Go with the Flow: What is Shopify Flow, and how can it change your business?

By Maaike Hunter

 

This week we’re looking at Shopify Plus tool called Shopify Flow; what it is, how to use it, and what to expect as benefits to your business.


For those not familiar, Shopify Flow is an automated workflow tool, which when set up correctly, can drastically influence how much of your team’s precious time is being spent on repetitive yet time-consuming tasks. It is available to all businesses on Shopify Plus, and is in Shopify App store if you haven’t checked it out already! The workflows can be simple or complex, but in essence consists of a trigger, conditions, and an action.


I’m not going to use this blog to drill into the detail on the step by step, because Shopify already has some amazing help center articles about the basics. I’ve included some great starting points below:

  1. Intro to Shopify Flow
  2. How to Create a Workflow
  3. Workflow Guidelines

Instead, I'd like to expand on what this means for your business, why you should invest your time into this tool, and some key areas and types of workflows that can work most effectively for fashion, lifestyle, beauty and health brands and retailers.


WHY AUTOMATE?


Firstly, let’s look a bit deeper at everyone’s favourite buzzword; AUTOMATE.

Trust us, there’s a reason it causes such a buzz.


Automation is the process of creating an automatic, technology-driven action based on triggers or conditions set by you. A Welcome Email is an automation. A Back in Stock notification email is an automation. We set a trigger, like “a customer is added to the website subscribers list in Klaviyo” and delegate an action. In this case, the Welcome Email is sent using a predetermined template. It’s simple, it’s effective, and it means you aren’t sending every Welcome Email manually (imagine!) A no-brainer, right?


The natural next question; Why automate? In short, because automation saves you time. And freeing up time means tackling more sophisticated marketing activity, more detailed customer contact and more product planning. Let technology do as much as it’s capable of, so that you can focus on the things that you do best; your brand, your product planning, and chasing growth.


The other major benefit is the constant streamlining of your customer satisfaction processes. Automation can get customers the right information faster, and group customers of similar attributes together to start predicting what those customers might be needing from your site, marketing or customer service contacts.


So you’re nodding and thinking that you of course are familiar with examples such as welcome email triggers or automatic subscription to newsletter lists, and of course you have some of those in place already. Why Shopify Flow is special is that it’s rapidly expanded the things we can now automate, and opened up doors for those who currently keep automation as a savoured treat in the email marketing or transactional email space. It’s now extending to all areas of your site, from marketing and customer service to product, merchandising, and logistics.

INVEST IN THE RIGHT PLACES

Before we get into some examples of useful workflow options, let’s make sure we have are seeking out the best types of automation possible. Essentially we’re aiming to save time, but where should we spend the time?


Where you should be investing time with any automation campaigns or workflows is in four major areas:


1. Research your pain points

    Flow should be specific to each business, making the most of the tool for the needs of your team. Although Shopify’s templates are plentiful and great starting points, start with the issues you are facing, not the options available.


    To do this, your first port of call should be discovering what actions your team take on a daily and weekly basis that take up the most time. I would recommend being specific in quantifying these issues, so you know how to best prioritise the time-saps at hand!


    Although asking your team to time-track a standard week may seem like a lot of extra work, the results of your team's time use might be hugely surprising, and in my experience with this exercise it has almost always been unpredictably different from that team member’s key priorities.


    For example, If your dispatch team usually checks for new orders in the morning, and at 3pm to allow for 2 courier runs a day, you may find that they are spending huge amounts of unnecessary time between these two checks just in case urgent orders have been placed in the interim.


    To allow for maximum concentration on other tasks between these times, consider using Shopify Flow to set up a simple flow as below:


    [trigger] order is placed/ payment is taken


    [condition] IF order shipping type is express/ same day shipping


    [action] send order directly to urgentorders@brand.com

    Or

    [action] send message via slack/ zendesk for a new urgent shipment to be completed



    By knowing which team members are spending their time unnecessarily, especially with checking in on emails or Shopify order types, you will be best equipped to start researching your workflow options and prioritise your team members that can utilise the most automation!



    2. Set up

      Setting up automations correctly will be the make or break for the success of the campaigns. An ill-set up workflow could wreak havoc for your customer service team and diminish your customer’s trust in you. There should be the utmost importance placed on testing your workflows, and aligning all timing and communications with your end goal.


      Shopify Flow offers a Preview Flow tool in the recommended steps, which should be followed closely for every tweak to existing workflows and new workflow.


      3. Reporting

        No-one can predict the future (alas!) so setting up your automations and expecting that the results will be exactly as planned can be naive. The results of your automations should be reported on frequently, so that the workflow can be tweaked incrementally. This is especially important for workflows that affect direct customer communications, such as email marketing actions.


        For instance, If you wanted to start effectively remarketing to your customers with items in their wishlists, you might set up a workflow similar to the below:


        [trigger] product is marked down as sale

        [condition] customer has product in their wishlist

        [action] klaviyo sends an email to customer highlighting new sale price


        To start with, you might be sending this email based purely on the markdown price of the style, so the condition of product is marked down to sale is not taking into account if the customers size is out of stock.


