The Automation Dilemma: What is the Right Balance?

by Jeremy Tang

This article explores the balance between automation and human intervention in ecommerce. It discusses the benefits of automation in enhancing operational efficiency while cautioning against its overreliance to avoid potential risks like generic content and loss of personal touch. It also highlights a scalable SEO approach that synergizes technology and human creativity, allowing businesses to start seeing results in as little as six weeks.

Table Of Contents:

Feel Like You Can Do More with Less?

Growth is the ultimate goal of every ecommerce business like yours. It’s constantly seeking more: more customers, more products to sell, more website traffic, more sales. However, this growth inevitably leads to an increase in tasks, a challenge that pushes many ecommerce decision-makers toward automation as a solution. 


But here lies the pivotal question: Is more automation always better for your business? How do you strike a balance between technology and human intervention? At Area Ten, we believe that the synergy of technology and human expertise is the cornerstone of sustainable ecommerce growth. Read along; this article might just be what you need.

The Power of Automation in Ecommerce

Ecommerce automation is the strategic implementation of sophisticated software and technology to transform repetitive, manual tasks into automated, streamlined workflows. Here’s how your business can benefit from it:


  • Increased Time Efficiency: Automation can liberate your team from the shackles of time-consuming tasks. 
  • Growth on Auto-Pilot: As your business expands, automation tools can help you manage increasing order volumes and operational tasks.
  • Reducing Costs While Boosting Growth: By minimizing the need for constant labor in repetitive tasks, automation can help your financial bottom line remain healthy. 


But what can you exactly automate in ecommerce?

Where Automation Happens

Operational Efficiency


Operational efficiency in ecommerce is a crucial area where automation can make a significant impact. These tasks can include:


  • Managing Products and Catalogs: Strategically hiding out-of-stock items and unhiding them upon restocking is seen as a way to maintain a streamlined shopping experience. Shopify Flow offers an automation solution for this task.
  • Managing Inventory Levels: Automated inventory management strategies may help in predicting sales trends and adjusting stock levels accordingly.
  • Order Management: With an increasing number of customer orders, it can be hard to manually receive, process, pack, and ship each one. Automation tools like Bigcommerce’s Order Management Workflow can help streamline this process.


Enhancing Customer Experience


Many ecommerce websites also leverage automation to streamline their customer service. Some use artificial intelligence to analyze customer data and behavior, enabling quick and tailored product recommendations and a more individualized shopping experience. 


Marketing Automation


Effective marketing strategies are vital for ecommerce businesses to attract, engage, and retain customers. A lot of online stores are now using advanced technology to help them streamline and automate various marketing tactics including:


  • Sending Notifications: Businesses can set up an automated system to alert customers when an out-of-stock item is available again. They can also send personalized emails or messages reminding customers of their abandoned carts, possibly with a special offer or incentive to complete the purchase.
  • Email Marketing: Email marketing tools can help segment email lists based on customer behavior, preferences, or demographics to send targeted content. You can also personalize emails with the customer’s name, past purchases, and recommendations based on browsing history.
  • Social Media: Platforms can help you automate social media marketing tasks by scheduling and automatically publishing content. There are also AI technologies that can help craft images and generate ideas for your social media posts.
  • AI for Content Creation: AI can significantly speed up the content creation process, generating articles, product descriptions, and more in a fraction of the time.


While the benefits are substantial, it’s essential to tread cautiously. There are potential downsides to these technologies that may cause your e

Potential Risks of Overreliance on Automation

Tech Issues


The reliance on technology comes with inherent risks like malfunctions, outdated software, bugs, system crashes, and security breaches. These issues can disrupt operations and negatively affect customer satisfaction and trust.


Overseeing Real Customer Potential


In a world where automation can manage customer acquisition, from gaining traffic through social media strategies to sending welcome emails, it’s essential to pause and consider the long-term implications. 

