Being an ecommerce company founder is a little bit like being a one-person band. Off you go down the digital avenue with a banjo slung over your shoulder, a great big drum strapped to your back, and a pair of castanets buckled to your toes. You need great enthusiasm to carry it off — and you need to be able to multitask like a sentient Swiss army knife.
Playing all the instruments at once is doable, to begin with — but what about when you get more successful? As you grow from a startup to a large company, you get busier and more complex. A greater number of orders come in per month, product databases grow, and supply chains get more complicated. All of a sudden, you can’t play all the instruments by yourself anymore.
You’ve outgrown your unscalable solo gig — now you have to go into conductor mode and begin delegating, or you’ll end up busking at Burnout Station. You need people and tools to help you with packing, shipping, shopping for supplies, human resources, business planning, and dozens of other projects.
Marketing lends itself especially well to automation, leaving you free to concentrate on other tasks. In fact, ecommerce marketing automation is one of the cleverest ways to claw a little time back from your business. Want to know more? Read on.
“Communication is at the heart of e-commerce and community.”—Meg Whitman
Ecommerce marketing automation is the software equivalent of hiring someone to do repetitive marketing-related tasks for you. Ecommerce marketing software is the ideal employee: trainable, reliable, punctual, resilient, efficient, and easy to communicate with. Human beings get bored doing repetitive tasks; ecommerce marketing automation software stays enthusiastic and doesn’t require overtime pay.
Several different types of ecommerce marketing automation exist. Some simplify workflows, while others tackle analysis. Let’s take a closer look at four of the most useful types of automation software.
Email marketing strategy used to depend heavily on coding and manual testing. Not any more. Email marketing ecommerce software can help you create, test, and monitor email campaigns with ease. Cloud-based email marketing providers, like Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp, and Constant Contact, are intuitive and incorporate a range of tools to help you gauge how campaigns are doing.
To see the biggest return on investment (ROI) and the healthiest increase in average order value (AOV), most industry pundits recommend setting up the following four types of automated email:
Cross-sell and up-sell emails: When customers make purchases, follow up with emails promoting similar items. Follow-on email types include category, product, and receipt.
Example: Customers who order shampoo receive cross-sell emails for matching conditioner.
Abandoned cart recovery emails: When registered users and former customers navigate away from your site without checking out, they receive emails reminding them that they have items in their carts.
Example: Registered users who exit without purchasing a stove at Solo Stove get a checkout reminder via email.
Customer loyalty emails: Former customers and registered users receive periodic re-engagement emails to keep them interested in your company.
Example: If you have a customer’s birth date, send them a Happy Birthday email with a time-limited coupon code included.
Promotional emails: Registered users receive emails telling them about new products, sales, or presell events. Low-inventory emails also fall into this category.
Example: Individuals who put a particular jacket on their wish lists get “buy now” emails when the product goes on sale.
Automated workflows help keep customers happy and save you a whole lot of time, too. Because they work autonomously, they can handle tasks 24/7. Payment gateways process credit cards all day and all night, so orders go through even while you sleep. Automatic customer relations management (CRM) workflows sync consumers with central databases to make email marketing for ecommerce easier later on.
You can use workflow automation software to liaise with negative reviewers, tag and sort customers based on their purchase histories, nurture leads to drive conversions, schedule Instagram posts, manage your own inventory, and print shipping labels.
Automation software channels data into a central directory, making it much easier to find. Many programs also provide users with a range of analytics tools, which make it easier to gain consumer insights. With automatic customer analytics tools, you can monitor purchase histories, lead conversion rates, email engagement stats, and website hot spots.
You can also use analytics programs to track product performance and identify promotion ideas, future sale items, cross-sell items, and potential product groups. Conveniently, you can use the same programs to monitor the results of the promotions, sales, and groups you come up with.
Hot tip: The bigger your ecommerce business gets, the more complicated your metrics become. Automation increases data accuracy, so you can build a much clearer picture of where your company stands in the marketplace.
