Drop Shipping 101

April 18th, 2014

DropShippingPosted by: Megan Castillo,
Dydacomp Product Marketing Manager

Wouldn’t it be great to start an online store with very little investment upfront and manage it from anywhere in the world? Even better, have someone else pay your upfront inventory costs and manage the processing and shipment of orders. It sounds like it’s too good to be true, but it’s not, if you know about drop shipping.

If you’re not familiar with drop shipping, to put it simply, drop shipping is a fulfillment model where you don’t keep the products you sell in your stock.  Instead, you partner with a wholesale supplier that not only stocks the inventory for you, but the supplier then processes and sends orders directly to your customers – you never see or touch the product!

The Advantages

There are a lot of advantages to this fulfillment model. The biggest advantage is not having to buy inventory upfront. It’s basically a pay-as-you-go model because you don’t purchase product until you make a sale and the customer has paid, so you don’t tie up your funds in inventory. And since you don’t have to pick, pack and ship the products, it frees up your time to focus on what matters – revenue generating activities like promoting your website and investigating marketing tactics.  Spending time on promoting your website is key to your eCommerce success.  The fact that it’s easy to establish an eCommerce store with the drop ship model is a double edged sword – it’s as easy for others as it is for you!  That means competition is sometimes steep. However, with a little bit of time and effort, you can make your store stand out, resulting in a successful online business.

Some Drawbacks Do Exist

Like anything else, the good sometimes comes with a little bad.  In the case of drop shipping, aside from competition, there are some other drawbacks associated with the fulfillment model, but nothing that can’t be overcome with a little planning and strategizing. By putting your product fulfillment in the hands of another, you do give up a degree of control in terms of the way the product is packed and shipped, as well as running the risk of an item being out of stock. The latter is easily overcome by working with multiple suppliers with overlapping product lines so you always have a backup plan.

Overall, the drawbacks are minimal in comparison to what it would cost you, in both time and money, to stock, house and ship products yourself. And at the end of the day, drop shipping isn’t a new concept.  In fact it’s a fulfillment model trusted by some of the big guys in the eCommerce game, such as Sears and Home Depot, giving them an opportunity to expand product lines without dealing with the hassles associated with the additional inventory.

How To Get Started

Figuring out the right products to sell and then finding a wholesaler you can trust is the tricky part.  There are a lot of resources out there to help with this process, and then of course there is the good old Google search.  When doing a web search, be mindful that wholesale suppliers are traditionally not the best marketers, so you may have to dig deep into the search engine results to find the right partner.

Final Thoughts

Drop shipping offers a great alternative method to get started, or expand your current product offering, without having to dip too far into your own pocket. Of course there will be some investment involved in establishing your eCommerce presence, but nothing compared to what it would cost if you had to stock and ship your own product.

For a full list of both the benefits and drawbacks of the drop ship fulfillment model, along with some tips on how to get started, check out our white paper, What’s the Deal with Drop Shipping?  

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Omnichannel Retailing – What is it? Why is it Important? And how do you apply it?

April 11th, 2014

Posted by: Megan Castillo,  Dydacomp Product Marketing ManagerPicture1

Everywhere you look these days you see the phrase ‘Omnichannel Retailing’ – trade shows, industry publications, news blasts, etc. -  but what does it mean and why is it important to online retailers? More importantly, how do you apply it?

Multi- vs. Omni- Channel – Same or Different?

There’s a lot of confusion as to whether or not Omnichannel is just a new hip way to say Multichannel, or if it’s actually different – the answer is … it’s different. Multichannel refers to the actual sales channels through which you are selling – storefront, online, mobile devices, etc.  In the past, these channels typically worked independently of each other, which seemed foolish if you ask me.  Our society is all about networking, so why wouldn’t a retailer ‘network’ between sales channels, after all it’s one brand.  In the past, there’s been an emphasis on making sure the look and feel of the brand is consistent across channels, but what about cross channel promotion?  This is one of the ways Omnichannel retailing comes into play.

