Archive for the ‘Webinar’ Category

Drop Shipping 101

Friday, April 18th, 2014

DropShippingPosted by: Megan Castillo,
Dydacomp Product Marketing Manager

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

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

The Advantages

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

Some Drawbacks Do Exist

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

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

How To Get Started

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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Posted in CEO, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Spotlight, Dydacomp News, Ecommerce, Email Marketing, Industry News, Multichannel Order Manager, Search Marketing, Shipping, SiteLINK News, StoreFront.net, Webinar | No Comments »

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

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Posted by: Megan Castillo,  Dydacomp Product Marketing ManagerPicture1

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

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

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

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

Why is Omnichannel Retailing Important?

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

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

How do you apply an Omnichannel Retailing Strategy?

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Posted by Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider the following in analyzing your site:

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

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

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

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

 

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Connecting With Your Customers

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Posted by Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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March Madness – Bargains and Deals Attract Shoppers

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills, VP Marketing, Dydacomp

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Welcome Spring and happy selling!

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National Retail Federation Predicts A Good Year For Retailers

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Posted by Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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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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