Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Is it Time to Take on Order Management?

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

order management

There is no question whether online shopping will continue to grow, as the web becomes more of a go-to resource for everything retail.

“In 2015, over 200 million U.S. online shoppers are projected to shop online at least once a month.”
-invespBlog

But, the real question is; how will you as a retailer use this knowledge to your benefit?

Stable and reliable eCommerce platforms have significantly improved online shopping experiences, and as eCommerce shopping habits amplify, it is crucial to take the necessary steps to keep up. Utilizing all of the functionality of an online order management system will help your business thrive in the long run.

Why Use Freestyle O.M.S.?

eCommerce Shopping Habits

The ultimate goal of an order management and inventory system is to make the merchant’s life easier and customers happier. An order management system benefits your business by encompassing all behind-the-scenes efforts, like managing the inventory purchasing process, after the customer places their order.

Not only does it ensure the order is processed efficiently, but the system makes sure it is shipped promptly and arrives quickly, with as little hassle as possible. You can easily accomplish this by taking steps to manage your customer’s experience.

If you sell a product, ship it to customers or outsource that function, research confirms order management system benefits will continue to grow, particularly if you’re processing more than 10 orders a day. An OMS frees you to focus on the essential back office activities to fuel the growth of your business.

An Intuitive, Fast Solution to Order Processing 

If you’re like most retailers looking for an OMS, you’re looking to technology to give you flexibility and make your life easier. You want a solution that’s easy to use, intuitive and uncomplicated.

Why not discover the many order management system benefits, like processing orders faster, cheaper and without error. All of this can be done through our seamless integrations. Order processing has never been so simple. Snapshot accessibility to control inventory in real-time will leave you wondering why you didn’t start this process sooner.

At the end of the day, having satisfied customers will help your business expand, increasing the chance of repeat business and referrals. ” If someone on Yelp mentions good customer service, they are over 5 times as likely to give a 5 star review, rather than a 1 star.

“Focus on great customer service and the ratings and reviews will come.”
Yelp

In order to provide the best customer service as a multichannel retailer, your OMS should:

  • Have visibility into your customers’ orders across all of your sales channels
  • Be able to quickly respond to customer inquiries and engage them
  • Give customers the ability to view the status of an order online or be able to call and get information in real-time from a customer service team member.

Give your business room to grow, and find out more about order management system benefits in the Multichannel Order Management for eCommerce eBook below.

eCommerce Shopping Habits

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5 Secrets to Growing Apparel Sales

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

4 Secrets to Growing Apparel Sales from the Pros

Secrets secrets are certainly no fun, but that is especially true when the busiest time of the year is upon us. As the holidays creep up, retailers have the reputation to go a little insane. And, when it comes to apparel, there is no exception to the rule.

As apparel retailers turn out new fashions and innovative buying experiences, it can get even more difficult to keep up with ever-demanding apparel sales.

Apparel markets are reaching exceedingly high numbers this year. The women’s apparel market is expected to account for 55% of apparel sales and 60% of growth, due to the increasing weight of emerging markets, according to McKinsey & Company.

With these strategies, you can start to see a dramatic difference in your apparel sales, by delving into what makes your customers tick and more.

1) Learn from the Pros

There are a few key takeaways to gather from the big-box apparel retailers out there, including H&M and Nordstrom to name a few. They pride themselves on producing items where they sell. By doing so, they are able to attain shorter lead times for trending clothing ideas.

They do this by incorporating extremely tight integrations with design, merchandising and production, so they can be flexible for whatever situation may arise.

Knowing how consumers will react to certain products is crucial to developing a strong retail strategy. H&M is well known for their in-depth research and ability to predict upcoming trends for a few different reasons.

So apparel pros have clearly mastered strategizing their price plans, inventory levels and more. Find out how a small business owner can keep up below.

2) Master Fashion Pricing

Pricing for fashion retail can get tricky, with high SKU complexitystock-outs and orders flooding in. Therefore, retailers often have a challenging time pricing fashion. Applying some science to your pricing can benefit you in the long run. Let me explain. According to McKinsey & Company, using statistical tactics to all products, even the seasonal variety like fashion shorts, can boost your sales and margins.

Technical pricing is not a new solution, but most tend to stay away from it due to skepticism. Margin distribution and competitive benchmarking are just some ways merchants tend to go with instead, as a way to find out what the consumer is craving.

McKinsey & Company recommends this scientific approach to pricing, so retailers can enhance their business judgement with something more than just their intuition. Since staying away from intuitive thoughts alone is not the only way to succeed in pricing, here are some other factors commonly brought to the table.

 factors merchants consider

Although these can be applied to a bunch of different retail industries, there are some that specifically stand out in the fashion world, mainly internal economics and consumer input. So what does that mean for fashion retailers? While elasticity (see consumer input) is a common business practice, fashion retailers tend to look the other way, when the benefits can be plentiful.

Determining your level of elasticity can be used to guide price adjustments, add new volume and profits, and measure net revenue. Retailers can also be more confident when using internal economics, because estimating the impact of price changes on product sales is a win win for all.

3) Understand Your Customers Across all Platforms

Managing your customer’s experience does not have to be a difficult process. With some simple tactics, you can increase your customer retention rates and drive in more prospects.

After all, your customer determines whether or not you are going to succeed, so extra focus is ideal across all platforms, including social media and mobile devices, to name a few. With consumers craving more product information on social media and mobile devices, retail marketing is essential.

If you are the business of giving customers what they want, you are on the right track, as they will be more likely to do business and buy from you. Consumers tend to favor small businesses because of their customer focus, so it is important for to strive on.