Omnichannel retailing is the marketing term that came about as a result of multichannel retailing.  Omnichannel refers to the ‘experience’ the customer has when shopping in one or more of your sales channels, making sure it’s consistent and emphasizes the importance of cross channel promotion.  Obviously customers aren’t going to have the exact same experience shopping in your storefront versus on your website – you lose the ‘touch and feel’ aspect, no sales reps to help you find product, etc. – but there are a few keys things you can do that customers can expect to see across channels – consistent service, product availability and pricing.  At the end of the day, you’re one brand, so you want customers to have a positive interaction at all levels.

Why is Omnichannel Retailing Important?

Retail has always been about the customer experience, and Omnichannel doesn’t change this, it takes it to another level.  It’s now an end-to-end experience that begins whenever and wherever the customer orders, not necessarily beginning/ending in the same place.  A shopper’s journey is no longer a linear one, meaning he or she goes to one sales channel and decides on a purchase.  Today we see shoppers incorporating some, and sometimes even all, of the retailer’s channels into their decision process.  That’s why it’s so important to be consistent, whether in messaging, prices, etc.  If not, you risk tarnishing that customer’s experience and potentially losing them as a repeat customer.  That’s critical, because it costs 5 times more to get a new client than to keep an existing one and existing clients are much more profitable than new ones.

There have been a lot of reports and surveys done recently on the benefits of applying an Omnichannel retailing approach, and the number one benefit is always ‘stronger brand identity/recognition’.  This is key to your survival as a brand/retailer.  Other benefits attributed to applying an Omnichannel approach include revenue growth, expanding your customer base, higher customer satisfaction, and it can be a competitive differentiator, at least until the rest of the retail world catches up.

How do you apply an Omnichannel Retailing Strategy?

There are lots of ways to apply an Omnichannel retailing strategy.  Some of the easier ways include: making use of social media, integrating customer reviews (for online channels), offering cross channel services, and the easiest of all – providing consistent pricing across all channels!  I’m sure most of you use, or know others who use, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.  Social media is an easy, free way to get in front of your customers.  Additionally, it can help you expand your reach!  Each time a customer ‘follows’, ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ something you post, each and every one of their connections now sees it – essentially it’s like free marketing!

Customer reviews are great for boosting online sales, especially for those products are harder to sell due to the lack of ‘touch and feel’ aspect.  And I’m sure many of you have seen retailers offer the option to ‘buy online, pick up in store’, but what you may not have realized is that this is an Omnichannel retailing strategy.  In this example, two of your sales channels are working together, your website and storefront.  These are just a few quick examples.  We’ll talk more about applying an Omnichannel Retail Strategy in future posts.

Final Thoughts

An Omnichannel retailing strategy is a necessity for those of you working in multichannel sales environments, and it makes sense.  You’ve worked hard to build out each of these channels, now let’s start using them to our advantage!

For a more in depth look at Omnichannel retailing, along with additional examples on how to apply the strategy and then how to evaluate the success of your efforts, check out our webinar, Omnichannel Retailing – Finding Value in a Multichannel Sales Environment .

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Use Customer Profile Data to Capitalize on the 80/20 Rule

April 4th, 2014

Posted by Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

We’ve all heard about the 80/20 rule that states 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.  That 20% is definitely a group worth cultivating to keep them engaged.  The more you know about this customer segment the better for your business.

Most retailers capture basic information about their most active customers but that may not be enough to establish a good connection to this audience.  To develop relationship longevity requires that you develop an intimate knowledge of the customer that goes beyond their name, email address and order history.  In this age of digital marketing, you need to connect on a broader level that includes social media, sales channel preferences and buying habits. Having a more complete customer profile will enable you to design more relevant, timely and targeted campaigns and communications to fully engage your top shoppers.

