Automate Your Shipping Refunds

November 2nd, 2016

shipping refunds

Did you know that more than $2 billion dollars of shipping refunds go unclaimed annually?

Shipping costs are typically the 3rd largest line item on the P&L behind merchandise and labor cost. For most e-commerce merchants, 10% of their sales are spent on costs related to shipping. Given the number of dollars spent by your business to ship products to your customers, monitoring your shipments, and invoices is important to your bottom line.

With this being said, shipping managers typically have one objective…to fulfill orders and quickly. Because of this, they have little time to assume responsibility for additional workload. How do they meet the ever present deadlines to ship orders plus review previous shipments to ensure that they were delivered, much less arrive on time? There is a business solution for the commonly faced pressures faced by shipping managers to fulfill orders as well as meet customer expectations.

If your business ships with FedEx or UPS, consider taking advantage of a refunds and invoice auditing company allowing your business to focus on shipping orders, not claiming due refunds and credits. Select an auditor who offers an automated solution supported by a team dedicated to helping your business pay only for the services you purchase. Additionally, evaluate if the solution offers a dashboard offering the capability to review and analyze your shipping information in one tool.

Transform your practice by working with a trusted partner dedicated to optimizing your shipping spend, while you focus on your business.

Information is presented by 71lbs. 71lbs is dedicated to helping businesses optimize shipping spend. Solutions include late delivery refunds, invoice auditing, and lost & damaged claims to manage supply-chain expenses. 

Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers: Customer Interaction Optimization

October 24th, 2016

Part 3 in a 3 Part Series | Part 1, Part 2

Freestyle Solutions partnered with the e-tailing group to do independent research to understand how mid-market retailers are addressing omnichannel in terms of process and technology. Rather than surmise what the experience would be like, we developed a hands-on mystery shopping research study where visits to 25 retailers would reveal the hard results.

Our methodology involved a pre-store setup that considered two types of shopping experiences:

  1. buy online pickup in-store and
  2. place an order for return at a retail location.

Customer Interaction Optimization

In our study, we found that the retail associates universally processed returns via the POS and only in one instance was a second associate required to complete the transaction, so this process was smooth. However, retailers regularly miss an opportunity to turn returns into revenue. As retail employee attrition is all too frequent, technology rather than training should be available for consultative selling opportunities to impact the top line. While it is difficult to replace the experience of a stellar sales associate, retailers need systems to optimize the skill set of average talent.

The Numbers

  • Total time to process return was just under 5 minutes (4.71 minutes).
  • Associates were knowledgeable and comfortable with the technology scoring a 2.94/3.0 where 3.0 is the best scenario.
  • Less than 1 in 4 (24%) encouraged the customer to keep the product by suggesting an alternative item.
  • Even when prompted with a question about other product that could replace the return items, only half of the retailers who did not automatically recommend a replacement item (53%) took an interest in saving the sale.
  • 16% of retailers had store associates using technology to interact with customers.

24% retail associates encouraged customer to keep product

Additional Data Points: 2016 UPS Pulse for the Online Shopper Study
The 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study, based on a survey of 5000 shoppers, reveals that in-store conveniences have strong appeal.

  • 38% online shoppers find appeal in the having associates outfitted with the ability to search for inventory across all stores.
  • 29% find appeal in having associates outfitted with mobile devices such as iPads to assist with product selection and roaming checkout from an associate with a phone or tablet.

The Opportunity

  • Utilize clienteling applications on mobile devices to save the sale in-store when you have out of stock items, a product knowledge gap or a consultative selling situation. By having access to company-wide inventory, store associates armed with mobile devices can keep customers from jumping to the competition that is one click away. Clienteling applications can also help with customer service needs such as returns, appeasements or additional product information such as ratings and reviews. Make sure your clienteling application is integrated with your order management system for customer, order, product, and inventory look-up data.

Read the full research report, Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers of All Sizes.

