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Four Inventory Management Techniques That Will Help You Save Time and Money

Four Inventory Management Techniques That Will Help You Save Time and Money

The success of your business hinges upon your ability to effectively manage your inventory.Unfortunately, many businesses are plagued by a host of inventory control problems that can limit their success.

Failure to address these issues can negatively impact your bottom line and customer satisfaction. Below are four common inventory control problems along with solutions to help you prevent them from disrupting your business.


Problem #1: Lack of access to real-time inventory

Of all of the inventory problems that may arise, a lack of access to real-time inventory data is one of the most frustrating and destructive. Poor access to real-time inventory causes problems throughout the supply chain and is an underlying factor in client dissatisfaction.

For example, the problem cycle begins when a salesperson tells a customer that a product is available when it is actually no longer in stock. Procurement managers who lack access to real-time inventory data then fail to contact vendors to replenish stock, perpetuating delays. Finally, customer dissatisfaction results when orders are not delivered on time.

Solution: Install cloud-based software to provide real-time inventory tracking. Cloud-based software systems offer a host of advantages to employees in multiple departments. Here are some ways that cloud-based software can help sales representatives, purchasing managers, and product specialists perform their jobs more efficiently:

  • Purchasing managers can immediately see when stock is running low and replenish inventory
  • Sales reps close more sales because they can view real-time inventory from any location or device
  • Product specialists can track purchasing trends and focus product development efforts accordingly
  • Customer satisfaction increases because they are less likely to receive inaccurate information about stock


Problem #2: Failure to monitor inventory shrinkage

“There are four major sources of inventory shrinkage in retail: Employee theft, shoplifting, paperwork errors, and supplier fraud. And there’s also a fifth category of shrinkage, which encompasses all the unknown reasons for loss. This is simply the bucket for all of the other ‘mysterious’ reasons you have shrinkage that may not be identifiable.”

Matthew Hudson

Ph. D. andident of @hudsonhead Pres

Inventory loss, commonly referred to as inventory shrinkage, is a costly problem for most businesses that store inventory. With inventory shrinkage costing businesses nearly $50 million in 2016, generating strategies to eliminate shrinkage should be a top priority.

Solution: Track inventory depletion to identify trends in slippage.  The reasons for inventory shrinkage are diverse, making it one of the most difficult problems to control. The key to eliminating inventory shrinkage is to monitor your inventory depletion and train staff to recognize the difference between regular inventory depletion and depletion due to inventory slippage.

For example, if a manufacturer sells bath towels that use 12 square feet of material per bath towel, normal inventory depletion would reduce material by 120 square feet with the sale of ten bath towels. With inventory shrinkage, on the other hand, a manufacturer may notice that 150 square feet of material is missing when only 10 bath towels were sold. Tracking these trends is essential to minimizing shrinkage.


Problem #3: Insufficient inventory

There are many reasons why back orders occur. Most of the time, back orders are the result of insufficient inventory to meet customer demands. In some cases, a product may be in stock but reserved for another order. In other cases, a company can take orders for items that they believe are in stock but which have been allocated to orders on hold or in a pending state.

Solution: Invest in a predictive analytics program.  As outlined below by data scientist Matt Dancho, introducing a predictive analytics program is a winning solution for businesses and customers alike. By identifying products that are most apt to result in back orders, a predictive analytics program enables businesses to bolster sales by maintaining a healthy stock of their most popular products. Customers, on the other hand, are able to enjoy the products they seek without delay.

“A predictive analytics program can identify which products are most likely to experience back orders giving the organization information and time to adjust Machine learning can identity patterns related to back orders before customers order. Production can then adjust to minimize delays while customer service can provide accurate dates to keep customers informed and happy.”