Go beyond the standard demographic data to include:

  • Birthday
  • Anniversary
  • Family size and make up
  • Favorite color/fragrance, etc.
  • Preferred shopping method
  • Work information, if applicable
  • Detailed purchase history

Also try to capture:

  • What they are saying about you – social media
  • What they like – social media can also provide this information
  • What they are purchasing – favorite items, for self or for gifts
  • When they are shopping – how frequently, time of day, day of the week
  • How they are shopping – website, mobile app, brick and mortar store

All channels need to be integrated to capture relevant data both online and offline that you can easily tap into to develop meaningful communication streams to attract customers.  You need an order management system that can collect detailed customer information along with order details that you can extract and utilize to keep your 20% coming back.  Increasing customer engagement levels through relevant promotions to this target group can drive revenues and enhance your bottom line.

For information about making sure your back office systems keep up with your shoppers’ demands, access our latest whitepaper: Is Your Back Office Keeping Up With Your Online Store? The Top 5-1/2 Reasons You need an Order Management System. 

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Back to Basics. Do You Know How People Find You Online?

April 3rd, 2014

Posted by Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

If you operate a brick and mortar retail store, it is easy to ask customers how they found you.  And, you can see firsthand which products are selling and which may require further explanations to help the shopper understand either how to use the product or how it would fit them, if, for example, they’re looking at apparel.

Running an online retail business is a different story.  Do you know who is visiting your website?  Where are they coming from?  What do they like or dislike? Getting these answers is not so easy to do with customers who visit you online but the information is available to you.  The information can be found through online analytics.  Analytics are a valuable asset when it comes to your website and your online marketing efforts. The more informed you are about customer interactions with your eCommerce store and the products you sell online, the more effective your marketing efforts and your site will be to drive sales.

It’s so important to understand where your visitors are coming from and how they found you– whether they reached you directly, via a search engine, through social networks or other referring sites.  An analysis of website visitors helps you keep track of new and returning visitors.

Through tools like Google Analytics, you can capture and analyze how much time people are spending on your site and which pages on your site are attracting the most attention. Monitoring website analytics on a fairly frequent basis can make all the difference to growing your online business. We have found that there are two critical areas where even simple analytics can help to hone your web marketing strategy effectiveness.

The first centers around Internet search keywords.  Keywords drive traffic, messaging and sales. Analytics can help you determine which keywords are working and which keywords are not. Words or phrases that you thought described your product may not be what online visitors use to search for your product and find your site. You may have the right keyword, but the wrong content surrounding it.

You don’t have to manage hundreds of keywords. In fact, most PayPerClick (PPC) and SEO experts will agree that you should keep your primary keyword list under 25 or even under 15.  These are the words that shoppers would use to find the products you offer and/or to find you, in particular.  They can be common terms for the market(s) you serve coupled with your differentiators.  For example, in the fashion apparel market, popular keywords may include ‘women fashion shoes’, ‘fashion accessories’, ‘vintage handbags’ … to name a few.  You can actually search for ‘common retail search keywords’ and then check out those listed for your specific audience.

The second centers around your landing pages.  If you don’t have the time to analyze your site’s keyword performance in depth every day, we recommend, at a minimum, understanding your landing page content relative to your most important keywords. Understanding key website performance indicators like the ones listed below will help to maximize its overall effectiveness.

It is important to know how many people landed on a page that may have been designed to support a specific promotion, how many people exited the page quickly, where they came from, what keyword they searched to get there, how long they spent on a page?  You can also track results by seeing if they converted.

Your home page is often the top landing page and it typically can have the highest bounce rate if visitors don’t find what they’re looking for right away or if the messaging doesn’t match what they searched for in the first place. Test a few different designs and messages to find which ones offer the lowest bounce rate and drive the most conversions overall.

Secondary pages or internal landing pages are often the most valuable parts of your site. These pages often contain the specific information your customers are looking for. Designed properly, internal pages answer your customers’ questions and drive them to convert.

Break down the top landing pages and evaluate what makes them successful.  Analytics can tell you what keywords your site visitors used to get there to help you refine your content. Define the type of content on that page and the calls to action (CTAs) you are using.  See if this can this be replicated on other pages. This type of analysis gives you key information on how customers interact with your site and how you can provide them with a great experience by having the right design and content.

