14 minutes to read

Ecommerce automation: the ultimate guide

Ecommerce automation: the ultimate guide

Table of contents

Ecommerce automation

Ecommerce automation uses digital technologies to replace manual processes in websites and mobile apps. This lets online retailers:

  • Scale up, boost efficiency and profitability, prevent human error, and fight fraud.

  • Segment customers and marketing, using low-code/no-code tools, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), and cloud-based platforms.

  • Optimize any commercial framework, including B2C, B2B, and D2C.

  •  Integrate digital, email, and content marketing into sales processes.

Read on for a concise guide to the value of automating an online business.

Ecommerce automation ROI: What’s in it for today’s businesses

Ideally, every dollar invested in automation repays itself many times over. Because software replaces human effort, a company can scale up quickly even if they have limited staffing and budget. This helps pump up core ecommerce metrics like conversion rates and gross merchandise value while reducing total cost of ownership.  

Moreover, automation also helps with:


Every product in ecommerce inventory has variables: price, size, color, weight, location, buyer, seller, etc. Some ecommerce shops get most of their sales in the winter, while others see a spike in demand after a spurt of positive publicity. Customers span the demographic spectrum of age, gender, income, and interests.

People tracked all these variables on paper before computers came along. But computers didn’t replace all those manual chores. Nearly three decades after the launch of Amazon.com, ecommerce professionals still spend too much time on manual tasks. What are they up to? The usual: tweaking variables to keep customers happy with discounts, special offers, refunds, and everything else.

All that time adds out-of-pocket expenses. Letting machines do repetitive tasks puts money back in the company’s pocket. What’s more, it frees their people to focus on stuff that only human intelligence and initiative can accomplish. 

Automation doesn’t give companies green light to fire a bunch of people. It just helps ecommerce leaders get the most value from what their people do best.   


Human imagination may be boundless, but we still goof up a lot. And those goof-ups get expensive in the blink of an eye for an ecommerce site. Picture a staffer accidentally pricing a $1,000 computer at $100, and an Instagram influencer sending 10,000 people to snap up the deal of a lifetime in the next 30 minutes.

While that’s a worst-case scenario, there are plenty of everyday benefits from automation accuracy. For instance, buyers can be told automatically whether an item is in stock or if only a few items remain. And marketing messages can target precise customer segments.

Indeed, reducing human error pays off in every link of a supply chain. And the more accurate these ecommerce automation processes get, the better a retailer will do at projecting future demand, profit, supply costs, and more.   


A subset of accuracy is confirming the details of a transaction. Automation in ecommerce can identify fraudulent activities and flag orders that seem incredibly unlikely or look difficult to fulfill.

Shapes and sizes: 4 key varieties of ecommerce automation

There are ecommerce automation tools for just about any online retail situation. Some require no programming knowledge while others require advanced technical acumen.  

Low-code & no-code

The most powerful ecommerce platforms include automation tools that tailor the customer experience to highly specific scenarios. A no-code tool hides all the programming in the background, while a low-code tool might require programming in a language like JavaScript.

Shopware, an ecommerce software platform for midsized companies, offers two no-code tools that illustrate how these automations work:

Blog Thumbnail: Rule-Builder-vs-Flow-Builder_Blog_860x325-min
  • Rule Builder. Ecommerce sites use Rule Builder to treat certain transactions a specific way. For example, a Rule could say that repeat buyers earn a 5% discount. Once the Rule is created, these buyers automatically get a price break on their next purchase while the retailer automatically builds customer loyalty — with no extra effort from buyer or seller.

  • Flow Builder. Working in tandem with Rule Builder, Flow Builder responds to certain triggers that set a series of actions in motion. For example, a Flow applied to our Rule for repeat buyers could automatically notify people a week after their purchases, ask them to review their products, and then offer future discounts.

Find more automation examples below in the Ecommerce in action section.


Artificial intelligence in ecommerce and machine learning help shoppers find just what they’re looking for while helping ecommerce companies keep those products in stock. Learning algorithms can recommend products based on customer preferences and buying patterns. A chatbot can use natural language processing to answer common questions for website shoppers. If the bot can’t give a good reply, it escalates the call to a contact center, where a human agent depends on intelligent automation to route calls efficiently and anticipate the answers to complex questions.

Thousands of cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications also use AI/ML to solve other complex retail riddles. These tools give midsized online retailers the ability to compete with global commerce titans.


Integration-platform-as-a-service companies help their customers integrate multiple applications into a single technology solution. With iPaaS, ecommerce companies can pull together apps, APIs, extensions and plugins to deliver a highly sophisticated shopping experience that rivals anything the biggest companies can churn out.

Shopware, for instance, has an iPaaS platform designed specifically for midsized ecommerce retailers. Shopware’s diverse community of app and extension creators gives midsize retail companies the ability to match their technology with their market’s needs. Moreover, Shopware clients can develop unique user experiences that help sharpen their competitive edge.

