Tips for Improving Packaging Efficiency & Sustainability

Ecommerce businesses stand to benefit from implementing environmentally friendly business practices – and changing your approach to packaging is a great way to start. It can save you money, improve logistical efficiency, and drive home your brand's commitment to the environment with every single delivery. Follow these tips to start your transition into more sustainable packaging.
    

Choose environmentally-friendly packaging materials

Evaluate your current packaging for materials that can harm the environment - especially those that can't be recycled, take a long time to breakdown (like polystyrene foam and plastics), or that release toxins as they breakdown (like certain inks and adhesives). Can you switch these out for recyclable, eco-friendly equivalents? For example, corrugated cardboard tubes and scraps work well as dunnage and are easy to recycle. Similarly, laser printing, thermal printing, and soy-based inks are excellent alternatives to toxic inks and dyes.

Pack more efficiently

In addition to materials, your packing practices are also important. Larger-than-required packages waste filler materials and take up excess space in shipping vehicles, contributing to fuel consumption. Automated box making machines or custom-designed packaging are both eco-friendly solutions that not only save the earth, they save you money by conserving materials and reducing product damage during shipping.

Evaluate your logistics

Take a close look at how packages move from warehouse to doorstep for opportunities to reduce waste. Depending on your products and customers, there may be more you can do to combine individual orders into bulk shipments. If you notice lots of unused space in the trucks leaving your warehouse, consider co-shipping with other companies to reduce fuel costs.

The Benefits of Call Center Outsourcing

Customer service call centers provide ecommerce businesses with a number of benefits. You need a call center – no question. However, you may not need to manage call center services internally. While an internal call center comes with some nice advantages in terms of flexibility and control, a partnership with a qualified provider also has perks that might be a better fit. In this post, we'll discuss a few of the benefits you can get through call center outsourcing. 

Cost savings

For many small to midsize companies, staffing and managing an internal call center can be challenging and costly. Unless you're selling highly technical products that require in-depth knowledge, the operational expenses may not be worthwhile. Conversely, an outsourced call center helps you avoid the costs of capital investments such as quality call monitoring systems, scheduling software, chat support integration with your website, etc. You can also save on the costs associated with recruiting, training and retaining call representatives – which really comes in handy during your peak season. Speaking of which…

Seasonal flexibility    

Because of their established focus on providing customer service, a good call center should be able to handle the higher volume of calls during your peak seasons without straining your budget or internal team.

Faster growth

If an outside partner is handling your call center functions, you're free to focus on the core components of your business. Outsourcing your call center allows you dedicate more bandwidth to developing products, customer acquisition, marketing campaigns and other growth initiatives.

Choosing whether to manage a call center on your own or outsource will ultimately depend on the nuances of your business. However, it's worth considering the cost-effective benefits of collaborating with call center service providers. To learn more about the call center services provided through Fulfillment Works, contact us today.

Easy Ideas for Customer Retention

Whatever product or service your company offers, keeping customers engaged and coming back to your site is critical for ecommerce success. Customers remain loyal to brands that treat them well, but even more so to companies that implement memorable tactics to keep them happy. Below are some easy ideas that can go a long way toward leaving a good impression on your customers.
    

Educate

You don't need to be pushing a sale every time you communicate with your customers. Sharing content related to your products or industry can provide your customers with helpful information for purchasing decisions. By establishing your company as a source of authoritative information, you also build up your trust and reputation among customers.

Create helpful offers

Go beyond the run-of-the-mill discounts and think of special offers that improve the purchase experience, rather than just trying to make a sale. What sets you apart from the competition? Do your product margins grant you the flexibility to give away free gifts with orders? Are there ways you can simplify the decision to purchase (like offering free returns or special warranties)? To come up with a promotion that works for your situation, consider the interests of your customers, the products you sell, and the logistics of your company.

Be approachable

Keeping a professional tone with your customers doesn’t mean all communication needs to feel scripted. Remember, messages that actually have a “human touch” to them will go a long way toward making your brand memorable and encouraging repeat business.

Say 'thank you'

Sending a thank you welcomes new customers to your site, and is a reminder of your expert service to returning customers. To encourage repeat business, offer a coupon or shipping discount on their next order. Consider also sending thank you emails/discounts when customers complete other actions on your website, like signing up for your newsletter.

3 Ways to Combat 'Shoplifting' in Ecommerce

Theft during the last mile of product fulfillment is a growing problem in ecommerce. According to a report by InsuranceQuotes.com, 23 million Americans had packages stolen from their doorsteps in 2015. Even worse - a DropOff study found that 94% of consumers blame the e-tailer for poor delivery, while only 42% blame the delivery provider. Not only are you losing product from theft, you're also losing repeat customers and brand reputation.

While there isn’t much you can do to directly prevent this type of “shoplifting,” there are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of theft and provide customers with a better delivery experience.

Secure delivery options

Unattended packages are the ones thieves like to target, so secure delivery options can be a major deterrent. Some common solutions are:

  • Signature request
  • In-store pickup (if you also operate brick-and-mortar locations)
  • Delivery to a storage locker (Amazon Locker is a good example)
  • Customer-supplied delivery instructions (for example, you can add a new checkout field where customers write instructions, like “Please leave package on the back porch.”)

Proactive shipping notifications

Most ecommerce sites allow customers to passively check the delivery status of an order. Taking a more proactive approach to this idea can not only make your deliveries more secure, but improve your customers’ experience. Encourage customers to sign up to receive delivery notifications via text message, email, or even app push notifications.

Delivery scheduling

Work with your carriers to offer your customers the ability to select a specific delivery date and time. This can be a value-added shipping option at checkout, or you can offer it for free with a minimum order.

Tips for Choosing Fulfillment Software that's Omnichannel-Friendly

Most omnichannel retailers take an ad hoc approach to selecting fulfillment management software; opting for solutions designed to suit the needs of each sales channel. For example, you may utilize POS software for brick-and-mortar locations and an ecommerce platform (such as Shopify or Magento) for your ecommerce site.
    
Ideally, a 3PL provider should have no problem integrating your current technology and software solutions to keep everything working seamlessly. But if your expansion into omnichannel is recent, you may not know what features you need or which vendor to go with. In this post, we'll go over some tips for selecting fulfillment operations software and providers that will enable you to give your customers the best possible experience – no matter which channel they purchase through.
    

Brick-and-mortar Point-of-Sale Systems

There are many inventory management features you should look for in a POS. From an omnichannel perspective, it's critical to have real-time product availability from all store locations, and the ability to receive orders from your other sales channels (like your ecommerce site). This level of inventory oversight confers numerous advantages: store personnel can see inventory status across the chain, customers can buy online and pick up in store, and overall product availability is much clearer.

Ecommerce Platforms

Shoppers rely on various types of product information in their purchasing decisions. Therefore, you need an ecommerce platform that allows you to easily manage lots of merchandizing attributes like photos, product features, etc. The goal is to have detailed, searchable product information on your ecommerce site so customers can comfortably "add to cart" without needing to leave your site and find the information elsewhere – possibly from a competitor.

Choosing a vendor

Ideally, you'll want a software vendor that specializes in working with omnichannel clients. In addition to providing robust support for omnichannel processes (such as inventory synchronization), an important thing to look for is a commitment to building software with free and open APIs that allow your sales channels to share data and work together. At Fulfillment Works, our fulfillment management system has a fully-supported, real-time SOAP XML API that allows a client's programming team to write their own code for custom features and functionality.