Archive for the ‘Industry News’ Category

Technology Enables Retailers to Help Customers Fulfill New Year’s Resolutions

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Posted by Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

The most popular New Year’s resolutions continue to center around making better food choices and leading a healthier lifestyle.  People who strive to be as healthy as possible increasingly turn to dietary supplements and nutraceuticals to achieve their desired results and fulfill their New Year’s resolutions. With fast and inexpensive highly processed food readily available, it is not always easy to meet daily nutritional needs with the foods that we eat which fuels the continued growth in the multi-billion dollar nutraceutical market.

The best sources of recommended nutrients are found in a healthy, balanced diet that incorporates fruits, vegetables and fresh, whole foods. We know making healthy and optimal food choices is not always easy; even people that try to eat a well-balanced diet can often miss essential nutrients and that is where dietary supplements and nutraceuticals can be beneficial.

According to a Nutraceuticals Industry Overview published by NewsMedical.net, nearly two-thirds of the American population takes at least one type of nutraceutical health product in an attempt to accomplish desirable therapeutic outcomes with reduced side effects. In RNCOS’ latest research study, “US Nutraceuticals Market Forecast to 2017,” RNCOS analysts estimate the market reaching $75.3 billion in 2017; growing at a CAGR of nearly 6% during 2013-2017. The market growth is driven by the aging Baby Boomer population which is fueling the focus on health and wellness and Generation X concerns about natural, organic and green products.  Both of these have helped to increase the consumption of dietary supplements and have propelled the functional food and beverages market as well.

With favorable demographics and an increase in online consumer spending, the nutraceuticals market offers immense opportunities for eCommerce retailers. It is increasingly important for nutraceuticals retailers to be visible across multiple sales channels to reach new and repeat customers. Technology has enabled nutraceuticals etailers to offer detailed online merchandise descriptions, video explanations and offer valuable online shopping assistance to help shoppers navigate the variety of product choices available and the benefits that each product has been developed to deliver.

Managing a nutraceuticals eCommerce platform is no easy task. Utilizing the appropriate technology tools to help manage the gaps between the front-end customer experience and the back-end merchant experience is critical for success. An order management system enables you to gain visibility and bridge the divides between your eCommerce store and back office to stay on top of inventory and order processing across multiple sales channels, keeping customers supplied and satisfied, which will keep them coming back.

A competitive nutraceuticals market challenges retailers to differentiate themselves through effectiveness, price, supply and packaging. As we enter a very busy season and year of growth for the nutraceuticals market, having an automated solution to address order processing, inventory management and customer service enables etailers to efficiently handle increasing order volume and provide personal customer service while streamlining and automating key back office processes all leading to increased productivity and profitability.

An order management system facilitates the integration of business processes from shopping cart integration, selling tools, Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance and gift card redemption to CRM, fraud protection, inventory management, payment integration, order fulfillment, tracking and logistics across all sales channels.  When these diverse processes work together, it simplifies day-to-day operations, leaving nutraceutical retailers with more time to connect with customers, source new products and innovations, develop strategic marketing promotions and keep their business healthy.

Click here to download the white paper Growing Your Health and Wellness Business – Best Practices for Nutraceutical Retailers. Click here to download the on demand webinar Growing Your Health and Wellness Business – Best Practices for Nutraceutical Retailers.

To access the latest RNCOS Study, US Nutraceuticals Market Forecast to 2017, click here. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-nutraceuticals-market-forecast-to-2017-212161321.html

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Understanding Today’s Content & Media Strategy to Grow Your eCommerce Business

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills

With all of the media choices available, do you know the best optioUnderstanding-Todays-Content-Media-Strategy-to-Grow-Your-eCommerce-Businessns to promote your business?  The first step is to understand the variety of media available to support your content management marketing strategy.

Let’s start with your company’s website.  This is often the first impression that a customer or potential customer has for your business.  Your website is media that you own and control, whether you physically maintain the site yourself or have someone else do this for you. Your site should always be up-to-date, easy-to-navigate, function properly and be an inviting source of information about your company and products.  It is important that your site is search engine optimized (SEO) to be sure that those searching for your company or products have the best chance of finding you.

