What is Amazon Automation?
Amazon automation refers to a wide-ranging set of technologies, processes and services that automatically perform tasks in your business. There are a number of approaches to this, including automated order fulfilment systems, end-to-end services and specialised software.
Amazon automation is a useful string to have in your bow at all ends of the spectrum.
For the big players, these tools allow them to operate more efficiently at scale. As your business grows larger, finding ways of streamlining processes become more and more important.
For the individual seller or small business, time is often very limited and you always have too much to do. Without the luxury of having a dedicated team to perform certain tasks, automation take a vital role in helping things run more smoothly.
In this article we’ll discuss many of the tasks you might want to automate, and the ways you can automate them. In particular, we’ll be looking at the role software bots can play in the larger automation ecosystem, and how they can reach areas that other tools find hard to scratch.
# Order fulfilment
It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that the main task involved in selling products is to actually get those products to your customers. It’s true that you could use the tried and true method of buying stock, storing it in your garage, filling out shipping labels by hand and then taking it to a post office. But doing all this yourself requires significant investments in space and in time.
Luckily, in 2022 this facet of automation is well-developed. The major way bots can help here is via a process called automated dropshipping, which we’ll cover below, but there are certainly other tempting options in this space. For completeness, let’s take a look at them first.
# Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA)
FBA is the silverback gorilla of the Amazon automation world, the first one that any business should consider when considering how to automate their Amazon processes.
So what actually is FBA? Well, it’s simple: as the name suggests, you outsource the fulfilment of the order for Amazon to take care of. Amazon will handle inventory, packaging, and managing delivery and returns; a complete service from order to door. As you might imagine, this takes a huge amount of work out of selling products.
FBA products also qualify for Amazon Prime and its free shipping options, as well as providing assurance to your customers that any order they place with you will be well-managed.
While this a great option for new and smaller Amazon sellers, bear in mind that there are costs associated with FBA. These include:
- Basic fees to fulfil each order
- Costs to store your products (particularly over a long period of time)
- Returns processing fees
- Extra costs for large items
In addition to this you have to managing supplying Amazon with your inventory, which involves correctly labelling and shipping your products to an Amazon warehouse. This work can quickly ramp up! If you want to avoid this hassle, your best option is to try dropshipping, which we’ll cover below.
# Third party logistics services
There are other similar services to FBA, offered by third parties. These are usually called third party logistics services, or 3PL. They have a couple of advantages for larger businesses or those with well-developed brands:
- Ability to access your products physically in storage
- Store independence, allowing you to fulfil with other ecosystems besides Amazon within the same process
For the smaller seller these perks are unlikely to be necessary.
# The Amazon Automation Store
The Amazon automation is a true end-to-end solution: a third party that essentially runs your entire Amazon store for you! For a price, of course.
As well as order fulfilment services, these companies and products are likely to offer further automation options such as listings optimisation, inventory management, order reports and tracking and so on. At their best, these stores are run by experienced professionals who have gone through the arduous process of running stores many times, and can help you avoid many of the pitfalls associated with creating an online store.
The Automation Store is not necessarily “automation” in the technical sense that we might normally think about it. In fact, under the hood the automation store could be doing everything manually! But from your perspective as a store owner, it doesn’t much matter - in the end, everything does get done for you.
# Are Amazon Automation Stores a scam?
As contracting with an Amazon Automation Store is essentially handing over the keys to the kingdom, there are unfortunately scammers operating in this space. You should think carefully before considering such a hands-off approach.
Particular red flags include charging a large amount of money upfront or asking for a large percentage of your profits. This is because one mecahnism for a scam involves asking for a money to be forwarded to “buy stock”, and then to create fake orders using this money which they then extract their % fee from. The result is that you will essentially be paid back only a proportion of your initial investment before sales mysteriously dry up; the scammer keeps the rest, having done nothing.
In the end, for most sellers the best option is to use FBA or 3PL along with other automated software tools, such as bots, to streamline other parts of your business.
# Automated dropshipping
Dropshipping involves taking an order from Amazon and then fulfilling the order elsewhere, at a different store. This second store then handles the fulfilment of the order.
