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5 Must-Have Features of Enterprise E-Commerce

e-commerce

5 Must-Have Features of Enterprise E-Commerce

E-commerce is everywhere — unless, of course, you look in the B2B space. Unfortunately, one segment lags behind all the rest when it comes to online sales: manufacturers. Just 38% of manufacturers have e-commerce websites, and only 6% of all manufacturer sales come through this particular channel. 

Part of the reason manufacturers are so slow to adopt e-commerce can be traced back to the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The traditional ways of doing business largely haven’t posed a problem yet, so many manufacturers don’t feel a real sense of urgency to explore the increasingly relevant direct-to-consumer model. 

It also has a lot to do with technical hurdles. For many manufacturers, moving to e-commerce involves taking on yet one more system to master — that or an expensive integration with their current enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. It’s nearly impossible to get an e-commerce platform to talk to an old “closed” mainframe, so plans to upgrade often involve a two-year timeframe or longer to get everything up and running. They might also involve a million-dollar price tag. Not surprisingly, this tends to put e-commerce on the back burner pretty quickly. 

And it’s important to note, too, that most manufacturers work through distributors and dealers, making e-commerce seem like nothing more than a mere alternative to their current traditional sales channels. 

A Missed Opportunity

What many manufacturers seem to be missing, though, is that B2B customers are also B2C customers. Chances are that they’re already shopping online for their personal needs, and not having a way to buy their business products and services online can have a hefty negative impact on the customer experience. If you’re manufacturing a commodity product and your sales process lacks the convenience of shopping for that product online, your customers might begin to look elsewhere. 

Remaining passive about e-commerce is simply the wrong approach, especially with B2B buyers moving more of their purchases online all the time. As it stands, nearly half of all companies utilize online channels for 50% to 74% of all their corporate purchases. Not being online just means you’ve missed out on an opportunity — not only to secure additional sales, but also to broaden your reach to a global level

Also, remember that it’s easier than ever for competition and new players in the market to get in front of your customers via Google, Facebook, and email. Not having an e-commerce site could easily cost you market share, even if the competition’s product isn’t as good as yours.

Beyond the Basics

Knowing that it isn’t enough to conduct all business offline, know, too, that it isn’t enough to just invest in getting an e-commerce platform, leave it there, and call it good. Your site has to offer the functionalities necessary to run an online business. If your system doesn’t support multiple pricing tiers, it probably also doesn’t mimic your current sales process. Clearly, that’s not a good thing. 

Your site needs to be able to support multiple buying options, such as “requests for quotes” as opposed to a shopping cart model. It can take time to arrive at a number in a complex B2B transaction, and the last thing you want is for a customer to have to take the interaction offline just to finalize scope and nail down specifics. 

This naturally leads to my next point. Assuming your e-commerce site comes equipped with all the basics like browse, add to cart, checkout, email confirmation, etc., there are a few features to look out for at the enterprise level. Those often include the following:

System integration options

In e-commerce, a certain amount of coordination is necessary between the website itself and your back-end system that you use for inventory and accounting purposes. Without proper integration, order fulfillment can easily get problematic. Focus on maintenance, data input, and offering a seamless user experience. Most of all, understand all the system integration options of your marketplace website before going with one provider over another.

Proper data to support search

Product information is important. It’s what consumers see prior to making a purchase decision. But it can sometimes pale in comparison to the product data used behind the scenes. A number of data fields and HTML tags enable your products and website to rank in both Google and on-site search results. Make sure your platform accommodates these options. Also, inquire about the tracking capabilities of your on-site search function. It can be useful to monitor what users found — and didn’t find — during a visit.

Customer tiers

At the enterprise level, you’ll likely run across different types of customers. Being able to segment these customers into various tiers can come in handy. Based on their purchase history, for example, you might determine that one tier would respond well to a certain promotion while another’s browsing behavior could inform subsequent product recommendations. In other words, segmenting tiers allows you to personalize your messaging, pricing, and other marketing efforts to fit the needs of your customers. So look into this functionality while reviewing your e-commerce options.

Analytics integration

Whether you’re looking at an off-the-shelf platform or a custom solution, reporting is very important. At a bare minimum, make sure a standard tool like Google Analytics can be integrated with your e-commerce system. You’ll also want to inquire about the setup of advanced features like e-commerce tracking.

Merchandising

Generally, any platform you go with will provide the functionality of assigning products to categories. This can help with on-site search and make it easier for visitors to browse your product line. Beyond that, you might wish to feature certain products. The question, then, is what ability do you have in the platform to create banner ads, highlight related products on a product page, create landing pages around a spotlight topic for the month, and feature products in other ways? 

