What is Amazon Automation? Here are 5 expert tips to do it yourself
Amazon automation refers to any software, service, or mobile app that helps you manage and grow operations on the world's largest online retailer.
Your online store can get overwhelming fast. You have products to process, customers to serve, orders to pack, and shipping to address. How do you do it all and still run the store? It could serve your business better to focus on growing it if you can automate repetitive tasks.
Luckily, there are technology solutions that can streamline your online store workflow and save you time. There are five key areas you can consider automating: shipping & handling, order fulfilment, inventory management, email automation, analysing customer/competitor data, and accounting.
Amazon automation vendors focus on specific aspects of the Amazon ecosystem. For example, tools such as SellerCloud automate routine tasks like listing management or inventory replenishment. Other tools cover more broad categories, such as fulfillment automation, analytics, or Amazon advertising. In essence, they do all of the “dirty work” so that you can focus on other less tedious parts of the business.
The Amazon marketplace is a fierce place for sellers, and automated products can help level the playing field. However, as is usual of popular avenues for making money, the concerns for scammers are real, and information asymmetry (someone knows something that you do not) means that some are paying between $15-50k for the service, at which point one has to question who is the real beneficiary of you setting up shop and taking the financial risk.
Find out how you can do go about automating your store without paying for extortionate fees.
Table of Contents
- Order Fullfillment
- Inventory management
- Accounting or bookkeeping
- Email automation
- Customer and competitor data
- Hiring a virtual assistant
- Key Takeaway
Order fulfillment: Fulfillment by Amazon - FBA
Everything from picking and packing, to packing slips, shipping labels, and tracking information are handled by Amazon itself. This is one of the very first things you should look to automate; it is part of the reason why Amazon has the presence it has, and why so many people decide to sell through them.
Amazon's FBA program can handle most of the logistics of getting a product to the final customer; it works tremendously well for many businesses and for many it is the sole reason they are able to operate. This alone outsources and effectively automates warehousing, hiring people, and processing orders.
However, some find the costs to be prohibitive if they have extremely high-volume, extremely low-margin products. In that case, you can look at Airtable + custom code to fulfill orders, handle emails, delegate tasks, etc. This is one of our main areas of expertise.
Automation is king for inventory management. Even with Amazon’s FBA program, you must still order inventory and make sure Amazon has it in the first place; missed sales are an easily avoidable way of losing revenue.
Inventory management is the process where businesses track and manage stock levels, and order and replenish stock levels as necessary. This is usually done by setting a reorder point for each product, and re-ordering when the stock level falls below the reorder point.
You can start automating inventory management without having to buy any expensive software or learn complicated coding. Tools like Shipstation and Oberlo make inventory management easier. With these tools, you can ship orders, create shipping labels, track inventory, and manage multiple inventory channels.
Accounting or bookkeeping
For many small businesses, bookkeeping is a time-consuming, manual task. It's no surprise that small business owners and entrepreneurs are swimming in spreadsheets. It's common for entrepreneurs to use spreadsheets to keep records of their revenue and expenses, but spreadsheets can also be incredibly time consuming and often require manual input.
Keeping track of all the numbers can quickly become overwhelming. In fact, according to a recent survey, 38% of small business owners spend 5 hours or more per week on spreadsheets.
If you're spending too much time on bookkeeping, it's time to automate.
We have helped a small yoga studio automate their bookkeeping, saving 10 long hours per month. While off-the-shelf solutions exist, the compromise means that bookkeeping still requires a lot of user input and it is not customized to your business, the tools you use and your specific needs.
Although we encourage you to try off-the-shelf solutions first, such as QuickBooks (read more about them here), getting custom automation on top can make the process much, much easier. Especially if you are moving a lot of product, fast.
Plus, if you are using QuickBooks, then QuickBooks Online can be integrated to automatically management inventory.
Email automation software allows you to schedule outgoing emails, including order status updates, tracking numbers, shipment notifications, returns information, and any follow-up emails that might be necessary.
But it can also be a fantastic tool to increase sales and to increase the power of your brand. For ecommerce entrepreneurs, email is an incredibly powerful tool that can power everything from cart abandonment to product recommendations. And, with the right automation on your side, you can generate and nurture leads, streamline your operations, and increase revenue.
The costs of keeping an existing customer are much lower than acquiring a new one. You can send discounts to existing customers to encourage repeat purchases.
Customer and competitor data
You can measure results and have a better understanding on what’s working for your business to double down on your winning horses, so to speak. Analyzing this data manually can be a full-time job. And manually gathering it another, and a dull one at that.
You can set scripts to continuously scrape data on the web. One of our clients continuously scrapes Amazon, collates and analyses the data, and gets both various regular reports and alerts e.g. if they compete on price, they know exactly when a competitor undercuts them and when substitute products go below a pre-set price. All of this happens automatically, in the background, and allows them to make better informed, quicker business decisions. What’s more, they don’t have to be reactive. Their intelligence allows them to be proactive instead.
Hiring a virtual assistant
A virtual assistant can help offload a lot of tasks once you have figured out what works and what you would like to do on a regular basis. Digital marketing, email management, and in some instances, even content creation is possible.
Using geoarbitrage – that is, hiring someone where the market rate for their salary is much lower, can also help you stay competitive.
However, it is important to realize you are dealing with humans. We recommend specifying exactly what type of work you expect them to do, checking past references, and perhaps including a trial period. Be aware of local and international laws, too.
With increased competition and access to technology, automating what you have figured out can save you time and allow you to continue being competitive. What’s more, it can free up your time and hopefully make most of your Amazon business run mostly in the background, becoming a semi-passive income source.
Just be wary of services that charge through the nose, do your research, and ask yourself if there’s a more efficient way of doing something. Your role as the head of a business is to fire yourself as quickly as possible. You might need to be an accountant for some time, but the moment you can find a person or a machine you can delegate to, do not hesitate to let go of the reigns and have someone else execute the strategy you’ve tested and put in place.