In this article:

45+ Fresh e-Commerce Automation Statistics 2021 Edition

In this article, we summarize the impact of automation on e-Commerce in 2021. We consider the following:

  1. The prevalence of automation 
  2. What applications automation is used for
  3. The challenges faced by companies in adopting automation
  4. The rise of AI as a new form of automation
  5. Automation’s ROI over the years. 

We will be using the results of surveys of Hubspot, Salesforce, Harvard Business Review, Automizy, Sidecar, McKinsey, Forrester via Marketo, and Marketo (here, and here)

Are you ready?

Automation is becoming more prevalent than ever

Investment in marketing automation alone keeps increasing each year. Image source

The majority of the companies are now using automation, 76% according to Hubspot, while Automizy reports that 85% already do. 

Of those companies who do not already use automation, 26% plan on adopting it in 2021. (Hubspot)

38% of marketers say they plan to increase use of marketing automation, including almost half of high-performers and almost 1/3 of underperformers as well. (Salesforce)

Among marketers, marketing automation is one of the most common technologies: the 5th most common among high performers, the 6th most common among moderate performers, and the 7th most common among underperformers. (Salesforce)

Among marketing teams, 11% made hires for marketing automation. (Sidecar)

5% of marketing teams plan to add marketing automation in-house while 10% plan to do so via a vendor in the next 12 months. (Sidecar)

67% of executives say they have accelerated the deployment of automation and AI to their company. 20% have significantly accelerated the deployment, while 47% did so in somewhat significant ways. (McKinsey)

The sector that saw the biggest acceleration to deployment were the finance and insurance sectors, at 88% and 76% respectively. (McKinsey)

A significant increase in the usage of automation directly translates to an increase in hiring, as  the hiring of experts in automation and AI has increased 35% since the start of the pandemic. (McKinsey)

Technology spend is predicted to outpace services by the start of 2022 . Marketing automation alone is predicted to receive 9.3% of the budget of companies compared to total services at 10.2% of the budget. (Forrester via Marketo)

The most common applications of automation

The most common tasks that should be automated, according to marketers. Image source

58% of marketers use automation for task management; content automation comes second at 42%; chatbots come third at 31%. (Hubspot)

Marketers this year are sending less weekly emails than last year, but prioritizing segmentation, personalization, and automation to increase efficiency and impact. (Hubspot)

Email automation is used by 18% of marketers for their email marketing. (Hubspot)

79% of businesses report that they use automation for marketing. 45% say automation is used by sales only,  while 33% of businesses say that their finance department uses automation as well. (Hubspot)

According to Sidecar, when asked what marketing tasks should be automated, 62% answered bid adjustments. The other top choices are the following:

  • Retargeting: 47%
  • Ad testing: 40%
  • Keyword analysis: 40%
  • Bid analysis: 36%
  • Audience segmentation: 31%

In contrast, marketers are not keen to automate strategic tasks such as cross-channel strategy, campaign creation, and ad creation, all with only 8% of marketers considering  automating them.

Content personalization is recommended by 43% of marketers as the most effective use of automation to improve customer experience. (Marketo)

Certain challenges hinder adoption of automation

The most common challenges in adoption automation are creating automated processes, integrations with existing systems, and the complexity of the task. Image source

Among those who don’t use automation, 80% of them simply see automation as not necessary at their level; 33% say it is too complex to use; and 20% say they have a hard time finding a good automation software for their specific needs. (The respondents can choose more than option) (Automizy)

According to Automizy, automation can also bring challenges. The top challenges brought by automation are the following, as reported by the given percent of marketers who embraced automation:

  • Creating automated processes that can bring reliable results: 16%
  • Integrations with existing system: 14%
  • Automations can take too much time to set up and is complicated: 10%
  • Creating content for automations: 10%
  • Difficulty in driving engagement for automated content: 8%

Other challenges include segmentation (6%), data management (6%), optimization (6%), finding tools (5%), personalization (5%), lead scoring (5%), analytics (4%), reporting (3%), and deliverability (1%). (Automizy)

According to Automizy, the top challenges can also depend on who is being asked:

  • Agencies report that finding the right automation tools, integrations, and creating automations as top challenges in automation (all with 20% of marketers stating them as their main challenges)
  • Marketing and advertising find integrations (at 25%) and creating automations (21%) as main challenges in adopting automation.
  • Software developers find creating automations (at 28%), creating content (at 18%), and integrations (15%) as their main challenges in adopting automation.
  • Marketing and sales find creating automations (at 29%), integrations (at 21%), and creating content (at 18%) as their top challenges in fielding automation tools.
  • CEOs and business owners believe the complexity of automation tools (at 21% and 24%, respectively) and integrations (at 17% and 21%, respectively) are the main hurdles in embracing automation tools. 