The usual way of achieving this is to simply take the order using the Amazon store, and then manually fulfil it on a different store by creating an order on behalf of your customer and entering their address as the shipping option. This is particlarly tempting when you want to supply niche products and find Amazon’s FBA or other third parties too expensive for your taste, or in any situation where collecting and sending products to an Amazon warehouse is simply too time consuming. It’s also a great option if you want to only purchase stock at the point of order, which reduces your financial risk as you don’t need to buy goods ahead of time.
However, manually fulfilling orders like this is still time consuming and is hard to scale up, particularly if this is a side hustle for you. The solution, again, is automation - in this case, automatically creating the order with the third party store when a customer makes a purchase.
There are a number of dropshipping tools available for Amazon, but usually these rely on an existing integration between web store platforms. The advantage of this is that they are very simple to set up, but whether you can do so often depends on the technology the fulfilling store is using. If it’s a Shopify site, great! If it’s a more niche platform… well, you might struggle to get things to work.
If this is the case, bots to the rescue! The bot will essentially replicate the manual steps that you take yourself when creating the order, and so do not require any special tool or integration. As long as you can fulfil the order manually using the UI, so can the bot.
# Product Listing optimization
Making sure your products rank for the right keywords is obviously important if you want to make consistent sales.
This is another huge area where automation flourishes, and there are dedicated tools to help with this, for example Helium10 and Zoof. These tools are able to collect masses of metadata on your products and indicate how well they’re ranking on Amazon. You can monitor any changes to keywords here from within their dashboard and track their effects on rankings and sales.
It’s also common to use bots to assist in this process. Here are some ideas we’ve seen:
- Check Amazon search for your product ranking and write this to a sheet
- Automatically bulk-update keywords
- Find competitor products on the store and compare their rankings, price etc. with yours
# Automated report collation
This is something we have seen a lot of Axiom users tackling. Amazon provides a lot of great reporting functionality, and third party automation tools provide even more. This is great, but the price of all this power is that masses of data can be generated, and processing these then becomes another large manual task.
If you find yourself manually downloading reports, or finding data and copying and pasting into spreadsheets to summarise what’s happening with your products, then bots just might be able to help you out.
You can, for example, build bots that can:
- Automatically download reports from Amazon each day and organise them into folders
- Scrape data from reporting tools and paste it into sheets
# PPC management
PPC stands for “Pay per click” and these tools help you manage your advertisement campaigns within the Amazon ecosystem.
As with many ad systems, the Amazon “Sponsored” content can be a labyrinth to navigate. Amazon PPC operates using a bidding system, where advertisers set their budget and place bids on keywords in order to be given a good ranking. The more competitive the keyword and the larger the prospective audience, the more expensive the bid. Finding good keywords which maximise the efficiency of your bid’s cost to views ratio is a complex job.
The main function that PPC automation tools bring is the ability to dynamically adjust your bids so that your products are always being served to the best possible audience for your bid price. This can save a huge amount of both manual work and money!
We’d recommend leaving this facet of automation to a dedicated tool. While you could in theory create a bot to help with PPC management, it would likely be much slower to react. In a space where siezing the moment is of the utmost importance, this isn’t ideal.
# Feedback management
These products retrieve reviews from Amazon and help you filter and organise them all, as well as providing other extra functionality.
Bots can assist with this in a couple of ways:
- Retrieve review data and store it in reports automatically
- Bulk or auto respond to reviews - this can be particularly powerful when paired with metadata from the backend
- Automatically upvote new reviews, questions or answers
# Automating on a budget
One thing to bear in mind about automation tools is that the more specialised software you install, and the more power you gain access to, the higer your costs can be. Large platforms that can do everything under the sun are usually reserved for big companies with big operations budgets, and that can leave the smaller sellers struggling to complete.
One advantage that bots have here is that they are a general solution rather than being a specialised system. This allows you to automate a wide variety of tasks without special software or integrations needing to be built to handle them - and the cost of those integrations is always passed onto the consumer.
Bots also allow you to start small and scale up, rather than buying into a large software package which may contain many features you don’t yet need. This can be a great help as you’re bootstrapping your business.
# Summing up
In this article we’ve covered what we consider the most important facets of Amazon automation from a general perspective, as well as providing a few ideas on how you might be able to use bots to supercharge your processes. 🚀
If anything here sounded interesting, why not sign up to axiom and have a go?
Or if you’ve got a cool idea, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - maybe we can help you build something amazing.