Many of our retail customers are finding the effective use of videos to support product descriptions.  A short video can not only showcase a product and drive sales, they can also cut down on the common ‘how to’ customer support calls.

Consider the following in analyzing your site:

  • What are the top landing pages?
  • Which pages have the highest bounce rate?
  • What pages do people spend the most time on?
  • Which pages lead to the most conversions?
  • Which campaigns led to the best sales performance?

Effective website analytics can help you to find out which of your marketing strategies and tactics are bringing the most customers to your site – whether it is a newsletter, social media posts, email promotions, club memberships or other marketing programs you are using.  The more informed you are relative to customer interactions with your site, the more effective (and more efficient) your marketing efforts will be.

Online marketing methods need to be supported by web analytics so that you know what is working, where your shoppers are coming from and what you can do to attract customers. If you don’t already have good analytics in place, make this the year that you add this function so that you can run your site more efficiently.

If you haven’t heard about omnichannel retailing, it’s the latest buzz around giving customers a 360 degree experience with your business.  If you’re interesting in learning more about omnichannel retailing and the latest trends in people finding you and experiencing your brand, check out this on demand webinar: Demystifying Omnichannel Retailing: Finding Value in a Multichannel Sales Landscape.

 

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Connecting With Your Customers

March 31st, 2014

Posted by Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

If you’re old enough to remember the 1980s television sitcom Cheers, you’ll be familiar with its popular theme song, Where Everybody Knows Your Name? That’s the concept at the heart of omnichannel retailing.  It’s the feeling that customers are hoping to find when they shop with you; whether it’s online, in store, or over the phone. Customers are less concerned with the size of your business and more concerned with the quality of your products, timeliness of receiving their order and how you treat them when they come to you through whatever channel they may opt to connect.

Everyone wants to be treated like the individual they are and this is especially true for shoppers who want to be recognized, responded to and valued as if they were your only customer. Creating a positive shopping experience needs to be a priority on your company’s to-do list.

As customers set the agenda through social media it is important to create and continually nurture the connection to your customers that engages them and keeps them coming back to you.

Technology has put the consumer in control with the expectation for 24/7 access to their shopping experience via digital devices and you need to be ready to respond.

Here are a few tips for developing strategies to maintain a strong connection with your customers.

  • Be Sam – Sam wasn’t just the bartender at Cheers, he was the business owner and he knew everyone that came in. Fast forward to today, and you can use technology to stay connected with your customers.  When they’re browsing in your physical store, on your site or requesting information, never ask them twice who they are.  Use technology to pre-populate online request forms.  Use traffic intelligence tools to become familiar with their needs and personalize the customer experience.

 

  • Become obsessed with your customers – make it a point to develop a continuous process of excellent customer service throughout your company for gathering and utilizing customer insight through preferences and ratings.  It’s not enough to have one good customer rep. or salesperson; everyone that interacts with your customers needs to be customer-centric.

 

  • Listen to your customers – encourage feedback and respond. If you made a promise be sure to keep it, building trust and confidence in your company and your products.  And listen to your customer service staff.  They’re hearing from customers first-hand.  They are a great source of trends, suggestions and areas for improvement.  One online retailer we know listened closely to their support representatives who were answering ‘how to’ questions over and over again.  The solution?  Videos for each of the products.  The videos enhanced the customer experience with products and cut down on the ‘how to’ call volume.

 

  • Be where your customers are – your customers are active on social media.  Are you?  Encourage your customers to be in touch with you.  Their interactions and feedback give you the opportunity to keep the lines of communication open and to continually deliver the positive experience they are looking for.

So keep the Cheers theme song in mind when focusing on customer-centric strategies this year.

Let all your customers know that they are the most important part of your business, that they are always welcome, valued by everyone in your company and that you’re always glad they came…

To learn more about Omnichannel retailing, view this on demand webinar: Demystifying Omnichannel Retailing: Finding Value in a Multichannel Sales Landscape.