16% store associates using technology to interact with customer

Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers: Information Accessibility

October 10th, 2016

Part 2 in a 3 Part Series | Part 1, Part 3

Freestyle Solutions partnered with the e-tailing group to conduct independent research to understand how mid-market retailers have adopted omnichannel from an execution standpoint in terms of process and technology. Rather than surmise what the experience would be like, the e-tailing group developed a hands-on mystery shopping research study where visits to 25 retailers would reveal the hard results.

Our methodology involved a pre-store setup that considered two types of shopping experiences:

  1. buy online pickup in-store and
  2. place an order for return at a retail location.

Information Accessibility

Shoppers come to the store for many reasons and customer information access is at the core of a convenient shopping experience. Today, securing this information is not a smooth process. The dependency on the customer to provide an order receipt, given antiquated systems, is simply not shopper friendly. Every retailer must be able to access an order based on a multitude of search criteria. After 20 years of ecommerce, consumers are at the point where they feel this issue should have been resolved.

During the survey process several retailers told us straight out that their systems are not always connected and lack access to information forcing them to work in silos. On several occasions, store associates expressed frustration regarding daily customer requests that go unresolved due to system limitations. The information inaccessibility extends much deeper when stores carry thousands of products and the average job tenure of an employee is six months and the average age is 19 years old. This research tested this assumption to determine the following findings.

The Numbers

  • The ability to access order from the POS system was available in just over half the retailers (56%) with customer name as the predominant lookup (71%), phone number on order (29%) and order history, email or item purchased (21%) were also options available at select retailers.
  • Associate can access orders ONLY via a packing slip/ order receipt at 42% of retailers.
  • 3 out of 4 retailers had an online wish list available on their website, which we signed up for in advance of our visit, yet none were accessible within the store.

56% of retailers can access order from POS
The Opportunity

  • Retailers need to get a central repository for order, customer and product information. Once you have these requirements centralized, the goal will be to integrate all your customer and employee facing systems to the central repository for consistency and accuracy of data visibility. This will require an order management system (OMS) and/ or customer relationship management (CRM). If your product information does not live within these systems today, then you might need to invest in a product information management (PIM) system. If you do not have these systems in place it is the best place to start any omnichannel initiative.
  • The POS, in most cases, is a dumb terminal. Accessing information implies intelligence. When customers browse your website, visit your stores or shop on a mobile device the goal is to inspire them to purchase by providing information relevant to them. The problem is that only the online sales channels can provide an unlimited amount of information about product. That said, only the stores can provide a personal touch. By arming employees with mobile devices that offer access to order, product and customer information, you get the best of both worlds – a knowledgeable employee that can add a personal touch. It also enables employees to move from behind the counter and into the aisle where customer service requests and buying decisions are made.
  • Accessing order information is the most critical of all since the customer has already made a commitment to trust a retailer, and ultimately, their brand. The order contains inventory, product and customer information which can tell a store employee a lot about the customer.

View the full research report, Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers of All Sizes.

retailers access order via receipt

Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers: Inventory Transparency

October 10th, 2016

inventory rightsizing

Part 1 in a 3 Part Series | Part 2, Part 3

Freestyle Solutions partnered with the e-tailing group to do independent research to understand how mid-market retailers are addressing omnichannel from a tactical execution standpoint in terms of both process and technology.

Rather than surmise what the experience would be like, we developed a hands-on mystery shopping research study where visits to 25 retailers would reveal the hard results. Our methodology involved a pre-store setup that considered two types of shopping experiences: 1) buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) and 2) place an order online and return it at a retail location.

Inventory Transparency

For retailers, inventory rightsizing and turnover are two of the most important key performance indicators measuring the health of their stores. This is in direct conflict with customers who are no longer patient and want the products to be at the store when they arrive. With less than half of retailers allowing for this expected access, coupled with the convenience of BOPIS, an inventory foundation is fundamental to success.

There is work to be done where technology can support inventory transparency before and during store visits. Most retailers can complete a transaction on behalf of the customer and are able to ship from warehouses and stores often interchangeably based on desired business model.