According to Automizy, the most common marketing advices being given by experts to beginners are the following:

  • Plan ahead: 17%
  • Focus on creating quality automations: 12%
  • Still, make sure you create quality content: 9%
  • Find the right tools: 8%
  • Set goals: 8%

AI is also being embraced now more than ever

Adoption of AI automation technology. Image source

According to Hubspot, marketers can expect to see AI being used in:

• Personalization and ad targeting

• Automation and conversion

• Driving revenue and repeat purchases

• Improving efficiency

• Customer support and upselling

• Campaign management

• Optimization

• Content creation

In 2021, 47% of marketers report using bots for marketing efforts, up from 45% last year. Bots are now much easier to use and add to websites, as well as AI. AI is incorporated into every tool you use, learning and helping to predict your needs and make your job easier. (Hubspot)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming a main tool for conversion and optimization, and marketers’ use of AI increased by 190% from 2018 to 2020. (Hubspot)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the rising star in this effort, with a whopping 84% of marketers reporting its use — up from 29% in 2018. (Salesforce)

A fully-defined AI strategy is a hallmark of high performers: 70% of high performers versus 35% of underperformers. (Salesforce)

According to Salesforce, the top AI use cases in marketing are as follows:

  1. Personalized experiences in individual channels
  2. Improved customer segmentation/lookalike modeling
  3. Surfaced insights from data
  4. Drive next best actions
  5. Automated customer interactions

The most common AI use among high performers is improving customer segmentation or lookalike audience modeling while the most common AI use among moderate performers and underperformers is personalizing individual channel experiences. (Salesforce)

Among B2B marketers, AI is most commonly used to improve customer segmentation or lookalike audience modeling while among B2C marketers, AI is most commonly used to personalize individual channel experiences. (Salesforce)

10% of businesses claim that they have already embraced AI. 61% of businesses say they are still experimenting with AI, while 28% make little or no use of AI. (Harvard Business Review)

Around half of business leaders say AI has a meaningful impact on their bottom line: 36% claim AI has a significant impact while 28% say AI has moderate impact. (Harvard Business Review)

According to Harvard Business Review, the following AI-based automation technologies are considered very important by more than half of the businesses: 

  • Predictive analysis: 80%
  • AI/machine learning: 68%
  • Robotic process automation, chatbots: 59%
  • AI-enabled self-service: 57%
  • Natural language processing / human interfaces: 52%

Automation is effective and has high ROI

The majority of marketers say automation is at least very effective. Image source

65% of marketers feel their automation strategy is ‘extremely effective’ or ‘very effective’. (Hubspot)

Almost 1 out of 4 businesses say their automation strategy is extremely effective, while almost 45% of businesses say their automation strategy is very effective, and 30% say it is moderately effective. (Hubspot)

A European telecommunications firm implemented an IBM Watson-based chatbot to improve its customer service operation. The automation brought an increase to 10% of total activations with 6% margin improvement. 26% of the calls are fully managed by the chatbot without human intervention. (Harvard Business Review)

According to Automizy, among those who don’t use automation, they consider implementing it due to the following reasons:

  • Saves time and money and scales up resources: 60%
  • More reliable than manual work: 27%
  • Brings new opportunities to attract prospects and clients: 13%

58% of marketers say that automation brought high growth to their sales pipeline. (Forrester via Marketo)

56% of marketers say that automation brought high growth to their revenue. (Forrester via Marketo)

For every $1.00 invested in automation, the return on investment can reach $6.66. (Marketo)

The average payback period in investment can take only 4 months. (Marketo)


The year per year growth rates can reach 10%. (Marketo)

Productivity can reach up to $21 for first time marketing automation users. (Marketo)

93% of organizations with an advanced personalization strategy experienced revenue growth in 2018. (Marketo)

Marketing automation optimizes marketing investments by reducing administrative overhead. This leads to 3.4% savings (on average), with most companies saving between 1.5% and 5.2%. (Marketo)

Marketing automation contributes to faster revenue growth. Companies that implement this kind of lead scoring enjoy 28% better sales productivity and 33% higher revenue growth than companies without lead scoring. (Marketo)

Marketing automation saves money and time. Done well, nurturing can result in 50% more site leads at 33% lower cost per lead. (Marketo)


State of Marketing Report | 2021 Marketing Trends 

Salesforce State of Marketing Report Research

Harvard Business Review - The Rise of Intelligent Automation

Marketing Automation Challenges Roundup 2019 

2021 E-commerce Marketer Survey | Sidecar 

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