As the form of retail continues to change in the wake of the pandemic, companies are increasingly faced with challenges to increase their sales and acquire new customers. Iain Coplans, founder of Stok.ly, explains how retailers can expand into eCommerce and scale their operations by choosing the right marketplaces, websites and frameworks.
We saw during and after the pandemic in the configuration of small businesses, above all a stagnation of stationary expansion and the complete opposite online. Not only do retailers want to improve their existing e-commerce offerings, they also want to introduce new e-commerce channels and increase the visibility of their products for millions of potential customers.
The focus on eCommerce poses a number of challenges for retailers. In the past 18 months, many have tried to expand their ecommerce offerings, but adding new sales channels presents some difficult hurdles. You will also find our guide to help you understand and overcome this.
The three challenges for online retailers:
- How to identify the best marketplaces or e-commerce websites to support your business model
- How to scale your multichannel offer
- How to effectively manage order processing, picking, packaging and shipping.
Your first task as you expand into ecommerce is figuring out which marketplaces or websites will best support your product.
The number of online marketplaces continues to grow, with Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping, Facebook, Onebuy, Etsy, and Wayfair all being prominent and high-traffic options. For example, Amazon has 407 million visits per month in the UK alone and eBay has 298 million visits per month. With that in mind, the question is which channels offer the greatest benefits, rather than how the fees they charge will affect your profitability.
Instead of focusing on selling costs, try to limit selling costs, understand the benefits of selling, and view these platforms as the response to customer acquisition and sales growth – selling you through these channels to a newer customer. You have invested in stocks that cost you working capital. Why not deploy and use this investment to acquire new customers through e-commerce marketplaces?
Your next steps will be to maximize the value of each new customer won on these marketplaces and evaluate how YOU retain them to make them profitable, loyal buyers on your website. To do this, you need software. With the right software, YOU can automatically capture that sales and customer data, personalize marketing communications, and additionally migrate these new, paid customers to your own website (where YOU love to sell for margins!)
The vast majority of online purchases are made on the buyer’s pages that have already been visited. Therefore, the first sale is a decisive success factor in order to retain customers and increase more profitable sales. By using ecommerce marketplaces to attract new customers and then migrating customers to your own website, you can generate loyal, profitable customers and achieve your goal of increasing sales.
A flexible framework
With the right e-commerce software, YOU can automate your processes and streamline logistics. These provide you with a robust framework to scale your multichannel e-commerce business .
The importance of automating your processes cannot be overstated as you expand the number of ecommerce channels you operate. Maintaining inventory, updating product lists, and updating new items can be time consuming, and labor costs associated with hiring more people for these tasks can quickly reduce profits. Additionally, human errors caused by selling inventory that you’ve run out of stock are causing headaches, making customers unhappy, and risking bad reviews for your business.
When you start building product lists, optimizing this for the search algorithm of each marketplace is critical to success. What is successful on eBay, for example, results in you being penalized by the Google search ranking algorithm. Each product should be customized for the channel for which it is listed. A software that automates this process, managing articles across multiple channels so you can update thousands of articles in bulk and quickly scale them up.
The next thing to consider is your real-time inventory control – if DONE manually it can be extremely time consuming and expensive. To remedy this, software can be implemented that automates the process. For example, when an item is sold on Amazon, an inventory unit is deducted in real time across all of your channels.
With real-time inventory management, YOU can avoid selling items that you do not have in stock and ensure that. all items in your warehouse are listed and available for sale. Your ability to offer real-time inventory control is possibly the most important factor in scaling your e-commerce business.
Effective management of your order processing
When orders come in through your new e-commerce channels, the pressure will be increased to meet the delivery deadlines imposed by marketplaces – for example Amazon Prime.
These marketplaces rely on a high level of customer satisfaction, are dependent on a high level of customer support, and therefore set fixed deadlines for shipping times for customer orders and customer care after the sale. As a company that scales across multiple e-commerce channels, these market demands can be extremely demanding and difficult to meet.
Automating your order processing, creation of pick lists, and updates for couriers all contribute to a successful fulfillment strategy, and there are many systems out there that can aid your business with these things. When it comes to automating customer orders, however, your software should ideally enable efficient and scheduled customer order processing. This means you can set up sales orders to batch process them by the hour so your team can pick and ship them.
If you want real efficiency, automating your pick lists is a solid way to do it. In an optimized workflow, picking lists can be automatically transferred to portable PDA devices in order to optimize the picking and packaging process. This makes it possible to pick customer orders in batches or zones, to compare them with the shift schedules of the employees or to correspond to courier pickups.
Setting up a great software framework to address the logistical challenges of scaling is a critical success factor for companies looking to expand across multiple ecommerce channels.
With online growth showing no sign of ending, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be an ecommerce retailer. If you’ve followed our guide, you’ll be in a strong position to attract new customers, grow your business, and take full advantage of multichannel e-commerce. Learn more about how your company can expand its e-commerce capabilities here.
About Iain Coplans
Iain Coplans is the founder and CEO of Stok.ly, a company that provides seamless ordering and warehouse management solutions for retailers across multiple e-commerce channels.
Stok.ly supports companies of all sizes, from those who want to grow online by introducing new channels to sophisticated e-commerce companies who want to optimize their processes in order to achieve more.