Ecommerce automation is the process of making manual, tedious, time-consuming business tasks automatic. Ecommerce automation software makes automation possible by connecting business tools, platforms, and apps.
Ecommerce automation may be new to your business. But automation as a whole has long been present in our everyday lives. Think as big as machines that assemble cars or as small as electric kettles that turn themselves off. Thanks to automation, these tasks require little to no human interference.
Effective ecommerce automation software can change the game for businesses that sell goods and services online. So let’s take a closer look at ecommerce automation: what it could look like for your business, its benefits and costs, when it’s time to invest, and how to choose the best provider.
How ecommerce automation works
Ecommerce automation works by connecting storefronts, online marketplaces, ecommerce platform accounts, shipping tools, and more with accounting solutions like QuickBooks.
Online sellers can purchase an automation solution for their ecommerce stores. They can start using ecommerce automation by signing into their accounting solution and stores or sales channels from the automation tool.
Once connected, sellers can sync order and expense details between stores and their accounting platform automatically. They can even set automation rules to perform certain tasks across platforms. The technology exists solely to reduce repetitive tasks, manual tasks, and human error.
Some marketplaces and platforms may have built-in tools for automating tasks. Though, sellers should exercise caution, as these options may only help streamline manual processes through that one marketplace or platform. A dedicated automation provider can connect many stores, channels, and platforms.
What should you automate in ecommerce to streamline your business workflows?
Accounting automation is the process by which machine learning and other tools perform traditional accounting processes. For example, an ecommerce automation software can automatically pull tax information from every order and record it as line items in your accounting platform.
Accountants, finance officers, and business owners use accounting automation to sync transactions, sort expenses, validate data, balance accounts, and more automatically. Automating accounting tasks gives these positions more time to focus on planning and strategy.
When businesses automate order processing, they can send a single, accurate set of order data from many sources to their accounting platform. Let’s say your ecommerce business sells from website platforms like Shopify and marketplaces like Amazon.
With automation, you can avoid errors in order processing by eliminating manual data entry. As a result, you can ensure accurate sales tax, inventory, shipping, and tracking information for customers.
Revenue and expenses
Automating revenue and expense tracking is key for online sellers who want to know their profitability and grow their businesses. Without automation, it’s easy to lose sight of the financial performance of your business and keep tabs on all the costs you’re incurring.
But the right solution can give you real-time visibility into payment processor fees, marketplace fees, warehouse fees, fulfillment expenses, shipping costs, and more.
For example, instead of sifting through spreadsheets and bi-weekly reports, automation can help bring data and insights across your sales channels into one place.
When you set up your ecommerce automation software, tell the system how you want to record payment and other fees (i.e., as line items or separate transactions). And the system will make it happen every time you incur that fee.
Inventory management in ecommerce is simple with the right automation tool. With inventory management automation, you can keep multiple sales channels in sync while staying flexible enough to let you set unique preferences for each channel.
You can even use buffer zones for higher volume channels to prevent overselling. Let’s take a look at how that works.
For any given product, you can instruct your ecommerce automation tool to sync one less item than the quantity in your accounting platform as the quantity to the sales channel.
So if SKU123 in your accounting platform has a total quantity of 100, then your ecommerce automation tool will synchronize 99 to the store. And you can receive a notification that a product’s inventory is almost out.
This small buffer zone gives you extra time to replenish inventory. And it covers the potential delay between sales channels synchronizing inventory. Setting this rule on a sales channel level can limit overselling on high-volume channels.
Shipping and fulfillment
An ecommerce automation system that works with major shipping carriers can help you manage the shipping and fulfillment process efficiently. For example, you can process shipping for any order on any platform from one place.
Split orders into multiple packages, specify the package type and weight, get shipping rates, select additional carrier services, generate labels, and update the shipping status. Anything you do in your ecommerce automation system automatically updates across your accounting solution and other ecommerce platforms.
An ecommerce automation software can transfer all your inventory item details into your accounting system or online store. Updating prices, descriptions, and conditions in one place automatically adds them to others.
Bulk list as many new products as you want using preset values, and never hesitate to open new sales channels. Easy product transfers upload item details as soon as you connect your new channel to your ecommerce automation system.
Let’s say you want to create an individual product listing in your Walmart store. Your ecommerce automation software can automatically tell you which items are in your accounting platform but not in your Walmart store.
Create the missing product listing, confirm preset details, and add photos. When you’re satisfied with the listing, send it to your Walmart store, and you’re done!
Keeping your store stocked and your customers happy requires you to stay on top of purchase orders. Any delay in stocking can lead your customers to competitors. And just like you can give yourself a buffer zone for inventory management, you can also use ecommerce automation tools to generate purchase orders.