Providing a good online experience naturally makes customers feel good about doing business with you. It also increases the likelihood of driving new customers to your business without needing to invest in additional resources. 

Ultimately, you can handle more transactions with an e-commerce site in your corner. Just make sure your site provides you with all of the functionalities you need to keep your business running smoothly and your customers happy. 

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Michael Bird is the CEO of Spindustry, a digital agency focused on e-commerce, SharePoint portals, and enterprise websites. He has almost 30 years of experience in interactive development, user behavior, and business solutions. His successful agency, Spindustry, puts these strategies into practice to help businesses grow.

logistics

6 Ways to Enhance Your Logistics Efficiency and Improve Customer Relations

For any business that relies on transferring physical goods and valuable data on a daily basis, perfecting logistics processes is an absolute must. Failing to address this important aspect can hurt both the other internal processes at a company and negatively affect the business’s relationships with customers.

When perceived from the position of a customer, this makes perfect sense. Everyone has probably had at least one bad shipping experience in their life. As it turns out that, poor shipping options and bad service can lead to alienating customers and even causing them to order goods from competitors’ websites instead.

So, what can companies do to improve their logistic efficiency and maintain the desired relationship with their customers, whether they’re loyal or new? Here are a few tested and proven ways to stay on top of the situation.

Begin with your logistics staff

Bruce Vaughn, a top paper writing services reviews contributor and a former logistics manager in a large food supply chain, testifies that many shipping mishaps and mistakes begin right at the very beginning of the route: Your own warehouse. 

It all begins and ends with your employees. You can have state-of-the-art software, best vehicles, and finest products on the market, but if you’re constantly understaffed or your employees in the logistics department aren’t properly trained, all other efforts can (and probably will) easily go to waste. Educate your staff and make sure there are always enough of them to handle the growing needs of your business.

Modernize the logistics processes

The times when inventory management and all other processes in your logistics department needed to be done by hand are long gone. Failing to modernize these procedures doesn’t only make your business appear outdated to the outside world: It also slows all shippings down, aggravating your customers as a result.

Business analysts from dissertation writing services advise investing in customizable information management systems that will allow you to handle inventory, statuses of all orders, shipping options, and all other related logistics aspects. This way, your staff will save valuable company’s time and money while also making fewer errors in the process.

Manage supply and demand

One of the most important lessons every retail business owner needs to learn is how to assess the inventory and keep everything neatly stored. This is especially challenging for small businesses, as lack of storage space often prevents them from keeping large amounts of goods close and ready to ship at any time.

Even if your business can’t afford to store thousands of items at the same time, nothing prevents you from educating your staff on how to make the best use of space you do have. Additionally, tracking and analyzing orders can give you a good overview of when your customers typically order more, so you can prepare adequately and in time.

Cut the costs by going green 

As consumers are becoming more aware of our impact on the environment, the time has come for retail and other businesses to start seriously considering going green to cut shipping costs and respond to the wishes of their customers. Thesis help and grademiners analysts assess that more than half of people ordering goods online care about social or environmental benefits, and the results of a study conducted by Cone in 2017 support these claims.

Reducing the consumption of fuel, streamlining driving routes, and investing in eco-friendly packaging are only some of the ways for your business to contribute to saving the planet and strengthen the bond between your brand and its customers.

Partner with reliable shippers

If your company doesn’t ship the goods but instead partners with other shipping services, make sure that your partners are professional and serious when it comes to their end of the business. Your customers expect the entire experience, from ordering to receiving, to be error-free, and if your shipping partners fail to do their job, it’s the image of your company that will suffer as a result.

One of the factors businesses often put in focus when choosing their shipping partners is the price, and this should come as no surprise. However, price should never be the only one, let alone the decisive aspect. Take time to inquire about your potential partner’s delivery and delay rates, insurance, and statistics about their customer support. 

Rethink your refund policy

Even when everything is done right, mistakes can happen. More often than not, however, errors will not affect your business’s reputation as much as your actions to take care of them and prevent similar mishaps in the future.

Remember that trust is what bonds you and your customers as much as the quality of your products. Uk-dissertation.com and essayshark reviews business expert Christina Green emphasizes that designing a respectful refund policy is one of the most important aspects of your retail business. 

Logistics management is one of the crucial components of business operations. Fixing mistakes and maintaining these processes always begins with creating a sustainable plan that should serve your company at the given moment and in the future.