And, since apparel retail sales are ever-demanding, the time to start is now.

Now onto the next step to understanding your customers, social media. Social media marketing trends for small businesses are forever expanding, since most small businesses spend six or more hours a week on these platforms, and a large percentage spend 11-20 hours per week.

 small business social media

Simply giving your customers the accessibility to reach out to you on multiple platforms is helpful in itself, but also posting materials that are valid to your industry and entertaining as well will help boost your brand.

Be sure to have a quick response time on all social media platforms (ideally within 12 hours) and follow some more of tips to give your small business can use social media to boost sales and improve customer service!

4) Enhance Customer Service by Building on Personalization

This may seem like an obvious one, but small businesses need to pay particular attention to customer service efforts, especially during the upcoming holiday retail season.

But, the holidays are not the only reason to stay on top of your customer service game; as eCommerce sales increase, so does the need for new and innovative personalization ideas.

Unlike emerging fashion trends, providing excellent customer service will never go out of style, but learning the key aspects to hone in on is forever expanding.

“How people define customer service — that is where the battle will continue to be won and lost,” said 
Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Direct

Popular apparel stores including, Nordstrom, Rebecca Minkoff, Topshop, SportChek and more are moving with technology trends to keep their customers coming back. Can your business start to do the same?

Both online and offline shopping can be amplified by looking into how the big box retailers are incorporating technology to better serve their customers.

 online shopping

Nordstrom is just one of the many retailers using technological advancements to drive customer engagement, such as Pinterest tracking for trending products and their in-store shopping experiences through touch screen fitting rooms.

Now, it may be a bit more complicated for small business owners to incorporate high-tech touch screen fitting rooms, but something you can do is incorporate the social media tactics mentioned above to improve your brand.

5) Control Your Inventory

Learning from the pros does not stop at social media tactics, high-tech fitting rooms and customer service; they too have to control their inventory. But, what can the small business owner learn from them.

Nordstrom wanted to create the best possible system for them and their customers, both online and in store. So, the popular store set out to enhance their customer service efforts, giving consumers a truly personalized experience, without bombarding them with ads. Instead, they use big data solutions.

They implemented a project to allow their customers to see data in real-time. There they can easily see what products to promote to consumers and at what time.

“Some strategies and ideas will work. Others won’t. If you don’t test new things, you’ll never innovate. Don’t panic if something doesn’t work — celebrate it!”
-Jamie Nordstrom, President Nordstrom

Retail giants like H&M stand out for their innovative technological advancements and keen attention to detail towards their supply chains. Staying ahead in the industry with the some fashion expert knowledge can only help increase sales overtime.

So how can you as a small fashion business retailer keep up?

As an apparel multichannel retailer, consider:

  • Taking Advantage of Dimensional/Configurable Products
  • Checking Product Quality During the Shipping Process
  • Maintaining Clear Records of Your Inventory
  • Utilizing Technology to Prevent Theft
  • Capturing & Processing Orders Automatically
  • Expanding Your Reach to Sell Across More Sales Channels
  • Stocking Slow Moving Inventory

Learn more about how to take on apparel sales and stay current with emerging technology trends in the free eBook below. 

apparel retailers ebook

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Is it Time to Expand Into Multiple Magento Stores?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

You have your Magento store, and it’s doing well, but how can it do even better? Maybe you’re thinking your business could benefit from adding some additional Magento stores. Or, perhaps you are a multichannel seller, and you’re simply trying to decide if Magento is the right solution for you.

Knowing what platform(s) to pick to grow your eCommerce business is not always an obvious choice. With all of the options out there, things can get confusing.

Magento has certainly exuded a long-standing positive reputation among retailers. The Magento eCommerce platform has a market share of 26.3%, making them a global leader, according to Alexa Top 1M data.

Find out if adding one or multiple Magento stores is right for your business.

Having multiple Magento online stores is a similar concept to opening other brick and mortar locations; only without the real estate and operational overhead costs. Some e-tailers open multiple stores to sell the same products to different demographics, while others use the multi-store approach to segment product lines to target different buyer personas.

Managing Multiple Magento Stores Does Not Have to Be a Juggling Act

Separating brands, products sets and buyer types are just some reasons to add multiple stores. With these, you have the ability to distinguish between different audiences, products and more.

This multi-store approach gives you greater insight into buyer behavior and product preferences through website analytics and traffic patterns. You will need to consider how your SEO efforts and branding will come into play.

Say you are a retailer selling fishing rods, hunting gear and tons of other unique products. You probably don’t want to have all of your distinctive items on the same store website. Why you ask? Let’s take a closer look.

If you use Magento or are looking to add their platform in the future, you have the ability to view multiple stores in one Magento instance. By splitting your inventory up into two or more stores, the benefits may seem obvious. But, just in case, here are some highlights.managing multiple magento stores

Benefits of Multiple Magento Stores:

  • 1 Single Admin View = 1 List of Orders & Hosting Plan

  • SEO Advantages through Targeted Keywords & Phrases

  • View all Products in Less Categories

  • Organize Categories by Name & Description

  • Aid Customer Navigation & Overall Satisfaction

Utilizing multiple Magento stores gives you the ability to operate as many online stores as you need, all within a single installation. By doing so, you can also eliminate having to log into the Magento admin multiple times. If you will be selling products on multiple domains, you can easily track your sales and customers, without logging in to each website’s admin area.

Once you establish the multiple stores through Magento, you can fully customize your Magento store(s) by selecting from a number of responsive themes. Free Magento themes are readily available as well. After you select your theme, you can have the flexibility to separate your stores so efficiently, you may soon find out why so many retailers embrace Magento.