“You can’t just open a website and expect people to flood in. If you really want to succeed, you have to create traffic.”—Joel Anderson
Stumped for a design idea? Landing page builder tools help you create effective and attractive landing pages that complement the rest of your sales funnel. If you have several campaigns going at once (for different products or different product bundles), you can use drag-and-drop editors to create custom landing pages for each one. Many page builder programs include high-converting page copy, which you can customize to suit your product or service.
After your launch, landing page builder tools let you monitor pages and make design changes to increase conversion rates as each campaign progresses. With a little coding knowledge at your disposal, you can send data from your editor software to your CRM via RESTful API.
Hot tip: Standard homepages contain a lot of information, so they scatter leads in various directions like a prism. Targeted landing pages provide focused messages to extend specific sales funnels, increasing your overall conversion rate.
In a nutshell, marketing automation platforms boost your bottom line. In 2018, artificial intelligence (AI) in email personalization software helped companies improve their email marketing click-through rates (CTRs) by 13.44%. In the end, they experienced a 41% growth in revenue over previous non-AI ecommerce email marketing campaigns.
When real people perform repetitive tasks, they inevitably disconnect to some degree. The result? Human error. Marketing automation platforms use a logical algorithm to tackle tasks — and they never get bored. Essential jobs get done, email addresses are collected, databases stay up-to-date, and marketing initiatives happen without a hitch.
Many ecommerce companies focus on customer acquisition to the detriment of another major revenue driver — AOV. Continuously locating, targeting, and converting new customers is expensive; working on your AOV is far cheaper. By using marketing automation software, you can identify products that perform well, segment your consumer base, and perform split testing to analyze price changes. Higher prices, higher AOV. Simple, but true.
Marketing automation makes consumer analysis virtually effortless. Every time someone signs up for an email newsletter or purchases a product, you gain consumer data: email address, date of birth, product preferences, and so on. Follow-up surveys can help you gather even more information. You can track user engagement, too — things like bounce rate, popular pages, time spent on your site, busy times of day, unique visitors per month, and visitor location. All of those insights can help you generate more effective marketing campaigns.
With its streamlined workflows, marketing automation software can handle information far more efficiently than a human being. Programs create analyses and offer suggestions almost immediately after receiving appropriate data. By reducing the need for manual data input and analysis, automation software improves your company’s overall annual ROI.
There are lots of ways to use marketing automation in ecommerce, but email is arguably the biggest game-changer. The more emails you send, the more customers you gain; the more customers you gain, the bigger your profits, and the better your marketing software ROI. Here are four genuinely effective campaigns that work for nearly any ecommerce store:
First impressions are vital in any type of commerce, especially online. Welcome emails provide a perfect opportunity to introduce your brand and offer a first-time subscriber some type of discount or gift. Quality is key; after all, recipients who find your first email compelling and useful are far more likely to open future mailings. Rather than a single email, many ecommerce companies, like Skullcandy, craft a “welcome series” email campaign to keep consumers engaged over a few months.
Don’t forget about dormant customers; instead, try to get them to re-engage with your brand using ecommerce marketing automation.
Craft a subtle win-back email series, like Naturally Curly, and use software to send it out automatically on a series of thirty day intervals after a customer’s last purchase. Essentially, win-back emails say, “Hey, we’re still here.” When successful, re-engagement campaigns greatly increase customer lifetime value (CLTV).
Abandoned carts are a major pain for ecommerce companies across the board. Almost-but-not-quite-purchased products upset inventory management systems, skewing stock levels and upsetting metrics. According to Barilliance, about 73% of all carts are abandoned when consumers shop on desktop computers. Mobile stats are even worse — nearly 86% of all carts are left to gather dust when people shop via smartphone. There’s no sure-fire way to prevent basket desertion, but you can reduce your losses with automatic abandoned cart emails, which win back more than 10% of customers.
An online furniture retailer, Burrow, sends customers abandoned cart emails with a nice discount to the entice customer to complete the purchase.
Remember all that data you gathered earlier? Well, here’s when you put it to use. First, you identify which products customers buy most frequently; then, you create personalized offers based on their preferences. According to an Epsilon report, 80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from an ecommerce store that provides personalized experiences. Custom offers also boost customer retention as well as overall store revenue.
