Posts Tagged ‘inventory management’

Solution Spotlight – ‘Kit’ aka ‘Bundled’ Products in Freestyle

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Freestyle supports the inventory management and order fulfillment of ‘Kit’ aka ‘Bundled’ products!

KittingFor those of you who aren’t familiar with these types of products a ‘kit’, or what Magento refers to as a ‘bundled’ product, is a product that is made up of various components or items and are sold as a set or group.  Managing the inventory associated with each kit can be difficult, especially when one item is used as a component in more than one kit.  However, with Freestyle, managing the inventory and order fulfillment process of kit products just got easier!

Benefits of Using Freestyle to Manage Your ‘Kit’ Products

  • Create & Edit Kits Easily:  Setting up kits in Freestyle is easy to do and manage.  At any time, you can switch, add and/or remove a component.
  • List One Item Multiple Times:  Sell one item in multiple ‘kits’ and on its own?  Freestyle allows you to connect all of those different listings to the inventory of a single item. One sale on any of the listings automatically updates the quantity on all other listings for you.
  • Manage Inventory Automatically:  Freestyle automatically publishes the ‘Available’ inventory back to Magento, which is a sum of the ‘Can Be Assembled’ & ‘Pre-Assembled’ inventory levels. These levels are calculated based off the inventory of the lowest component.
  • Avoid Shipping Mistakes:  Freestyle recognizes the SKU of the entire kit, and also knows each of the individual items that make up the kit. This insures all of your items get shipped out correctly.
  • And more…

How Selling Kits Can Increase Your Sales

There are a number of ways you can increase sales by adding kits to your product mix.  First, you have more opportunities to sell each product.  Not only can the product be listed on its own for sale, but now you can add that product to one or more kits, increasing the number of listings you and your chances of selling that particular product.  Plus, each kit is made up of multiple items, so your sales price is higher.

Some other advantages of selling kits include:

  • Offering Unique Products: Your kit is a combination of whatever products you choose, offering you the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.
  • Opportunity Offer Discounts: Since your customer is buying more than one product with each kit, you may decide to offer a discount on the price.  Everyone loves a deal!  This can be a strategic way to drive more sales.

To learn more about Kit Products and how Freestyle can help you manage the inventory and order fulfillment processes associated with each kit product:

Register for the Live Kitting Product Demo on Thursday, 8/21 at 2pm EST.

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Posted in Dydacomp News, Ecommerce, Freestyle Commerce, Product Updates | No Comments »

Top 5 Features To Look For In An Inventory Management Solution

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Posted by:  Megan Castillo 

Are you having trouble managing your inventory?  Have you run into the dreaded ‘out of stock’ situation more than you’d like?  Or on the flip side, do you have so much excess inventory on-hand that it’s affecting your profit margins?

If any of these sound familiar, it may be time to start looking into an inventory management solution to help you get your order and inventory processes under control.  But with all the options available today, how do you know which solution will work best for you and your business?  And what features should you be looking for?

Top 5 Features To Look For In An Inventory Management Solution:

At Dydacomp, we’ve been helping retailers solve their inventory issues for over 25 years. Our experience has been gained from helping thousands of retailers over the years; giving us insight into the features retailers need, and want, in an inventory management solution.  The top 5 features retailers need include:

  1. Basic Inventory Control
        – What this means is having a systematic way to truly ‘manage’ and control your inventory across all of your sales channels.  Very often we find that new businesses work with spreadsheet(s) where formulas can break, and a lot of manual effort is required to keep inventory on track. For them, using a spreadsheet is the first level of business automation.  These ‘first-time automators’, as we refer to them, may be growing rapidly and need a better, more efficient way to manage their current business, and position themselves for future growth.  They’re not always aware of the systems that are out there that are tailor-made to address their growing needs
  2. Integration with Sales Channel
        - Adding sales channels or marketplaces is a fast and effective way to grow your business, if you have the tools to manage them successfully. Having the ability to bring orders from all channels into one solution, where you can process the orders, manage the inventory, and publish updated ‘available to sell’ levels back to your sales channels, ensures you don’t oversell a low inventory level product.  It also saves you time by centralizing your workflow and eliminating the need to update various systems.  With an effective order management solution, inventory and order updates would be automatically published back to all sales channels.
  3. Barcoding & Scanning
        – Increasing the number of daily orders you receive is exciting, but it can also lead to bottlenecks if you’re not positioned to process and fulfill those orders efficiently. Retailers who are processing a higher volume of orders look to streamline their processes even more by implementing barcoding and scanning at the pick/pack/ship stages.
  4. Accounting Integration
        – While an accounting system can’t do the work of a specialized order an inventory management system, it is necessary to run a successful business. Having a direct integration to your accounting package from an order and inventory management system makes all the difference.  It enables you to easily post to your General Ledger account and keep track of all your other business expenses outside of inventory.
  5. Support For Kits (aka Bundled Products; kitting)
        – Many retailers have added kits or bundles to their product mix, meaning the product for sale is not a single item, but a combination of products sold as a kit or bundle such as a gift basket or a collection of items in a set.  Managing these types of products is more complex from an inventory standpoint. With an inventory management solution that supports kitted products, you can see how many kits can be assembled, what ‘kit’ items need to be re-ordered, etc.