Don’t hesitate to invest time, money, and other resources to make logistics processes work optimally, and your business will soon experience the benefits. Customers will appreciate your efforts, rewarding you with their trust and recommendations, while many other internal processes in your organization will also take a turn for the better.

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This guest post is contributed by Kurt Walker who is a blogger and college paper writer. In the course of his studies he developed an interest in innovative technology and likes to keep business owners informed about the latest technology to use to transform their operations. He writes for companies such as Edu BirdieXpertWriters and uk.bestessays.com on various academic and business topics.

business listings

The Importance of Having Local Business Listings

In this day and age, it is clear that having a strong online presence is very important for any company. Business owners know that having a functional, informative, and visually attractive website will draw in more customers. The same goes for a strong social media presence. We’re sure that you’re marketing your business on Instagram, Facebook, and so on. However, what people sometimes don’t think about are local business listings sites. In this article, we’ll explain the importance of having local listings and why utilizing such listings would be beneficial for your business.

You’re Easier to Find if Your Name is in the Phonebook

Basically, think about local business listings as a sort of a digital-era phonebook. Nowadays, whenever people need information on a certain kind of business, they’ll most likely look for it online. Local business listings can introduce them to a variety of companies offering the kind of service or product they need, based on the potential customers’ area. For example, people looking for moving companies in New York would find the company Dumbo Moving and Storage Brooklyn, as well as important information such as the company’s working hours, address, link to the company’s website, and its phone number. As a lot of queries also specify the location of the kind of business they’re interested in, having your business on these area-based listings can help you a great deal.

Posting important information on local business listings is not hard to do and it doesn’t take much time. It is an easy way to improve your digital marketing. So, why waste the opportunity to efficiently attract new customers? There’s even a good chance that interested parties will give you a call right away. People often use the internet on their smartphones, so it’s very easy and convenient for them to call you as soon as they find your number on local business listings. And if you receive a phone call, then you’re already halfway to securing new customers.

SEO Benefits

Apart from this obvious advantage that local business listings provide, there are more “under the hood” benefits as well. Namely, they can increase your search engine visibility and overall brand visibility. If you’re paying attention to the keywords you use, then you’ll be pleased to learn that local business listings do the same. They’ll most likely use the same or similar keywords you’ve used, thus generally improving your SEO. These sites usually have significant domain authority. Even if your potential customers don’t find your website while using the specific keyword, they’re likely to find your profile on local business listings.

What’s more, the benefits to your search engine visibility don’t stop there. The people working for the major search engine companies like to compare their data with data found on such sites. If your information is there and it is consistent, search engines will deem your business to be more reliable and trustworthy. And if it’s not, they might think that you’re running a shady business, causing your SEO to degrade.

Local Business Listings Can Improve Your Reputation

The importance of local business listings in terms of your reputation isn’t only related to SEO. Potential customers themselves might think that it’s strange that your company isn’t listed there. They might consider it a red flag, warning them to take their business elsewhere. Even if they’ve already heard of your company, finding another one on local business listings might make them call that company and end their search right there and then.

On the other hand, local business listings also offer user reviews. If your company is not only listed there, with all the up-to-date, relevant information, but it also has a lot of good reviews, that’s often all it takes to secure a customer. While we know that many company owners often fear reviews, if you don’t have faith that you’ll receive good user reviews (in other words, if you’re not sure that you’re providing a quality service and/or products), then you have more pressing matters at hands than thinking about the importance of local business listings. However, if you are good at what you do, then you can expect the positive reviews on such sites to help you significantly. You can even post the same reviews on social media or on your website.

When it comes to your reputation, it is also worth noting that some business listings will include your information without your knowledge. This information could be incorrect. What’s more, your competitors can also use these listings to harm your company (this doesn’t happen often, but it is possible). Setting up your profile by yourself on local business listings will prevent that from happening.

Five Most Important Business Listings

So, utilizing local business listings is easy and can generally only help your business. The only thing to consider is which business listings to use. We’ve prepared a list of the five most important ones to help you out:

-Google My Business

-Yelp for Business Owners

-Yahoo Business Listing

-Bing Places for Business

-Facebook Business

There’s not too much difference between these five listings. They are all free and easy to use and setup. However, Yahoo Business Listing will require you to pay 9.95$ every month to allow you to include pictures, which could be important depending on the type of business you run. They also offer the option of paying 29.99$ every month. Choosing this option is recommended because Yahoo’s employees will then include your business in about 40 other local business listings as well, thus saving you some time.