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March Madness – Bargains and Deals Attract Shoppers

March 21st, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills, VP Marketing, Dydacomp

After one of the coldest and harshest winter in recent memory, retailers are hoping that shoppers come on full force with pent-up buying demand as they turn their sights to spring and more moderate weather.  As the weather starts to improve, consumers will be able to once again enjoy the outdoors, go for walks and take on projects that they put on hold because of the weather. Most people have paid off their holiday bills and are ready for a fresh round of shopping.

March is a busy month including Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, the start of the NCAA basketball tournament schedule and the first official day of Spring.  All reasons to celebrate, especially this year, and lots of bargains to be had. We once again turn to Jeanette Pavini, MarketWatch columnist for her advice as to what’s trending in March – from prom dresses to cruises – and what consumers can expect in the way of bargains and promotions. We offer these insights so that online and multi-channel retailers can take advantage of what’s trending to help you zero in on targeted promotions to attract and capture shoppers.

Below are Jeanette’s recommendations with some additional advice for eCommerce retailers provided by Dydacomp:

  • The cruise industry’s “wave season” takes place during March. This is typically the time to get some of the best deals as cruise lines discount fares and offer perks to get travelers to book with them. They often offer free room upgrades and onboard credits.  Last minute cruises, as space permits, are likely to result in the lowest per night fares.  Jeanette advises that additional savings can be had in booking on an older ship that has been refurbished or on a repositioning cruise that takes place when ships need to relocate as seasons change.  For eCommerce retailers, offer merchandise to make cruisers’ lives easier; from pre-season summer clothes that may still be packed away at home, formal cruise wear, bathing suits and good shoes for sightseeing to luggage, travel accessories, snorkel gear and other sun essentials that would be costly to buy onboard.

 

  • March is National Craft Month – and for those of us that are not craft-impaired, there are a lot of events promoting all sorts of do-it-yourself crafts.  It is a great opportunity for parents and/or grandparents to connect with their kids and grandkids.  Get in on this celebration and offer crafting supplies, ideas and specials to entice your customers to stock up on craft items.  Post a video with step-by-step instructions and offer all of the items needed for a special price. Know which of your shoppers are families with kids and the same for grandparents and create a promotion just for them. Offer teacher discounts if possible to attract volume purchases.

 

  • We typically see winter coats, outerwear and other cold weather gear heavily discounted in February.  This year with much of the country still in the grips of severe and record cold weather, it is likely that the best sales on cold weather gear will take place in March. Some retailers were hard pressed to keep cold weather gear in stock and reordered in mid-season so they still have some inventory available. This year’s winter apparel got heavier than normal usage and shoppers will be looking to replace worn items while shopping for the best prices.  We recommend not going with the trendy colors that this season offered, but look for muted or neutral colors that will be in style next year and beyond. Promote coats or jackets one or two sizes up for kids so that they are ready and outfitted next year. If possible, offer hats, gloves and other accessories as a bundle to go with the outerwear to drive even more sales.  Here again, it pays to know your shoppers and their family make-up so that you can design promotions that will definitely draw them in. If possible, offer an opportunity for people to donate coats that they have outgrown or will no longer be wearing; there are many of these available and it makes people feel good to donate. Jeanette recommends onewarmcoat.org which offers information on coat drives across the US.

 

  • Even if where you live is still snow covered, it’s not too early to think about spring gardening and property maintenance.  Many garden centers host planting season kickoff sales and promotions and online retailers can also get in on this opportunity. If you offer gardening tools, yard decorations, patio furniture and other like items, it’s not too early to load your site with pictures of how you can transform a bleak landscape into a beautiful one.  As with the craft supplies, post easy to follow videos that walk customers through the gardening and planting processes and promote the items needed to actually complete a project.  Offer seeds, yard decorations and other outdoor spruce-up items that get your customers thinking about Spring. Gardening, planting and property maintenance offer opportunities for ongoing communication with your customers as you guide them from Winter recovery through Spring and back again to Fall plantings.