For example, you can automate purchase orders for individual items with the right solution. You can set rules that create purchase orders for items marked “out of stock” in your accounting platform, marked for dropship in your ecommerce platform, or both. You can even choose how you generate purchase orders (i.e., grouped by vendor).
Let’s say nine orders post to QuickBooks. Your ecommerce automation solution can generate nine purchase orders in QuickBooks.
Similarly, ecommerce automation solutions that use stockout and purchase order workflows in tandem can prevent popular items from going out of stock. You can rest assured, knowing that your solution has generated a new purchase order well before you sell out.
Finally, let’s say there are only certain items that you want to create purchase orders for. You can select those items in your ecommerce automation solution’s item catalog and mark them as dropship items. Then the solution can create purchase orders only for those dropship items.
An automated customer experience can elevate your brand and drive customer loyalty, especially if you’re using an ecommerce automation tool to manage inventory and shipping, for example. It does the work on the back end that prevents customer disputes and disappointment on the front end.
Knowing inventory is accurate can prevent overselling, which ensures customers aren’t buying up products they can’t have. Meanwhile, fast, accurate shipping details ensure customers get the most up-to-date tracking and delivery information.
Accurate processes in either area can decrease your risk of receiving bad fulfillment-related reviews, losing time and resources to customer inquiries, and facing bank fees should a customer dispute their purchase with their bank.
23% of online sellers who manage inventory in-house say accounting issues — forecasting inventory and seasonal trends, tracking sales across stores, and understanding profit and loss — are their biggest inventory-related challenges.
Overall, sellers say they'd better understand profitability if they could spend less time on inventory, according to new inventory management statistics from Webgility. Thankfully, some ecommerce automation solutions can help.
The right tool includes business analytics capabilities to help sellers track, measure, and understand profitability. The longer a seller uses automation, the more accurate data they’ll have around daily and monthly order and revenue forecasting.
They can even use a single dashboard to analyze gross profit trends and settlement reports, which may include granular breakdowns of marketplace fees and ecommerce platform fees for all their online storefronts. As a result, sellers can focus their efforts on products and channels that drive the greatest return.
Marketing automation is another way to automate ecommerce, though you may need to buy the technology from a customer relationship management (CRM) vendor.
You can use marketing automation to set automated workflows for welcome emails for new customers. It can also send email notifications with discount codes, customer satisfaction surveys, or other reminders for shoppers.
Marketing automation, specifically email marketing automation, is ideal for customer engagement, sales, and marketing efforts and communications.
10 benefits of ecommerce automation and why you should automate your ecommerce
- Ecommerce automation eliminates busywork. Automate purchasing, fulfillment, returns, refunds, and other workflows to reduce overhead costs and manual data entry.
- Ecommerce automation helps your business expand. Enter new markets and open new sales channels knowing setup is easy and, in many ways, automatic.
- Ecommerce automation puts time back in your day for business development. As your ecommerce organization grows, you can recycle saved time for more strategic decisions around shipping vendors, supplier negotiations, product expansions, and more.
- Ecommerce automation keeps your books current. Transactions and payouts record in real time, so your books stay caught up.
- Ecommerce automation fosters collaboration. Easily share your account with your bookkeeper, accountant, or outsourced accounting firm.
- Ecommerce automation helps you post new products efficiently. Publish product details and images to your sales channels in minutes.
- Ecommerce automation is error-free ecommerce. No more mishandling taxes, missing shipping deadlines, and mismatched platforms.
- Ecommerce automation prevents overselling and overstocking. Accurate inventory data supports more accurate inventory forecasting, so you never have too much or too little.
- Ecommerce automation creates purchase orders for you. Automatically create purchase orders for vendors based on inventory levels or shipping preferences.
- Ecommerce automation improves customer experiences. Accurate processes decrease your risk of receiving bad reviews, customer inquiries, and bank fees from customer disputes.
When to invest in ecommerce automation tools
Ecommerce success takes strategy, experimentation, patience, and a lot of grit. But getting bogged down in the busy work and details can cause you to lose focus.
Ecommerce automation tools that include ecommerce bookkeeping automation keep that busywork at bay. Not sure you’re ready to employ such a solution? Consider these factors.
- You’re no longer using spreadsheets to manage your ecommerce accounting. If you’ve graduated from spreadsheets to an accounting solution like QuickBooks, you’re ready to take the next step and let automation take care of data entry.
- You process more than 100 orders per month. Business strategy becomes all the more important as your ecommerce business grows. Ecommerce automation software can support accounting automation, inventory, pricing, purchasing, and shipping management as your business needs develop.
- You already sell in two or more channels. The more markets you enter, the more data you have to manage. An ecommerce automation system connects all your channels and ensures all your data is consistent between them.
- You’re doing your own bookkeeping. You might not be ready to outsource your accounting. But transitioning to an ecommerce automation system can make outsourcing easier when you’re ready to call for backup.
