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WFH? Here’s How to Manage your Ecommerce Order Deliveries Successfully.

order

WFH? Here’s How to Manage your Ecommerce Order Deliveries Successfully.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has turned the whole world upside down. No one is sure about anything anymore. And that scares us. Luckily, the culture of remote working has been catching on. There are a gazillion tools that help you get rid of the snags of WFH. Regardless, managing your team as an ecommerce business owner remotely is no joke. Especially during a time when you cannot afford to lose business or customers.

Here’s a cheat sheet to stay on top of your orders in the age of social distancing.

1. Real-time shipment monitoring: The good news is that there is a greater push for shopping online. More and more customers are seeking comfort in the ease of ordering products online. In the US, there has been a surge in the ecommerce order volume for health and beauty products. The real challenge is staying on top of order fulfillment. You need a unified portal that tracks and monitors your packages in real-time. While your logistics team may be efficient, it is prudent to have visibility into shipment details. A real-time shipment tracking system that feeds you with the total shipments, total deliveries, potential delivery exceptions for every single day at all times. A real-time tracker is a great way to oversee your team’s order fulfillment efficiency with zero manual intervention.

2. Real-time Delivery updates: Your customers are anxious about their orders. More than ever before. If you see a sharp rise in the “ Where is my order” calls to customer support, rest assured, it is the new normal. Instead of overburdening your lean support team, send delivery updates to your customer proactively. Inform your customers of the order location. Auto-set triggers to initiate notification for any change in the shipment transit activity. Your customer stays in the know of the order shipment status at all times.

3. Custom exception notifications: Delivery exceptions are a downer. Lost, delays, damages can ruin your customer’s delivery experience. When left unattended, a bad delivery experience could quickly spiral out of control. To salvage this situation, act immediately. Whenever your real-time tracker notifies you of a potential disaster, come clean and inform your customer.

“Hey Mike. We regret to inform you that your order [ tracking# 887676756454] is experiencing a delay. But we assure you that we are working with our shipping partner to get the order to you at the earliest. Thanks”

Surprisingly, buyers are quite understanding and more cooperative once they are informed of any issue beforehand. In fact, your customers appreciate your transparency.

4. Carrier performance monitoring: When your business is fulfilling orders using more than one shipping carrier, how do you evaluate them. Even global carriers such as FedEx, UPS or DHL have their share of strengths and weaknesses. How do you play to the carrier’s strength so as to benefit the most? Easy. Measure their on-time delivery performances. Categorize their OTD across different zones, different days of the week and different package dimensions. Or simply plug into an Audit tool that can generate all this for you.

5. Cost-saving recommendations: Companies across the world are laying off employees. There is a huge drive for cost-cutting across organizations. Brick and Mortar stores are brainstorming ways to omnichannelise their user experience. The least you can do as an ecommerce business owner is to audit your shipping invoices. If you have not automated your auditing process yet, time to reconsider. An in-depth invoice audit not only results in instant savings on your shipping costs by disputing service and billing errors, but they also unearth strategies to optimize your shipping spend. The need of the hour is to shave away all the payment excesses and billing overcharges.

AuditShipment is an automated invoice audit service that identifies more than 50 carrier errors across vendors, disputes billing errors, validate tariff rate against SLA and offers benchmark discount reports. They also help get you refunds on late shipments from vendors like UPS, FedEx, etc. In addition to offering post-order fulfillment audits, our advanced technology also offers real-time shipment tracking and custom delivery notifications. With AuditShipment, stay on top of your orders at all times.

ecommerce shipping

Ecommerce Shipping Guide 2020: All You Need to Know

This year, the ecommerce shipping industry is adapting automation and other efficiency-boosting tech tools for a 360-degree transformation. The shift in trends that began in 2019 is only going to pick up pace this year, with two of the most important trends of automation and scaling globally gaining impetus.

In 2019, 79% of US ecommerce shoppers said that free shipping would make it more likely for them to buy things online.  53% of users abandon the cart because of hidden costs like shipping, tax, etc. That’s how important shipping is for ecommerce sales.

So what changes should you be prepared for in 2020 when it comes to shipping?

What do you need to know about ecommerce shipping?

These are some of the questions we aim to answer through this guide.

A Step-Wise Peek Into the Ecommerce Shipping Process

Step 1 – Understanding a shipment

The most basic thing you need to understand is what constitutes a shipment. A shipment can be one thing or multiple things, created as a result of an order placed by a customer through online channels. One order might have multiple shipments too.