Custom development

Low- and no-code tools, AI/ML-enabled SaaS products, and iPaaS create almost limitless customization options. This can be too much of a good thing for many online retailers. It’s hard to know where to start or how to get the best performance from automation tools. 

This is where custom developers prove their worth. A custom-development team has trained experts who know how to dovetail all these capabilities into a high-performance engine of digital commerce. They can prevent months of wrong turns and deliver the fastest time-to-market, which translates into quicker profit, flexible marketing and better customer service.

Ecommerce in action: 3 great examples of automation  

A rule-based ecommerce automation system can use business logic to define a buyer group and trigger special offers when these buyers do specific things. Here are a few ways this might work in the three primary modes of online commerce.


A business-to-consumer ecommerce store specializing in heavy duty work clothes defines a specific customer group like men over age 40 who have spent more than $100 in previous website visits. When these men return and place a new order for pants, they get recommendations for matching shirts, a special rate on delivery, and a coupon offer for 15% off on their next purchase. Software can track inventory levels and notify vendors when supplies run low. 


A regional supplier of work pants and shirts creates a specialized commerce site for its vendors, including fabric mills and fastener manufacturers. Automation can optimize business workflows and financial arrangements like leases, invoicing, and accounts receivable. API connections to third-party apps can fold in customer relationship management data for account-based marketing.   


A respected work apparel manufacturer taps the value of its brand by building its own direct-to-consumer ecommerce site. Automation with cloud-based applications, platforms, and tools can help the company achieve rapid time to value and low total cost of ownership, which reduces financial risks and improves the odds of success.  

Getting the word out: Marketing, content, and email automation

Ecommerce platforms generate massive volumes of data that retailers can use to make their marketing more efficient and effective. These are some of the ways retailers succeed with ecommerce marketing automation:

  • Marketing campaigns. Ecommerce sites can automate a vast range of discounts and special offers while customizing the shopping experience to create highly personalized customer journeys.

  • Email. Retailers can use email automation to segment and coordinate message delivery to ensure specific buyer audiences receive special offers based on their interests and buying habits. Adding custom email signup offers to product pages is another popular e-commerce email automation tactic.  

  • Content. Product pages can be customized to add reviews, blog posts, how-to videos, and user images.

Marketing is all about freeing retailers to think about what appeals to customers and put communication channels to work drawing people in. Ecommerce automation is essential to giving people that freedom.

email, marketing campaigns, and content

Where retail technology meets the human imagination

People who know retail understand what makes their buyers tick. Give them time and they’ll figure out how to keep customers coming back. They can’t do that if they’re bogged down in manual processes. 

Ecommerce automation is far from a cure-all. It must be implemented thoughtfully and aligned precisely with business goals. Experience shows that retailers who partner with proven ecommerce developers enjoy the best automation outcomes.  


What is ecommerce automation?

Ecommerce process automation is a set of practices and digital tools built specifically to optimize sales on websites and mobile applications.

Why do you use ecommerce automation?

Retailers can eliminate repetitive tasks and get more done with less expense of time and effort, making companies more efficient and profitable. This helps with targeting customers, segmenting markets, preventing human error, and combatting online fraud.

How do you automate an online business?

Retailers typically implement digital technologies purpose-built for ecommerce operations. Typically this means partnering with an ecommerce development specialist who understands the nuances of automation technology. However, cloud-based ecommerce automation platforms like Shopware 6 provide a vast range of no-code tools that any online retailer can learn how to master without advanced technical knowledge. 

How to use marketing automation for ecommerce?

Using marketing automation for ecommerce is easy with the right software and tools. Make sure you know what functionality is important to your business, then make a list and compare vendors and their offerings carefully. Many ecommerce businesses have found that Shopware offers the best no-code automation solutions on the market.

Learn more about automation with the free guide

The key to gaining more time for your ecommerce business and boosting its success lies in automating tasks. Find out how in the free automation guide.

Get the free guide

Dig deeper on Shopware ecommerce automation

Find out more about Shopware’s no-code automation solutions:

Rule Builder automation opportunities




Country, region, zip code, package weight, customer status


Credit card providers, transaction types, installment programs


Location, currency, customer status, order quantity, date, B2C, B2B


Customer status, sales channel, shopping cart value, stock level


* These are examples; many more choices are available

  Flow Builder automation opportunities




Identify individual customers, customer groups, orders, payments


Base order and payment procedures on current customer activity


Issue invoices and customer surveys


Base fees and schedules on product size and customer status


Connect to third-party applications and databases


Optimize ordering and simplify supplier interactions


Send specific messages to defined groups and segments

Check out these headlines about the latest ecommerce automation trends:

Pack Expo report: Labor shortages driving push toward automation

US Ecommerce Forecast 2022

Kroger, Ocado Group grow with state-of-the-art fulfillment, personalization

How technology is driving resilient retail operations in 2023

US retailers face slowing online growth, rising price competition in 2023


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