After you have full visibility into your specific stores, managing and fulfilling your orders comes next.

Considering an OMS with a direct integration to Magento will help SMB retailers effectively manage their Magento stores, giving them the access they need, all while seeing their stores on the platform. When you are selling specific, unique products, you are bound to have some distinctly different clientele. So why not make it easy for your customers to find you and easily navigate your site once they arrive?

By giving your customers the flexibility to search your online store for specific items, you will be on your way to increasing sales and customer retention rates.

An inventory management system gives you a holistic view of orders and inventory across all of your sales channels, which allows for improved customer service, better reporting and analytics functionality. If all your order and inventory information is visible from one central location, you can quickly and easily compare and contrast the performance of each channel, eliminating the use of complicated spreadsheets.

To find out more on how to optimize your business for multichannel selling, watch the quick webinar below.

multichannel selling

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9 Money-Making Retail Marketing PPC Tips

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

9 Money-Making Retail Marketing PPC Tips

Sixty percent of people begin shopping by using a search engine to find the products they want, according to a study conducted by MineWhat. Eighty-one percent of shoppers conduct online research before they make a purchase. The internet and Google have fundamentally changed the way we shop and purchase products.

Personally, I get it. I frequently buy things online, from gifts for my nephew to mundane things like cleaning supplies for my apartment. Amazon Prime has become a close companion of mine. Whenever I’m shopping in a store I find myself hoping on Google to compare prices and read product reviews. This is something many of us do nowadays, which shows that for retailers Google ads are a critical part to reaching your revenue goals.

Whether it be a solely e-commerce based business, a local store front, or a combination of both, retailers have little to no chance of surviving unless they have a robust PPC advertising strategy to promote their products to shoppers online. A huge component of succeeding in retail is being able to effectively advertise on Google using the Search Network, as well as Shopping Ads (formally known as Product Listing Ads or PLA’s).

Although the shopping landscape is constantly evolving, which makes this a bit more challenging…

The Challenges Retailers Face

Standing out against competition has to be the number one battle retailers face when advertising their products.

From the looks of it, the playing grounds are only getting more crowded. Retailers spent 47% more on Google’s shopping ads than they did a year ago, according to Adobe’s Digital Index of online advertising. Yikes!

Shopping ads make it easy to compare prices and products right from the SERPs. With search ads your brand either needs to be well-known or your ad needs to be crafted in a compelling manner to receive clicks and hopefully conversions. Retailers have to fight to get their ads placed in the top spots on the SERPs and create compelling cases as to why a shopper should choose your brand over another. It isn’t easy! “E-commerce is so black and white – either you make a sale or you don’t,” says WordStream’s Senior Paid Search Strategist, Jaclyn Jordan.

So, how can retailers stand out on the SERPs? Let’s explore the top 9 ways to roast your retail competition and run effective shopping and search campaigns.

#1: Determine How Much Budget You Want to Allocate for Search vs. Shopping Depending Upon Your Goals

Should you be using search, shopping ads, or a combination of both?

retail marketing tips
After chatting with two of WordStream’s most senior Paid Search Strategist it was clear that utilizing text ads through the search network and visual shopping ads are both critical to a complete PPC strategy, but deciding on how to allocate your budget from one vs. the other is dependent upon the products and goals of the advertiser.

Shopping ads are the natural focus for retail advertisers looking to gain quick and easy ROI. As you can see in the image above, shopping ads give you all of the information up-front including an image of the product, the brand, price, and even reviews. “With shopping you typically see a higher return on ad spend, CPCs are generally cheaper, and conversion rates are higher because clicks are more qualified,” says Jordan. “The shopper already knows the price, sees the promotion and is more committed when clicking an ad then with search ads.”

Retailers spent 6% less on text ads then they did a year ago “making it abundantly clear that they think ads with product images in them result in more clicks and sales,” says Forbes contributor, Robert Hof.

So, why bother with search ads at all? Well, search ads typically yield higher brand awareness in turn creating repeat buyers. “With shopping people often go in and purchase one product, and never return. With search there’s more of an opportunity to build brand loyalty and create lifetime buyers,” says WordStream’s Senior Paid Search Consultant, Mike Griffith.

“It really depends on the advertiser,” says Griffith. “Some of my clients have 80% of their budget allocated to shopping, others shopping doesn’t work well at all. I recommend not sticking with hard and fast spend X amount in shopping and Y amount in search, but rather be flexible. Increase your budget for the channel that’s working better to accomplish your goals, and where you’re seeing the best return.”

#2: Separate Shopping Campaigns by Priority

As opposed to search, where you spend hours upon hours strategizing and building out an account Google does a pretty thorough job of pumping out product categories for shopping campaigns automatically. Although relying solely on Google to set up and run you’re shopping campaigns won’t work.

“After shopping is set up you should create a separate campaign for standout products, and mark them as ‘high priority,’” says Griffith. “You want to ensure that you’re monitoring and dominating the shopping results for those products. If you leave all products in one campaign you’ll be forced to raise your budget for products that have lower profit margins. Don’t be afraid to exclude products or mark products as low priority.”

The main takeaway is to make sure your products of similar value are grouped together so you can easily allocate and adjust budgets in a logical manner.

#3: Ensure Your Shopping Ads Images are High Quality & Your Prices are Accurate

This should be a no-brainer, but seriously make sure your price points are competitive. Search for your ads through Google’s Ad Preview tool to see how your price points align with your competition because with shopping ads having the price so clearly displayed, not having the best price or unique selling point can often make or break your chances of gaining a sale. “If you’re selling photo prints and every one of your competitors is displaying the price for an 8X10 in their ad, don’t put the price for a 12X24 because people will look over the size and just see the higher price,” says Griffith. “If your price isn’t competitive focus on the fact your turn around is under 24 hours. If you can’t beat them with price find out where you can beat them.”