Your website is a place to feature your active social media channels, blog postings, relevant publications including catalogues, newsletters, videos, webinars or other content that you publish.  Email blasts and direct mail that you produce and distribute are other forms of content. All of this is an important part of your content strategy.

Depending upon your business strategy, public relations and other outreach efforts can promote your products or company with placements in magazines, newspapers, broadcast media or online to help tell your story and get you noticed. Good public relations doesn’t have to involve using an agency to represent you. Today this media includes blogger and social media channels that enable you to gain greater exposure for your message.  Whether you write your own blogs or follow and post comments to other blogs, have your own social media pages or follow and comment on others, you are spreading the word about your company.  And, in spreading the word through social channels, you are driving attention back to your website or storefront.

Providing information on relevant and timely topics, whether through articles in newspapers, magazines or internet channels helps your company gain recognition.  To supplement your content management strategy you should take time to cultivate opportunities and business connections through attending industry events, writing blogs (your own and/or guest blogs for others), reaching out to any local media outlets and being active in social media channels. Quality content tends to get shared which helps to increase recognition and is an important component to overall content strategy.

Another area to consider is paid media which includes any type of promotion or advertising that you pay for.  There are limitless opportunities to buy advertising space for your company including all forms of print and online ads, product and service directories, radio and TV spots and all forms of online search advertising including pay-per-click (PPC), Google and LinkedIn sponsored content. Facebook now offers paid advertising and it’s said that Twitter won’t be far behind.

Budgets play a big role in the type of paid media you can utilize.  Determine where your customers and potential shoppers are likely to see your ads; where do you see your competitors advertising?  It pays to know your shoppers – are they internet savvy and online most of the time? Do they read or subscribe to magazines or newsletters that would be a good fit to promote your products? Don’t be afraid to test new outlets for your message. It is important that you blend available media options to create a cohesive and targeted content strategy.

For additional information on developing a converged media content strategy, read Jayson DeMers’ article, How to Execute a Converged Media Content Strategy (And Why You Should) which appeared in Forbes online Entrepreneurs column.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2013/09/11/
how-to-design-and-execute-a-converged-media-content-strategy-and-why-you-should/2/

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Retailers Seek Advice as They Head Into 2014

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Post by: Laura Hills, VP Marketing, Dydacomp

The top names in retail met to discuss the future of the industry at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Conference & Expo.  Joan Verdon, a senior writer from The Record, a North Jersey newspaper, keeps us informed on what’s happening in the retail industry.  She asked six industry experts to name the three top issues that retailers should be focusing on for 2014 and beyond. Their perspectives are all worth noting and a must read for all retailers, whether eCommerce or in-store.

These experts included:

  • Howard Davidowitz, Chairman, Davidowitz & Associates
  • Marshal Cohen, Chief Analyst, THE NPD Group
  • Nikki Baird, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research
  • Bob Phibbs, Chief Executive, The Retail Doctor
  • Bill Martin, Founder, Shopper Trak
  • Ken Perkins, President, Retail Metrics

Marshal Cohen predicts that 2014 is likely to be one of “monumental change for retail” and that retailers need direction. According to Cohen, “Retail has hit a crossroads where the consumer is heading in one direction, retail’s heading in another and manufacturers are stuck in the middle trying to figure it out.”  All of the experts’ responses are valuable for anyone focused on the retail industry. Click here to read the entire article and excerpts from each of the industry leaders. http://www.northjersey.com/news/239794711_
Retailers_get_sales_advice_as_they_head_into_2014.html

Happy Selling!

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Shoppers Look for January Deals

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills, Vice President, Marketing

The after holiday sales started before the holidays even ended this year with mega-markdowns seen on holiday items and popular gifts as retailers did all they could to attract shoppers across all channels.  We have come to expect savings of up to 75% off pricing for holiday merchandise and similar deep discounts for winter clothing and accessories left over from the holidays. January has traditionally been a good month for home goods and promotions offered by furniture retailers on in stock and custom furniture.

In addition to clothing, holiday items and furniture, there are other good deals to be had in January and shoppers never tire of seeking out bargains. Many start the new year off resolving to spend less without compromising their shopping habits.  Others look for the amazing buys that can be had before their holiday credit card bills arrive in their mailboxes.