If you think you can benefit from implementing a solution with the features listed above, give us a call.  Or Sign Up for a Free TrialClick Here to register for access.

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Inventory Management Solutions – 2014 Buying Trends

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Posted by: Megan Castillo

At Dydacomp, we’ve been providing retailers with inventory and order management solutions for over 25 years. We’ve been successful for so long because we totally get it.  Dydacomp was founded by retailers to provide software for retailers.  We understand the challenges you face because we’ve been there ourselves.

Working with thousands of retailers over the years has given us good insight into the buying trends as well as the top reasons retailers seek an inventory management solution. I recently came across an article by Software Advice, a website that researches and reviews inventory management software, which supports our findings.  Highlighted below are some of those key buying trends for 2014 and what retailers are looking for in an inventory management solution.

Buyer Profile

Very often the retailers we speak with are evaluating an inventory management solution for the first time.  They are what we refer to as ‘first-time automators’, those who are either running their business using manual methods such as maintaining spreadsheets, or using an accounting program that wasn’t designed to manage inventory and requires a lot of manual intervention. They realize the need to automate their order and inventory processes to not only alleviate the headaches and inaccuracies associated with the manual efforts, but to position themselves to continually grow their business.

According to Software Advice, 95% of the prospective buyers they spoke with were also first-time buyers.  Of that, 36% were using accounting software to manage their inventory, while 35% were using Excel or another spreadsheet method.  Another 11% were using what they called “manual methods”, which often referred to the good old pen and paper method.  Those buyers using any of the above methods are the kinds of people we speak to daily who love the fact that their business is growing, but hate the headaches this growth brings if they don’t have the proper systems in place.  They are looking to ease these pains so they can enjoy their success!

 

Buyers’ Current Inventory Management Methods

Buyers-Current-Inventory-Management-Methods

Software Advice: Inventory Management Software BuyerView | 2014

 

Do you fit into this category?  If so, it may be time to start reviewing your options.  Neither spreadsheets nor accounting software were designed to manage inventory and will only support your business growth to a certain extent.  You don’t want to stand in the way of your own success, right?  As a savvy business owner, you know there’s a better solution out there.   You just may not have the time to explore your options – because you’re too busy reconciling and correcting spreadsheet errors – sound familiar!

Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to explore your options.  I guarantee you’ll gain that time, and more, back in the future once you start automating and streamlining your processes.

Top Requested Inventory Management Features

So what features are buyers looking for?  For most, it starts with basic inventory control.  By that I mean having a systematic way to truly ‘manage’ and control your inventory across all your sales channels.   Being able to rely on a solution to do the work for you, and rest assured the calculations are correct, rather than working in spreadsheets where your formulas can break and cause an inventory nightmare.

Those running a slightly more complex organization from an inventory standpoint are in search of a solution with more advanced features like: bar coding and scanning, demand forecasting, drop shipping, lot tracking and kitting.  And because there is still a need for an accounting solution to complement your inventory management solution, ideally retailers would like to find two of the best solutions that can seamlessly integrate with each other.  Again, it’s not that you don’t need an accounting solution, it’s just that an accounting solution was meant to do just that, manage your finances, and not manage and track inventory.  It’s not unlike using an electrician to fix a plumbing problem.  Yes they are both professionals, but it’s not the electrician’s specialty.  In this case, you’re using a piece of software that wasn’t designed to manage your inventory, and managing inventory is an integral part of a retailer’s business.

Since many small to mid-size retailers use QuickBooks for accounting, a direct integration to QuickBooks is an attractive feature to offer.  This enables retailers to easily post to their General Ledger account and keep track of all their other business expenses outside of inventory.