9 Money-Making Retail Marketing PPC Tips 3

The quality of your images can also make or break a conversion from occurring. Again, a no-brainer tip – don’t use crappy images, it’s that simple.

#4: Beat Your Shopping Competition through Reviews, Google Trusted Store Badge, and Merchant Promotions

As we discussed before, competition is a never-ending battle in the retail space so doing everything you can to distinguish your products and build confidence and trust to convert more customers is critical. “In retail, it’s all about determining how you can stand out and add more value than the other players selling the same products,” says Jordan. Utilize these four techniques to create more incentive to choose your store over your neighbors.

Product Ratings

Eighty-eight percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, according to research from BrightLocal.

Reviews help build trust and incentivize the user to purchase. Unfortunately with shopping you can’t just hop in and hand pick your best reviews from various sources. Rather you need to gain at least 50 reviews on one of Google’s third party approved sites (to ensure the reviews show). Check out the approved third party sources here, where you should be actively seeking reviews to ensure they appear in the SERP’s.

9 Money-Making Retail Marketing PPC Tips 4
Google Trusted Stores

Another way to stand out is by becoming one of Google’s Trusted Stores, which “can improve your conversion rate and average order size by reassuring potential customers that you offer a great shopping experience,” according to Google. Follow the application process here to join the program.

google trusted sources

Google Merchant Promotions

Lastly, you should 100% be using Google Merchant Promotions to create a sense of urgency and spur your users to choose you over the ad next to yours. As you can see in the image below the second shopping ad is tagged with a “Special offer” sign to show free shipping is available for a limited time. This incentivizes shoppers to get the best deal and chose you over your competition. Set up requires a few steps including filling out the merchant promotions interest form and either using the +PROMOTION tool or setting up a promotion feed. Follow the steps here to get your promotions approved.

google merchant promotions

#5: Structure Search Campaigns Based on Site Navigation and Product Groupings

There are a plethora of ways to structure your AdWords account, whether it be by product categories, price points, locations, or sales cycles, there’s no one-size fits all strategy. Although, for retailers, if your site is well structure (which it should be), then it’s recommended to structure based off of how your website is built.

Let’s take Rent the Runway for example. As you can see in the image below their unlimited tab has several categories – New Arrivals, Dresses, Tops & Bottoms – to name a few. In that case they would want to have a campaign for each category under Unlimited.

rent the runway

Then under the Designers tab (shown below) they would want to create a campaign or ad group for each designer being searched for.

rent the runway
The main reason you should organize search campaigns around your website is due to the ease of updating and optimizing. “It’s unbelievable how much the structure of your search campaigns can impact the performance,” says Griffith. “Your life will be so much easier if you structure around your site navigation, for instance if the stock of your red t-shirts goes down, you can hop into your t-shirts campaigns, go to the red t-shirt ad group and pause that group until they’re back in stock.”

#6: Increase the Credibility (and Clickability) of Your Ad Copy with Numbers

It’s been proven time and time again that people are attracted to numbers! “Numbers are easy to digest and understand, and studies show that incorporating them into your copy can make it appear more accurate and credible,” says Unbounce’s,  Johnathan Dane. You shouldn’t limit numbers and prices from being displayed just in shopping ads. You should be utilizing numbers to increase the CTR of your search ads.

“Anything with numbers works well! A percentage off, a price point – it can’t just be ‘we have the best clothes,’ because everyone’s selling the same thing,” says Jordan. “I have clients selling the same shampoo and competing with huge brands like Sephora – compelling numbers (for instance a lower price point or a percentage off) can help them stand out.”

#7: Understand When Your Seasonal Peaks Are and Plan Accordingly

The kids are heading back-to-school. Are you ads updated accordingly? They’re not? You should have started planning back in July! “Whether it’s summer sales, black Friday, or the holiday season, as a retailer you absolutely need to know your seasonal peaks and plan around them,” says Griffith. “Build ads for seasonal peaks and label them using Google’s label system to easily turn them on and off when in and out of season.”

But, what if you’re not sure when your seasonal peaks are? Griffith recommends visiting Google.com/trends where you can search various categories, like office supplies or kids clothing, and analyze the seasonal and regional peaks.

google trends digital retail guide
From Jordan’s experience working with several retailers of all sizes, Q4 tends to be the biggest quarter for the majority of advertisers. Aside from running ads relevant to the holidays, budget allocation also needs to be top of mind during these seasonal spikes. “Competition ramps up during these times,” says Jordan. “Budget planning ahead of time is always a priority for several of my retail clients during Q4.” Jordan spends time readjusting budgets to ensure her clients are being competitive, getting promotions aligned, and automating ad schedules ahead of time.

#8: Take Advantage of Automation

Retailers are often selling hundreds or even thousands of products, several of which they’re promoting through Google. So how in the world can you keep up with maintaining you massive search and shopping campaigns?

“With retail, quantity is often better then quality,” says Griffith. “If you have 1,000 products you don’t have time to A/B test an ad for every product.  Relying more on automation becomes important for most retailers. Leverage everything AdWords has to offer to keep the manual work out of it.” Not sure where to start? Try these three automation tools to make your life a lot easier.