For what’s trending in January, we turn to Jeanette Pavini, MarketWatch.com columnist to help shoppers save money. We offer our own observations and tips along with Jeanette’s advice. Online and multi-channel retailers can aid shoppers in making the most of their post-holiday spending by offering deals and promotions to help move leftover inventory and also offer deals on the following items:

  • White sales have been a January tradition since the first white sale in 1878.  Towels are a major component of the traditional white sale and upgrading bathroom towels can give this important room a whole new look for very little money. The same for sheets, bedspreads and other linens.

  • Hot tubs and spas are not normally items that people are thinking about after the holidays so retailers tend to get creative with deals to try to move inventory.  Since these items need to be installed, buying on sale while sales are slower will usually enable you to pick your timing as far as installation. If you already have a hot tub or spa at home, now is a good time to make sure it is running efficiently and schedule any needed maintenance.  Look for deals on accessories and cleaning products for spas and hot tubs also.

  • Coffee sales offer multiple ways to save.  The first way is for coffee-themed gifts (hot cocoa and teas also) which are popular holiday gift items that get creatively packaged but don’t always move off the shelves. Minimum discounts after the holiday are 50% on these items with deeper discounts often available.  So even if you don’t need all of the items in the gift set, you’re still saving money on the coffee, tea or cocoa mix that you will use and enjoy.  The second way to save on coffee is to check gift card marketplaces like Cardpool.com or Raise.com. According to the National Retail Federation’s Gift Card Spending Survey, some 19% of gift cards purchased are for coffee.  These often end up on gift card marketplace sites at 10 to 25% discounts.
  • January is the month when people try to get rid of their unwanted gift cards.  These are not only ones received during the holidays, but throughout the year as well. As mentioned above, gift cards that people received but don’t really want can be found on gift card marketplace sites and purchased at a discount. Just check for expiration dates and fees before you purchase. If you don’t want to venture into buying pre-owned gift cards online, check with your friends, family and coworkers and create your own gift card exchange market.
  • Men’s Formal Wear hits the sale racks this month. Although the holiday black-tie events season is over and wedding season is still months away, it’s not too early to think about when you may need formal wear for future special occasions.  Tuxedo rentals are typically at 20% of the purchase price, so look ahead and estimate how often you’ll need formal wear. Investing in a tuxedo or formal attire, especially on sale, can save you repeated rental costs plus the time and effort involved in renting – measuring in advance, picking up and returning. If you are going through your closets and find suits that you no longer need, you can take them to a resale shop where you get cash for your items or donate them to local organizations that resell or reuse them.  The Save-A-Suit Foundation provides former military personnel with business attire and accepts both men’s and women’s clothing.
  • Tech accessories such as cell phone cases, headphones, and wireless speakers were great gift items this past holiday season.  Now that the holidays are behind us, these items are on sales and being heavily promoted.  Office supply stores will be discounting a lot of these and other items during January as well.

Whatever deals, specials, sales and promotions you offer this January, be sure to be visible through email, social media, direct mail or wherever your shoppers are found. Use customer data from previous orders to identify shoppers that would be likely targets for your promotions and engage with them to get them to your site.

The full text of Jeanette’s article, “There Are Deals to Be Had in January” can be found at online.wsj.com/news/articles/.

Happy New Year and happy selling!

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How Videos Can Help You Grow Your eCommerce Business

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills, Vice President, Marketing

Have you ever viewed a video on another company’s website and thought, “this video does a good job of talking about the company and its products?  I wish we had one.” Companies are using short, concise and visually appealing videos to explain not only their products and services, but to convey who they are.  They’re called ‘explainer videos’ and they provide information to customers and potential customers so that they understand what the company is all about and why they should do business with them.

Here’s an example of a video that we created to explain who Dydacomp is and to explain the benefits of order management systems.  It’s just over a minute, yet it captures what we do and why that’s important to the retailers who we serve.

We chose to work with a video design agency to capture our messages in an animated format.  Many of our retail clients are producing their own videos to explain the products they’re selling through their eCommerce store.  A video doesn’t have to be fancy.  It needs to be accurate and to the point.   By using the power of video to visually convey your message, you will help your customers increase their understanding of your products and move them closer to wanting and selecting what it is you offer.  Videos can motivate buyers and help to create a competitive advantage for you.

