“U.S. ecommerce sales jumped 16.9% to $263.33 billion in 2014,” according to Internet Retailer, “marking yet another year of double-digit growth for the fastest-growing channel in retailing.
As you know, running your ecommerce business is a constant challenge. Keeping it successful is even more difficult. Not only do you need to continually market your product to increase sales and grow your business, you also need to focus on the details: inventory, returns, replenishment, fulfillment, shipping/transportation… the list is endless. Often times, ecommerce companies focus too much on the big picture and lose opportunities in the details. We’ve come up with a list of what the Top 500 ecommerce companies are doing with their businesses that may help to grow yours.
Marketing & Remarketing
Marketing your ecommerce brand is one of the biggest keys to your success. Not only do you need to market your product to the right buyer, you need to continue marketing until they buy. According to the CPC, “The more often a message is seen or heard by the same prospects, the more likely it is to be successful”. They offer ‘50 online remarketing techniques’ that we highly recommend digging into if you’re considering a new remarketing strategy. Some of these include:
- Utilize the database you already have to specifically target your loyal customers with VIP specials and sales
- Spend money on retargeting those that have abandoned their shopping carts, had unsuccessful site visits, etc.
- Target those that sign up for product information
- Entice prospective buyers with additional offers that can’t be found on your website
- Pursue customers that are unsubscribing or leaving a ‘free’ subscription by giving them an offer they can’t (or don’t want to) refuse
- Target any brand loyalist that has ‘liked’ or posted on your social media outlets
- Increase your advertising frequency during busy holiday seasons
Consistently Drive Down Costs
Though this isn’t necessarily in the order of importance, driving down your operational costs will significantly increase your bottom line, attributing to more growth in your business. There are several ways you can reduce your shipping (both inbound and outbound), packaging, and operational costs.
- Inbound: Inbound transportation is one of the most overlooked aspects of an ecommerce supply chain, but there can be significant cost savings found if optimized correctly. Understanding all of your inbound transportation options is key and settling for the convenient option can lead to higher costs. Work with an expert that focuses on transportation. They can consolidate shipments and utilize their volumes to get you a much better rate. Learn more in our blog, ‘Inbound Transportation Solutions for the Ecommerce Industry’
- Outbound: The closer you are to your customers, the lower your outbound transportation costs will be. And, not only will your shipping costs decrease, your transit times are reduced significantly, delighting your customers even more. For companies shipping direct to consumer, the #1 cost is often the outbound shipping costs. Constantly looking for ways to lower that cost will help improve your bottom line. Another IDS blog titled, ‘Top 4 Reasons Why Fulfillment Location Matters’ explains that both inbound and outbound transportation cost is the #1 reason why location matters.
- Packaging: For ecommerce companies, packaging supplies are often overlooked and not a main focus to drive down average order costs – but should be considered. Every order that is shipped direct to consumer has some sort of packaging material, so driving down those costs will add up, having a direct effect on the average cost per order. You can lower some of your packaging costs by using stock box sizes, ordering your packaging materials in bulk, staying basic by having less of a variety, or using other packaging options such as bubble mailers or poly bags. You can read more in our blog, ‘5 Ways to Lower Shipping Costs in Order Fulfillment’.
- Operational Costs: This is another great area of your ecommerce business you must analyze thoroughly in order to reduce your cost per order. These costs span from the technology and software you use for your transactions, your personnel, administration, cycle time (time between when a customer’s order is placed vs. when they receive the product ordered), inventory management (reduction, replenishment), fulfillment costs, including shipping and packaging. Take the time to dig into each of these areas of your business to determine where you’re currently losing money, to turn it into significant cost savings.
Monitor Your Analytics
Management gurus have a saying, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. This is especially true in order fulfillment, but also true in your overall ecommerce strategy. In order to manage your data, you must understand how to measure your key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Analytical and Numbers Oriented: Larger companies tend to drill down in the details and monitor analytics and numbers. From optimal time to send out an email blast to the number of social media sales to how quickly packages are being shipped. This analytical focus allows Top 500 companies to drill down into what is actually working and what is not working for them. For small or fast growing companies, having the time and resources to drill down into these numbers can be difficult, but can pay off tremendously in the long run.
- Email, social media, promotional, web traffic, operations and marketing analytics
- Operational Analytics: Operational measurements in order fulfillment are sometimes overlooked, but are extremely important in the success of your business. Be sure to assess areas such as your fulfillment center’s pick line, packing stations and replenishment. Understanding the optimum performance level of, for example, how many units are picked per minute, will give you a better sense of what needs to be adjusted in the warehouse, especially in times when you need to ramp up production for peak seasons.
Overall Customer Experience
The overall experience that you customer has is what is going to keep them coming back. From the moment they land on your site to the moment that package arrives, finding ways to impress the customer along the way is what is going to keep that customer coming back.
- Impress through Packaging and Build Your Brand: One simple and cost effective way to impress a customer is through packaging. Customized packaging and creative inserts can go a long way with the customer experience, and if done correctly, they might even post to social media, reaching new potential customers. Read more on our blog ‘How Can a Box Build My Brand In Ecommerce Fulfillment?’
- Find Ways to “Wow” the Customer: Although price will always be important in a customer’s purchasing decision, outstanding service is one of the top reasons that customers do business with a company. Take Amazon for example. They impress the customer multiple times through the cycle. They impress through price, customer service and extremely fast shipping.
- Keep Customers Coming Back For More: Everyone wants an incentive to buy more, especially when they are delighted by your product’s quality, price, packaging and the quickest (and cheapest) possible transit time to their doorstep. Continue the relationship with your customer by offering free shipping, BOGO coupons, personalized messaging or gift wrap, product rebates, new item catalogs, additional product re-order forms and free samples. Giving some of these ‘tools’ to return is essential in retaining your customers and bringing about new ones.
So, now that you know a few of the key things that the Top 500 ecommerce companies are doing that you’re not, it’s time to get started. It may seem like an overwhelming challenge at first, so take the time to carefully evaluate each of these items individually. With the right product, marketing, planning and execution, your ecommerce company will be launched into the Top 500 status in no time.