Expanding an ecommerce business is more than just expanding product catalogs and opening more distribution centers. The administrative strategy and operational support functions of your back office are vital – and their capabilities need to scale alongside business growth for overall success. In this blog post, we'll cover some fundamental elements to consider when evaluating your current back office's capabilities and ensuring they keep pace with the growth of your business.
You need more than just a well-designed website to provide a great customer experience. Accessible and attentive customer service shape the final perception of unsatisfactory experiences and are a must for long-term success – so it's critical to assess your company's approach to customer relations from multiple angles and improve where necessary. Periodically review customer service call monitoring stats, product reviews, and fulfillment reporting you have in place and look for gaps to fill. If your reporting doesn't identify any ongoing problems, you may be able to find new growth opportunities through customer satisfaction surveys.
Taxes & Accounting
Tax laws and financial reporting requirements relevant to ecommerce can be more difficult and time consuming to manage as your business expands. Evaluate whether the software, staff, and strategies you’re using to maintain compliance are "right sized" for your current, and future, business goals.
Billing & Invoicing
Providing multiple payment options for your customers certainly has its benefits, but it can add complexity to back office operations. Verify your level of protection from payment fraud, optimize your chargeback management process, and ensure you are able to efficiently process refunds for all of the payment methods you accept.
Data Reporting & Analysis
Data plays a big role in the decision-making process for product expansions/reductions and is important for growing your audience and sales numbers. You’ll need to make sure your warehouse management solution can provide this data in actionable reports that can provide clear insight into the future of your business.
At Fulfillment Works, we support our clients’ back office operations with Manhattan Active™ Supply Chain software, which provides enterprise-level solutions for all of the above areas (and then some). To learn more about how we can support your business growth behind the scenes, contact us today.
When sales drop or product returns increase, you may find your warehouse filling up with excess inventory. Excess inventory occupies warehouse space, ties up your working capital (especially if you need to lease additional space just for overstock), and in some cases, continues to lose value. For example, if you start selling a new & improved version of an old product, demand for the previous version may drop so low that even big discounts aren't good enough incentives for customers.
Liquidations and auctions are common solutions for dealing with overstock. However, the time it takes for them to start showing ROI and the labor of coordinating them are not conducive to every situation. Conversely, making in-kind donations of overstock can be easier (i.e. no negotiating with liquidators, no creating online auctions), faster, and better for your bottom line. Not many companies realize it, but simply giving away your unprofitable inventory can yield a number of business benefits, such as:
Inventory donations are tax deductible in the US. If your business is eligible for them, the federal tax deductions you receive may even be better than what you’d get from liquidation.
Unless you're in the business of rare collectibles, the total costs of storing outdated inventory can quickly exceed its value. By donating overstock, you free up valuable warehouse space to make room for more profitable products. On top of that, you save on transportation and disposal costs while helping communities in need.
Retain Brand Value
Repeatedly discounting and liquidating your products lessens their value and detracts from your brand. By partnering with a gifts-in-kind organization, you can avoid this scenario. These groups are licensed 501(c)(3) nonprofits that collect all types of unwanted merchandise from member businesses, then redistribute it across a tightly-closed "market" of member-NPOs like small charities, churches and schools.
In-kind giving is ideal for offloading overstocks, obsolete merchandise, discontinued products and returns. Even though unwanted inventory no longer benefits your business, don't forget that it can still be very useful to those in need.
A good customer experience (CX) comes from consistently meeting shoppers' expectations during ALL touchpoints with your ecommerce business. Things like the UX design of your website, the tone and content of social media posts & marketing emails, your returns policy, customer service interactions, and the unboxing experience are just a few examples of customer experience factors that e-tailers tend to prioritize. However, despite improved understanding and measurement of how supply chains impact customers, little progress has been made in recent years towards using this information to make CX better.
In a joint study from logistics companies, Convey and eft, designed to assess the importance of customer experience in last mile delivery, 96% of survey respondents said CX is a critical measure of last-mile success. Despite this, just 5% of respondents said their current supply chain management systems fully support efforts to improve CX, while 61% said their systems do nothing to improve CX.
For e-tailers who want to improve their CX through last-mile fulfillment, increasing the level of transparency into your supply chain is a great starting point. For one, you can’t make improvements to your supply chain unless you understand all of the moving parts involved – so building up your visibility into the chain should be a natural extension of your work to uncover opportunities for improvement. Secondly, sharing supply chain visibility and inventory levels with your customers can improve their shopping experience.
The result is a win-win scenario. By enhancing fulfillment visibility, you can improve CX by providing inventory levels on product pages, back-in-stock alerts, accurate order tracking, and other features that help remove friction and uncertainty from the buyer’s journey. On the fulfillment side, better visibility into your supply chain and inventory levels can help you increase process efficiency to provide faster order delivery.
