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Huboo has a really fantastic, growing partner network right now, having access to this network provides our customers with the latest ecommerce tips. If you missed our last guest blog post, you can read it here. This latest guest post comes from our new partner Laura Mathieson and the team at Selling Online Support. They provide analysis and optimisation to eCommerce businesses and online sellers, with a particular focus on eBay. Their ecommerce tips have a wealth of seller orientated support, and their expertise is broad enough for them to offer advice on across every aspect of eCommerce selling, with ongoing maintenance and management packages also available.  

Continue reading “eBay Sellers Spring Update – What You Need to Know”

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For any Amazon seller, account suspensions are the worst nightmare. There are forums providing ecommerce tips and help for reinstatement, so it isn’t impossible for sellers to reinstate their status quickly by ensuring a persuasive Plan of Action is in place. But what should you do if your Plan of Action does not get accepted? Or worse, Amazon doesn’t respond to you? Continue reading “A Partnership With Real Appeal”

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If you’re balancing starting a business with a full-time job or taking your business growth to the next level, now’s the time to start taking some of the excess pressure off.

As much as we like to think we’re superhuman, the day-to-day details of running an e-commerce business can distract you from your end-goal, which is to grow your business and make money.

We’re all dreaming of becoming the next Unicorn or dot.com gazillionaire, but this doesn’t happen overnight.

According to the OECD, the UK has the 3rd highest rate of new startups. But when it comes to nurturing and helping those startups to scale we only come in at 13th in the European league tables.

Starting up in this ultracompetitive environment means you need to be at the top of your game at all times. Not always easy when you’re a startup working out of your living room at 10pm on Wednesday evening.

Don’t make it tough on yourself

Ecommerce has done so much for us. It’s revolutionised the way we shop, it’s helped transform the lives of people living with disabilities and given us access to so much choice.

But it’s also created a tough, competitive environment where consumers are choosy. They go elsewhere if they’re not impressed and they really, really shop around. Products are so price-sensitive that a difference of just one penny can be a deal-breaker in multi-vendor marketplaces such as Amazon.

With so much price pressure vendors are increasingly turning to the overall customer experience as a way to differentiate themselves.

One of the main areas where startups and growing businesses try to save money is fulfilment. Why pay someone to put a product in a box or envelope and put it in the post, when you can do it yourself, right?

Stop and think for a moment. Are you simply putting your product in the post or are you delivering something that’s adding value and giving your customers a great experience?

A multi-platform approach

Most e-commerce businesses are multi-channel. They sell on platforms such as Amazon, eBay, NotOnTheHighStreet and many others.

If you are a multi-platform business, you need to fully understand how each platform works, as all platforms are different. Amazon has its own SEO techniques, seller rules and guidelines, distinct from standard search engines. The same goes for all the other platforms. It all eats up your time and attention.

If you’re selling through multiple stores, are you on top of who’s bought from what store? Does each platform need a different approach to delivery, and are you aware of who’s proving to be the most successful sales outlet for you?

Inventory management is another key challenge faced by multi-channel vendors. If you sell a widget on eBay, how do you make sure the stock level on Etsy is adjusted accordingly? Over-selling is a serious issue which will affect your ability to deliver in time. Some e-commerce businesses have even resorted to having multiple pools of the same stock, reserved for sale on the different platforms. This is terrible way to tie up your capital and a waste of storage space.

What happens if you are ill or go on holiday

Ok, you’re not buying stock or adding new products during this time, which might have no negative short term impact on your business, but whose sending out your sales why you’re unwell or on a beach somewhere, will you accept negative feedback which could make the eBay, Amazon etc, algorithms push you down the rankings, or will you just turn off sales while you’re away? What about unhappy return customers, unable to buy from you…

Is a fulfilment house worth it?

Whether you’re balancing a day job with your new business, or your start-up is growing like crazy or maybe you’re just going through a new stage of growth, then it’s likely to be worth the investment.

If you’re distracted by activities that eat into your time, such as storing, picking and packing stock, your business is going to be hampered and won’t be able to grow as fast as you wish.

As a young business it is hard to decide where you should focus your time and money. It’s possible you regard fulfilment as an extravagant expense. That’s why many of our customers are surprised at how inexpensive working with a fulfilment partner actually can be.

If anything, you should be researching and investing in a fulfilment house from the get-go.

Fulfilment is part of the brand experience

93% of all customers are influenced by reviews they read online. So, one of the key goals of e-commerce is to get great reviews. To achieve this, you need to think about the customer experience as a whole. In this light, fulfilment should not be seen as an additional cost, but as a core part of your brand experience.