  • Conversion Optimizer: Caution, this bidding strategy does not work for everyone so you just ensure you’re doing it right. “Conversion optimizer can work really well with products that have low to medium average order value,” says Griffith. Make sure these products have similar order value. For example, you wouldn’t want to use conversion optimizer on a campaign which contains and Ad Group for laptops and another Ad Group for USB cables. “Conversion optimizer works by optimizing for the number of conversion so if you’re using it in a campaign that contains a variety of order values, you could end up selling tons of $5 USB cables and never any laptops $500+ laptops,” says Griffith.
  • Automatic Bid Rules: Automatic bid rules check in on ROI goals once a week, and if the keyword is above goal it will be automatically bid up by 5%. If a keyword is below goal it will be bid down 5%. Nervous about giving Google bidding reigns? Don’t be. “You’ll set up a Max CPC and Min CPC with any bid rule you create so that you don’t end up spending $150 per click,” says Griffith.
  • Ad Customizers: Ad customizers are one of my personal favorite automation features Google offers to dynamically update your ad copy without having to move a muscle. Running a promotion? A limited time offer? A sale that’s about to end? There’s a plethora of ways to utilize ad customizers to instill FOMO (fear of missing out) in your searchers and entice them to convert.

ad customizers
#9: Create Returning Buyers through Smart Remarketing

I’m a strong believer that every industry should be remarketing. It works. But, there are strategic ways to get even more profitability out of remarketing in retail.

In the retail space value isn’t typically gained from one-time buyers, but rather regular customers who keep coming back for more. But, your shoppers are busy! They might forget how positive their online transactional experience was with your brand if you don’t remind them. This is why you need to be smart with remarketing tactics that will re-engage a previous shopper at the right time. Think about the lifespan of your product. For example, do you sell face wash? How long does a bottle typically last? If its two months, then run a remarketing campaign targeting previous consumers after 50 or so days of purchase to remind them to order more before they run out.

Another remarketing tactic to create returning buyers is by upselling them based on products they’ve previously purchased. “If a shopper buys your shampoo then remarket a deep conditioner to them,” says Jordan. “Be aware of what products complement the one your customers have previously purchased and remarket to gain more sales through the same customers.”

So, are your ads ready for Halloween? It’s time to start prepping and stepping up your search and shopping game to out-sell your neighbors, and create loyal customers.

Check out the webinar below, a retailer’s guide to PPC marketing, brought to you by Freestyle and WordStream.

How to Keep Up with Ever-Demanding Apparel Sales

Friday, September 11th, 2015

keep up with apparel sales

Watch out retailers. Both women and men’s apparel sales are on the rise, according to Mintel, Lightspeed GMI and Quartz.

With an estimated increase of 14.5% between 2014 and 2019, women’s apparel profits are expected to rise from $121.8 billion to $139.0 billion.
emarketer.com

But Are Men Shopping More than Women?

Women love to shop. There isn’t a soul who doesn’t know that, but women are not the only ones hooked on fashion. Men’s online apparel sales are growing faster than not only women’s apparel, but beer and electronics too. Yes, you read that right. Men are purchasing clothes and accessories more than computers, cameras and beer.

online apparel sales growth

Some apparel retailers are starting to diversify inventory, in order to sell more online and accommodate the demand for men’s apparel. This gives fresh ways for men to purchase apparel items at their fingertips. To keep up with these eCommerce trends, it would be beneficial for apparel retailers to follow suit and embrace the growing numbers of male fashion consumers.

So how does a multichannel retailer keep up with trends and technology? I know what you may be thinking. Who has time to look into new technology advancements, while running a business?

How to Use this Knowledge to Increase Sales  

One thing you can do is follow the lead of the larger apparel retailers – those that are dressing up their back office processes to achieve their business goals faster and more efficiently.

If you’re a multichannel apparel retailer, you have specific demands for keeping track of orders from multiple sales channels, from the moment a customer purchases your product to order fulfillment and more. Managing inventory across those channels and supporting shipping methods with some added TLC will only help your business thrive in the long-run.

Here are some benefits to gain from automating back-office multichannel operations:

using apparel sales to your benefit

  • Capture & Stage Orders Automatically
  • Manage Inventory Across All Sales Channels
  • Automatically Download Orders from All Sources
  • Publish Product Information & Keep Inventory in Sync
  • Support Configurable Products with Size, Color, etc.
  • Further Expand Your Reach to Sell Across More Sales Channels
  • Process Order Fulfillment Easier  

What Else Should an Apparel Retailer Take Into Consideration?

Picture this: The orders are really starting to flood in, but your payment methods are not exactly up to par. Mayday, because this is where many errors can arise. Don’t let that happen in the order processing or fulfillment stages.

Being able to process multiple and mixed payment methods, like PayPal, credit and store cards, gift certificates and more is a must. But, having the ability to automatically queue orders for processing based on your stock levels is a luxury many retailers could benefit from. Managing the inventory purchasing process can be quick and simple.

You want to be sure you can track all orders by stage, from picking and packing to delivery as well, all while keeping your customers up-to-date every step of the way. It’s no longer a ‘nice to have.’ It’s vital to always know what’s in stock to better serve your customers.

Today’s connected shopping environment enables even the smallest apparel and specialty retailers to reach vast audiences for their products while meeting demand, but you’ll need the proper tools to do so.

So, what’s the technology that can help you make it all come together? A cloud based, multichannel order and inventory management system (OMS). With an OMS, inventory and order processing has never been so simple. Find out why implementing one is a crucial requirement to supporting your growing SMB.

