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Event | March 29, 2019

Ecommerce Automation: Shopify Flow will Relieve Growing Pains for Merchants

The bigger the business, the higher the volume of tasks. Even small tasks, when repeated hundreds or thousands of times, can begin to take away from other operational aspects that deserve more attention. Shopify Flow, a free extension available to Shopify Plus+ enterprise sellers, seeks to solve this problem by automating monotonous and even more complex tasks using customized workflows.

Be Nimble, Be Quick

A nimble business is a winning business in eCommerce. Companies that can quickly adapt and have systems that are both easily replicated and effective are the ones that will remain sustainable.

The problem is that as the business grows, the mounting tasks can become overwhelming, especially when many of these recurring tasks begin to consume time unnecessarily. So what is the solution? Do businesses need to dedicate staff just to take care of mundane maintenance or evaluate every transaction to identify further opportunity?

No. The solution is automation.

“The problem is dead simple: as a business scales, the demands, complexity, and repetition mount. Systems that used to work become increasingly inefficient and break down. In response, companies turn to piecemeal workarounds that require time and attention from employees. Time spent on what’s important is sacrificed for time spent on what’s urgent, even when that’s just pushing buttons.”

David Moellenkamp, Director of Product at Shopify Plus+ via Shopify Plus+ Blog.

What does Automation mean for eCommerce?

The automation trend is pervasive in many retail environments: self checkouts in supermarkets have become ubiquitous, every shopping mall has an interactive map to provide directions, even more archaic technologies like vending machines are everywhere.

Some speculate that the increasing presence of these machines indicates a future where robots replace people in every workplace and hence people become apathetic toward any occupational ambitions they might have. This is simply not true -- automation is used to reduce the human time spent on prosaic tasks when their valuable skills could be used more resourcefully.

“Automation eliminates tasks, not necessarily people.”

Nikki Baird, Forbes, 2018

To drive the point home further, Andrea Weabe, an automation specialist at Shopify Plus, released the following data in a recent article:

“Less than two years after launching, over 3,600 ecommerce businesses have used automation tools like Shopify Flow to collectively run 1.1 billion workflows. If each workflow conservatively represents 30 seconds of time saved, that’s 9.2 million hours of productivity reclaimed.”

Andrea Weabe, Shopify Plus+, 2019

These stats are enough to make any online retailer drool. Imagine the possibilities of 9.2 million man hours spent innovating and growing a business. This should put any company’s fears of robo-commerce at ease for the time being.

How does it Work?

Shopify Flow uses customizable workflows, designed in a visual builder, to trigger certain functions based on predetermined parameters. In layman’s terms, the extension relies on an ‘if this, then that’ method.

Though this is most effectively applied to more menial tasks, there is a high degree of flexibility that allows users to get creative with what their workflows achieve. Here are a couple of examples to make it more clear:

  • IF a customer leaves a ≤ 2 star review, THEN add that customer to a win-back campaign
  • IF an order is high-risk, THEN don’t capture payment until review

Shopify Flow also comes with 84 preset workflow templates at present, with more to come. These templates are based on real tasks that can have tangible results but can also reliably be performed automatically. Some of these templates include:

Workflow templates are categorized and integrated with other productivity applications like Trello, Asana and Google web apps to maximize the effectiveness of automated functions.

Shopify Flow is best used with other proprietary Shopify automations like LaunchPad and Scripts:

“Shopify Flow can also be combined with two other automation tools. First, Launchpad for scheduling, preloading, and monitoring events like major sales campaigns, product releases, and seasonal celebrations. Second, Shopify Scripts, which adds automatic discounts, relevant payment options, and specialized shipping options to create a customized checkout experience for each customer.”

David Moellenkamp, Director of Product at Shopify Plus+, 2019

Main Advantages of eCommerce Automation

Shopify Flow will:

  • Start automating in seconds with easy-to-use templates
  • Reduce manual tasks by filling the gaps between systems and apps
  • Grow your business with the flexibility to put new campaigns and ideas into action

And will work best to:

  • Schedule sales — i.e., price changes and promotions — for predetermined time periods
  • Preload new products and publish them to your store, social media, apps, and sales channels simultaneously
  • Tag high-value customers and notify customer service to send personalized welcome messages
  • Unpublish out-of-stock products and send a Slack message or email to your marketing team so they can pause advertising
  • Adjust prices at checkout based on product combinations, quantity, or customer location
  • Show and hide payment options relative to customer criteria like order history, location, and device
  • Flag and notify internal security teams of high-risk orders instantly
  • Identify, tag, and segment customers who buy from specific sales channels, such as Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, and more
  • Apply discounts or specialized shipping rules to customers with email addresses or tags like “Loyalty Member”
  • Rollout and rollback entire theme changes for seasonal promotions or product drops

To reiterate, Shopify Flow is a powerful tool designed to reduce the burden on a business from junior to leadership level. This is sure to be a liberating experience for HGHV stores when they find they can dedicate the talents of their people to more valuable tasks that contribute to growth. Shopify flow is a continuously evolving system as well, meaning that the potential capabilities are just beginning to show.

SmartOSC is a top trusted Shopify Plus+ partner in APAC and around the world. We specialize in eCommerce development and management as well as emerging trends including automation. Get in touch with us today to start a conversation on Shopify!

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