The Numbers

  • Less than half of the retailers surveyed (44%) had an in-store product locator and of those retailers who did, 82% included an “in stock” status while just over 1 in 3 (36%) were able to share the number of units available in the desired store.
  • 32% of retailers enabled in-store pick up at retail locations yet only 63% listed the time frame for when product would be available for pick up. For those retailers that listed the time frame, 80% were same day and 20% had it ready within an hour.
  • 76% of the retailers can access inventory across the enterprise yet only 16% used mobile device in-store to garner that information.
  • 1 in 5 retailers still need to call another store to check inventory though some with enterprise access still do so to ensure accuracy of a store’s inventory.
  • 72% of the associates at the retail store were able to conduct a transaction on behalf of the customer yet only 11% had access to a mobile device (mPOS or clienteling) to complete the transaction and surprisingly only one retailer had a tablet available to access information to support shopper needs.
  • To complete customer transactions when an item was out of inventory in the store, 89% of retailers opted to send the product from the central warehouse.

buy online pick up in store

The Opportunity

  • Implement a central repository for inventory, such as an inventory management system or order management system (OMS), to provide product availability transparency for shoppers across all your channels (web/warehouse to store, store to web/warehouse, and call center to both web/warehouse and store). Customers now expect you can tell them a product’s location is when it is not available in the store, or online for that matter. Centralizing inventory is essential for omnichannel initiatives such as ship from store, order from store, return to store and buy online, pick up in-store capabilities.
  • Invest in buy online pick up in-store (BOPIS) as it is an important convenience for shoppers while adding to your overall service value proposition. After you have a central repository for inventory data and orders, move beyond the stationary POS and think about adding mobile devices (always available, location agnostic and simple to use) to enhance the experience for customers. The key will be to not only plan for the technology execution of BOPIS, but also human resources to ensure proper system adoption. Also determine egress in the store to complement both your service and selling strategy. For example, if the goal for implementing BOPIS is to offer convenience for enhancing your brand and building customer loyalty, then place pick up at the front of the store. If cross-selling additional items during a shopping trip is important to your business, then establish pick up at the back of the store to inspire impulse purchases. Based on the data above showing that picking up products in less than an hour is a rarity (20%), there is a significant opportunity to delight customers by allowing real time access to online orders for shorter wait times in-stores.

View the full research report, Why Omnichannel is Critical for Retailers of All Sizes.

buy online pick up in store

The OMS of the Future

September 26th, 2016

future OMS

When you’re looking at the landscape of order management in retail, you can’t help but see a paradigm shift both in technology and best practices happening right before your eyes. You can’t walk into a mid-sized or large retail store without being told you can do business with them online, via mobile app, or through social media.  Omnichannel has already arrived.

This shift was fast.  Retailers had just finished embracing multichannel eCommerce, and now find the industry has firmly moved on to omnichannel.  Unlike multichannel, where the focus is on channel selling only, omnichannel impacts every part of your business, including multichannel selling.

It wasn’t so long ago that multichannel selling through shopping engines, social media and even marketplaces challenged retailers to expand their sales reach, track sales on all their channels, keep tabs on customers’ orders, and ensure that their multichannel strategy was growing revenue.

For most multichannel retailers, the  order management system (OMS) was a small actor in a larger picture where the focus was heavily on optimization in selling channels and marketplaces, as well keeping the shopping cart consistent and updated for inventory and shipments.

The OMS was a back-office system hidden in the dark corners of a retailer’s operation and usually considered just another “cog in the wheel”.  It had a role that blurred the lines between inventory management, customer and order information, and facilitating fulfillment.

Although an important part of the process, the OMS role wasn’t central, and often took a back seat to the shopping cart or POS system.

With the advent of omnichannel, not only do you still have all the challenges multichannel selling, but now you have to look at all your channels, retail stores and your e-Commerce presence. More importantly, everything in your operation needs to be in complete concert so that your customers’ experiences are consistent throughout your entire operation.

“Buy Online, Pickup In Store” (BOPIS), “Buy Online, Return In Store”  (BORIS), even “Ship From Store”, are all omnichannel features that demand a high level of order orchestration which has implications on many processes and procedures for even the smallest of retail businesses.