Video agencies will tell you that your ‘explainer video’ should be under 90 seconds. Effective videos can be 30 seconds or 60 seconds in length. Think of how you would describe your products in one minute or less and visualize this in video format.

The format you choose is a matter of personal preference and budget.  One of the most popular and effective ways to explain an idea is with an animated video – like the Dydacomp video you viewed.  These simple videos are developed through a process that begins with messaging.  Once messages are developed, a script is written for a voiceover artist or one of your employees to convey the message in the time allotted.

Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects says that projects that use video have a 50% vs. 30% rate of funding and they are used by companies of all sizes, across all industries and are helping to attract and convert shoppers. This type of video increases conversion rates.  By helping the consumer to fully and quickly understand what you do, you are more likely to get them to take the next step sooner rather than later – and isn’t that what you want?

According to Dr. James McQuivey at Forrester Research, a one-minute video conveys the value of 1.8 million words.  That’s pretty amazing! Studies confirm that we retain more information when more than one of our senses are engaged and we are also more likely to recall more of what we saw and heard. A recent survey by Forbes of C-level business executives indicated that 59% of respondents would rather watch an online video than read text covering the same information on a website.

Some other reasons for using video in your marketing strategy:

  • Increased ROI on site traffic
  • Better rank in Google Search
  • Easily shareable and always on
  • Grabs the attention of your audience
  • Customers prefer video

So how can videos help you grow your retail business?  Short, concise explainer videos are typically more budget friendly and will result in more traffic for your site. Creating one and making it available on your website is an investment that will pay dividends for quite a while.

Happy selling!

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Lessons Learned: Avoiding Holiday Shipping Woes

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills

MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse reported that U.S. retail sales rose 3.5% during this past holiday season.  According to ComScore Inc. merchandise purchased via personal computers rose 10% to $42.75 billion.   IBM Digital Analytics cited Internet sales soaring 37% over 2012 in the last weekend before Christmas as last minute shoppers rushed to order gifts at the 11th hour. Statistics indicate that while the bulk of holiday spending still takes place at physical locations, online shopping has gained immense popularity and is becoming a much larger part of holiday spending.  This is good news for online retailers.

Reliable deliveries are a crucial part of the online shopping experience, especially with shoppers that wait until the last minute to make their selections.  This year Amazon raised the bar by offering expedited shipping with Sunday package delivery via the USPS and packages guaranteed to arrive by Christmas. Many retailers followed Amazon’s lead, extending their order cut-off dates, promising same-day and Christmas delivery even if orders were placed as late as December 23rd. Shoppers’ reactions were so overwhelming that UPS and FedEx experienced overloaded systems that caused numerous Christmas and same-day delivery promises to go unmet.

The growing popularity of free shipping to entice consumers was another major factor that resulted in increased shipment volume. In the third week of December, Amazon’s Prime membership drew more than 1 million people.  Prime membership ($79 annual fee) offers free two-day shipping.  Most last minute online orders needed to ship via air or other expedited methods to reach their destination in time.  Bad weather across the nation cancelled or delayed many flights which contributed to the shipping woes.

Chetan Ghai, senior product officer at ShopperTrak feels that online businesses will continue to experience the greatest growth although he feels that next year, people who procrastinate until a few days before the holiday may be wary of relying on deliveries.  He said, “I think there will be some people who choose to go into the store, rather than risk a missed delivery.”

Being prepared comes from lessons learned and this holiday shopping season was certainly a teachable moment for both shipping companies and online retailers. Both need to pay attention to aggressive shipping options, promotional offerings, weather considerations, order volume and timing issues to avoid a repeat of 2014’s shipping woes.

There is a lot of revenue riding on the ‘run-up to Christmas’ and 2014 will only see the gain of one more shopping day (26 to 27 days) between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Shipping schedules that allow for unforeseen delays will need to be factored in to deliveries.  Connecting with customers early in the season (before Thanksgiving), offering more realistic order cut-off dates, not waiting until the last minute to offer the best deals and handling logistics more efficiently can  help to avoid future holiday shipping issues.

For a closer look at the issues and opportunities surrounding shipping, please view the on- demand replay of the webinar entitled:  Why Free Shipping Isn’t Free: The Top 7 Reasons You Need Effective Retail Promotions.