Facebook Business is also highly recommended because many people are using Facebook to find businesses in their area, even if you are mostly doing business with baby boomers. Unlike other business listings, this one not only makes it easy for potential customers to call you, but it also makes it easy for them to message you, if that’s their preferred way of doing business.

Of course, these five sites are just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t stop there and try to include your business in as many local business listings as possible (even if you’ve paid for Yahoo Business’ 29.99$ option). Taking the time to do so means that you’ll have less time to dedicate to running your business, but in the long run – it’s definitely worth it.

e-commerce

Shipping Solutions Keep Pace with E-Commerce’s Global Reach

I recently came across a study in which 80 percent of executives from leading U.S. e-commerce companies said they considered expansion to international markets “critical” to future growth.  The survey also revealed that Canada, Western Europe and Asia account for most international sales from U.S. websites, followed by China and Japan.  

These findings are indicative of the “no-turning-back” mentality taking place among retailers, as the reality of the growing global e-commerce marketplace takes hold. U.S. retailers now look beyond their borders and see a world in which 80 percent of B2C e-commerce sales are taking place outside of North America, and in which consumers are increasingly open to shopping across borders.

International e-commerce sales have become so pervasive in fact, almost 60 percent of shoppers say they made an international purchase in the past six months. That number jumps to almost 63 percent for European consumers, and 58 percent for Asia-Pacific shoppers.

This is especially true within the lucrative U.S./Canada trade relationship, with as much as one-third of Canadian e-commerce purchases going to U.S. sites, and more than 60 percent of Canadians having made an international purchase in the last six months. 

Today consumers across the globe, including in emerging and developing countries, have unprecedented access to brands and product selections online. Consider, for example, that 75 percent of online shoppers in India and 61 percent of shoppers in Nigeria have made international purchases. It’s no wonder then the value of retail e-commerce is surging and projected to be valued at almost $5 trillion by 2021, just two years from now.

For smart retailers, the customers are there. The challenge is to connect with consumers in a way that aligns with their local customs and expectations to localize transactions and fine-tune the customer experience. And, since ensuring seamless deliveries is an important part of any customer experience, it’s essential to understand that international logistics resources are possible today that were unthinkable just a few years ago.

Meeting customer expectations – in every country

In thinking about satisfying expectations, a retailer will come to understand that the world’s consumers essentially want the same things when shopping online:  

  • Consistent inventory across all channels
  • Detailed product information 
  • Site navigation in their native languages
  • Prices listed in local currencies
  • Online payment/currency-conversion capability
  • Access to rebates and other savings incentives
  • Fast delivery – what they want, delivered when they want it.

A retailer must dedicate time to market research as a way to understand consumer preferences and dislikes.  You need to make sure there’s demand for your product, determine who your competitors are, and then find your competitive advantage. A good logistics strategy will be an integral part of that competitive advantage because seamless, on-time deliveries – and hassle-free returns – are among the most important deliverables for consumers all over the world.  

PriceWaterhouse Cooper’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Survey asked consumers in 27 countries about their shipment expectations. Among the more interesting findings, is the impact mega-retailers including Amazon, Alibaba and Net-a-Porter have had in defining global consumer expectations. Global consumer expectations include free shipping (72 percent), free return shipping (65 percent), package tracking (54 percent) and same-day delivery (50 percent).

To accommodate these globally-shared expectations, international retailers are building logistics strategies that create the “look and feel” of a domestic delivery – despite being an ocean or a continent away.  Italian customers don’t really care if customs delays affected a shipment leaving the United States, or that bad weather over the Atlantic forced a shipment to be re-routed. They just want their packages delivered on time, as promised. Every time.

Behind the scenes, logistics providers are working to expand their international footprints, to ensure capabilities are in place to help businesses meet their delivery promises.  For example, my company recently announced a $1B investment in the future, including a new national hub set to open in Toronto in 2021.  You’ll find similar developments happening around the world.

Technology and innovation are also allowing logistics companies to provide levels of service that were unthinkable as recently as a few years ago. Some of those solutions include: 

-Customized solutions. Shipping companies can support a retailer by providing a wide range of options to build the best solution for a particular customer’s needs. Shippers have traditionally been bound by rigid carrier schedules; today, a solution can meet a specific need. For example, a shipment traveling from southern California to Ontario would benefit from direct linehaul service to the border, followed by induction into a Canadian distribution center. The direct linehaul could conceivably shave two to three days from a “traditional” Canada-bound schedule.