One critical aspect often overlooked is the lifetime value (LTV) of customers. LTV represents the total value a customer contributes throughout their relationship with your business.


Drawing from insights in our e-book, From Sinking to Sailing, we emphasize the importance of the 80/20 rule. This suggests that 80% of your profits come from only 20% of your top customers. Automating your marketing and acquisition efforts without human expertise to determine the long-term potential of those customers may lead to misallocated resources.


Non-Relevant, Non-Compliant Content


The advent of AI and automation in content generation marks a transformative era. However, entrusting your brand’s voice entirely to machines can result in the following:


  • Generic Content: Automated content might miss the nuances of your brand’s unique voice and messaging, leading to generic outputs that fail to engage your audience meaningfully.
  • Compliance Issues: There’s also the risk of generating content that doesn’t align with industry-specific regulations and legal requirements, posing significant risks to your brand’s reputation and legal standing.


Failure to Adapt


In an environment where search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, relying solely on AI can be risky. AI tools might offer insights and analytics, but they cannot entirely replace the need for a proactive approach. The danger lies in becoming too reactive, always playing catch-up with the latest updates or competitive changes, rather than leading with innovative strategies.


Limiting the Potential of Your Store


Automation tools, though seemingly beneficial initially, can sometimes limit the potential of your ecommerce store. For instance, automatically hiding product URLs when items are out of stock might seem efficient.


However, these product pages, especially if they have established rankings and traffic, are valuable real estate. Rather than removing them automatically, you may want to consider using them to direct customers to related products or categories.


The automation of social media content publishing also requires caution. Pre-scheduled posts may become irrelevant or insensitive in light of unforeseen events, potentially harming your brand’s image and alienating your audience.


Lack of Personal Touch


Chatbots are mostly used to handle basic queries and issues, but the effectiveness and depth of their responses largely depend on how they are programmed.


An over-dependence on automated systems like chatbots for customer service can lead to a lack of empathy, mismanagement of complex issues, and technical glitches. Chatbots may struggle with nuanced customer queries, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction. 


Instead, you may want to opt for a fully-managed live chat service. This approach not only alleviates the burden on your team but also guarantees that your customers receive attentive, human interaction at any time. Live chat offers the same benefits of automation—efficiency and availability—while adding the invaluable element of personal touch, ensuring a more satisfying and effective customer service experience.


You might be wondering, “Well, given the numerous benefits and potential risks of automation, how do I position my ecommerce business effectively in this landscape?”


How to Strike the Ideal Balance


Is automation beneficial? It undoubtedly is. But as Einstein said, “The human spirit must prevail over technology.” Automation, when strategically integrated into business processes, can lead to unparalleled efficiency and scalability. 


However, this doesn’t mean abandoning the human element. Instead, it’s about finding harmony between the two, allowing you to free up resources to focus on complex challenges and improve business processes with a redefined focus.


To strike a balance, we should take advantage of technology and automation but maintain human oversight for impeccable control and compliance.

Finally, to help you strategically implement automation strategies into your ecommerce business, consider these tips:


    • Strategic Integration: You don’t need to automate everything. Analyze your business process and identify areas that require repetitive, and time-consuming tasks.
    • Choose Your Automation Strategies Wisely: Evaluate each potential automation tool for its ROI, scalability, and alignment with your business goals.
    • Continuously Monitor and Adapt: Regularly review the effectiveness of your automated systems. Be prepared to make changes or updates in response to new market trends, customer feedback, or advancements in technology.

We understand that this may not always be easy. After all, ecommerce isn’t a trial-and-error affair. Every decision you make, may it be choosing key areas that need automation to identifying aspects that need human intervention, should be carefully thought out and data-driven.