Check out some emerging trends in the retail industry, how you as an apparel or specialty retailer can benefit from an OMS and the processes you can expect in the eBook below.

apparel retailers ebook

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6 Reasons Why You Should Embrace Magento

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

magento inventory management solutions

With the wide variety of eCommerce solutions to choose from today, it can be confusing to pick the right one for your business. Selling on multiple channels can be a giant leap in the right direction for your business, and while website platforms like Bigcommerce and Mozu can be extremely helpful, Magento is definitely worth looking into as well.

Magento makes it easy for SMB’s (small to mid-sized businesses) to fully optimize their eCommerce solutions, get product listings sorted out for multichannel orders and more. Larger retailers like Samsung, Nestle, Olympus and others rely on Magento for their web designs and operations. Not to mention the millions of small to mid-sized companies that trust Magento for their eCommerce solutions. Here are a few key reasons why these businesses say yes to Magento.

6) SEO Friendly & Ready

Your website looks fantastic. It has great appeal, your products are ready to fly off the shelves, and you’re positioned to start selling on multiple channels like Amazon and eBay. Before you start selling online, there’s more to consider. Don’t watch all that hard work go down the drain by not optimizing your eCommerce pages. Making sure you incorporate the right copy, product reviews and offers are of course vital to attract consumers and to keep up with the competition, but Magento can help with much more.

Making sure your products are easily found on search engines such as Google is the key to increasing online sales for your business. Magento‘s eCommerce platform gives you the ability to fully customize meta-tags into multi-layered navigation, as well as optimize content pages, product copy, URL’s and site maps. You can fully customize criteria on Magento to rank higher on Google, ultimately giving you the chance to drive more traffic and increase revenue.

5) Fully Responsive

Understanding the importance of responsive web design is an important first step in creating an effective eCommerce site. Since mobile site traffic is constantly expanding, and consumers are finding easier, quicker ways to shop, it is vital for your website to keep up.

magento inventory management-responsiveBusiness2Community.com

Selling on multiple channels is another way to expand your online business footprint, and Magento can help get you there with advanced product listings and a fully responsive, clean website design to engage with shoppers directly or while they’re shopping from mobile devices.

4) Extensive Features & Easy Integrations

To increase sales even further, adding more features through your eCommerce platform is definitely a win-win situation. Some product extensions found in Magento Connect are extensive on their own, with detailed editing functionality, front-end management, landing page additions and many more.

With Magento, integrations are also easily accessible via shipping, database applications and payment gateways. As a Magento merchant, you can take advantage of a seamless integration into your orders and inventory, to give you the in-depth management capabilities necessary to run back office operations efficiently. With inventory management developed specifically for the Magento eCommerce platform, you will be on your way to experiencing rapid and integrated shipping, faster order processing, gaining real-time visibility into business metrics through reporting and dashboards and more.

3) Highly Scalable 

Magento is highly scalable, flexible and versatile for retail operations both large and small. Many major brands trust the platform to run their eCommerce stores, including Nike, Nicole Miller, Ghiradelli and Easton to name a few. Some of these are recognized as the best Magento website designs based upon research findings and social media presence.

Magento’s flexibility is in large part attributed to their architecture and the ability to offer multiple extensions, and modules designed specifically for the eCommerce merchant. If you need to add multiple payment options, languages or stores, for example, Magento can help you take advantage of all of these and much more through a wide variety of applications found in the Magento Connect extension marketplace.

2) Affordable  

According to Google Trends, Magento is the most popular platform in the United States. One of the reasons for this is the platform’s affordability. There is an initial charge for customization and installation, but when all things are considered, Magento ranks as an extremely cost-effective solution.

affordable magento inventory management

1) Open Source Haven with Community Support

Most importantly, Magento is an open source platform, with two versions available, Enterprise and Community Edition. The Magento Community Edition is free to use, and there are no hidden fees when if you choose this option for your Magento development.

Having an open source approach is the main reason so many large and small businesses choose Magento for their eCommerce platform. A large community of developers are also readily available around the world to help, as this is an open source eCommerce solution.

Final Thoughts

Order and inventory management go hand in hand. Understanding the key aspects of the pick/pack/ship fulfillment processes are essential, such as learning some shipping insights for eCommerce and managing your customer’s experience.

With a fully integrated order and inventory management system (OMS) developed specifically for the Magento eCommerce platform, Freestyle Commerce helps you take care of all of your back-office operations and help you expedite the processing of your orders much faster. Here are some highlights of what you can look forward to with Freestyle Commerce’s Magento inventory management integration.

Learn more about how you can benefit from Magento inventory management with Freestyle through our live demonstrations or webinars or check out the video below.

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5 Key Shipping Insights for eCommerce Merchants

Friday, August 28th, 2015

shipping insights for ecommerce

Shipping for eCommerce merchants can be a lengthy and grueling process. Whether you are pondering the idea of offering free shipping, inquiring about multiple shipping providers or figuring out how to build a drop shipping business, the details can get demanding.

Finding a way to save is one challenge, but we have some eCommerce shipping strategies to guide you through.

Since shipping costs are most likely among the top 3 expenses in a merchants P&L, along with cost of goods sold and salaries, learning some shipping insights for eCommerce can only help.

What if there were a way to monitor your shipping accounts, identify late deliveries and file the claims on your behalf? 71lbs. offers all that and more.

Did you know FedEx and UPS shipments come with a money-back guarantee if delivered late by 60 seconds or more? All overnight, ground and international shipments fall under the MBG policy.

With 7lbs, 100% of refunds get credited back to your online shipping accounts. Find out 5 best practices, ways to save and eCommerce shipping insights in the infographic below.

shipping infographicFor more, check out Freestyle’s recent partnership with 71lbs., the unique shipping service for M.O.M and Freestyle customers alike.