 

  • The National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association has declared March as the 31st annual National Frozen Food Month.  To promote this national initiative, they will be distributing 36 million coupon inserts with participating brand and stores will be encouraged to offer their own in-store promotions.  Now you may not offer frozen food on your site, but if you offer grocery services including home delivery, you can certainly jump on this bandwagon and create shopping campaigns to feature National Frozen Foods Month.  If your site features spices, baking ingredients or kitchen items, you can post easy-to-prepare recipes that utilize frozen foods along with the specialty items that you offer to grab the attention of your busy shoppers.  We all appreciate help in the kitchen.

 

  • As the parent of any high school senior, or junior in some cases, girl knows it is never too early to start shopping for the perfect prom dress and all of the must-have accessories that complete this year’s prom look.  Waiting until the last minute is definitely a recipe for disaster.  Jeanette recommends wedding outlet stores as the perfect place to find special occasion dresses and accessories. Shopping online for a prom dress broadens your range of options and minimizes the chance that you will have the same dress as someone else in your class – a total social no-no. As an online retailer of dresses and accessories, be sure to post your return/exchange policy in case your prom attendee changes their mind on a dress. Use your site to display the entire package – dress, shoes, small handbag, jewelry and other accessories that will make the dress stand out from others.  I already know two high school seniors who have ordered their dresses and are now hoping for dates to go along with them.

Knowing your customers gives you the advantage to target them for special March deals based upon their sales histories and shopper patterns. As we’ve said before, offer specials, sales and promotions to attract your best, repeat customers and be sure to get targeted offers out often to capture shoppers’ attention.  If you don’t tell them about your offers, who will?

Click here for the full text of Jeanette’s article, “March Deals – Prom Dresses to Cruises.”

(http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303880604579405330530919394?mg=reno64-wsj)

Welcome Spring and happy selling!

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How Were Holiday Sales? With Too Much Data, It’s Hard to Tell.

March 14th, 2014

Posted by: Laura HillsDydacomp-Order-Management

The data has been collected but the results are confusing.  How did the 2013 holiday season sales perform overall?  Researchers seem to be divided on the numbers and what they mean to retailers.  There’s no simple answer to the big question, “was 2013 a good holiday season for retailers?” Shopper Trak and the National Retail Federation (NRF) were divided in the first seasonal measure of Black Friday Sales.  Shopper Trak reported a 2.3% gain while the NRF reported a 3.9% loss over 2012. The many reports and the varied metrics used to assess holiday sales have made the holiday season of 2013 hard to call.

MasterCard publishes a credit card purchases report; Shopper Trak uses data from its Shopper counting devices combined with cash register transaction information.  The NRF hires a polling firm to ask consumers about their spending then makes estimates based on the responses. Online sales, reported as a separate category, contributed to the confusion. comScore which tracks eCommerce figures, reported a 10% increase in online sales; however they only includes purchases made from desktop computers, not mobile devices.  Retail analysts warn that the real score for the season can’t be given in a single number – it is best to look for a separate scorecard for each retailer.  Understandably, retailers play it close to the vest, remaining positive without sharing detailed information.

Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm maintains that the only holiday score that matters to retailers are their margins and whether they come out of the holiday season profitably.  This is certainly true for small to medium-sized eCommerce retailers as they sort out their results. The big picture data may be helpful as a comparison to industry averages, but the only true and meaningful measure is how your business has performed.

As you review your 2013 holiday season results, determine where you succeeded and where you could improve.  Were you visible in places where your shoppers could easily find and interact with you?  Did you create the best possible shopping experience and did you handle all orders effectively and efficiently?  Were there any bottlenecks in your back office operations that you could be improved this year.  It’s worth the time to reflect on these questions now – it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2014 holiday season.

For additional perspectives behind keeping the retail forecast score, click here to read this article by NorthJersey.com’s Senior Writer, Joan Verdon.