Marketing automation software is both useful and popular — and there’s a lot of it around. So, which programs actually perform well? Here are some strategies you can use to sort the wheat from the chaff:
Before you begin looking for marketing software, try to figure out what your particular automation needs are. Sit down with a pencil and paper, and think about:
Marketing channels: What are your marketing channels? Do you sell your items exclusively via one website, or do you have seller accounts on sites like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay as well? Will you use affiliates to shift stock in the future?
Maybe you just want to automate emails. In that case, do you need a solution that will work in tandem with Google Ads, social media platforms, or a CRM provider?
Integrations: What features do your current sales and marketing platforms offer? Your new ecommerce marketing software must be able to integrate with the solutions you already have in place. Some SaaS providers work seamlessly with automation platforms and plugins; other programs require a RESTful API.
Metrics and analytics: Pick out some marketing key performance indicators (KPIs) and make sure the software you choose can measure and create reports based on those metrics.
You have a list of must-haves in your hand — now you need to find software to match that list. Google is a good place to start, but it’s not the only place to look for solutions. Don’t forget to:
Look at reviews: Software companies all claim that their programs are the best. Real-world appraisals posted on independent review platforms cut through the hype. Sites include:
Take advice from friends and mentors: Chat to as many merchant peers as you can, and get as much tech advice as possible. If you belong to an ecommerce forum, ask other users which marketing automation softwares they prefer. Your question will probably kindle some pretty strong opinions. Ask them why they like (or don’t like) the programs they use.
At this stage, you probably have a software shortlist written down. Time to test drive your front-runners. Create accounts with two or three of the providers on your lineup, and give each software a thorough trial run. Connect it with your existing tech infrastructure to see how it performs under pressure and then compare and contrast until you find your favorite.
Some programs take a little longer to learn than others, and that’s okay. Still, make sure you keep these four points in mind as you put your top software contenders through their paces:
What does your test software’s interface look like? Is it difficult to navigate, or is it intuitive? The benefits of an easy-to-use backend are countless, especially if the program has a learning curve or you’re busy and need to complete tasks quickly. As you explore your new marketing platform for the first time, keep the following questions in mind:
You’re an ecommerce professional with a lot on your plate, so it’s important that your marketing software doesn’t hamper your workflow. Simple navigation, contextual information on demand, and streamlined task management features can help you get up to speed.
Here’s where that list of must-haves comes in handy. A lot of marketing programs are quite generic, but a few (Hubspot, Omnisend, and Drift, for example) have proprietary perks that make them desirable. Go through these unique features and think about which ones make sense for your company.
At this stage, it’s also important to consider what your current ecommerce software can do and how your new program will connect with it. Does your current system have an open API for custom assets? If you can get your ecommerce platform to play nice with your new marketing software, you’ll be able to nurture leads and run campaigns more easily.
Open-source programs usually have enthusiastic forums full of users who can give newbies advice if they run into trouble. SaaS platforms generally have dedicated tech support and customer service teams available via email, webchat, or phone.
What type of assistance do you think you’ll need during the software setup process? Are you comfortable learning the ropes by yourself, or will you require guidance? If you select a SaaS provider with on-demand tech support, how quickly will you receive answers — on the spot, within 24 hours, or longer than that?
Speaking of setup, what does each software’s onboarding process look like? Some providers are self-service — you create an account and get going for free. Others demand a setup fee, which can range from affordable to thousands of dollars. If there is a fee involved, how quickly are you likely to make that money back in future profit?
If you plan to migrate from one marketing program to another, you may need help from an expert to ensure that you don’t leave data behind. Usually, this can happen remotely. If you’re a larger ecommerce business with an on-site server system, however, a physical engineer visit could be on the cards.
Thousands of automation platforms and programs exist, and every single one claims to be the best. Let’s look at seven of the most popular marketing softwares out there and dive into the differences between them.
An email automation solution rather than a full marketing software, Klaviyo is easy to use and integrates with a plethora of ecommerce platforms. Custom templates are a breeze, and you can set up cart abandonment, cross-sell, up-sell, and other automated emails quickly and efficiently. Once you connect Klaviyo with your CMS, you can import email lists in minutes.