This is where an adept ecommerce SEO agency and a seasoned digital marketing agency can help. They have the technical understanding and experience to know what works, what doesn’t, and how to propel your ecommerce business forward holistically. If you need a partner in this journey, here’s how we can help at Area Ten:

Area Ten: Pioneering a Collaborative Approach in Ecommerce Success

In the complex and ever-evolving world of ecommerce, conventional SEO strategies often fall short. Recognizing this, we’ve been leading the charge since 2014, offering innovative SEO solutions tailored to the unique demands of ecommerce. 


We’ve effectively navigated a vast array of industries, from fashion to electronics and even tires, helping our clients generate over $1.1 billion in combined annual online revenue. Our success is rooted in a strategic blend of automation and human insight, reshaping the way ecommerce SEO is approached.


Traditional SEO strategies tend to focus on head terms—high competition keywords with large search volumes. While valuable, these keywords are difficult and expensive to rank for, often leading to a lower return on investment. 


In contrast, we adopt a comprehensive Full Body SEO approach, targeting not only these head terms but also long tail keywords. These less competitive phrases typically correspond to users further along their purchasing journey, translating to lower competition, increased growth potential, and higher profitability for our clients.


But the challenge with targeting a vast array of longtail keywords lies in content production. Manual methods are cost-prohibitive and inefficient for addressing thousands of keywords. So, our solution lies in programmatic SEO, leveraging AI to mass-produce content. 


However, we differ from the norm. Where most programmatic SEO solutions solely rely on generic content generation tools, we place a strong emphasis on our collaborative approach.


Our strategy involves a team of seasoned writers crafting initial content that adheres to our client’s brand standards and industry requirements. These templates, created in consultation with our clients, act as training data for our proprietary technology, CMAX™. 


This platform is designed to generate thousands of unique content pieces, each aligned with the specific brand voice and legal requirements of our clients.


Here’s where we take automation further: Unlike other AI technologies that stop at providing insights, CMAX actively implements these strategies, addressing the gap of ineffective execution in SEO. 


If a subset of pages is underperforming, CMAX automatically redistributes resources and adjusts link structures, ensuring that well-performing pages assist underperforming ones. This approach enables us to start delivering results in six weeks, not months.

Case Studies

Programmatic Overhaul for an OTC Medications Ecommerce Store in Canada


A prominent Canadian ecommerce platform dealing in over-the-counter medications and medical supplies approached us with a significant challenge. Despite offering a broad range of essential products, they were struggling with low website traffic and difficulty in creating engaging, compliant content for their vast inventory. 


In an industry as sensitive as medical, they needed a healthcare SEO agency that’s not only focused on increased visibility but can also strictly adhere to industry standards.


Leveraging our Full Body SEO approach, we began by targeting a mix of the long tail and head terms, aiming to amplify the site’s traffic effectively. Critical to our strategy was the initial content creation phase, handled by our team of seasoned writers.


These professionals ensured every piece resonated with the brand’s voice and complied with stringent healthcare regulations. After obtaining approval for these foundational pieces, our proprietary technology, CMAX, produced thousands of additional content pieces, each maintaining the brand’s integrity and legal compliance.


Within just two months, the ecommerce platform saw a 22.3% increase in organic traffic and a 19.7% rise in organic revenue. 


Hear firsthand from their marketing head:


We were losing our marketing budget on Google Ads and were desperate for a more cost-effective channel for sustained growth. I came across Area Ten’s case studies for their clients and was impressed. Then I thought, maybe they can help us too.


Their approach was revolutionary for us. It was amazing how they immediately populated our pages with industry-compliant content. It was just what we needed. We began seeing results in just two months and our traffic is still going up to this day.”


SEO Transformation for a Travel Accessories Retailer in Singapore


A well-established Singapore-based ecommerce brand specializing in suitcases and travel accessories faced stagnation in its marketing efforts. They needed to overcome the hurdles of duplicate content on their site.


Our solution was a targeted SEO revamp. Through our unique programmatic SEO strategy and CMAX, we were able to publish thousands of unique, brand-aligned content pieces for each of their product pages. This process was a collaborative effort, involving close consultation with the client to ensure every piece of content not only stood out but also embodied the essence of their brand.


