The more retailers that you sell your products through, the more challenging it is to manage that inventory - and the costs of sub-optimal B2B inventory management can be steep. In 2015, CNBC reported that stockouts accounted for $634.1 billion in lost retail sales for the year. Those losses can easily pass on to you. If retailers are not confident in your product availability, they will find other suppliers.
Preventing stockouts with well-done B2B inventory tracking goes beyond keeping an accurate SKU count. Ideally, your inventory management software and staff should have the following capabilities.
Detailed tracking information
Your inventory feeds should provide your retailers with as much information as possible, such as:
- Available inventory by location – not only can this free your retailers from being bound to a single inventory source, it can also be useful for shipping calculations
- Restock dates – for low or out-of-stock units, provide both the amount and date by which the inventory will be replenished.
- Real-time data
Comprehensive inventory management
Go beyond the management of in-stock inventory with more proactive services, like:
- Stock alerts – actively communicate when products become out-of-stock, low stock, or back-in-stock
- Allocated stock – allocating inventory for individual retailers helps to manage their expectations is very useful for preventing stockout issues
- Internal backorder management – if it doesn’t take long for you to resupply stock, you may have the bandwidth to handle backorders on behalf of your retailers (or adjust their allocated stock accordingly)
- Shipment notifications – automated shipment notifications with delivery timeframe estimates saves retailers the trouble of calling you, and gives them the information they need to reassure their customers.
If these upgrades to your inventory tracking sound too complex, Fulfillment Works can help! Our Client Access Center technology is customizable and lets you manage all aspects of your inventory from any internet connection (including mobile devices).
Scores of entrepreneurs and new companies are entering the ecommerce industry every day. And with U.S. ecommerce sales predicted to surpass $480 billion by 2018, it’s easy to understand why so many brands are eager to start growing their ecommerce offerings. Breaking in to the biz can be easy, but success requires careful planning and strategy. To ensure growth and long-term success for your ecommerce company, focus on the development of these areas.
Ecommerce has limitless options – if you can ship it, you can sell it online. However, the sheer variety of opportunities to offer new types of products can make it challenging to effectively scale your production. Go slow, and listen to your customers. Use sales data on past purchasing trends to guide upcoming production priorities, and if necessary, get help with inventory management early in the planning process.
Order fulfillment is a critical part of providing a good customer experience. If you opt to keep your fulfillment operations in-house, consider how you can use tools and technology to keep operations transparent to customers and flexible to meet changing production needs.
Whether through emails, direct mail, or other forms of advertising, marketing is important for growing your ecommerce business. For new ideas to boost your marketing initiatives, check out the marketing tips in our blog.
Customer Service Staffing
For customer service positions, your staff can be a defining factor in the customer experience your business is known for. Give your staff the authority and flexibility to come up with novel solutions that satisfy customers, then grow the team by looking for candidates who can use their creativity and customer-empathy to make the most of that flexible environment.
Upsells are an important ecommerce tactic because they can increase customer satisfaction with an order while increasing your revenue. But, you don't want your upsells to come off as pushy or be intrusive to the user's shopping experience. As the saying goes, "you catch more flies with honey." Consider these tips when crafting the messaging for upsell opportunities.
Well-timed discount incentives
Find creative ways to grab your customers at the end or near the end of their purchase journey with various discounts. Amazon.com's "Subscribe & Save" program is a popular example of this tactic - with many prominent calls-to-action to increase the size of the subscription order to get an additional 10% off the total. Similarly, you can also opt to only show shoppers discounted items as upsell suggestions, encouraging them to take advantage of deals while they can.
Refined CTA messaging
You may be surprised by the effectiveness of changing passive calls-to-action on upsell suggestions. Instead of a standard "Products you may like" title, try something more engaging like "Must Haves" or "Perfect Accessories." You can always use A/B testing to find the wording that's most effective.
Free shipping with order minimum
Conditional shipping discounts are a great idea if you don’t have the capabilities to show users upsell suggestions that are either relevant to what’s in their cart, or based on their shopping habits and purchase history. More often than not, users will add items to their cart just to qualify for these types of promotions.
Social media is one of the most powerful tools for growing your ecommerce business. But it's not enough to just have an updated Facebook or Instagram page for your site. To be truly effective, your ecommerce site and your social media presence need to work together. By integrating social media features on your ecommerce site, and ecommerce features on your social media pages, you'll be able to grow the audiences faster than you would by treating them as separate. In this post, we'll look at some social media and ecommerce integration points and how they can enhance each other.
Social Sharing Plugins
This is a standard tactic you are likely already using, but it's a great example of social media/ecommerce integration. If you don't have them already, add social sharing buttons (like the ones at the top of this blog post) to your product pages and content such as newsletter articles, marketing emails, blog posts, etc.
Allowing users to log in to their ecommerce account using their social media credentials makes the registration and checkout process much easier. Social login also allows you to capture data about your website subscribers that you can use to customize your product recommendations and marketing emails to your customers’ interests and preferences.
Many social media sites have ways to funnel users directly to your ecommerce, like Facebook's "Shop Now" buttons and Pinterest's "Buyable Pins." If you use these features, don't forget to track their performance in addition to your other sales statistics.
Because it provides a convenience to most consumers, offering customer support through social media is a great competitive differentiator. It's also an excellent opportunity to engage with customers - even the ones who don't need support. By promptly responding to customer issues on social media, you're demonstrating your commitment to customer service to all your followers (not just the ones who need assistance).
When comparing the shopping experiences between the two, it's common to see B2B and B2C companies take very different approaches to ecommerce. On one hand, larger audiences and intense competition have driven B2C ecommerce to grow and evolve rapidly. Meanwhile, B2B companies have focused on industry networking and strengthening relationships with returning customers – often at the cost of allowing their ecommerce capabilities to stagnate.
Slowly but surely, this is changing as more B2B companies are refreshing the design and functionality of their ecommerce sites to mimic some of the strategies for growth and customer retention employed by B2C ecommerce sites. In a way, a business is a group of consumers working together to find a product or service to meet a common need – so it makes sense to provide a shopping experience for businesses that’s similar to one for individuals.
In this post, we’ll point out key areas B2B companies should focus on to improve their ecommerce performance.
Customers expect a quality experience when they’re shopping online – whether for themselves or on their company’s behalf. To give your B2B customers a better user experience, take a hint from what B2C sites do by bolstering your site’s content and making it easy to find. Detailed and well-written content gives users the confidence to take the next step and contact you, or place an order. Additionally, a well-organized site structure helps customers find that information in as few clicks as possible.
Behavior Data & Analytics
B2C sites are experts at analyzing user data to accurately target customers for cross-sells and up-sells. Tracking user behaviors by way of site analytics can provide valuable insights you can leverage to better cater to your customers.
Customer accounts on B2B sites tend to be filled with comprehensive information. But, they aren’t always fully accessible for the customer. Allowing users to view order histories, check account data, and see the status of orders in progress can help users customize their B2B shopping experience while reducing common customer service inquiries.