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7 Ways to Dominate eCommerce with EDI

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Ecommerce buyers are at a point where they need to see everything, everywhere. Whether they are scanning their phones looking for the perfect gift on Amazon or on their tablets scrolling away for the latest gadgets, eCommerce retail is ever-increasing.

multichannel orders with edi

Because of this, selling on multiple sales channels is the new norm. As it becomes more of a necessity, retailers are migrating to cloud based order management systems so they can have that anywhere access to whatever they’re looking for.

So, how can a small business owner make multichannel orders even easier to control and manage? Simply add EDI solutions. With EDI solutions, you can better manage multichannel sales in our fast-paced, immediate access society.

What Are EDI Solutions Anyways?

They are Electronic Data Interchanges to be exact. But, in short, they are a way to structure all of your data in the simple, but highly efficient way. From purchase orders to invoices and shipping notifications (drop shipping and/or warehouse), all of your orders are kept in sync between multiple sales channels. You will never have to re-key data when processing orders again, and just like mobile purchasing, consistency is key.

“Consumers don’t distinguish between channels. They are channel blind, therefore they expect the same service, products, offers, and pricing online as they do in-store and on mobile. This is why merchants need to make sure that their retail propositions are consistent across all channels.”

Miya Knights, Senior Research Analyst at the International Data Corporation (IDC)

Why is EDI and Order Management a Win-Win?

With our recent partnership with B2BGateway, a world recognized EDI Solution provider, we can offer clients the upper hand in managing their supply chain solutions with ease.

B2BGateway was named in the top 20 most promising logistics solution providers by CIO and is a well-established EDI Solution provider. Their trading partners include, Tesco, Wal-Mart, Amazon and Target. We not only give you the ability to easily track and manage all of your orders and inventory, but with B2BGateway’s EDI solutions, you can now save even more time.

Adding EDI to your multichannel (also known as omnichannel) orders can help your business prosper in a few different ways. Why not free up some more time to focus on growing your brand and let an in-depth inventory management system take care all of your multichannel orders.

multichannel orders

Streamlining your business with EDI Solutions can help in the following ways.

1) Improved Analytics & Differentiation

EDI solutions can help you keep up with these numbers, by improving market competitiveness, sales revenue, and adding an overall refined customer experience. Also, when you’re tracking supply chain data, you can begin to see and proactively work with trigger events, like cycles in supporting industries that impact sales volume.

Data accuracy and timeliness are critical to retail success. An EDI integration with an OMS helps give you end-to-end visibility across your supply chain. Viewing what the customer sees can set the bar for service where Amazon sets it.

2) Increased Margins

You will save tremendously on labor costs with EDI Solutions, along with improved accuracy of information, which means fewer costly and reputation-damaging problems with orders. Gone are the days of excess orders or stock outs, due to someone mistyping a SKU number.

3) No More Data Entry Woes

With a swift automated system, you will quickly see how accurate visibility into your inventory can be. Knowing what your vendors have available gives you the advantage to work with them to eliminate distribution bottlenecks, data entry errors, charge backs, and best of all, ships faster. Managing your multichannel orders will be a cinch.

4) Rapid Turnaround Time on Payments

With payments shifting towards phone scanning and smartphone apps, as opposed to card-swiping and cash purchases, it is essential to stay ahead of the curve when managing your orders. Because EDI data is electronically available across your systems, as well as those of your vendors and customers that use EDI, payments have never been faster.

5) Improved Tracking Capabilities & Supply Chain Management

With EDI solutions, you get a one-stop vendor relationship with full visibility across your sales channels, orders and inventory. This makes it easy to identify an issue with an order, and creates room for you to spend your time as you please. With EDI, there will be no more kinks in your supply chain.

supply chain is just one aspect of multichannel orders

6) Big Box Retailer Benefits

As we mentioned above, B2BGateway has many big box retail partnerships. Therefore, another advantage is allowing the merchant to work with “big box” retailers like Wal-Mart and Bed, Bath & Beyond who require retailers and suppliers to communicate with their systems via EDI.

7) Cloud-Based Portal

With a cloud based portal, you will not only eliminate paperwork from all suppliers, but also reduce costs and errors associated with manual data entry, while allowing suppliers to become EDI compliant. You can also add or delete suppliers as needed, add advanced shipping notices, as well as add barcode labels for organization.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating EDI solutions for your multichannel orders is a simple way to give you the peace of mind to run your business efficiently and accurately. After considering EDI, the customer experience is next, which is always a primary area for improvement. Finding the best ways to manage your customer’s experience is always a vital, if not the main cause for concern in retail.

“Above all, retailers should look to how technology can enable them to start applying and fostering loyalty everywhere, embedding added value into every facet of the customer experience.” -Knights, Research Analyst at IDC

Are the benefits of an integrated EDI solution a part of your next step to achieving small business success?

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4 ‘Free’ Marketing Incentives Every SMB Should be Using

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

free marketing incentives
Why ‘Free’ In Marketing Works

The motivating four-letter word ‘Free’ gets attention from consumers no matter what it’s referring to. Whether they are ecstatic about free Wi-Fi, free product returns or even a free donut with a beverage. That free fried dough on National Donut Day drives people mad, so much so you’d think one would cost more than $1.25. There is just something about the term that gets the people going, but what is it?

Sure it’s enticing to get free stuff, but why is it the main driving factor in online purchases, and just overall shopping experiences? In Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Duke Professor Dan Ariely delves into how rational our buying decisions really are.

“Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is FREE! We forget the downside. FREE! Gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is.” –Predictably Irrational

So what can a small business owner do to comply with this term consumers love so much without breaking the bank? Consider using these four ‘free’ marketing incentives to stay ahead of the competition.