 

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Advantages of Drop Shipping vs. Ship from Store

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills

Whether you’re managing an established or growing retail business, you know too well the challenges of processing orders in a timely manner and managing inventory efficiently.   Retailers of all sizes have found benefits in alternative order fulfillment strategies such as drop shipping.

Unlike direct order fulfillment or ship from store, drop shipping is an order fulfillment strategy that does not require a retailer to keep products on hand in inventory; rather it relies on fulfillment and distribution centers, wholesale distributors and manufacturers to ship orders directly to customers. One of the biggest benefits to the merchant is that a physical inventory storage location or warehouse is not needed.

Instead, online retailers focus on managing their webstore(s) and other sales channels to monitor inventory levels and order fulfillment processes. Retailers often supply their own shipping labels and packaging materials to their drop ship vendors so that their customers receive the items they ordered with the same packaging as if they received them directly from the retailer.

In addition to avoiding the upfront investment needed to buy and keep products in inventory, drop shipping offers additional advantages that make it attractive to online merchants. These include:

  • Offering more products for sale without the overhead of space or budget constraints
  • Sourcing products from a wider variety of vendors at competitive rates
  • Excess inventory concerns are minimized
  • Better shipping rates due to increased volume and shipments aligned with geography
  • Eliminating or reducing lead times by shipping orders directly to customers
  • Getting to market more quickly without having to wait for inventory
  • Offering a broader range of products that will help to attract more customers
  • Having more time to sell products – time is not needed to receive, store, pick, pack or ship products
  • Reducing the overall investment – eCommerce start-ups may not require significant investment to get up and selling

The drop shipping process is relatively straightforward; a customer places an order, the retailer receives the order and collects payment and then either manually or electronically alerts the distributor/shipper, issuing a purchase order for the item(s) and providing shipping instructions to deliver the items to the customer.

If the online retailer has not automated the order management and fulfillment process, they may face challenges with drop shipping.  For drop shipping to be a successful strategy, retailers should automate the order fulfillment process and keep the following information current for every item they sell:

  • Product descriptions
  • Product images
  • Price
  • Available inventory
  • Accurate shipping weights

This requires open and continual communications with your drop shipping vendors.  An order management system enables retailers to streamline transaction processing while reducing or eliminating manual data entry errors and multiple data entry requirements. Consider a system that offers electronic data interface (EDI) enabling the electronic exchange of data to allow process automation and efficiencies.

When using drop shipping for order fulfillment, retailers rely on the distributor or manufacturer to ship orders correctly, efficiently and on time.  Larger retailers are able to use their volume to compel their drop shipping vendors to comply with their shipping and customer service requirements but SMBs may not have the same leverage.  It becomes very important to check references on drop shipping vendors and track their performance once they have started to ship. Have procedures in place to respond in the event of order mix ups, out of stock situations, customer service challenges and product returns. Address issues as quickly as possible to keep your customers happy.

Drop shipping continues to grow in popularity as an order fulfillment strategy, especially with SMB eCommerce and multichannel merchants.  According to Jeremy Hanks, co-founder and CEO of Dropship.com, “The use of drop shipping to satisfy demand among ecommerce retailers has been one of the main advantages of doing business on the Internet.”

For addition information on order processing and fulfillment, access Dydacomp’s On-demand webinar,  Process and Fulfill More Orders with Less Staff: Why You Need an Order Management System.

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Your Brand Logo – To Update or Not To Update – That is the Question

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Posted by: Laura Hills, VP Marketing, Dydacomp

Yahoo! unveiled its new logo design recently and it has opened up the conversation about the value of logo redesigns for companies and brands. There are no hard and fast rules for when it’s time to update your company or brand logo.  Some companies can go for decades without a change and other companies make it a part of their marketing strategy to update or change their logos on a regular, pre-planned basis. Sometimes all it takes is a comment about the logo, whether from management, on social media or from the business owner that gets the process started.

In 2013 many well-known companies including Facebook, Hooters, Ernst & Young, Instagram and Procter & Gamble made changes to their logos. For the first time in its 19 year history, multinational internet corporation Yahoo! redesigned its highly identifiable logo, issuing a “logo a day” over a month for people to weigh in on. Most logos are introduced and accepted without incident.  However, in 2010, The Gap unveiled a new logo that was met with universal dislike, prompting this high profile retailer to ditch their new logo and return to the old.