Matt Dancho

Director of Product Engineering 8 Market Development, Bonney Forge


Problem #4: Inefficient warehouse operations

Inefficient warehouse operations lead to inventory damage and order processing delays. Both of these problems are costly and frustrating to business owners. Examples of inventory damage include forklift damage, water damage, and damage due to improper inventory storage. A variety of factors can increase the risk of inventory damage, including the following:

  • Crowded warehouse shelves with overstacked boxes can lead to crushed inventory
  • Cluttered warehouse aisles can interfere with the safe storage of products
  • Poor lighting can contribute to improper storage or movement of inventory

Poorly designed workstations and poor utilization of warehouse space are at the top of the list of variables that contribute to delays in order processing. When employees do not employ strategic methods for order picking or equipment storage, processing delays and mistakes can impede order accuracy.

Solution: Overhaul your warehouse.  Reducing or preventing damaged inventory is often as simple as improving your warehouse management and introducing a warehouse management system. Here are some specific warehouse management strategies that can help you prevent inventory damage:

  • Improve your current pallet racking system to ensure that pallets are not overloaded
  • Replace your existing warehouse lighting with LED lighting to illuminate inventory
  • Assign specific staff with the task of decluttering warehouse aisles
  • Make sure that you properly maintain your forklifts and other warehouse equipment
  • Create a designated space in your warehouse for small and fragile items

 

“A warehouse management system (WMS) or an ERP system with a strong WMS module can improve efficiency by suggesting the best routes and methods for picking or put-away In addition, the system provides automated pick lists that can be sent to mobile readers and devices to help eliminate mistakes and reduce wasted time and paper. Your warehouse will be neater and greener.”

Denny Hammack

President, Patterson Pope


What is the best way to prevent inventory control problems?

Inventory control problems can hinder your company’s growth and lead to dissatisfied customers. The surest path to preventing these problems from hindering your productivity is to enlist the guidance of an industry expert who can introduce you to the many ways that cost-effective software can enhance your operations.

By working with an experienced professional to introduce order management software to your organization, you can enhance your brand and enjoy a healthier bottom line.

These ideas, along with Orderwave by your side, will help you grow your ecommerce business and get ahead of the competition.  Contact us to learn how to manage all of the orders you’ll now be receiving.

How To Increase Customer Retention

How To Increase Customer Retention

Customer retention should be an ongoing process. When you have an e-commerce business, your goal should be for customers to purchase from you again and again. There are a few tips and tricks to help you retain more of your customers.


Capture Contact Information

As customers place orders with you, you want to make sure that you are capturing all of their contact information. This includes their email address so that you have a way to contact them in the future. If you utilize a CRM platform, much of this will be done for you. It will then allow you to automate more tasks, ensuring that marketing never falls through the cracks.

When you collect more contact information, it also allows you to learn more about your target demographic, including where they live and what they typically buy. It will help you to create better marketing campaigns in the future.


Establish a Loyalty Program

There is a significant amount of competition out there, regardless of what industry you are in. As such, you want to give customers a reason to stay loyal. Otherwise, they could easily switch to one of your competitors.

As far as what kind of loyalty program that you create, it‘s entirely up to you. It can be based on the number of visits or the amount of money that they spend. You can then reward them with

discounts on future orders as well as samples of new products that you have to offer. It can be a good idea to survey customers to find out what they want so that you can build a loyalty program people actually want to be a part of.


Send Out Monthly Newsletters

A monthly newsletter is a great way to make sure you maintain communication with your customers. Let them know about new products and services, any amazing reviews that you have, whiteboard videos that explain new products, and anything else that you have going on. This will ensure that people remember you and your brand when they are ready to buy once again.


Train Your Customer Service Department

Whether you have a call center or simply an email where customer service agents respond to inquiries and complaints, you need to be sure everyone is trained in the fine art of customer service. It‘s not always easy to be pleasant, especially when you have an irate customer on the other end of the line.

When your employees are able to treat everyone with respect, attend to the individual needs, and turn a bad situation into a positive one, it will allow you to get more repeat customers. Often,

customers simply want an apology and the chance to be heard. How you handle those situations will determine whether they do business with you in the future.


Ask Customers to Follow You

If you are already engaging with customers and potential customers on social media, be sure to ask new customers to follow you. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or lnstagram, let people know where you are. This is a great way to interact with people, find out more about who they are and what they want, as well as for them to enter contests and sweepstakes that you may offer.