Free Wi-Fi

If you have a brick and mortar store, not offering free customer Wi-Fi might be holding you back. Sure, you’re probably thinking it’s only effective for restaurants or doctors’ offices, but it can also benefit the SMB retailer.

When a customer lo4 Free Marketing Incentives Every SMB Should be Using -free wifigs onto your Wi-Fi, you can drive in coupons that may be close to expiring. Wi-Fi can also be tracked throughout your store
to monitor traffic flow and identify bottlenecks. Providing customer Wi-Fi also gives your business a competitive edge in eCommerce branding. Signing onto the network can help you directly engage with consumers through advertising, special offers and more. Getting your Wi-Fi network started is unfortunately not ‘free,’ and will require some costs and time, but it may be worth the effort. These aspects will vary depending on your business location.

Free Shipping

Offering free product returns goes hand-in-hand with shipping, but there are a few more things to pay attention to. Since free shipping is the most incentivized buying pattern out there, you want to make sure all of your back-end operations are in order first. There are some beneficial rules and instructions every retailer would profit from before offering free shipping, like paying attention to your margins, customers and more.

Free Product Returns

When you are managing purchasing throughout the inventory process, offering free product returns can sometimes have a negative connotation. You might think you’ll lose sales this way, but if you understand some essential retail strategies before offering free product returns, you will be on your way to gaining more customers, increasing sales and honing in on customer satisfaction.

Managing product returns for your eCommerce business can be a cinch if you know what to look for and how to best streamline your inventory in the process.

Free Product Samples

Giving your customers the chance to try your products can be a great business tactic for quite a few reasons. Not only does it give your customer the chance to feel more confident in your products, but it gives you the opportunity to benefit from immediate sales thanks to the law of reciprocity.

It can give your customers a warm-fuzzy feeling knowing you would go out of your way to make sure they’re satisfied. You can even surprise customers by adding a free item to their purchase just as a simple thank you, not to mention the eCommerce product reviews you are likely to get from your efforts. Just be sure not to get to pushy in your marketing, as that will only create frustration among your customers. If you have a product of value, there should be nothing to worry about.

Whether you are starting up your small business website for the first time, or just getting into retail, utilizing these ‘free’ marketing approaches are worth looking into to benefit your business in the long run.

But, offering free products and shipping is not always so simple when starting out. Find out the must-haves before offering free shipping in the ‘free’ eBook below.

5 Must Haves Before Offering Free Shipping

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7 Essential Strategies Before Offering Free Product Returns

Monday, August 17th, 2015

managing complex inventory
Consumers love the four-letter word, Free,’ whether that means scooping up some needless key chains or reveling in a free shipping purchase they just made.

The reasons to offer free shipping have risen over the years with increased conversions and more, but, free returns might be on its way to matching free shipping in years to come.

“Free returns and exchanges surpassed one-day shipping this year as the No. 2 incentive – 65 percent compared to 62 percent.”
Walker Sands Communications

Free shipping is not going anywhere, as it remains the top reason 83% of consumers do more of their shopping online. But, will retailers need to take advantage of more free incentives to keep up? With ‘free’ advertising becoming more and more popular, offering free product returns might soon be a necessity for retailers, especially in apparel.

What Should Retailers Be Aware of?

Shopping online more frequently is not the only thing growing in popularity, as more consumers are expected to buy expensive items online this year.

“Nearly three times as many consumers (27 percent compared to 10 percent) would purchase a product costing more than $1,000 without seeing it first if free returns were offered.”
Walker Sands Future of Retail Study

Before Offering Free Product Returns, knowing the stats is important.

As the numbers show, ignoring these incentives can lead to a decrease in sales and customers, so implementing free returns is key. However, before you continue, you want to be sure all of your business goals are set up properly.

Check out some retail strategies and tips before offering free product returns for your customers.

Some of the best website designs trump their competitors because of their product placements and optimized page copy. One more way to stand out is to make your free offers accessible on your site and product pages. Making them stand out will give your customers the peace of mind to continue shopping on your website.

  • Look Out for High-Frequency Returners

Although it seems obvious to keep up with eCommerce giants like Amazon who thrive on their free incentives, small businesses must be wary when going forward with free returns. Since a third of all internet sales get returned, it is vital to keep an eye too many happy returns. Be sure to monitor your free returns and keep an eye on consumers who might be taking advantage of things like wearing items once then returning them.

  • Offer Secure and Flexible Payments

With consumers shifting towards mobile online payment systems, especially for the upcoming holiday retail season, be sure to keep up with the changes and offer a wide variety of options for shoppers. Implementing free product returns can be beneficial to your brand, but you could lose sales, if you neglect to give your customers a plethora of payment options.

What to Be Aware of Before Offering Free Product Returns

  • Know Your Advantage

As a small business, you have an advantage over larger eCommerce stores like Amazon when it comes to free returns. Amazon has made their empire on offering free initiatives, but when it comes to apparel, small is bountiful. Understand your lead and take advantage of implementing these incentives to compete.

You can also continue to offer discount pricing and increase sales by implementing eCommerce kits and bundles. When it comes to giving your customers the best possible service, free shipping and free returns can significantly help increase your sales, but make sure you know the basics before jumping in head first.

The reasons for offering free shipping and returns are endless, but paying attention to some key aspects will only help your business flourish in the long-run.

The user experience is critical to the ongoing relationship between eCommerce companies and their customers. Find out how to avoid falling behind after checkout.

is your oms hindering your ability to grow ebook cta

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