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).
Order fulfillment is a very “behind-the-scenes” aspect of ecommerce. But, even though it’s not a consumer-facing process, order fulfillment has a big impact on customer experience. A recent study from Dotcom Distribution found that the most important elements of order fulfillment affecting customer loyalty were delivery times and premium packaging.
According to 87% of the 558 online shoppers surveyed, delivery time is a key factor when deciding to place another order with an e-tailer. Additionally, 44% said faster delivery would increase their trust with a brand. When it came to premium packaging, consumers expressed many positive sentiments:
- 40% said they would be somewhat more likely or much more likely to purchase from an e-retailer that offers premium packaging
- 68% said that branded packaging makes the brand seem more upscale
- 61% said that branded/premium packaging gets them more excited about receiving/opening the package
- 44% said that premium packaging reinforces that the product was worth the cost
From a fulfillment perspective, improving these areas is key to growing your ecommerce business. To improve your delivery speed, you could look at 3PL providers that are closer to your customers, or you may need to improve your inventory management. For example, by maintaining real-time inventory monitoring, you can then process orders in real-time. The time saved from order processing results in customers getting their packages much faster. Additionally, the benefits of premium packaging are too numerous to ignore – consumers will be more likely to enjoy their experience, order again, and tell their friends. At Fulfillment Works, we have lots of resources to design and produce custom packaging for our clients. Contact us to learn how we can help.
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!
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.
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.