- You’re managing inventory on an external platform. The more manual or repetitive tasks you can manage and reduce under one platform, the more likely you are to avoid costly inventory errors.
What does it cost to automate your ecommerce business?
The costs to automate your ecommerce business range from $0 to $599 per month when billed annually. Thankfully, many solutions include a free trial, so you can try before you buy.
Some ecommerce automation companies price their solutions according to the accounting platforms they connect to. Others charge by store, marketplace, or number of orders processed per month.
For example, Webgility pricing accommodates monthly or annual billing. And users pay for whichever accounting integration they need. Webgility for QuickBooks Online ranges from $109 to $199 per month when billed annually. Webgility for QuickBooks Desktop ranges from $109 to $399 per month when billed annually.
Some ecommerce automation companies bill customers by platform. For example, an ecommerce business that sells on Amazon and Shopify may buy a plan for each store. From there, the per-month price may depend on the number of orders they process per month.
Ecommerce automation companies: What to ask when choosing a provider
As with any business solution, choosing the right ecommerce automation company depends on your budget, the size of your operation, the number of orders you process, and other factors. As you search for a company that fits your needs, consider the following questions in five essential areas.
Features and functions: Does this ecommerce automation company have the features I need?
Whether you want to generate purchase orders automatically, start dropshipping, or need multichannel inventory sync, your ecommerce automation company should have it all.
Weigh the pros and cons of working with certain ecommerce automation companies. And consider all the tasks you do today that you wish you could do faster. The best provider has a solution that can take those mundane everyday tasks off your plate.
Pricing: Is this ecommerce automation company’s solution within my budget?
Ecommerce automation plans and pricing come in all sizes and models. If trying before you buy is important to you, choose a company that offers a free trial. And depending on when you invest, consider how much historical data a solution can incorporate for its cost.
Scalability: Will this ecommerce automation software grow with my business?
The right accounting automation software should be able to grow with your business. The right ecommerce automation companies will make it easy for you to upgrade your subscription or features so that you experience no service disruptions.
Onboarding: Does this ecommerce automation company offer free setup and onboarding?
Change can be intimidating, especially when it comes to your ecommerce business. So choose an ecommerce automation company that can help you set up your account, add new sales channels and features, and train your team on the platform. Better yet, research companies offer those services for free.
Customer service: Does this ecommerce automation company offer flexible, readily available customer support?
Running an ecommerce business can be a 24/7 undertaking. And ecommerce automation companies should be aware of that. The right provider will value innovation as much as it values your time and energy and offer customer support on channels that fit your style and schedule.
Automation in ecommerce business increases order volumes and revenue
Bases Loaded has provided equipment and uniforms to hundreds of thousands of baseball, softball, and fastpitch teams of all levels for more than 20 years.
Over the years, owner Dan Wells prioritized service and pricing, expanded inventory, and launched online sales channels. He also purchased 29,000 square feet of retail space and a Folsom, California, warehouse to fill online orders.
Today, the baseball and softball superstore has one of the largest inventories in the U.S. and is a top-10 supplier for all major manufacturers. But with that growth came significant challenges.
“We needed to build out the infrastructure to grow our online business channels while running a very successful brick-and-mortar retail location,” Dan said.
So Bases Loaded started looking for an ecommerce automation software that could:
- Connect its business systems and manage inventory between multiple online channels and a large brick-and-mortar location.
- Integrate with QuickBooks Point of Sale, Amazon, and Yahoo.
- Reduce order posting time.
- Offer five-star customer support.
- Help them focus on what matters.
Enter Webgility, an ecommerce automation system that integrates with dozens of sales channels, including Shopify, Amazon, Magento, BigCommerce, and more.
With Webgility, Bases Loaded could track in-store and online sales and returns and automatically post transaction details to QuickBooks, ensuring accurate inventory. Plus, customer support was always a call or click away.
Between the top-notch product and a support team that went above and beyond, signing up with Webgility was a home run for Bases Loaded. The team went from spending, on average, four minutes to post each order manually to fully automating the process, saving time and increasing accuracy.
“During the early days, manually posting a few orders a day was manageable,” Dan said. “But now, on a typical busy day, Bases Loaded automatically processes more than 1,000 orders for inventory, accounting, and shipping with virtually no data entry.”
He continued, “We could never process [all our orders] manually. We live in a 24/7 world, and Webgility keeps everything in check, even when we are not at our business. The scheduler feature keeps posting and updating inventory constantly.”
When Bases Loaded started using Webgility, Dan said the company generated approximately $1.9 million in revenue and less than 15 online orders a day. Thanks to ecommerce automation software, Dan said the company sees over $5.5 million in revenue and processes over 10,000 online orders a month.