The purpose of a logo is to get the attention of your audience and make a positive impact and lasting impression.  It should enable easy and instant recognition, conveying who you are and a realistic image of what your company and/or brand represents.

How do you determine if your logo could use some updating?  And if you decide to make a change should you go for a full redesign or just some more up-to-date touches?  We’ve provided a few things to consider when evaluating these questions.

Is Your Logo Showing Signs of Age?

Just as clothing goes out of style (think of shoulder pads or parachute pants from the ‘80s), fonts, popular colors and images can make your logo look dated.  Even classic clothing – think trench coats – get refreshed every now and then with new colors and updated styling.  Often all that’s needed is an update to remain current to capture the attention of today’s digitally savvy audiences.

You can make simple changes that will enable you to retain your logo’s original design while updating its look. Subtle changes may help you attract new customers while remaining fully recognizable to existing clients.  Look at Facebook’s new logo and see how a simple change (no definitive bottom to their well known lower case f) makes a very distinct visual difference.

Who Originally Designed Your Logo?

Today’s logos need to translate across more media channels than ever before. Companies may not always budget for professional design services to create a logo and build their own logo without the benefit of a design professional.  Although these logos may look nice, they don’t always work from a technical standpoint and may not transfer from online to print or from a PC to a tablet, phone or other mobile device very well.  It is always a good idea to have a professional design, or at a minimum, review your logo to be sure it works across multiple media.  Even professionally designed logos may need to be changed or updated from time to time and this should be handled by a design professional for the best results.

Has Your Company Undergone a Major Change or Transformation?

There will be times when updating your company or brand logo will be necessary.  Major business changes, such as a new name, change in ownership, business focus, merger or acquisition, new product introduction, pursuing a new audience, or business expansion may all warrant a change to your logo.

You may find that you no longer stand out from your competitors and need to find ways to differentiate yourself. With your logo being one of the first things a customer sees, it is good to have a logo that stands out from others in your industry and readily identifies your company and products.

New Logo or Rebrand?

Rebranding is a larger decision.  Companies consider rebranding for many of the reasons listed in the above paragraph, but the change may go deeper than just the company logo.  Rebranding can include the company image, product lines, individual products and beyond; often eliminating an old brand and introducing a new one.

Your website and/or storefront are places to showcase your brand image.  Refreshing the image through a change in logo design is an investment that can carry your business to the next level and make a huge impact on your company and/or brands’ creditability and success.

For a fun look at popular company logos that have changed significantly over time, click here. (http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/logo-evolution/)  For additional information on updating your brand logo, check out “9 Answers To Why, When And How You Should Update Your Brand Logo” at http://eleventygroup.com/site/2013/09/11/why-when-and-how-you-should-update-your-brand-logo/.

 

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SMB Retailers – It’s A Good Time to Prepare for Growth

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Working with many SMBs, the newspaper headline “Advice for small companies: Take stock, take risks” caught my attention.  This article by Joyce Rosenberg, small business editor at The Associated Press, encourages small business owners to step back from their day-to-day operations to evaluate how they are running their companies.  According to Rosenberg, crisis mode has passed and business owners need to be sure their companies are poised to take advantage of growth opportunities expected on the horizon.

A recent National Small Business survey taken in June and July indicates that small business owner confidence is up 38% from six months ago.  The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index July survey shows that confidence has risen 9 points from the start of 2013.  Indications are positive and business owners need to be ready to respond to customer and market demands that are to come.  One issue that small businesses are facing is the uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act.  Businesses don’t have a clear picture of what it will ultimately end up costing to provide health care coverage for their employees.  Paul Sarvadi, adviser to small business owners and CEO of Insperity, a Houston-based human resources provider advises not letting this uncertainty limit or stall future plans.

Rosenberg cites three major steps that small business owners should be taking right now as they prepare for a strong year end and continued growth in 2014.