In omnichannel, every system and process has potential to touch the order. And the order is central to the customer’s experience with your business. The order management system (OMS) becomes the center of attention within an omnichannel operation and requires that it be “front and center” in your enterprise.

Retailers with legacy order management systems are now discovering that they do not fit into their omnichannel strategy.  They’re searching for newer, more advanced order management that will allow them to adopt omnichannel, but also grow their business without losing ground.

The OMS of the future is one that is open, easily adaptable, and at the center of the enterprise, allowing systems within your operation to easily interact, connect, and extend features as your operation requires. 

The OMS of the Future is a true omnichannel order management system built strategically around features such as:

  • Buy Online, Pickup In Store (BOPIS)
  • Return To Store (Cross-channel returns or ‘BORIS’)

“Buy Online, Pickup In Store” and “Buy Online, Return In Store” are features which should be easily available in the OMS when seeking omnichannel.  However, a true omnichannel order management system will tackle the even tougher operations, such as:

  • Ship From Store
  • Ship To Store
  • Mobile Clienteling

“Ship From Store” can be described as the “holy grail” of omnichannel. Why? Because it has implications for the whole order management system: It requires that the OMS have an enterprise inventory view of all inventory (to see retail stores and their current inventory values), and also to route shipments to stores when an order is received from a customer.  “Ship From Store” also represents operational challenges, as now your retail store, a place where people traditionally come to buy products, is being used to ship products to customers.  Your stores have effectively become another warehouse in your operation.

The OMS of the future is the “hub” of your business that not only orchestrates orders, but also allows for disparate legacy systems such as Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Accounting Systems and even the ERP system to connect, pull information, and act on it. The OMS must even allow customers to gain access to it from mobile and social media endpoints and devices – even if it’s transparent to the customers themselves.

To accomplish a true omnichannel strategy with an order management system, the OMS must have a standards-based API (Application Programming Interface) that’s not restrictive and allows for the major functionality to be exposed for developers. The API should reflect the general feature set functionality offered in the application.  A good order management API lets you execute through the API exactly what you can do in the application.  This is important so that you can extend the order management system throughout your operation and add customized capabilities as your business needs change over time.

No single vendor can build every feature to satisfy every customer. Therefore, when looking at an order management system to accomplish true omnichannel nirvana for your customers, it will be imperative that the order management system doesn’t lock your business into a place where you cannot expand as you try and grow your operation.

The API is key to that success, and when seeking an OMS to create or expand your omnichannel operation, you shouldn’t be looking for the next “legacy” system to replace – you should be seeking a system which can be expanded for years to come and an OMS that’s designed for your future.

Gary MacDougall
VP Product Development
Freestyle Solutions

An Important Update for M.O.M. Customers

September 19th, 2016

M.O.M. logo

To all M.O.M. customers:

I’m excited to announce the latest versions of our Multichannel Order Manager (M.O.M.), SiteLINK and BizSync products. Based on feedback from our customers, these software releases contain impactful new features that will help you grow, secure, mobilize and streamline your business.

In 2016, retailers cannot take enough security precautions to protect customer data. Even smaller businesses find themselves and their customer data the target of malicious hacks and fraud as well as being assessed penalties and fees from their merchant banks for not meeting the latest PCI standards.  We invested significantly in updating M.O.M. 10 to comply with the latest Payment Card Industry security standards (PCI PA-DSS v.3.1).

For our retail customers, we added omnichannel capabilities for buy online pick-up in store (BOPIS), buy online return in-store (BORIS), and ship from store to provide consumers with a seamless shopping experience.  In addition, we added integration with leading marketplaces and shopping carts while increasing efficiency of the current tasks conducted in M.O.M. today.

As you know, Google changed their search rankings last year, heavily penalizing web sites that are not designed for mobile devices. With 56% of online retail searches now done with a mobile device, mobile functionality has never been more important. SiteLINK 10 has new mobile templates to help you improve your website’s search rankings and sell more.

BizSync 3 has a totally new and intuitive user interface that simplifies the complexities of ecommerce integration.  There’s a lot of valuable benefits for the M.O.M. community in these latest versions.