If you're still undecided about adding a live chat option to your e-commerce site, it's probably time you get off the fence. Why? Because consumers are a chatty bunch.
When it comes to communicating with companies, today’s consumers want a variety of options across multiple channels, according to a recent study from customer service firm Gladly. They also expect zero repeats and one answer.
That may seem like a tall order, but today, the quality of your company’s customer service is what sets you apart from the pack. In fact, Gladly found that 54% of consumers make decisions based on customer service, with 68% saying they’d pay more for products and services from a company with a strong customer service record.
To put the popularity of live chatting into perspective, it’s also important to understand who the largest consumer demographic in the world belongs to right now: millennials. This is the first generation to have grown up around computers and smartphones. They expect their shopping experiences to be seamless and technology-driven – and that includes customer service, where they demand quick responses to their queries, preferably via chat.
Adding live chat to your e-commerce site has a host of benefits. Here are our Top 5:
1. It's Fast
A live chat immediately connects your customer with a representative. Traditional call center directories, meanwhile, can be difficult to navigate and can quickly aggravate customers, especially if they’re placed in a lengthy queue.
2. It's Easy
In a live chat, information is easier to relay. For example, confirmation numbers can be cut and pasted, and product links can be shared and clicked. Instructions tend to be easier to understand and the chat moves along at your customer’s pace.
3. It's Practical
We know consumers want a variety of customer service options available across multiple channels. Live chats can be initiated on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone at any time.
4. It's Convenient
Live chats don’t involve call transfers and your customers will never be asked to repeat information. In most cases, problems are resolved quickly and more efficiently, increasing customer satisfaction.
5. It's Effective
Live chat software can sync with other related systems and services, so information about previous orders and chats can be easily accessed and aggregated. That helps you provide a better customer experience across the board.
While live chat is a great way to appease modern consumers who prefer texting and messaging, it can be equally beneficial to your e-commerce business. With live chat, you’ll gain a better grasp of your customers’ pain points, which can help improve customer satisfaction and increase sales. Remember, your e-commerce company’s approach to customer service is critical for lasting success.
It’s been almost 10 years since subscription box services like Birchbox and Dollar Shave Club hit the market and changed the way we shop. Now, you can pretty much get a box delivered to your door every month for whatever whim you have: beauty, gaming, fitness, pets, and more.
In fact, there are over 5 million subscription box shoppers in the U.S. alone, and the market is still growing. And it’s not just startups – established brands are jumping into the fray, including Sephora (with Play!) and Walmart (with Beauty Box).
With more than 600 retailers offering subscription boxes, how can you make yours stand out from the rest? Whether you’re starting a new subscription box service or trying to minimize churn rates for an existing one, here are some tips to help you succeed:
Think inside your curated box
Of course it's all about the box, but we don't just mean the random items inside of it. One thing box recipients appreciate most is the personalization, or the feeling that their box was uniquely curated just for them. Do the research and captivate your customers with your customization.
And don’t just consider demographics like age and location. In your personalization questionnaire, find out what your customers’ biggest challenges are, and what their level of expertise is with your products. This will help you deliver a more tailored experience, which is critical for any subscription box provider.
The better you can predict what your subscribers will like, the more likely they are to keep their subscription going.
Don’t get boxed-in
It’s OK to break some of the rules, some of the time – especially when it comes to subscription box services. For example, is it written in stone that you have to ship monthly? (Hint: it’s not.) Maybe your box is more of a quarterly thing. Or maybe your box could be part of a loyalty program for a legacy retailer.
Another thing to consider is letting subscribers choose their level of service by offering different subscription tiers. A customer reconsidering a $21 monthly subscription might be OK spending $10 on a smaller one.
Don’t limit your service by what everyone else is doing.
Capture that unboxing feeling
You know that rush recipients get when they open their curated box of goodies, eager to discover what’s inside? Think about ways to prolong that feeling until the next delivery. The last thing you want is your customer spending the next four weeks contemplating the service.
Make sure to engage your subscribers all month long. Here are some suggestions to keep the momentum going:
- Encourage subscribers to post unboxing videos or better yet, Facebook Live them. Engage with your subscribers on social media by liking or sharing their posts and reactions. And don’t stop there. Encourage subscribers to post reviews for the individual products inside their boxes as well.
- Create a loyalty program that allows subscribers to earn points they can redeem for more products. Points, for example, could be earned for referrals, product reviews, videos and social media shares.
- Build anticipation by adding teasers about next month’s loot to this month’s box, posting sneak peeks to your social media accounts, and emailing safe “spoilers” to your subscribers.
Bottom line: don’t let your subscribers get bored. If they do, it’s on you.
One tip that can’t go unmentioned: fulfillment is key to the success of your subscription box business. Whatever kind of unboxing experience you want to create, our custom kitting services team can make it happen. Learn more about our services.