If you’re new to the world of automation, you’ll like Klaviyo’s “Ideas” section, which you can use to expand the types of automated emails you send. Klaviyo’s clever tracking snippet monitors exactly what registered users read on your site, so you can create segmented email address lists based on the type of content your visitors view.
Hubspot is a well-known name in ecommerce marketing for a reason. Slick and simple to use, Hubspot can help you build landing pages, create forms, publish a company blog, manage your social media profiles, put together email campaigns, and even score leads. Hubspot integrates with several popular ecommerce platforms, including BigCommerce, making it a great choice for most online retailers.
Hubspot pricing varies from free (best for startups and fledgling small ecommerce businesses) to thousands of dollars per month (ideal for enterprise-level companies with hundreds of thousands of customers). One caveat — if you need to integrate Hubspot with a less common ecommerce provider, you’ll have to pay for custom coding.
Innovative and useful, Drip labels itself an E-CRM (an ecommerce CRM). It’s primarily an email automation tool, and it integrates with a raft of ecommerce platforms and payment providers. Drip has a drag-and-drop visual workflow builder, which helps you create complicated automations based on people’s purchases. What you end up with is a set of marketing funnel maps, which work beautifully as visual aids for meetings.
Made to support business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce, Drip is a popular and powerful marketing software choice. Its handy purchase intent scoring feature profiles each subscriber based on marketing engagement — and that’s something no other program on our list can do. Affordable and capable, Drip is an ideal choice for companies with limited marketing budgets.
Aimed specifically at ecommerce marketing buffs, Omnisend is especially good at segmentation and personalization. This program’s comprehensive reports make it easy to split subscribers into groups and send them customized campaigns on a schedule. Omnisend lets you automate emails based on a large number of different trigger events, including consumer behaviors on-site, birthdays, and abandoned carts.
Features like a drag-and-drop newsletter builder, a popup builder, and split testing options make Omnisend a leader in the marketing software field. Recently, Omnisend added SMS messaging, so companies can send customers shipping notifications and special offers via text.
Drift promotes itself as a conversational marketing toolkit (essentially a chat service) for business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce, but it’s just as useful for B2C retailers. When visitors arrive on-site, they see a dormant chat box at the bottom of the screen; specific actions cause the chatbot to pop up and offer assistance. The more you put into Drift, the more you get out of it. If you program your bot to offer coupon codes in response to potential cart abandonment, you could increase your conversion rate.
Drift integrates with many popular ecommerce platforms, including leading SaaS providers, making it ideal for a range of business types. Many companies use Drift’s free tier to evaluate the software and then move up to a paid plan later on. Drift’s Pro tier includes bot playbacks, automated meetings, and automatic CRM integration.
ActiveCampaign is scalable, so it’s a great option for growing businesses. You get a CRM, email automation, and marketing automation in one package, making it a brilliant, uncomplicated addition to your tech stack. Built-in “automation recipes” send out emails in response to things like cart abandonment and shopping habits to help drive conversions and increase AOV.
ActiveCampaign works with several popular SaaS platforms via API, though other platforms need a go-between software, like Revenue Conduit or Zapier to enable information transfer. Eminently affordable for smaller businesses, ActiveCampaign also has an enterprise-level tier for corporations, which includes dedicated account management and phone support.
Bluecore leverages data to push deeply personalized emails based on trigger behaviors. Popular with big-name online retailers, Bluecore is a little more complicated than other marketing softwares, so it’s worth asking the company for a guided demo before you get stuck in.
Enhanced with a sophisticated data analysis system, Bluecore uses retail-specific predictive modeling to create subscriber segments based on consumer behaviors, wish lists, and purchase history. You can use the resulting lists to craft targeted emails that generate a higher-than-average conversion rate. Bluecore doesn’t list its prices online, so you’ll need to get in touch with its customer service team to find out more about onboarding.
Marketing is such a vital part of ecommerce, and automation can help you stay ahead of the game. With a powerful marketing automation platform on your side, you’ll gain customers, increase your conversion rate, and boost your bottom line without burning out.