Customer retention is easier than you might think, especially if you have the right tools. Once you start getting to know your customers better, you will be able to retain them. That’s when you can achieve more growth for your e-commerce business.

Learn more about customer retention by contacting ICC. Order management software solutions can be what you need to capture information and provide a higher level of customer service at the same time.

These ideas, along with Orderwave by your side, will help you grow your ecommerce business and get ahead of the competition.  Contact us to learn how to manage all of the orders you’ll now be receiving.

6 Essential Software Tools For Your Online Business

6 Essential Software Tools For Your Online Business

There has never been a better time to have an online business. The web is a vast place and it just gets bigger every day. This translates into plenty of business opportunities. Of course, servicing all those beautiful opportunities and promoting your business can take a lot of your time.

This is where the right software tools can be beneficial in keeping everything under control. Here are six software tools that can help you stay on top of things:


MailChimp

One of the easiest ways to send emails to any number of people is with MailChimp. It can handle your marketing efforts with an included suite of mobile apps. MailChimp allows you to quickly and effectively reach out to your online business customers on your schedule.

With hundreds of e-commerce integrations, MailChimp can help you automate customer-friendly product follow-ups that make the customer feel like you are there to help. It is also an excellent opportunity to upsell, adding a supporting product that compliments the customer’s purchase. It can also be used to send in stock messages, allowing you to make a sale that you may have otherwise missed.

MailChimp has developed a campaign builder tool for your marketing. This tool allows you to quickly create an email marketing campaign that is well suited to deliver your message. The beauty of a good email campaign is that it can be used to both sell products and connect with customers through stories and news. No online business should overlook the power of email.

MailChimp is one of the largest automated marketing platforms available today, so they can handle any marketing campaign that you dream up.


QuickBooks Online

When it comes to accounting software, QuickBooks is one of the first names that come to mind.  Now with their OuickBooks Online product for the cloud, it has never been easier to maintain business financials. And you never have to worry about a backup.

QuickBooks Online allows you to keep track of your sales and expenses in your online business. It can send invoices and sales receipts quickly and efficiently, even while you are on the go. it has never been more convenient to manage financial accounts.

The software can also connect to your bank and credit card accounts to automatically download transactions. This means that you won’t even have to type in most of your transactions. No longer will you forget something only to search for it later when you go to balance your accounts.

QuickBooks Online can make your online business a well-run business. Nothing is stopping you from trying it since you can get started for free on their website.


Satismeter

Today it is more important than ever to track customer satisfaction. Satismeter allows your online business to track a real-time customer satisfaction score, known as Net Promoter Scores (NPS). You can know how you are doing with your customer base every day.

Satismeter accomplishes this through the use of code snippet which you can use on your website or even in an app. This allows the software to collect information directly from your site. Satismeter can also collect its information through automated emails and surveys, which it then relays back to you.

Satismeter can collect feedback from your customers through its surveys, giving you insight into how to better serve them. They offer an easy way to start.  And, your first 100 responses are free.


Groove

As long as you have customers, you are going to need a customer support solution. Groove is designed to help you with customer support through it’s ticketing system. It can also provide a handy customer help widget which will search your knowledge base for answers. By assisting customers with their questions, Groove can help to minimize the need for direct help.

The system can integrate with your current email, allowing you to handle customer tickets wherever you happen to be. This will let you stay on top of customer service even when you are on the road.

Groove also provides insightful reports on how well you are handling your customer service through such metrics as average response time, customer ratings, and more.


Grasshopper

Just because a business is online doesn’t mean it has no use for phones. Grasshopper provides an excellent VolP solution for small businesses. Their virtual phone system lets you take calls from anywhere, and it all works with the hardware you currently own.

Grasshopper makes it easy to route calls as needed in case you are working with a team of people in your online business. This can help your business run smoothly both on the customer side and on the business side of things.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of voicemails. Grasshopper will automatically transcribe the voicemails from your virtual phone system and deliver them to your email inbox for consumption at your convenience. Each person can have their own extension, or you may find it handy to break up business roles by extension.