In the span of nine weeks, the retailer experienced a 20.4% surge in organic traffic. More notably, their global visibility escalated, with a 14.2% increase in organic revenue. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can AI-generated content actually rank on Google?


Certainly, but with a caveat. 


While Google does prioritize the value and accuracy of content over its method of creation, it’s important to understand that using AI in content generation isn’t a guarantee of high search rankings. AI-generated content, when guided and monitored by human expertise, aligns well with Google’s E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trust) principles and can perform effectively in search results. 


However, relying solely on AI without proper human oversight may lead to issues, as it could fail to fully adhere to these guidelines. Thus, the optimal use of AI in content creation involves a synergy of technology and human judgment.


Will automatic content creation harm user experience?


At Area Ten, we prioritize quality user experience alongside our SEO efforts. Our proprietary technology, CMAX, simply uses a unique Div ID and our asynchronous JavaScript to load content, which ensures minimal, if any, impact on site performance. Further, our implementation ensures that the content will not look out of place with your site’s existing design.


Will my website’s integrity be affected when I make out-of-stock product URLs visible?


Maintaining the visibility of out-of-stock product URLs can actually be beneficial for your ecommerce website. 


Our strategy for managing popular but temporarily unavailable products ensures that these pages continue to rank and provide valuable information to your customers. This approach leverages the existing traffic and popularity of these pages, all while maintaining your site’s SEO integrity.

What You’ve Learned: Key Takeaways from the Article

Automation emerges as both a catalyst for efficiency and a potential pitfall if overused. Here are the essential takeaways from our exploration:


  • Efficiency Enhancement: Automation can boost productivity by handling repetitive tasks, allowing teams to focus on strategic and creative endeavors.
  • Risk of Overreliance: However, excessive dependence on automation can lead to overlooking the value of customers, creating generic, non-compliant content, and losing the personal touch in customer interactions. 
  • Continuous Adaptation: The ever-changing nature of search engine algorithms requires a proactive approach to automated content generation and SEO strategy, rather than solely relying on AI.
  • Importance of Human Oversight: Balancing automation with human insight is key.

Actionable Advice

To harness the full potential of automation in ecommerce while mitigating its risks, consider these actionable steps:


  • Evaluate and Identify: Assess your business processes to identify areas where automation can be most beneficial.
  • Implement with Caution: Introduce automation strategically, ensuring it complements rather than replaces human insights.
  • Monitor and Adapt: Continuously monitor automated processes for effectiveness and make adjustments as needed to align with evolving market trends and consumer behavior.
  • Balance Human Interaction: Integrate human oversight in decision-making processes, particularly in areas where ethical judgment and quality control are paramount.
  • Stay Updated: Keep abreast of technological advancements and evolving SEO practices to ensure your automated processes remain effective and compliant.

A Final Word For Online Store Owners

It’s evident that while automation brings efficiency and scalability, its overreliance can lead to challenges. Automation should not be seen as a replacement for human insight but as a complementary force. 


Remember, more automation isn’t always better. Ecommerce businesses thrive when they leverage the strengths of both worlds: the speed and precision of automation and the nuanced understanding of human interaction.


At Area Ten, we’re a digital marketing agency and innovators who blend technology with human creativity. Our holistic approach, encompassing both programmatic SEO and human expertise, has positioned us as leaders in the ecommerce SEO domain. 


We understand that your business is unique, and so are your SEO needs. Whether you operate on Shopify, WordPress, or Bigcommerce, our strategies are tailored to meet your specific requirements.


We serve a diverse range of industries across the globe and have implemented successful SEO strategies and Paid Media Management campaigns on all continents except Antarctica. 


Like many successful businesses we’ve partnered with, your story of growth and success could be next.


Running an ecommerce store? Get your FREE SEO Fast Track with us.

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