  • Look Ahead –Step back and take a hard and realistic look at where improvements are needed.  Reducing costs, increasing customer satisfaction and differentiating yourself from your competitors are all areas that need to be explored.  Don’t be afraid to be critical in analyzing your business and don’t be locked in to how things have been done in the past.
  • Take Risks – Business is risky and doing nothing can be the riskiest behavior of all.  Be prepared to respond to opportunities.  Consumer spending and the economy can rebound quickly and you’ve got to be ready to jump in to take advantage.
  • Be Good to Employees – The backbone of your organization – retaining good employees needs to be a priority.  Determine what rewards would be appreciated by your staff and implement incentive programs that will have the best return.

The growth trends cited in this article are consistent with those we observe for multichannel etailers transacting business through our order management and eCommerce solutions.  Running an SMB retail business is as much of an art as it is a science.  Connecting back office retail operations with the eCommerce store is essential to bridge the gap between the orders coming in through your online store, the fulfillment of orders and inventory visibility on the back end.

To access Joyce Rosenberg’s full article, click here: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/advice-small-companies-take-stock-take-risks.

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Managing Inventory During Peak Selling Periods

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Dydacomp-Santa-2014-1

Inventory management can be a time-consuming and error-prone process for multi-channel eCommerce businesses.  The quality and accuracy of inventory management is especially critical during the peak holiday selling season, which can be can be the single most important time of the year for these retailers.  According to the NRF, nearly 20% of retail sales happen from Black Friday through Christmas with close to 40% of sales taking place between November 1 and December 15.  Having the right amount of inventory on hand to meet consumer demands can make all the difference in the success of a retailer’s holiday season.

Putting time into some advance planning can better prepare you to meet the unpredictable demands that your business will face, especially this year with only 26 shopping days.  Without proper planning, this peak holiday selling season can create a perfect storm of inventory management challenges.  By recognizing problem areas likely to cause problems, you’ll be better equipped to weather the season. Avoiding stockouts, fulfillment bottlenecks and meeting delivery demands can make the season merry and bright for you.

So how do today’s multichchannel retailers address these challenges?  Here are suggestions based upon our research and our customers’ experiences:

  • Get an Early Start

Synchronize your schedule of marketing campaigns with the availability of products featured in promotions. Actively manage merchandise assortments in conjunction with marketing plans to know what items you’ll need to keep the demand plans balanced. Get areas of your warehouse or store ready to receive the products you’ll need and have a logistics plan to efficiently move these items. If you’re drop shipping, coordinate schedules with drop shippers and/or warehouses that store and distribute your products.

  • Create a Holiday Sales Forecast

Analyze previous holiday sales, consider anticipated consumer trends and, if the research is available, evaluate recommendations in your industry segment.  Determine what worked and what areas are in need of improvement.  Consider orders from your best shoppers and look at their buying behaviors during peak selling periods. Look at impulse or fast moving items that tend to sell out quickly and be sure you can readily restock these items to meet demand.

  • Have Accurate Information

Accurate inventory and sales data enables you to make efficient and effective decisions before the season starts and throughout your busiest holiday times. And don’t forget to manage your customer list along with any mailing lists you may purchase.

  • Automate the Inventory Management Function

An inventory management system allows you to track and control your inventory across all sources. Inventory management software that integrates data across multiple selling channels adjusts your inventory levels when an order is placed or a sale is made. Inventory management software allows you to track your inventory status and will make it easy to manage and fulfill orders from shopping to shipping all year long.

  • Connect with Suppliers

Your vendors have holiday sales goals just like you and are likely to be looking for ways to get their customers to buy from them. Don’t be afraid to negotiate prices or delivery terms which can help you save money and keep you stocked with the items you need.

  • Don’t Overlook the Details

If you ship your own merchandise, in addition to having the right amount of inventory available, you also need to be sure that you are well stocked with other retail holiday essentials including gift wrap and bags, gift cards, bows, special holiday packaging, extra shipping boxes, packaging tape and other supplies.  You can’t move your inventory if you don’t have the packing and shipping supplies you need.  If you work with a drop shipper, drop shipping transfers the pick, pack and ship tasks to the shipper.

  • Think Ahead

Give some thought to how you’ll handle returns and the impact anticipated return levels will have on your inventory levels.

Take the necessary steps now to ensure you have the inventory on hand meet your shoppers’ demands.  For additional tips to help you have a great holiday selling season, access our on-demand webinar, “The Top 5 Insights to Help Prepare for Seasonal and Holiday Rushes”.

Happy & Successful Holiday Selling!

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