The Potential for Artificial Intelligence in Ecommerce

Artificial intelligence is becoming more ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Even ecommerce giant, Amazon.com, is paving the way for advancement with Echo – its smart-speaker running Alexa personal assistant software. But, while Echo and Alexa are consumer products, the technology behind them could soon become a mainstream component in ecommerce business strategies.

The aforementioned Amazon products use advanced speech recognition technology to perform tasks – like searching for information or re-ordering specific products from Amazon. The algorithms that help Alexa understand people can be used to improve efficiencies in many sectors of ecommerce. Speech recognition technology can be used in a call center to understand caller questions, then direct callers to the appropriate responses or call queues based on their needs. While this use of AI is not widespread in ecommerce yet, it’s already used by many banks and telecom companies.

Earlier this year, Facebook launched "DeepText," an AI learning-based tool designed to make sense of all the data on the social network. Potentially, this could help companies strategize their social marketing campaigns – enabling them to send targeted promotions based on an analysis of content posted by users. Similarly, platforms such as Microsoft’s Cognitive Services can analyze positive and negative feedback in customer reviews, highlighting key trends in user sentiment.
    
Given how quickly AI has developed in recent years, there could be many more applications for ecommerce in the near future. We look forward to seeing what else is in store!

What to Look for in a Call Center Partnership

Because of its role in helping and retaining customers, your call center is a critical part of the overall customer experience you provide. If you opt to outsource your call center management, you need to consider how well a company can represent your brand, in addition to their capabilities and cost – just as you would do when choosing a 3PL provider.
    
The first thing you should do while vetting potential call center providers is to review their performance metrics. For example, the call center services provided through Fulfillment Works boast:

  • average hold times well below one minute
  • average abandon rates of 1-2%
  • average call time of 4 minutes
  • one-call resolution for 98% of total volume

When you find call centers with performance statistics that meet your standards, you need to ensure that the call center will maintain that performance for your customers. That’s why it’s important to evaluate each call center’s approach to training its staff – not just in handling calls, but how to handle calls from YOUR customers. Before agents start answering customer calls on behalf of your company, they should receive a detailed overview of your company’s systems, policies, and products to enable them to handle a wide variety of customer situations. And just as your company continuously grows and changes, so to should the call center’s training be ongoing. Our call center agents are thoroughly trained on new accounts before handling any calls. Agents stay up-to-date on account data through monthly reviews. This training approach provides agents with the continuous learning they need to provide the best customer service possible.

Choosing the right call center is a major step in leveling up your overall customer service. Carefully vetting your providers not only ensures a better deal for your business, it's also an opportunity to improve your customer retention and brand reputation.

Are Subscription Services Right for your Ecommerce Site?

A recent consumer insights report from Hitwise found that visits to subscription box-based ecommerce sites have increased by about 3,000% in the U.S. over the past three years. With the success that start-ups in this industry - such as Birchbox, Dollar Shave Club, and Loot Crate - have enjoyed, it’s worthwhile to consider if a subscription model would be a viable extension of your ecommerce site.

Subscription-based services generally fall into two categories. Discovery-based subscriptions provide customers with new products in each delivery. As customers receive packages with some products they like, they return to the company to purchase more of the items. Discovery-based subscriptions can be a great way to market certain areas of your product catalog and generate buzz about the products that come in each delivery. Convenience-based subscriptions deliver customer-specified products on a schedule at a discounted rate, which makes this model great for customer retention.

When deciding whether a subscription model is a good fit for your ecommerce business, there are two main factors to consider: the types of products you sell, and whether you have the bandwidth to monitor customer behavior and preferences to keep the subscription service interesting. A wide variety of products in the low-to-medium price range are well-suited for discovery-based subscription program, while a convenience-based subscription program would require a product catalog mostly comprised of essential consumables.

As for your customers, you need to make sure that your subscription service consistently makes the customer feel special through product variety/novelty (discovery-based) and delivers value (both discovery-based and convenience-based). If you can nail that down, you can make subscriptions a successful dimension of your ecommerce business.

E-tailers are Scrambling for more Warehouse Solutions – Are You Among them?

In addition to struggling with issues related to logistics management expertise and software, many ecommerce businesses are stymied by the physical limitations of their facilities – so much so that the demand for major warehouse improvements is on the rise.
    
A recent survey from Zebra Technologies Corp, which polled 1,400 warehouse IT and operations management professionals, indicated that the worldwide demand for warehouse space and inventory management solutions is increasing. According to the study, 48% of participants said that they are currently working to increase their number of warehouses - while 76% plan to increase warehouses by the year 2020. Other interesting takeaways from the survey include:

Another study from CRBE also found an increasing demand for warehouse space, mostly due to a desire to improve reverse logistics efficiency.

In ecommerce, the sale often goes to whoever has faster, cheaper, and easier shipping options – and improving your distribution network through size and efficiency is a solid strategy for maintaining a competitive edge. If you haven’t done like the respondents to Zebra Tech’s survey and imagined what your warehouse needs will be in 5 years, you may get left behind. If you’re not sure where to start or what factors to consider, we’re always happy to help.

Tips for Managing Excess Inventory

A continuous flow of inventory is a major goal for ecommerce businesses. But when seasonal, market, or other fluctuations negatively affect your sales, you may find yourself stuck with excess inventory. Consider the following tips to address the excess inventory you have, and keep more of it from building up.

Make a plan ASAP

The longer you wait to do something about your excess inventory, the more problems it causes by taking up space (which is even worse if you are leasing additional space just for excess), increasing taxes (if you wait until that time of year), and potentially devaluing (if the next iteration of a product is around the corner, demand for the previous iteration may drop even lower).

Liquidate in moderation

Perhaps you're willing to deeply discount excess inventory to get rid of it quickly. But, if you find yourself doing that on a consistent basis, it can spell trouble for your profitability. If you liquidate regularly, you’re losing out on profits without addressing the root cause of the excess inventory. Consider a change in marketing strategy to renew consumer interest, or move on to different product lines.

Partner with a charity

Donating your products can do more than just spread goodwill. If your business is eligible for them, the federal tax deductions you receive may even be better than what you’d get from liquidation. A gifts-in-kind organization can help you donate excess inventory to where it’s needed.

Optimize your Inventory Strategy

Because excess inventory can tie up your working capital and warehouse space, it’s best to try and avoid it in the first place. With Fulfillment Works, our state-of-the art inventory control management system is fully automated to help you manage your inventory by sending out real-time movement history reports, current usage analysis reports, and other metrics to maximize the efficiency of your inventory levels.