Improve these 10 processes before adding new retail services

by | Aug 20, 2017

Everyone seems to want more when it comes to the retail world. More products, more retail services, more low prices, more crazy shipping and delivery options. You may start to feel that more is always better. Except it’s not; it’s often just more of the same.

Adding such zany new retail services as having store employees make deliveries on their way home or delivery by drone aren’t going to grant you sudden success if you haven’t mastered the most basic customer expectations of online e-commerce order fulfilment. You could add a million more products to your retail assortment, but if your e-commerce site doesn’t work right, customers might not be able to place orders with you. If EDI isn’t calibrated from your commerce site all the way through to fulfilment and shipping, the order could be inaccurate, late, or worse yet, you may not have access to it after all. You then have to send the dreaded “we’re sorry, we have to cancel your order” message.

And chances are, that customer won’t be placing an order with you again.

Placing an online order requires a level of trust that the seller will send the right item within the advertised time-frame. Breaking that trust all but guarantees that the next time they make a purchase, they’re going to buy from someone else. They may even go on social media and review sites to tell everyone of their bad experience with you, causing even more potential customers to second-guess their purchase.

But what if you could improve and streamline retail services you have already? If you could be great at what you’re already doing, then when you go to expand, you’re fitting new items into an already-smooth system, not trying to add new products to a poorly performing one.

Here are ten areas you can focus on before you ever start adding new products to your lineup.

  1. Item Information Display: When people are searching for your product online, do they have enough information to make a buying decision, sight unseen? Make sure your product details and information are displayed as thoroughly as they can be.
  2. User Experience: What are the pain points and bottlenecks on your website? Is there anything there that stops people from checking out? Do you need to expand your payment options or simplify your shopping cart?
  3. EDI: When your orders, invoices, advanced ship notice and other documents are automated, everything moves faster, which can reduce customer wait times. It can also improve the accuracy of your documentation, which means fewer errors and less human review of orders, which means getting paid faster and saving money on staff overhead costs.
  4. Inventory Visibility: Retailers that know what they have and where it’s coming from can go a long way towards customer satisfaction. If you can display accurate inventory counts on your website, that will also improve sales rates for Click & Collect – known internationally as buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS or BOPUS), as well as drop shipping and in-store fulfilment.
  5. Data Analysis: When you have clean, accurate data that can drill down to the store and product levels, you can make better decisions about the immediate future, and better forecasts for the long term.
  6. Communication: Break down the silos within your organisation to help get everyone on the same page, exchanging clean and accurate data. Consider sharing sales data with your suppliers so they can help you with additional insights you might not know to look for.
  7. Community Collaboration: Improved relationships between retailers and trading partners can help services all around. Plus, it’s great when you can renegotiate to concentrate on your strengths. Perhaps it’s better for a supplier to do drop shipping rather than you sending it, or maybe you need to find additional suppliers of popular products.
  8. Omnichannel Strategy: Are there channels that you’re missing? Is your ecommerce site mobile-friendly? Should you incorporate an online marketplace into your strategy? Does your in-store inventory match your available online inventory?
  9. Shipping and Delivery: Perhaps you need to re-evaluate your shipping and return policies. Are you taking advantage of Click & Collect (BOPUS or BOPIS)? Ship to store? Ship from store? Are you offering free shipping at all? What are you doing about accepting returns for online orders in your stores? Is there a different carrier or 3PL that would work better for your needs?
  10. Marketing: How well does it work with your existing customer base? Email campaigns, social campaigns, buying incentives, loyalty programs and other promotions for keeping return customers. They cost less to keep than finding new customers, and return customers can be great evangelists for your brand and your products. Make them happy, and your sales will grow. Lose them, and your customer acquisition costs can skyrocket.

If you’d like to focus on some of these areas of retail services improvement, SPS Commerce can help you out. From EDI to POS analytics, inventory visibility to supporting your omnichannel strategy, SPS commerce has helped thousands of retailers around the world, and we can certainly help you. For more information, see a demonstration or to speak with an SPS representative.

SPS Commerce Blog Team