I’m especially proud of the work our development team has been able to deliver in these new versions of M.O.M., SiteLINK and BizSync.  We have now synchronized the new M.O.M. releases with upgrades to SiteLINK and BizSync at the same time and we have continued to bring new cutting-edge functionality to you, our customers.

Please plan to attend one of our introductory webinars as soon as possible. Register for a M.O.M. 10 & SIteLINK 10 webinar.

Thank you so much for your commitment and loyalty, especially those that have been customers for many years.  It was nice to meet many of you in person at the Internet Retailer Conference earlier this year.  We appreciate the opportunity to work with you.

Sincerely,

Fred Lizza

CEO, Freestyle Solutions

Does Your POS Know Who Your Customer Is?

September 14th, 2016

POS transaction

A customer walks into a store to return a pair of shoes. The store associate asks for a receipt, the customer hands them an email confirmation from an online purchase.

These shoes were purchased on line, shipped from warehouse inventory, not sold in the store from the store inventory.

How do you manage the return of an item that was bought online but is being returned to the store?

How do you manage updating your inventory?

Can your point of sale system (POS) access the original purchase and customer record to make the return, and perhaps exchange process, seamless for the customer? Does your POS know who your customer is?

What if you don’t have the correct item to complete the exchange in the store but the customer saw it available in your online store? Do you let them leave the store with the risk that they never complete the purchase?

How can you ensure that your customers can transact with you anytime they want, on any device, in any location?

A recent study from the e-tailing group found that only 56% of mid-market retailers can access online orders in stores.

Retailers need to have a central repository for order, customer and product information.  The goal is to integrate your customer and employee facing systems to the central repository for consistency and accuracy of data visibility.

Having a centralized inventory and order management system (OMS) enables you to provide a seamless, anytime, anywhere customer experience.

Enabling your store associates to view a customer’s online and offline purchase history, manage returns no matter where the original purchase occurred, look up available stock not only in the store but also in the warehouse, and then enabling ship-to-home or ship-to-store for pick up options creates a complete 360 degree customer experience.

Only an integrated OMS and POS can provide this 360 degree view of your customers and your business. In fact, you might consider the OMS the new POS.

Imagine how it would transform your business if your POS did know who your customer is…

 

 

Not Your Father’s Order Management

August 16th, 2016

omnichannel customer experience

Order Management has come a long way from the golden age of catalogers.  Back in the 1980’s, pre-Internet, there were two sales channels catalogers needed to worry about: the phone and mail-in orders.  Today, order management systems (OMS) need to work with every retail channel, or omnichannel, in order to be the central repository for all customer purchases, not just orders.  This requirement has been propelled by growing consumer expectations generated by a paradigm shift in the way they shop.  In addition, retail executives are looking for the OMS to reduce the number of systems necessary to manage orders, inventory, products and customer information.

The Omnichannel Opportunity

Omnichannel is now a reality as many retailers have started initiatives to unify their sales channels for optimizing the customer experience.  Consumer facing sales channels such as the web, call center and store-systems must all have access to the same retail data for shopping and service consistency.  Across many retail verticals, it has become important to have the ability to view inventory values across different stores or even warehouses to get the right product for the customer, when they want it.  For example, when a customer shops online they want to know that if they walk into a retail branch the store associate can look up that order and make complementary product recommendations for their purchase.  If a product is out of stock, customers want to know that a store associate can quickly order the item and have it shipped to their house or to the closest retail location. Capabilities such as “endless aisle” and “save-the-sale” have become valuable tools for building customer loyalty, increase sales and stymieing the competition.

When looking at adding omnichannel functionality, the order management system is critical for success. The OMS can be the system of record for orders and inventory across your entire company.  Using an order management system can help facilitate the following four omnichannel initiatives:

  • Order from store – endless aisle or save the sale functionality using a mobile device
  • Fulfill from store – clear out excess products in stores for improved inventory turn
  • Buy online, pick-up in-store – allowing customers to purchase and pick-up products same day
  • Buy online, return to store – creating convenience for customers and getting them back in the store to buy other products

“…a retailer investing in an OMS today will realize immediately the benefits of offering omnichannel fulfillment across an existing store network, but that OMS will also scale to allow omnichannel fulfillment in new stores”.
Brendan Witcher, Forrester.
Download his report, Building The Business Case For Omnichannel In Retail

With a solid strategy and the right OMS, you can provide an omnichannel experience for your customers.