 

Top-Requested Inventory Management Features
http://blog.dydacomp.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Top-Requested-Inventory-Management-Features

Software Advice: Inventory Management Software BuyerView | 2014

Retailers’ Reasons For Evaluating Inventory Management Solutions

So why are retailers evaluating inventory management solutions? What’s pushing these first-time automators to invest in their back office operations? Most of the reasons go hand-in-hand and all go back to the fact that using spreadsheets or accounting solutions to perform tasks they weren’t designed to do just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

In the poll done by Software Advice, 35% of the prospective retail software buyers they spoke with said they were looking for a more modern solution for their inventory management needs.  Essentially, they are looking for an actual software solution designed to handle inventory needs rather than using spreadsheets, etc. The other reasons found also have to do with using a solution that wasn’t designed for inventory management control – having limited functionality, inability to support company growth and lacking the ability to automate business processes.

Automation is one of the top reasons we find retailers reaching out to us. Our solutions provide retailers with the ability to automate both inventory and order processes to not only streamline their operations, but free up time to focus on strategy efforts – like how to grow their business!  The streamlining of their processes is essential to support their current and future growth.  With manual processes in place, there tends to be a lot of bottlenecks that occur as business takes off, which can actually hinder your growth.

 

Buyers’ Reasons for Evaluating Inventory Management Software
Buyers-Reasons-for-Evaluating-Inventory-Management-Software

Software Advice: Inventory Management Software BuyerView | 2014

 

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, there is one common goal in implementing a solution for the first time, or a replacement solution – finding a way to run your business better to not only manage current growth, but allow for the ability to support continued growth in the future!

So where do you fit in all of this?  If you’re in that category of retailers who are still using spreadsheets or non order and inventory specific solutions to run your business, there’s no time like the present to start exploring your options.  Like I said earlier, we’ve helped thousands of retailers to improve their processes and grow their business, and we’re here to help you too!  See for yourself, sign up for a Free Trial today.

 

 

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IRCE 2014 Recap & 4 Key Take-Aways

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Posted by Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

Dydacomp participated as a sponsor in recent 2014 Internet Retailer Conference Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago. This year IRCE celebrated its 10th year as the world’s largest eCommerce conference and exhibition and our staff had a fantastic experience at the show!

We spoke with many retailers, fulfillment, distribution, and wholesale businesses of various sizes who were eager to discuss the latest developments in internet retail. Our days at the conference were filled with informative meetings and great conversations about the challenges and opportunities businesses face when managing their continued growth.

So what was the buzz at this year’s show? Here are our top 4 key take-aways from IRCE 2014:

irce

#4 Opportunities abound for best-in-class order and inventory management technology solutions with multichannel retailers. At IRCE we heard how order and inventory management automation, efficiency, and insight have delivered real value to the bottom line of many multichannel sellers. These businesses shared experiences of how their multichannel operations continue to expand the needs emanating from their ‘back office silos’. The successful businesses view order and inventory management operations as essential solutions that drive their business’ ability to compete and win from the point in which a customer engages with them through their shopping cart to the receipt of their orders at their door, and beyond.

#3 The Magento Community fully embraced a tightly integrated cloud-based OMS solution. Visitors to Dydacomp’s booth at IRCE were excited to experience Freestyle Commerce first-hand! Freestyle is Dydacomp’s latest innovation—a cloud-based online inventory and order management system that complements Magento eCommerce platforms and Amazon. Those who had the chance to see Freestyle in action were quickly delighted with the benefits its tight integration provided, including:

• Unification of the workflows for ALL Magento and Amazon sales channels orders into a single stream for expedited pick, pack, ship and bill processing.

• Complete visibility into on-hand stock levels, and the tasks involved with purchasing, receiving and updating new inventory counts across sales channels; combined with the ability to manage drop ship supplier operations.

• Connected customer insight and business intelligence tools to help make more informed business decisions and help manage the growth of businesses to their full potential.

#2 SMB retailers focus on drop shipping to drive efficiencies and cost savings. For many start-up and established small to medium-sized (SMB) growing businesses drop shipping was a hot topic. Drop shipping provides a way for savvy business owners to aggressively expand their product offerings without incurring the upfront costs of purchasing new inventory or having to directly manage the pick, pack and ship process for those orders. To further support these businesses, we were able to demonstrate how easy it was to include drop shipping operations into their order management mix through our solutions to meet their business objectives and growth goals without the overhead costs of maintaining inventory locally.

#1 Experience matters when it comes to technology solution providers. Many SMB retailers who sought us out at IRCE were looking for a solution provider that could relate to their specific business needs and who had the experience and the know-how to take businesses like theirs to the next level of success. We were proud to share our own personal success story. Many were surprised to learn that Dydacomp is a technology company that was started by retailers with solutions for retailers. Today, thousands of multichannel merchants rely on our Freestyle Commerce™ and Multichannel Order Manager (M.O.M.®) solutions to automate their retail back office operations and drive business growth. In total, our clients collectively generate nearly 10 million in gross merchandise sales every day! So how can we help you?

