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The Race to Online Selling
E-commerce has been growing steadily over the past decade. Quite a few retailers adopted very well early on and worked strategically to establish themselves in the e-commerce space. They saw that the future was online and started working towards it. Some retailers were doing it because others were doing it.
In the last five years, e-commerce has become even bigger and more retailers have adopted to this model. With the COVID situation, this has become a necessity and not a choice. Whether retailers like it or if they are prepared for it, it didn’t matter, customers are expecting it. This has put a lot of retailers in a challenging situation. They have to quickly adapt to this new expectation and have to learn on the fly.
Now manufacturers are also looking at reaching directly to consumers. It is a natural progression. If the tools are available and the manufacturers have the resources available, it will give them a bigger margin on their products if they go directly to consumers. They will also need to think through this and come up with a strategy.
Retailers think it’s very easy to make this work quickly. It is challenging to understand the intricacies of the different systems, process and tools. Starting with something is good, but they have to quickly work through it.
When we talk about e-commerce, there are five major pieces involved.
- E-commerce Website
- Order Management
- Marketing Tools
- Customer Service Tools
This is the minimum you need to have, to run an operation end to end. All these fives pieces are critical in its own way. One helps you get orders, another one helps fulfil orders and so on.
Let’s take a quick look at these individually in some detail.
This is your identity on the web. Customers should get a very good first impression or experience and will help your sales. Ease of use, purchase experience, support and status updates plays a very important role in getting the website look good. You want them to get to the product they are looking for very quickly. It will also help if you show them how long it will be for them to get products. The list goes on.
This doesn’t mean that you have to have expensive systems in place to take care of these. There are a lot of systems that can help with this process. But the important factor is that retailers pay attention to these details and address it with the right tools and processes.
Order Management Systems (OMS) plays an important role in the fulfilment cycle. This is the nerve centre of all the systems. This can help you efficiently manage your process and save you money. Typically with the website and marketing tools, you spend money to get orders. After that, with an efficient and flexible system, you can save money and increase your profitability.
Some e-commerce platform offer Order Management features but that may not cover everything you need. Depending on the size of your operations, you will want to look at this very closely and make a good decision. Make sure you look at your current state and future growth and the complexity you can get into, before deciding on a system. Prepare a use case matrix for the current operation and future operation and see if the system handles these use case and rank them. This will be very helpful in your decision-making process. RFP’s work but you need all the right questions gleaned from different departments so you can make it complete.
Return, Reship, Exchange are some of the basic functionality you will want to cover. These are the most important aspects of the post-shipment customer service process.
If you have your own warehouse, this is another system or it could be part of the order management system depending on how you operate. If you don’t own your warehouse, you can look at a good 3PL for shipping your orders.
If you are running your own warehouse, fulfilment is where you have to pick, pack and ship. You will also put away when you receive goods from your vendors/suppliers. This is also a critical piece in your customer satisfaction. How fast you are able to ship, how accurately you ship without any mistakes is going to be key for a satisfied customer. The more you can do with the current personnel is key so you can maximise your ROI. At the minimum, you will want barcode and scan-based operations in the warehouse so manual errors are avoided. Again, you don’t need to invest a huge amount but there are systems that can do the job with less. But you have to pick the right one.
This is the most critical tool you will need, to attract customers and establish your brand. This is mostly email marketing, social media marketing and redirects using links. But you need to have a good tool that can reliably send emails and also use the order and customer behaviour data to create campaigns and measure the success of the campaigns. This should also be addressing abandoned cart emails or back in stock notifications. These are used to engage customers continuously and convert. The marketing tool also provides options to send ship confirmation emails where you can do upsell. You can embed your offers for products that are related to what they just ordered as part of the ship confirmation. This technique will guarantee that the customer will at least look at your offer or messaging.
Customer Service Tools
Last but not least, Customer service is an important aspect of the whole experience for a customer. How you deal with issues defines a company. This is what makes customers come back to retailers for future orders. So every retailer should go the extra mile to make customers happy. The key to this is a good system that has all the information and automation that can track issue history and timely updates of issues and resolutions. This system should also interact with OMS for status updates and order modifications as necessary.
There are a good number of systems available in the market that can do each of these and in some cases a few of the above functions. A good OMS can take care of the customer service functions also. An OMS provider might also provide a full-fledged WMS system or just the pick and pack operations. Otherwise, you will need a few different systems in place to handle all the functionalities. All these systems are available in the cloud, so you don’t have to install, manage and upgrade them. They are taken care of by the providers.
Tejas Software specialises in providing end-to-end solutions to retailers. Tejas can work with retailers to architect your solution, process and also pick the right tools to make retailers successful. Reach out to us here if you need help.