 

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National Retail Federation Predicts A Good Year For Retailers

March 13th, 2014

Posted by Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

While consumers are still being careful about their spending, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has predicted that retail sales will show an increase of 4.1% in 2014, outpacing the 3.7% increase delivered in 2013.  As a part of this increase, the NRF is predicting online sales to increase 9% to 12%, good news for our online and multichannel merchants.

Behind the optimistic forecast is the NRF’s expectation that 2014 will be less volatile than 2013 which brought economic concerns from a fiscal-cliff scare, a government shutdown and a tax increase.  Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s Chief Economist has said that he “expects less drag on growth from fiscal policy” which will greatly benefit retailers as shoppers show more confidence amid fewer economic concerns.

Retailers have already posted January gains with an average increase of 3.1% over 2013 sales and ahead of the 2.2% gain predicted by research firm Retail Metrics.  NRF President and Chief Executive Matthew Shay commented, “We’re looking forward to an even better year than last year (2013) for retailers.  We’re on the right trajectory. We’re seeing continued modest and incremental growth.”

So prepare for a good year by determining where operational improvements can be made to help you to respond to sales opportunities.  If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to think about connecting your back office with your eCommerce store to simplify your day-to-day operations leaving you more time to source new products and reach new markets.

For tips on growing your business, click here to access Dydacomp’s whitepaper “Retail Trends – Is Your Back Office Keeping Up with Your Online Store” that addresses the benefits of an order management system for your online store.

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End-to-End EDI: The Key to Running an Efficient Business

February 28th, 2014

Posted by: Rebecca Kaelin, Marketing Coordinator, Logicbroker

It’s an indisputable fact that eCommerce has changed the way we do business  – just ask any eTailer. While each eTailer strives to be more efficient and keep up with customer demand, more effective means of communication became necessary. That’s where Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) comes in.

EDI involves the transfer of data between organizations through electronic means, replacing postal mail, fax, and email. Though email is an electronic approach, documents exchanged via email still require someone to open, read, and translate the message, which can slow down processing and open the door to errors.  Due to its speed and considerable cost savings, EDI has become the medium of choice to transmit electronic documents and business information. Typical documents exchanged via EDI include purchase orders, invoices, and advance shipment notices (ASNs).

So what can EDI do for you? Well, eTailers that elect to implement end-to-end EDI allow their businesses to perform more efficiently. Without manual touches, errors are eliminated from the order fulfillment process, saving you time and money. Tracking information can be brought over, ensuring it is always accurate, which eliminates costly shipping errors. When there are no errors, no time will need to be allocated to correct them. With manual EDI, if you were importing/exporting information multiple times a day, it would be easy to duplicate or miss orders, which would alter the authenticity of your books. If numbers were off, time would be lost painstakingly going over orders to find out where the error was. Fortunately, end-to-end EDI ensures this scenario never happens.

EDI has been praised for its efficiency and automation capabilities, but only an end-to-end EDI solution can guarantee manual touches will be eliminated from your order fulfillment process. Many retailers and suppliers will implement EDI, yet still have to log into multiple portals to verify and complete orders. If you are spending just one hour a day manually processing orders, in a typical work year that will add up to 250 hours, which is simplified to 31 work days. With an end-to-end EDI solution, you get that month back. Your end-to-end EDI provider maps to your trading partner’s EDI so documents flow effortlessly between the systems and the need for you to log into portals is eliminated.

Your EDI solution can also act as an integration hub by connecting your backend systems. With an EDI integration hub, the powerful systems your business depends on can communicate seamlessly. EDI messages will be received and translated and deposited automatically into the appropriate system. Purchase/sales orders will flow from your shopping cart or trading partner directly into your order management software, and pricing and inventory updates can be brought up from your OMS into your shopping cart. Your EDI provider can also automatically trigger the sending of PO Acks (purchase order acknowledgements), ASNs (advance shipment notices), and invoices. With these backend efficiencies, your staff will not be tied up with manually fulfilling order information. If your backend is running inefficiently, customers will be turned away because of inaccurate stock and poor ratings. But, with a powerful backend that runs efficiently and reliably, your main focus can be developing your front end and growing your business.