We hope to see you at next year’s IRCE but don’t wait until then to get started!

For additional information on operational improvements through automating order management, read this eBook entitled “Drive Your Retail Sales Growth With Operational Efficiencies.”

 

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

Avoiding Stock Outs

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Posted by:  Laura Hills, VP of Marketing

Out of Stock

We speak with retailers every day who tell us that their biggest challenges are with inventory and making sure they have enough product on-hand at all times.  The key is to have just enough to avoid a stock out situation, yet not carry too much product and tie up funds that could be spent elsewhere.

A stock out, or out-of-stock situation is caused when inventory has been depleted. The most common types of retail stock outs occur in the business to consumer goods industry (e.g., electronics, perishables like cookies, flowers or nutraceuticals).

Stock outs are the opposite of overstocks, where too much inventory is on hand.  In this era of multichannel retail, when orders are coming in to a retailer from multiple sales channels, stock outs are more of a concern than ever before.

Research shows that approximately 70-90% of stock outs are caused by poor inventory management and replenishment practices while 10-30% results from a shortage of stock from a supplier. Keeping your back office order workflow process and inventory levels in sync is essential to keeping eCommerce operations on track.

So how do you avoid Stock Outs?  Here are some tips we’d like to share with you from our experience:

  • Centralize the management of inventory from all sales channels
  • Manage multiple warehouses from one system
  • Set up ‘low inventory’ alerts per stock item
  • Manage & issue Purchase Orders to Suppliers from one system
  • Gain insight on trends & peak selling seasons

At Dydacomp we totally get it because we’ve been there too. We’re a software company started by retailers with solutions for retailers. We’ve been helping retailers find that delicate balance of just enough inventory to avoid stock outs without overstocking for years. And when they do, it makes all the difference. Happy selling!

 

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Is it Time for an Order Management System?

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Dydacomp_compterImageby Roxanne Brown, CQA – Consulting 4 Quickbooks


My firm has worked with hundreds of eCommerce clients over the years and many have started the conversation with “My company has really taken off and my current order fulfillment processes just aren’t cutting it anymore; what are my options?

Many of the business owners we’ve worked with started out using Quicken or QuickBooks, coupled with Excel to track and manage their inventory, orders, customers, etc.  While this approach may be acceptable when you first start out, it can quickly turn into an inhibitor of the growth for your company.

As your business grows, copying and pasting information from one system to another and constantly updating Excel (no matter how good you are at it) must be replaced with better and more efficient processes.  This is when we get the calls, asking “there must be a better way, what are my options?” – and the answer is automation!

While no two eCommerce businesses are exactly alike, they all follow the same basic fulfillment processes and can benefit from automating these tasks.  Automation is king; it’s what will allow you to take you time away from the time consuming task of copying and pasting so you may can focus on really running and growing your business to the level you know it can achieve.

The first step in achieving business process automation is to switch from Excel or Quicken to QuickBooks; however that’s just the beginning. QuickBooks (or whatever accounting system you use) is designed to handle the accounting portion of your business; it’s really not meant to handle everything else needed to run an eCommerce business. What you really should consider implementing is an order management system (OMS).  This type of implementation can strike fear in the heart of a business owner as they imagine the challenges of adding and changing many of their business processes – therefore many put this decision off much longer than they probably should have.

I won’t lie and say the transition is easy; however I will tell you that it’s well worth the time and effort to make the change.  No one has been sorry they made the decision to automate their business processes and increase productivity.  Many of the business owners we’ve worked with are shocked at how much they can now accomplish in a day, without adding employees.  I’ve seen businesses double and triple revenue in a year or less, solely because a good order management system was deployed!

When reviewing order management systems there are many things to consider beyond whatever your biggest pain point might be at the moment.  Inventory and order management is just the beginning; there are a lot of additional factors to consider as you take your business to the next level.

  • How many sales channels are you currently on?  Do you plan to add any in the near future?
  • Are you maintaining 100% of your inventory, or do you also drop ship?
  • How can you easily manage the ordering and receiving of products?
  • How can you automate your drop ship processes?
  • You MUST be PCI compliant.  If you’re not, you’re running a risk your business can’t afford.
  • How many states are you required to collect sales tax?
  • How many warehouse locations or fulfillment centers are in the mix?
  • What type of selling tools would make running your business more streamlined; and thus more profitable?
  • Fraud protection is key; what tools are available to reduce your risk?
  • How can you provide top-notch customer service?
  • The order management system needs to integrate properly with your accounting system.