Contact Freestyle Solutions, to see how we can help guide you with your OMS driven omnichannel initiatives.

 

 

Best Practices for Implementing Omnichannel

August 4th, 2016

omnichannel technology

Omnichannel may be the latest buzzword, but it’s more than just a passing fad.  Omnichannel technology is the infrastructure that enables retailers and online merchants to give today’s customer the shop-anywhere, ship-anywhere, pick-up or return anywhere behavior they demand.

The previous generation of technology that many of today’s businesses rely on consists of numerous disparate systems that were not designed to operate together.  Today’s leading edge retailers and online trend-setters have replaced those systems with omnichannel-capable new systems.  Now you need to do the same thing to remain competitive – but how?

Step one is to recognize that while omnichannel is complicated it still relies on the same principles that have built your business – satisfying your customer’s needs.  You don’t have to reinvent your business.  You have to adapt it to the shopping behavior of today’s customer. This requires sponsorship and ownership from the top of the organization – the owner, president, board of directors, etc.

Step two is to recognize that the key to omnichannel success is that your sales and fulfillment technology infrastructure needs to have enterprise-wide product or inventory visibility. For example:

  • To provide shop online, pickup in store capability your order processing and fulfillment technology needs to know the store locations, the customer’s location and whether the desired product is available in the local store.
  • To provide endless-aisle or “save-the-sale” features, your retail sales team needs to have access to the product availability in other stores as well as the warehouses and distribution centers.

The examples go on and on.  Enterprise-wide inventory visibility is the key infrastructure to enable omnichannel commerce.  So do you have to rip out and replace your point-of-sale system, your warehouse management system and so on in order to get it?  Many merchants have discovered that the new generation of order management systems (OMS) can provide a unifying technology layer that integrates to your current POS, WMS, eCommerce platform and other systems, obtains the product, customer and sales order information it needs to provide enterprise-wide visibility and enables omnichannel sales, returns and fulfillment processes.  Adding one new technology like OMS can extend the useful life of your other significant technology investments while helping grow sales by enabling the omnichannel shopping experience your customers demand and your competitors are beginning to deliver.

Let’s summarize:

First, you’ll need top-level executive sponsorship to implement omnichannel because it crosses many parts of the operation.

Second, you will want to focus on product and inventory visibility across the organization – all shopping channels, all physical facilities and all points of customer contact.

Finally, you should search for and implement an order management system to unify the various separate technologies your business relies on and consider using a partner who has experience in implementing that OMS to reduce the business risk and impact to your current staff.

Discounting Your Promotions Strategy: Promotions Strategies of the Future

August 1st, 2016

retail promotions strategy

With the economy still not at peak performance, apparel retailers went to the old standby this past holiday season, discounting.  We all know that this promotions strategy just erodes margins and adds little value to the customer, especially loyal ones.  For the online channel, free shipping (the oldest promotion used in ecommerce) was still at the top of the heap this past holiday season.

Customers have come to expect free shipping, especially for orders of significant value (over $100).  If you’re like many retailers, you’d like to stop this practice of giving customers free shipping all together. Free shipping decreases margins and, in many cases, it can’t be used alongside other more attractive promotions for both the retailer and the customer. Avoid offering free shipping as a site wide promotion; it limits your options due to double-dipping on promotions that will ultimately shave your margins.

Moving forward, retailers must implement a comprehensive promotions strategy to maintain a high level of consumer satisfaction toward their brand. Savvy retailers know their promotions strategies must be innovative, creative and customized to meet the shopping habits of specific consumer segments.  When building a comprehensive omnichannel promotions strategy, it is important to create offers targeted at acquiring new customers, increasing average order size, moving excess inventory, and satisfying customers. Without a well-thought-out strategy, and the systems to deliver and measure success, it is impossible to know whether or not the promotions are generating true return on investment.

