Launching an e-commerce store can be fairly simple. With so many e-commerce platforms and related plugins saturating the marketplace, you can be up and running in less than a day. However, once your online store is live, and orders start coming in, you’ll begin to encounter challenges you may not be prepared for. How will you handle customers who ordered something online but want to return it to the store? If a customer spends several hours browsing your site for a specific item, can you guarantee it will be in stock when they click, “Buy Now”? These questions will undoubtedly arise, and as a retailer, your processes and systems must be agile enough to answer them quickly and without disruption to your supply chain.
Warning Sign #1: Your Customers Aren’t Coming Back
The term “customer experience” is often viewed as synonymous with attractive branding and a visually pleasing storefront and website design. While these are important components of the overall customer experience, it will take a lot more to assure a loyal customer base. If your customers aren’t satisfied with the buying process or don’t return after their initial purchase, it’s probably due to issues relating to product accuracy, speed and convenience, not aesthetics. Consumers want a truly seamless buying journey, and few stores are exempt from this expectation, from grocery stores to department stores and even home improvement stores. Your end-consumers should drive your decision making, with convenience and accuracy the universal expectations of today’s shopper. Take Ace Hardware as an example. The home improvement store recently announced a new website that allows customers to buy online and have items delivered from their local store the same day, the next day, or via standard delivery. While this fairly niche retailer may have once seemed like the exception to the rule, their transition to e-commerce shows that providing a truly omnichannel experience has become the standard.
80% of U.S. consumers identify speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service as the most important elements of positive customer experience. (Source)
Warning Sign #2: You’re Struggling to Control Costs or Increase Revenue
Retailers are always looking for new ways to cut costs and boost revenue, but many are unsure of how to put financial goals into action. In such instances it may be helpful to identify what kind of growth you’re looking for. The goal of top-line growth is to create profit-based goals even if you don’t see movement in your bottom line. For example, you might choose to reinvest revenue into your company in a way that will add value to your customers or employees. If you struggle with data disorganization and redundant manual entry, you may want to take some revenue and invest it into an integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system capable of organizing customer data, accounting processes, order information, and other business information. The implementation of an ERP will not immediately impact your bottom line, but will greatly improve internal business processes and ultimately, benefit your company. Alternatively, you can identify ways to cut spending, increasing your bottom line. For example, you may be over-spending on expensive warehousing or slow-moving inventory, both of which could be eliminated by adding dropship fulfillment, which would shift the burden of bulky or slow inventory to the manufacturer.
Warning Sign #3: You Lack Inventory Visibility
Customer expectations drive retail innovations, from rapid delivery to a seamless omnichannel experience. In order to meet these demands, you will need a distributed order management solution (DOM) equipped with advanced artificial intelligence capable of anticipating patterns, alerting you of exceptions and integrating into your other systems. With such a DOM solution in place, retailers gain the flexibility necessary to support all fulfillment methods, moving from a siloed supply chain to one that efficiently unifies all fulfillment models.
Target stores serve as a prime example of a supply chain that has successfully blurred the lines between physical and online commerce with the help of complete inventory visibility. Shoppers can visit the store and, if they find an item they like but would prefer in a different color, any store employee can order the preferred item on a tablet to be delivered to the customer or to the store. DOM takes this transparency a step further than simply finding the desired inventory by finding the closest desired inventory, be it at a warehouse, distribution facility or other store location. Where outdated legacy OMS solutions provide surface-level visibility into orders and inventory, DOM offers intuitive, real-time insights into the status of an item at any given time, with customer expectations driving the process.
Warning Sign #4: Disorganized Systems are Costing You Money
In order to operate a successful retail organization capable of meeting customer expectations, you must have technology systems capable of handling and processing financial information, customer data, order and inventory management, human resources, marketing and more. However, simply adopting solutions as you need them creates a hodge-podge complexity of systems working independently of one another.
Imagine an efficient office, with employees - no matter their role - communicating regularly, asking questions and sharing information, downloading documents to shared drives, and keeping electronic records of their work. Ideally, your systems should communicate similarly, but not without integration of these systems. When data must be manually entered into every system this leads to redundancies, increased labor costs and a high probability of human error. The process of upgrading your systems or migrating data to new systems can be intimidating, but with proper planning and testing, there is nothing to fear. Complete integration will provide order and inventory visibility, multiple fulfillment capabilities, exception management tools, and intuitive automation.
Warning Sign #5: You’re Struggling to Penetrate International Markets
Trading with international partners can catapult your business from small-scale enterprise to a global brand, but with that growth comes increasing complexities. Trade restrictions, special taxes called duties and tariffs, and difficulties with conflict resolution (collections are particularly tricky when navigating another country’s laws) are just some of the issues retailers run into. Additionally, it is important to know your customer and their preferences (buyer persona), but that task grows increasingly difficult in foreign markets you may be unfamiliar with. People in other countries prioritize products differently, placing value where you might not expect it. Retailers should coordinate with consultants who possess the expertise to tackle these cultural challenges, assess each country’s market strength, and identify what your international customer wants to buy, how much they are willing to pay, where they want to make the purchase, and their preferred payment method. For example, e-commerce customers in China rarely buy from the standalone sites of smaller brands, given that they pay with the renminbi (RMB), which most smaller e-commerce stores can’t process. Instead, US retailers hoping to break into the Chinese market must employ a certified Chinese service provider to grant access to cross-border e-commerce platforms like Amazon China Global Store and Tmall Global.
Game On! Unlocking the Next Level of Retail
Posting products for sale online does not guarantee financial success. There are countless systems that must be in place in order for your brand to thrive. Don’t take a chance when it comes to selecting the right tools and processes to operate your organization. Register for our upcoming webinar, Game on! Restore the “Order” to Order Management to find out how to get to the next level of retail.