Deploying a good order management system will make it possible to do all of the above and SO much more.  So, are you ready to take your business to the next level?

For additional information on the benefits of automating order, inventory and customer management, read this real-world case study about a luxury bedding etailer.  And for more insight on QuickBooks® and eCommerce Training & Integration check out the Consulting 4 QuickBooks blog here.

 

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Posted in CEO, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Spotlight, Dydacomp News, Ecommerce, Email Marketing, Industry News, Multichannel Order Manager, Payment Processing, PCI Compliance, Press Release, Search Marketing, Shipping, SiteLINK News, SMB Index, StoreFront.net, Support, Webinar | No Comments »

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

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Posted by: Laura HillsDydacomp-Order-Management

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Posted by: Rebecca Kaelin, Marketing Coordinator, Logicbroker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Romance and Winter Deals Attract Shoppers

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills, VP Marketing, Dydacomp

At this point consumers have received their holiday bills and they’re paying them off, just in time for the next popular gift giving occasion –Valentine’s Day.  For retailers, Valentine’s Day has become more than just a holiday to celebrate love, it’s an important part of retail’s winter season. Consumer spending on Valentine’s Day gifts results in notable retail sales, so much so that many businesses see it in their bottom line each year.

Valentine’s Day has become a global holiday celebrating love and romance that often includes gifts from chocolate and flowers to over-spending on lavish gifts.  Men reportedly outspend their female counterparts by two to one.  Fat Wallet, a growing resource for online shoppers, is predicting Valentine’s Day Sales to reach $19 billion this year and is ready with special deals and coupon offers.  In 2013 CNN reported that 40.7% of people used their smart phone to make a Valentine’s Day purchase.

So how can your customers show their love and affection while still trying to save some money?  And what about other good deals typically found in February?  We turn to Jeanette Pavini, MarketWatch columnist to help us navigate Valentine’s Day opportunities and beyond. Online and multi-channel retailers can take advantage of Jeanette’s insight and plan promotions to attract online shoppers for everything from romantic gifts to tax preparation software and more.

Here are Jeanette’s recommendations to shoppers:

  • The more than 23,000 jewelry stores in the U.S. sold an estimated $2.8 billion of merchandise in February 2013, thanks to Valentine’s Day. Engagement rings and diamonds are a good buy in February and this year the halo setting (a small circle of diamonds around a center stone) is the trendy design.  In addition, earrings and bracelets are popular and many retailers will be offering good deals to showcase their products and move their inventory.  One note of caution – be sure to keep the store tags on any jewelry that you buy until you are sure the person wants to keep the item.  Returning jewelry can sometimes be tricky.
  • Perfume is a popular Valentine’s Day gift and many retailers opt to promote fragrances by offering a gift with purchase.  Some of the best gift with purchase deals can be found in February.  Check the sizes and prices carefully; you typically pay less per ounce when buying the larger size.
  • Tax preparation software companies are getting more creative in selling their once a year products. TurboTax has teamed up with Amazon to offer special incentives on their products, offering a $50 upgrade to TurboTax Deluxe users who opt to put $500 of their refund toward an Amazon gift card.  Items that can help people get organized for tax preparation will be welcome at this time of year also.
  • Travel to Europe is a bargain because it is cold there which tends to keep people away.  Cities like London or Paris have plenty of indoor attractions and airlines are offering good deals (with the exception of President’s Day – February 17).  Europe’s Carnival season has been slow in recent years and prices are expected to remain low all winter.  Hawaii’s peak season doesn’t get underway until mid-March so if you’ve got the time, you can book before airfare and hotel rates rise. Travel accessories and off-season clothing would play well with these travelers.
  • February is Canned Food Month and you can stock up and save especially with the family-sized options.  Just keep an eye on the expiration dates and be sure to buy only what you know you’ll use.  This is a good time to buy canned goods to donate to food pantries – the items are on sale and the need is high as the holiday donation season has ended. If you have a disaster supply kit (and if you don’t now’s a good time to think about creating one), swap out your close to expiration canned goods and replace with the sale items you can pick up in February.

Take advantage of historical sales and shopper patterns to see which of your customers could use some ideas for Valentine’s Day.  Be the online retailer to offer specials, sales and promotions to attract your best, repeat customers.  Get your offers out early and often to capture shoppers’ attention and be ready to fill last minute orders for procrastinators.  Keep your audience informed and be sure you are visible across all platforms.

The full text of Jeanette’s article, “Winter Deals That Might Surprise You” can be found at

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/
SB10001424052702304007504579347021413822800
.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day and happy selling!

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Lessons Learned: Avoiding Holiday Shipping Woes

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Posted by: Laura Hills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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