Of course, Grasshopper also offers the standard features that can be invaluable in running an online business. There are voicemail and business texting for your virtual numbers, and you can forward calls as you need in case you are in an area that doesn’t work with your cell phone.

Grasshopper offers a free 30-day trial to get started.


CoSchedule

When it comes to your marketing, it can sometimes be challenging to keep everything in sync. CoSchedule excels at this, tying together campaigns with your marketing team (if you have one.) Through its calendar based system, you can see your entire marketing schedule at a glance.

CoSchedule will also help you create and schedule social media content, which should never be overlooked for an online business. You can use Best Time Scheduling for your chosen platform to be sure that your message is heard. A reusable bulk delivery plan can be created that will handle dozens of messages to different social media platforms.

It’s not always easy to come up with social media content. CoSchedule will let you reuse your best pieces, and it will automatically determine the best times for sharing. Managing social media doesn’t get any easier.

The best news about CoSchedule is that you can get started for free to see if it fits your online business.

Keeping an online business under control can be a lot easier through the use of the right software. While there are many tools on the market, these six offer a well-balanced solution for your needs.

And when it comes to the best order management software, Contact us to see how Orderwave can help you manage and grow your orders.

 

Why having multiple payment gateways is important

Why having multiple payment gateways is important

Although many entrepreneurs believe that they only need one payment gateway, studies shows that consumers prefer having more than one option According to a recent Cardtronics Health of Cash study, 9 out of 10 people like being able to use a variety of payment methods when making an online purchase.

The JP Morgan Chase Report, titled The Intersection of Payment and Commerce in a Digital World, also revealed that 73% of online consumers decide whether they will make a purchase from a company based on the type of payments they accept. Based on this data, it only makes sense to use multiple gateways.

Here are several more reasons why your ecommerce store should have more than one payment gateway.

You Will Have Backup in Case Something Goes Wrong

Imagine you only have one payment gateway. What will you do if you experience technical issues? Do you have a backup plan? Multiple payment gateways can act as insurance in case one gateway isn’t performing well or is down for an extended period of time.

They can help you maintain additional records of your company’s payment data or e-commerce transactions. Other gateways can also process payments when there is an overflow or sudden surge in sales. This means you can rest easy during Christmas and Cyber Monday without worrying about your store being able to collect your customers’ payment information.

Customers Enjoy Having More Payment Options

Based on the Health of Cash study, customers enjoy having payment gateway options when it

comes to shopping online. For example, let’s say your target market prefers using PayPal because they don’t want to input their credit card information. When you add PayPal as an additional payment gateways it’s more likely to increase your sales.

You Can Sell Internationally with Multiple Payment Gateways

One of the best advantages of owning an online business over a brick and mortar store is that you can easily sell to anyone in the world. However, you will probably have to add additional payment gateways if you want to sell internationally. This is because different payment gateways may be more prevalent or acceptable in certain countries and regions.

It’s important that your payment gateway is capable of supporting currencies from different regions. It will be much easier for people from all around the world to buy your products and services when you have multiple gateways that can process foreign currencies.

Multiple Payment Gateways Provide More Flexibility

Do you know if your payment gateway can accept monthly billing? Can it grow with your business or integrate with your website platform? It’s unlikely that one single payment gateway meets all your needs.

Multiple payment gateways give you the flexibility to know that you can handle almost every situation you encounter. You can also use certain gateways according to your specific needs at the time.

You Can Test Which Payment Gateway Converts Better

Is PayPal more popular? Or do your customers prefer Stripe? A big part of being a business owner is continually running tests and figuring out how to optimize everything. When you offer multiple payment gateways you can conduct experiments and see which one increases your company’s overall conversion rate the most.

Multiple Payment Gateways Provide More Analytical Data

Another reason you should consider using multiple payment gateways in your ecommerce store is that you can use it to collect more customer data. Certain payment gateways have different capabilities and can provide a range of analytical data.

For example, one payment gateway may allow you to segment customers based on their country, currency, payment method and other information. This additional data can help you make more informed business decisions and provide insight on how you can optimize every transaction.