Step 2 – Using a shipping management software

Managing an inventory, especially when you are listing your products or services on multiple platforms, is a must. Using shipping management software keeps you organized. It also helps you check the status of every order in real-time.

Step 3 – Choosing your shipping carrier

There are a host of shipping carriers that are preferred by ecommerce companies like UPS and FedEx, among others. Therefore, compare the costs, the insurance, the delivery times, and the network of a shipping carrier before choosing one.

Step 4 – How to ship?

What is the most effective shipping method for you? By air, sea, or road? Ascertain this.

Step 5 – Determining whether to ship globally or locally

Will you be taking orders from international customers, or will you be shipping only in your city, state, or country? Answering this question will help you streamline the process.

Step 6 – Tracking & communication

Your work only begins once you have shipped an order; it does not end there. Customers prefer to have constant communication about their orders through tracking. Until the product is delivered, your job is not done.

Step 7 – Packaging and labeling

Incorrect labeling or inefficient packaging can cause damage or loss. Also, a badly packaged product negatively affects brand reputation.

Step 8 – Calculating costs

Shipping costs are one of the most important heads in your company’s balance sheet. Consider the factors like shipping methods, package dimensions, third-party-logistics, etc. while calculating the costs.

Step 9 – Knowing the regulations

You have to check the rules and regulations for all the countries or states you are shipping to. Some products cannot be shipped, while some need to have accompanying documentation, especially when you are shipping globally as they pass through customs. Know this beforehand.

Step 10 – Auditing & refunds

One of the most important steps is auditing your shipments. Shipping carriers might often overcharge you or levy incorrect fees and charges on your shipments. Automated or manual auditing allows you to claim refunds, making a slight addition to your capital.

Shipping Trends to Watch Out For in 2020

1. Going global

The whole world is a market. ecommerce companies are scaling internationally to boost growth. The demand for non-local products (that gain an ‘imported‘ or ‘exotic‘ tag) is only increasing. About 2.2 billion users are expected to shop online globally by 2021 – that’s your market if you go global.

2. Technology

The use of technology has increased efficiency, revenue, minimized errors and facilitated a better organizational structure. You can use shipping automation software solutions or something as simple as chatbots for your customers to track or know more about their orders.

3. Multi-channel presence

Just using one ecommerce platform like eBay or Amazon is not something online sellers prefer anymore. The new trend is to have a presence on multiple channels to maximize the chances of getting sales.

4. Faster delivery

Shorter wait times and same-day delivery options are what are in demand this year. Instant logistics is a major trend. A survey revealed that 88% of online shoppers are willing to pay for same-day delivery.

5. Personalized and premium packaging

Most ecommerce companies are spending a lot of money on designing the packaging. It works great for branding and says a lot about the company. Offering the users an option to personalize packaging is fast becoming a trend. 52% of customers are willing to make repeat purchases if the online merchant offers premium packaging, while 62% were more likely to purchase from a brand that used sustainable packaging.

The Past and the Present

The evolution of shipping and logistics in e-commerce has been phenomenal, especially in the last five years. The shipping modes, costs, size of warehouses, delivery times, packaging materials are only some of the things that have undergone a change. Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning (ML), automation, real-time tracking, Artificial Intelligence (AI), etc. have brought about this evolution. And this year, the ecommerce shipping industry is set to revolutionize with about 25% of the world shopping online. Are you ready?

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Ana Shan is a product evangelist at AuditShipment.com, an AI-driven audit service that automatically captures more than 20 carrier errors and helps businesses save up to 16% of their shipping costs.

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.

3PL

IN-HOUSE VS. 3PL: WHAT TO CONSIDER

Otherwise known as a third-party logistics provider, a 3PL is utilized by a range of businesses to support logistics and supply-chain management specifically as it applies to distribution and fulfillment services. Pre-1970s transportation contracts were comprised of the shipper (the giant retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers) and the shipping carrier. This all changed however with the introduction of an increased number of “sellers” to the market. These sellers didn’t count on logistics as part of their core competencies, and that produced what economists refer to as a “gap” (in the market). The 3PL jumped in to occupy said gap and the rest is history.

Major legislation passed in 2008 legally held 3PLs as responsible for the inventory they receive/hold/transport as the actual owner said inventory. Roughly 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies and nearly all (96 percent to be exact) of Fortune 100 companies use 3PLs today. 