        After receiving a few complaints from customers receiving an email alert for a product they don’t feel they are able to purchase anymore, you might question adding some complexities to the conditions you place on the action for an email to be sent. For example, Shopify Flow is capable of layering and tying conditions together to include size in stock as a condition.


        However, the reason you may want to test this and tweak on an ongoing basis is to assess the balance of customers who will be upset with the email that isn’t relevant, vs. customers who may still want to know the item is on sale as they are happy to flex between size grades in particular fabrics or styles.


        Using Flow and Klaviyo reporting, you could set up a simple revenue report for both instances, and weigh this against your customer service team’s time spent dealing with unhappy customers and potential lost loyalty. It's all about evolution!


        4. Researching possible connectors

          To get the best results of automated processes, you’ll want to aim for platforms and systems that are all connected. The best customer experiences come from connected data. Take the time to check which of your systems can connect with Flow. for example, Google sheets, Klaviyo, and Trello are perfect examples of connected systems outside of your site that represent huge amounts of time spent on process. You can check out your connector options easily under the connector section of your Shopify Flow app once downloaded from the App store. You will find many reputable will connect easily, covering areas such as live chat, reviews, and product management tools. You can see the full default list here:


          Connector apps for Shopify Flow


          Using connectors will allow the action you designate to really penetrate your team’s daily processes.


          For example, if your product and merchandising team keep manual recut reports in Excel, the connector for Google Sheets is an easy way to translate Shopify reporting information into a format that can be shared with your design and product teams easily! Your flow in this instance might look something like this:


          [tigger] product is ordered on Shopify store

          [condition] product sells more than 5 items

          [condition] product inventory is 3 or less

          [action] product name and SKU are added to Google Sheet tab Recut Considerations for Winter ‘20.

          Another key connector that has the potential to become a staple for your marketing team is email marketing platforms.


          As an example, Shopify Flow is capable of adding customers to VIP email lists, automated product waiting lists, and remarketing wishlist behaviour with simple and accessible flow conditions.


          Even for those who don’t have a large range of connected platforms to select from to start with, even utilising Shopify Flow’s ability to send messages directly via email to any email address or to Slack messaging can have huge implications for your customer service, dispatch and online merchandising teams.


          It is also possible to build custom connectors using the Shopify app extensions platform for private apps, however you will need help from a Shopify Plus development agency to achieve this!



          SO WHAT’S POSSIBLE?


          There are hundreds of combinations of conditions and actions available using Shopify Flow, a tiny taste of which I've mentioned above. As we’ve covered, they should be selected, set up, and tweaked based on your specific business needs. However, Shopify Flow has an impressive range of 84 ready-to-use templates pre-set up geared toward accessible options for common use cases.



          These are even filtered by area of action for easy browsing for your needs!





          I’ve pulled out a few gems that we love, and could kick-start your improved time-saving and customer satisfaction journey!



          Product & Merchandising


          If you have a steady but time-consuming tagging process for gift season, never fear! You can now automatically tag products with a certain price point or price range, as below:



          For the busy christmas season, you can automatically tag products under a certain price threshold to ensure they are added instantly to a Gifts Ideas Under $25 collection, ready for gifting rush!  



          Another easy collection tip that could save time around busy promotional times is adding items to Sale collections once they get low in stock, by adding an automated tag such as low in stock. You can also hide products completely that fall below a certain stock level.



          You could easily add further conditions to this template to customise it for your collection set up, for example making sure only certain product types were treated this may automatically, or exclude brands that you would like to sell in full price collections right down to the last one!



          Customers & Segmentation


          Automatically emailing customers who leave negative reviews is an easy way to initiate a valuable conversation. More information from these customers may highlight issues like a product fault much earlier than otherwise dealt with.





          An exciting example for retailers and brands trying to balance marketing unisex, male and female targeted products, you can also use Flow to tag a shoppers preference for shopping mens or womens categories on-site using automatic tags.



          This template can easily be expanded to add actions in your email platform, where you could gauge your mens shopping subscriber list without having to introduce a preference centre in the early stages.



          Orders


          There are some orders we like to know about quickly, for a range of reasons. One common case is that the release of a limited or stand-out product is on your mind! You might be testing a new product at a much higher price range, or have a promotion running for a product that can be customised. In this case, you can set up a tag to apply automatically, or even an alert via email for orders that contain a certain product, or a product over a certain price point.




          We highly recommend checking out all 84 of the template options, keeping in mind that you can add to them, customise them and tweak them. They’re to jog ideas, and give quick relief for common problems! For everything else, custom options are endless here, and a plethora of opportunity if you have an issue that needs solving.



          STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?


          If you still have questions about how you can make Flow work for you, or you’re tantalised by the possibilities for your team and your customers, get in touch! We understand that it can be really effective to have a partner involved to audit ideas and wield Shopify Flow effectively. We can put together a custom setup package for your specific needs, and get you saving money and time in, well, no time!



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