
One thing to beware of is to not rush the trial process. Take your time with each step, and be thorough.
Try out three or four very different softwares
Since you are new to automation, you can never know if the features that the provider is proud of are right for you. Plus, sometimes you can tell a good product only if you have tried out a bad one.
One other reason for trying out non-similar softwares is that you don’t know what you need till you see how it works. So if you are a newbie to marketing automation, you won’t know be very clear on what you need. You need exposure to a wide variety of features to be able to get knowledgeable.
Remember the 80-20 rule when you trial your shortlist of softwares
Only 20% of the software will finally give you 80% results. The rest of the 80% of the software will give you 20% results. This is the rule that most people forget when they buy big-ticket automation softwares.
So see first what is the result-giving 20% of the software you are trialling. Then see if that 20% is worth the full money paid for the software. You will, in the end, always use only that 20% of the software more than other features. That’s why it’s value is almost equal to the full money you pay for the software.
If you have this awareness of the 80-20 rule, you will never overpay for features that are frivolous to your goals.
#6. How much does ecommerce marketing automation cost?
As a solopreneur, you may be wondering how much ecommerce marketing automation costs. How much should you budget for the software and the running costs?
Like with most questions, it depends. This is because your automation system can be as simple as an automated email system. Or it can be a full-fledged software that manages a lot of different marketing activities … dynamic content, ad management, lead scoring and nurturing, conversion funnels etc.
If you need n email system that is more sophisticated and responsive to triggers you could try Drip. Pricing starts from $49 per month and upwards.
Drip have pre-designed automation workflows which you can adapt to your own business. The workflows in their library include, among others:
- Lead Magnet Delivery Workflow
- Next-Sell Campaign Workflow
- At-Risk Customer Win Back Workflow
- Cart-Abandonment Workflow With Split Test
- Sale Announcement Workflows
- Product Price-Drop Announcement Workflow
- Webinar Registration Abandonment Workflow
For more sophisticated marketing automation, you’ll need more robust software solutions. Examples of such software providers include:
They can cost thousands of dollars per month. They have high onboarding costs and processes as well.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
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