In today’s eCommerce ecosystem, EDI is becoming a mandate. EDI opens the door to more business opportunities because of the efficiencies it creates, such as processing orders faster and eliminating manual tasks. By implementing an end-to-end EDI solution, you are optimizing your business in a way that regular EDI cannot. For more information on implementing end-to-end EDI, click here.

Access a special on demand webinar, Tools to Connect Your Online Store and Back Office, created by Dydacomp and Logicbroker to learn how Logicbroker’s deep integration with Dydacomp’s M.O.M. (Multichannel Order Management System) fully automates the EDI order process.

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Keeping New Year’s Resolutions That Can Help You Grow Your eCommerce Business

February 14th, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills, VP Marketing, Dydacomp

New Year’s resolutions aren’t only for individuals.  Many business owners make resolutions intended to help their company achieve success and start off the year with a plan for growth. Statistics show that just one week into January, 25% of personal resolutions have already been forgotten and by the end of the year, 88% of resolutions will have been broken.  Let’s look at how this year can be different.

According to Tom Connellan, the author of “The 1 Percent Solution: How to Make Your Next 30 Days the Best Ever” there are several reasons that stand out above the others as to why resolutions go by the wayside. They are as applicable to businesses as they are to individuals. They are:

  • Relying only on motivation. – Connellan believes that motivation comes from small successes.  Most of us think that we need one major motivator that will sustain us throughout the year which is not realistic. Success is a great motivator that will keep the motivation level high which leads to continued success.
  • Having only big goals.  - People tend to think in large terms that can be unrealistic.  Smaller goals are just as important and often easier to achieve.  Instead of saying this is the year for 500 new customers, try breaking this down into a weekly or monthly targets and develop short term strategies that you can implement to achieve your goal.
  • Change is uncomfortable – Any kind of change, even good change, is a break from the norm which takes people out of their comfort zone.  This makes it harder to continue a behavior and stay with a resolution.

Doug Sundheim, co-author of “The 25 Best Time Management Tools & Techniques: How to Get More Done without Driving Yourself Crazy” feels that time management can go a long way toward keeping you on track with your business resolutions for the new year. Sundheim recommends following the steps below to keep you on track:

  • Rank your goals. -  You probably have a laundry list of things that you’d like to achieve in 2014. Pick the top three goals for your company and focus on them. You can always modify or add to your list once you’ve accomplished a goal.
  • Be aware of information overload. – With so much data available, you have to be selective in what you pay attention to. You can spend all day trying to keep up with information on your industry which won’t leave time for much else.  Focus on a few trusted sources and industry experts to stay updated.
  • Just say no. - Saying no gives you more time to say yes to what is important to your business.

Now that you’ve got a handle on how to keep your resolutions, we have a few recommendations of our own that will help keep your eCommerce business on track for success in 2014.

  • Revisit your marketing plan. – Review what worked in 2013 and look ahead to trends for 2014 that you’d like to incorporate into your plan.  Reevaluate your target market and the strategies you used to reach them. Determine which marketing tactics worked, which didn’t and how you can augment your plan to achieve better results. And if you don’t have a marketing plan, now’s the time to create one.  Remember, small steps will go a long way.
  • Examine your website. – If you sell online, the importance of support for online shopping cannot be stressed enough.  Make sure your website best reflects your company, products and what sets you apart.  Be sure everything works as it should and that the site connects with customers across multiple sales channels and mobile devices.
  • Market your company every day. – Find a way to do at least one thing to promote your business. It can be as simple as updating a directory listing or posting to Facebook. It can be as involved as creating a series of short videos, email blasts or developing a new advertising campaign.
  • Check your prices. – Know what your competitors are charging for similar products and understand what customers are willing to pay. You may need to adjust your margins or find alternative suppliers, but offering the right products at the right price goes a long way to attracting new and repeat shoppers to your site.

You likely have resolutions of your own that will support your vision for 2014.  We offer the above advice to help you keep your resolutions and achieve greater success in 2014.

Happy Selling!

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