Five Actions for Successful Retail Promotions

Using today’s available tools and technology such as ecommerce platforms, mobile devices, and order management systems, omnichannel retailers can create customized promotions plans that deliver offers to consumers based on the segmentation of their preferences and shopping behavior.  To execute a winning promotions strategy, retailers should follow these five essential actions:

  1. Segment your customers.

    Segment customers into groups, particularly if your products attract a diverse group of shoppers. By collecting customer data, merchandisers can better understand the triggers that make a consumer react to a specific type of promotion. Tracking consumers by these behavior groups allows retailers to introduce specialized promotional programs and communicate to consumers with relevant offers. Online capabilities facilitate the collection of information provided by consumers when they register on a site and by their shopping habits. Consumers can then be grouped by price sensitivity, product class, order size, number of visits and other relevant characteristics.

  2. Try new types of promotions.

    The goal of promotions is to cut through the noise created by the market, and ultimately inspire a consumer to make purchase through a designated call to action. For this reason, promotions must be creative, offer real value, and go beyond discounting.  New promotional concepts – such as shipping destination, shipping methods, x first customers, every nth customer, every x order, items per promotion, apply offer to nth item, returns-based, payment method, free product choice, rebates, multiple bonus products and many others – are starting to be used by some innovative apparel retailers on their ecommerce sites.  Retailers are even starting to use stock-level based promotions to move excess inventory. Although there is a lot of diversity in online promotions, a word to the wise — be sure to have rules in place for managing promotions to avoid pitfalls, such as giving away double offers or unintentionally not providing a consumer with the best available promotion.

  3. Test and track promotions.

    Once customers are organized into relevant groups and the list of promotions have been created, retailers can better determine the effectiveness of specific promotions by performing A/B tests. A/B tests are a comparative form of testing that allows merchants to test several promotion types against a typical offer to determine which option will yield the best results. For example, different promotions can be offered to a single group of consumers to find out which promotion is most effective. This can be as simple as offering a 20 percent discount versus a 30 percent discount to determine discount thresholds or as complex as offering 10 unique promotion types. Since this form testing delivers real-time results, A/B is the best vehicle for gathering data on time-sensitive offers. Testing is also an import measurement tool for safeguarding against over promotion and protecting margins.

  4. Synchronize omnichannel promotions through the order management system (OMS).

    Over the years, consumers have been trained that they can shop through any channel, and thereby get the same promotions no matter where they shop. Synchronizing promotions across channels has been a significant issue for retailers especially between the website and store.  Order management systems that offer a diverse set of promotions can provide the unification of offers across channels.  Unfortunately, too many ecommerce platforms and order management systems do not offer the same promotion types therefore creating a disconnect and weakening creative offer-based strategies.  Review your systems to make sure these software tools offer a diverse set of promotions to maximize your ROI.

  5. Go beyond Discounting to Connect with Customers.

    Deep discounting across the board used to be the norm in the apparel industry. However, retailers are getting hip to the fact that offering deep discounts to all customers is serving only to lower margins and cheapen the value of the products among many customers who would probably have purchased anyway. Armed with more precise promotions technology to track effectiveness, today’s retailing strategies are moving towards loyalty-based promotions, such as a “surprise and delight” giveaway. Time has shown that customers appreciate receiving something for free, especially when they are not expecting it. Using these promotions create repeat customers. Little things can go a long way, such as sending the customer a thank-you message after the purchase has been made, then send out a loyal customer offer for their next purchase to seal the deal.

The Bottom Line

Today’s retailers must vary the types of the promotions they offer, to maintain a high level of consumer satisfaction toward their brand. Success is a simple recipe: learn about the most loyal shoppers, promote to a targeted audience, keep customers happy and loyal, and sell products. And of course, remember to be creative. The key is getting consumers to interact with the brand based on their typical shopping practices. Executing effective promotions combines using the best technology with the fine art of truly knowing individual customers.