-Different modes of transportation. Hybrid solutions might integrate ground service with a rail or air component, depending on a particular situation. In fact, 2018 was a particularly strong year for intermodal volume on U.S. railroad, according to the Journal of Commerce.

-Expedited service. For shipments to Europe, Asia, Latin America, or even across North America, a retailer can take advantage of unprecedented expedited air solutions. We used to think of “expedited” as a solution reserved for extreme emergencies, but today, retailers increasingly rely on expedited air solutions because of its guaranteed, anywhere/anytime capabilities.

-Cross-border expertise. Efficiencies in customs management now make it possible for shipments to move swiftly across international borders. Experienced providers will ensure maximum efficiency in the clearance process, including assignment of the proper tariff classification code. Getting the tariff classification correct is important because an incorrect classification will delay a shipment, and shippers might pay a higher rate of duty. A report by the Auditor General of Canada found 20 percent of shipments arrive at the border with an improper code assigned! And since tariff classification is used to determine eligibility for free trade agreement benefits, an incorrect classification could cause the shipper to miss out on those savings as well.

E-commerce truly is the engine of future retail growth. And thanks to innovations in transportation efficiency, your access to the world’s customers has never been easier.

It’s All About Relationship with Freight Brokers. Here’s Why.

Several moving parts exist to make the transportation and logistics industry succeed. From truck drivers and innovative technology companies, to shippers, carriers, and freight brokers, each part of the marketplace helps create smoother transfer of goods while improving efficiencies across the board. When it comes to freight brokers – the licensed intermediaries who work to connect carriers and manufacturers – the ability to run a successful operation relies on a foundation of business relationships. Freight brokers must take the time to cultivate their partnerships and connections from day one to ensure they have what they need to sustain a viable business.

Understanding the Freight Brokerage Business

Recent statistics estimate the total number of freight brokers working in the United States to be slightly more than 17,000. Some work independently under their own business structure while others are employed by large brokerage firms. In either scenario, licensed brokers have to go through distinct steps to ensure they are operating within current federal laws. The most important part of the licensing process is registration and obtaining motor carrier authority through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Along with this requirement, freight brokers must also go through formal training at a freight broker training school to learn what is necessary to become effective in the field. The licensing regulations also require brokers to hold a bond or a trust, with the most common choice being a freight broker bond. Obtaining a freight broker bond is one of the first situations where a strong relationship is necessary.

A bond is a form of credit extended to the broker, based on their financial track record and credit history. If a claim is made against the bond because the broker has engaged in business practices outside the lines of federal regulations, the claim amount is paid from the bond on behalf of the broker. This structure means that the surety company offering the bond must trust that the freight broker is a good candidate for the bond, meaning there will be minimal claims in the future. Maintaining a relationship with the surety company is beneficial when bonds renew, and it can be helpful when claims arise.

Relationships and Cash Flow Help

Business relationships are also a crucial aspect of a freight broker’s business when it comes to financial partners. Banks, credit unions, and online lenders exist to help small businesses fund large projects, expansion, or to cover cash flow when the need arises. However, without a relationship with certain lenders or finance companies, freight brokers may find themselves in a hard to navigate position.

For some freight brokers, cash flow can become tight when customers are slow to pay or when business slows down. The business still has overhead to pay, and there may be a need for increased marketing or advertising to entice new customers to connect. Each of these issues requires available capital. A relationship with a finance company, such as an invoice factoring, small business loan, or line of credit lender can make all the difference in getting through a dry spell or a time of high growth.

Keeping Customers Satisfied

Finally, relationships are essential to freight brokers when it comes to working with their customers. Although the size of the freight brokerage market is small compared to other facets of the transportation or logistics industry, competition grows each day. The barriers to entry to start a brokerage business are minimal, as are start-up costs, and so many with industry experience join the ranks of freight brokers consistently year over year. The increased number of licensed brokers can make it challenging for seasoned professionals to keep the upper hand on competitors.

Maintaining strong working relationships with customers, business connections, and networking partners are necessary to keep ahead of the competition. When other professionals in the industry know that a particular broker is known for delivering on his or her promise to shippers and carriers, they are likely to stay busy with work. Similarly, having processes in place for clear communication and managing issues when they come about helps strengthen relationships over time.

Being in the freight brokerage market can offer a lucrative career path for those with a passion for moving freight efficiently. However, healthy relationships are a must throughout nearly every aspect of the business. Brokers need to ensure they have built up and can maintain good connections with their surety company, finance partners, and of course, their customers and business partners, if they want to be successful now and in the future.

 

Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry under several different roles within the company, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog.