The Robots Are Not Coming: E-Commerce Automation is Here to Augment Our Jobs, Not Take Them Away
I have a lot of conversations about automation, and I feel like we can’t shake the nagging perception that automation means robots are coming to take human jobs …
In fact, it’s actually the opposite. The goal of automation, specifically in commerce, is to offload the demands, complexity and monotony that high-volume businesses experience, freeing up valuable time so they can allocate resources to more important growth areas. In the current retail climate, where traditional brick-and-mortar stores are suffering with customer retention and brands are moving online to engage more directly with their target audiences, automation has never been more important.
Some companies — think Amazon.com and Walmart — are focused on automating the in-store experience, but high-growth e-commerce brands need a way to automate their online experience. Brands of this size struggle to meet high-volume demands like inventory management, order fulfilment, building customer loyalty, and much more. As they scale, these businesses reach a point where time-consuming, tedious tasks need to become efficient in order to drive further growth.
Enter here: e-commerce automation. Similar to how marketing automation changed customer relationship management, e-commerce automation is the next wave to change the way businesses operate.
E-commerce automation enables the coveted gift of time. Take e-commerce automation technology focused on enabling business owners to customize unique workflows so they can automate the repetitive tasks that occur within their businesses. With e-commerce automation handling repetitive workflows, employees can focus on building more impactful campaigns or allocating their time elsewhere in the business to fuel growth.
One such growth area e-commerce automation allows businesses to focus on is personalization. According to IDC, about 40 percent of retailers will develop customer experiences supported by AI technology by 2019, which thanks to increased personalization, will help improve conversions by up to 30 percent and revenue by 25 percent. E-commerce automation empowers online businesses, whose shoppers rarely interact with real people, with the data and time to introduce personal touches usually reserved for brick-and-mortar stores.
Consider customer segmentation for example, an optimization area crucial to the shopper experience that’s typically a very manual and time-consuming process. With e-commerce automation technology, customers are automatically tagged based on their shopping behavior, then that information is used to personalize the customer experience — e.g., curating content on a customer’s online storefront. It’s sort of an analog to a brick-and-mortar store owner offering recommendations to a customer who has been going to their store for years.
Better yet, with customer segmentation automated, business owners have the time to experiment with different forms of personalization that speaks to their unique brand and customers, ultimately increasing customer loyalty. E-commerce automation is a big win for scaling online businesses that, due to restrictions of time, have difficulty executing personalized customer experiences with real authenticity.
Automation isn’t here to take our jobs; it’s here to augment them, to make businesses more efficient and even more personal. Rather than eliminating human capital, e-commerce automation enables employees to provide greater value, empowering online businesses to elevate the shopper experience and drive growth.
So rather than shying away from e-commerce automation, let’s celebrate the fact that, with a few clicks the day before, you’ll never have to wake up at 4 a.m. to schedule a sale or count inventory again.
Katie Cerar is the senior product manager at Shopify Plus, an enterprise e-commerce platform.