Despite the high uptake of 3PLs, like most industries there are detractors when it comes to outsourcing order fulfillment. Some of the pros listed for keeping things in-house are:

-You understand your business at a level no third party could.

-Issues are easier to resolve.

-Change and/or minute-by-minute adjustments are more flexible and manageable.

Along the same lines, there are experiences with 3PLs that have left sour tastes because:

-Once a relationship is established and a contract signed with a 3PL, it can be difficult to exit.

-Relinquished control can be complex when it comes to deliveries and client relations.

-It can be difficult to communicate with external drivers/shippers or similar transport personnel in the field.

Of the above, the last point, communication with field personnel, is the principal sticking point. If order fulfillment is linked closely with 3PL transportation personnel, which in most cases it is, having a clear understanding of supervisory roles and what to do in the event of delays or poor communication is vital. Notwithstanding for the most part, the pros to working with a 3PL in a smart and effective manner far outweigh the cons.

For example, concentrating order fulfillment and similar tasks in-house takes up a tremendous amount of resources, which equates to more work and a larger staff. Many relationships, with the carriers most notably, are characterized by a disproportionate number of problems due to the complexity of the job, and it is also equally difficult to know if the rates one is paying in-house are truly competitive with what a 3PL can provide.

A 3PL can compare and select the most competitive rates due to a very wide supply of carriers. They, of course, have lower overhead costs and less staff overall is needed. Then there is perhaps the most compelling argument in 2019 for a 3PL relationship: the latest technology is always up-to-date.

With regards to order fulfillment, a 3PL provides an array of functions, but two areas stand out:

Warehousing

Many 3PLs maintain extensive warehousing facilities and especially when confronting the decision to invest and open a warehouse in a foreign company, a 3PL might make better sense. Granted, one does lose a bit of control not being able to oversee warehouse management processes, but it is likely that a 3PL with warehouse management experience in said foreign country would encounter fewer costly surprises than a new company in a given territory.

At a warehouse level most 3PLs run a warehouse management system (WMS). There is no “one size fits all” solution here as a WMS can be highly complex or as simplistic per firm needs. The value added with a WMS is shippers can access reports, track inventory and easily monitor progress. This is done remotely, of course, and most 3PLs that have an advanced WMS can seamlessly integrate it with enterprise accounting software or enterprise resource planning solutions.

Picking, Packing & Shipping

Once an order is placed or something needs to be retrieved or moved, picking, packing and shipping take place. This is where coordination meets timing meets client expectations. A wrong move will cost money and potentially a client’s contract. One of the more common mistakes that occur when trying to run a warehouse (in-house as opposed to using a 3PL) is if packing and shipping procedures are not clearly understood and/or if the company has little experience in this area, generating the appropriate labeling and being able to negotiate favorable rates with carriers such as UPS, USPS and DHL cannot be leveraged. An experienced 3PL in this instance is an invaluable resource to count on.   

Prior to transitioning into “things to consider” before choosing a 3PL, perhaps the best argument for their existence is technology related. A tech-enabled 3PL leverages the latest fulfillment software to streamline the flow of information, which saves time and automates nearly everything along the supply chain. Second, being able to split inventory across fulfillment centers via software integration and advanced analytics drives effective chains and reduces errors over the long term. No one firm can be an expert in everything and successful 3PLs invest in technology knowing that their clients simply do not have the time nor resources to do the same. They are rightly betting the 3PL will do that for them.

Things to Consider

Prior to embarking on a relationship with a 3PL in the order fulfillment arena, there are several issues that should be addressed:

-Can the 3PL commit to ongoing and irregular investments that will always be needed to keep up with augmenting capacity?

-Is it beneficial to commit to these investments on an ongoing basis?

-With seasonal drops or sales spikes, unplanned expenses generally come together: A good 3PL provider can manage these market fluctuations and protect businesses accordingly.

-Regarding handling, the amount of time spent handling special packing materials can be onerous: a 3PL provider can maintain consistency and decrease costs.

Specific Questions for the 3PL Provider

-How do you administer your accounts?

-Will I have access to your reporting data?

-Does the firm count on personnel with regulatory experience?

These issue areas and questions will help in the initial vetting process. Regardless of whether the firm chooses to stay in-house or contract a 3PL for order fulfillment duties, knowing what the other scenario that has not been selected will cost and look like is vital to any intelligent decision.