With Orderwave, you can easily manage multiple payment gateways, as well as have the ability to schedule billing at a future date and implement free trials all while having access to detailed transaction reports.  

Be sure to check out the long list of payment gateways that Orderwave supports.

See how these ideas and use the use of Orderwave will help you grow your e-commerce business and get ahead of the competition.  Contact us to get a free demo and consultation.

5 Sound Strategies to Increase Ecommerce Sales

5 Sound Strategies to Increase Ecommerce Sales

Global ecommerce sales continue to rise as consumers become increasingly comfortable with the notion of buying products online.  According to eMarketer, for example, ecommerce sales will top the $4 trillion mark within 2 years, accounting for almost 15% of total retail sales.

 

Ecommerce Winners Will Be Those Who Give Consumers What They Want

That said, some ecommerce businesses are far more successful than others.  Those who succeed take the time to understand what prospective customers want in everything from website performance to product descriptions and reviews to shipping options.  

That, of course, begs the question of what it is that consumers want.  Consider these metrics gathered by FitSmallBusiness:

  • Offering free delivery encourages 90% of consumers to make an ecommerce purchase
  • The use of product videos can increase sales by almost 150%
  • Decreasing page load time from 8 seconds to 2 seconds increases conversions by 74%
  • More than 60% of consumers consider a company’s return policy before making a purchase
  • Email marketing accounts for 20% of ecommerce website traffic
  • Almost 70% of all shopping carts are abandoned before purchase

What Can Online Sellers Do to Increase Sales Quickly?

Every ecommerce business is different, which means of course that they need to meet the needs different market segments.  That said, some strategies work for virtually every ecommerce business, including the following:


Learn to Leverage Upselling

Upselling involves offering customers a more expensive version of a product in which they’re interested or offering additional products relevant to their purchase.  For example, if you buy a product on Amazon, they’ll typically tell you something like, “customers who bought this product also bought these products.”

It’s important that your upsell is clearly relevant to the customer’s original product selection and that it offers benefits the original product doesn’t.  


Go after Abandoned Shopping Carts

As noted above, most online shoppers abandon their shopping carts before completing a purchase.  Finding effective ways to connect with those customers and persuade them to complete their purchase can dramatically increase ecommerce sales.  

One of the best ways to recover abandoned carts is through an email recovery campaign in which you remind customers of their incomplete purchase and provide incentives (like discounts or free shipping) to follow through.


Make Email Marketing Work for You

About 20% of all ecommerce site traffic comes from email marketing campaigns.  To capture some of that traffic, you need to increase your email subscribers and create a smart marketing strategy to engage them.

There are several ways to increase email subscribers.  One of the best is through content marketing. This entails creating compelling content offers and giving that content in exchange for their email addresses (for example, if you sell appliances, you could post an article about how to get the best refrigerator for your money).

Of course, you need to do more than simply increase subscribers—you also need to engage them sufficiently to push them to your website.  You should, for example, send them a strong welcome email as soon as possible after they subscribe. You also need to send them regular, personalized emails based on recent actions they’ve taken, like downloading content or visiting product pages.


Make Sure Your Website Works

Pushing prospective customers to your website is the first step—but you also need to ensure that they have an outstanding experience once they get there.  That means that your site needs to load quickly, that the navigation is clear and intuitive, that all your links are working properly, and of course, that your site is mobile friendly.  If your site takes too long to load, is difficult to use or doesn’t work on mobile devices, you’ll lose prospective customers to the competition.


Invest in a Comprehensive Order Management Solution

Effectively managing and streamlining ecommerce operations can be a challenge.  Fortunately, there are reliable web-based applications which effectively meet that challenge.  Affordable solutions like those from Orderwave, for example, will dramatically improve your ability to manage inventory and growth, and to enhance your direct marketing.  

Although the use of such software does represent an initial investment, you’ll quickly see a return on that investment through maximized profits. More importantly, Orderwave is a pay-per-order solution, so you only pay when your website is making revenue.  Additionally, Orderwave is hosted on our fast, reliable and secure servers, which lowers hardware costs. And, best of all, Orderwave is completely PCI compliant, which reduces your liability.


