Now, when times were better, grass was greener, and everyone was younger our website was younger too ;) Our website was greener and younger as well, with simpler design, fewer items and was maintained, mainly, by hand. We still remember times when we just had 2-3 smaller companies with few hundred products - and it was quite possible and made perfect sense.
There's nothing wrong with maintaining things by hand, moreover if people who do it are motivated, accurate, love detail and structure - this will benefit of course, as manual approach is quite a thing and for smaller operations is quite often the best and most obvious choice. That's of course, when people who do it love it and put some effort in it.
Once things getting bigger and bigger, this is, unfortunately, not an option anymore. Of course, some manual adjustments are always needed, but more and more mundane, time-consuming, necessary tasks have to go to automation.
Just hand whatever you can to computers, and you'll never regret it
We can't stress this enough: just invest as much as possible to all kinds of automation earlier on and will pay off greatly in the end. Once automation is place you can easily adjust it as needed; it's much easier to fine-tune something than build it from scratch, which is quite obvious.
Time saved by automation will quickly become hours, hours become days and days become weeks. Automation is the king and every mid to large scale ecommerce website should invest in it. Moreover, it should be one of the top priorities for sure.
Few possible automation applications:
Lineup updates: excluding out of stock products, adding new products
These above are just examples and obviously once you start, you'll more or less understand what you'd automate. Don't be afraid to spend a generous amounts of time investing in those things: once again, these will pay you back over time. We don't talk about some single digit wins, time saved will be in 100+ or 1000+ fraction wise.
Also, don't be very upset if you can't optimize your automations perfectly. Of course, these can be adjusted endlessly in an effort to give maximum performance, but honestly speaking performance here is not very important unless absolutely crucial for your overall infrastructure. Let computer do inefficient job for you: it's better than no job at all. Our inner perfectionists have to take a step back here and agree to this compromise.
There will be bugs, there will be mistakes when automation is applied, but you know what - it's totally fine. It's much easier to adjust those things later than to do everything manually. Trust us, we know ;)
We, at comfyco.com are big fans of automation. Once we figure out anything we can automate we almost immediately do it. Freed up time is then always used to provide better customer service, evaluating major decisions, optimizing our flows and concentrate on more important, key moments. We truly believe automation gives us more room, more freedom to be a better business from every perspective.