Conclusion

Ecommerce sales are growing, and that growth is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.  Through this period of rapid transition, some businesses will fare better than others.

To ensure that your ecommerce business comes out on top, learn what’s important to your customers and prospective customers and make the necessary investments of time and resources to meet their needs, solve their problems and exceed their expectations.

These ideas, along with Orderwave by your side, will help you grow your ecommerce business and get ahead of the competition.  Contact us to learn how to manage all of the orders you’ll now be receiving.

3 Ways to Automate Your E-Commerce Process

3 Ways to Automate Your E-Commerce Process

Growing an online business has its own set of challenges, especially in a world that is increasingly reliant on the digital marketing space. E-commerce is in a continual state of flux and businesses that are not able to scale operations quickly enough often find themselves left behind.

In this competitive landscape, one of the strongest ways an e-commerce can differentiate itself from its competitors is by adopting automation.

It sounds simplistic, but automation is one of the best ways that e-commerce businesses are surviving and thriving despite increased competition in the marketplace. Automation provides an invaluable layer to a business that allows it to scale, grow, and continue to develop without compromising on quality or service.

But the question inevitably turns into, “Okay, but what do I automate?”

The truth is, there are many answers to this question, but it depends on your business and what you see as the pain points. Implementing automation means streamlining processes that are integral to the growth of your business, but this first requires you to identify what processes need that level of automation.

Every business has different areas where they think automation makes the most sense.  Here are some ideas on what can be automated and to give you some food for thought on what your business needs.

 

1. The shopping cart

The shopping cart is one of the mainstays of an e-commerce business, but it is often neglected in the buyer experience. Think of ways that the shopping cart can be enhanced and improved to develop a buyer journey that customers enjoy every time. This might mean creating web portals that allow customers more access to their purchases (i.e. account maintenance, package tracking) and automates some of that from your end.

You can also use automation to create automatic shopping upsells while customers browse their shopping cart by tagging and linking products. Integrating your shopping cart with payment options such as promo codes, coupons, multi-pay plans, and trial offers are another way you can automate the shopping process while still providing customers with a great experience.

 

2. Customer service

Admittedly, customer service tends to be a major pain point for e-commerce businesses. Not only does it take an immense amount of resources, it can also take away time that could be better used to develop long-term goals and plans. Luckily, there are many ways to automate parts of the customer service experience that saves you time while still providing customers with personalized attention. When evaluating options, think about ways your representatives might need, such as being able to track orders in every aspect, order notes as well as being able to access custom call scripts.

Successful customer service experiences must balance speed, efficiency, positivity, and consistency – each experience needs to be the best. That can be very stressful, which is why automation is so necessary.

You can streamline all the different ways customers choose to communicate by consolidating that information so that it is all easily accessible by reps, as well as providing the necessary context for speedy responses. Built-in chat is another way to automate the process and provide information in a timely manner.

    

3. The checkout process

Customers are now able to see a great new shopping cart and they are assured of a great customer experience – great! But what about when they actually check out? What is that process like, and where it can be improved – both from the buyer end and from your end? Instant one page checkouts are a key way to streamline processes while capturing the necessary details needed for a smooth checkout.

Think of how you currently manage payment processing, compliance, and overall inventory deduction, and management. Are these processes integrated or do they operate independently? And what processes take the longest? Those are ones where there might be some room for automation rather than requiring constant manual attention.

At the end of the day, automation is a key step in ensuring the longevity and success of your business in a constantly evolving world. Each part of the customer journey has allowances for automation, but it is up to you to decide where your business can best benefit from automation in order to provide a superior customer experience every time.

These are just some of the areas where e-commerce businesses see the most return on investment when it comes to automation, and it can be the starting point when developing a strategy to address these needs.

See how these ideas and use the use of Orderwave will help you grow your e-commerce business and get ahead of the competition.  Contact us to get a free demo and consultation.