A package that’s late or incorrectly picked is not going to leave your customer in a great frame of mind towards your store or lead to repeat business. Bad reviews are the inevitable outcome, as is bad feedback on your channels resulting in declining search result rankings and falling sales.

What level of accuracy of stock picking can you attain if you are busy fulfilling orders, doing customer service, marketing, advertising and spinning other plates?

Alternatively…

The package was sent out as promised, perfectly packaged, and arrived when the email confirmation said it would.

From a business perspective, what does all this mean? It means you immediately have a repeat customer who will spread the word to friends and family. It also means great social, which you can share and feel really proud of. It could also lead to a great customer review.

Your online presence is only as good as your customer feedback. OK, so they’re not all going to be perfect, but you want top marks as often as possible.

No matter what your business, it is tough out there. The pressure to be seen on every retail platform, combined with the need to understand customer personas and behaviours, is immense. Don’t you think it’s time to cut yourself some slack?

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As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

There can’t be anything more important to an e-commerce business than the experience of its customers when buying a product. The experience of ordering something and having it arrive can be quite emotive and exciting. Admit it, who doesn’t love having something delivered to their door?

This experience is a big part of what keeps your customers engaged and turns them into brand ambassadors. You need to ensure your customers get the best possible service at every step of the order process, from checkout to fulfilment. Anything less risks losing trust, engagement and loyalty. That can lead to bad reviews, which can be damaging to a growing e-commerce brand.

Delivering on your promise

E-commerce companies know that the two most important aspects of user experience come at the two ends of the process. The first is navigation and order placement/checkout on the website. Unsurprisingly, many companies focus on this aspect with laser like detail.

The online experience is often given top priority, which is understandable, but what about the overall customer experience?

At the other end of the chain is the crucial touch point; delivery of goods. Do you think your customers are getting a great experience when it comes to delivery? For many e-commerce retailers, especially small and growing merchants, this is done from the kitchen table or somebody’s desk in a small office. For larger, more established merchants it usually involves the complexities of leased warehousing and logistics management. Either way retailers usually find this part of the process complex, time-consuming and expensive.

Outsourcing the warehousing and shipping of goods makes perfect sense for a growing business in need of efficient customer service.

Fulfilment companies expertly manage the handling of goods at every step of the order process. They can take a heavy burden from the shoulders of the retailer by taking care of making sure goods arrive on time and in good shape.

However, it’s fair to say that retailers are only as good as their fulfilment partners. Outsourcing customer interaction to a third party carries risk. How that fulfilment company delivers on your promise is critical to retaining customer trust and satisfaction.

Customers expect seamless and joined up service. When the fulfilment system fails, they will blame you, not your fulfilment company.

Any slip in standards will reflect primarily on you as the retailer. So, what should e-commerce companies be demanding of their fulfilment partner to ensure that customer experience is never compromised?

Key points to consider

Technology integration

Technology plays a key role in e-commerce fulfilment. So firstly, take a close look at the tech that’s being used. Your e-commerce platform and channels need to talk directly to the fulfilment partner’s platform to notify you of new orders, despatch and so on. There are literally hundreds of e-commerce platforms and channels out there from Shopify to BigCommerce, eBay to Amazon, and dozens of smaller names. New platforms are appearing all the time. Your fulfilment partner should have the technology to be able to talk to all the major e-commerce systems, and the flexibility to implement a solution if no solution currently exists.

Communication

Second, what about communications? Like any service business, communication with you as a client, is key.

Does your fulfilment partner prioritise and invest in the right communications platform? That means not only keeping you the retailer in the loop on operational matters, but staying in touch with customers to keep them updated on what to expect?

Fixing problems

E-commerce fulfilment involves the storage and movement of thousands of physical items of all shapes and sizes around the country and the world. It’s a major logistical challenge. Things are bound to go wrong at some point – that’s a given. So problem-solving and fixing issues when they go wrong is a key part of the service delivery. Responsiveness, communication and efficiency of problem-solving are what to look out for in choosing your fulfilment partner? So, look for reviews, testimonials and internet chat amongst other retailers for clues as to how problems are handled.

One size fits all?

In e-commerce fulfilment one size does not fit all. Your fulfilment partner should be able to grow along with you until you reach the very highest levels of success and are shipping thousands of packages a week.

How responsive and flexible is your fulfilment provider? There are some large fulfilment companies that, thanks to their size, have no reason to flex and adapt to your needs as a customer. The bigger players may have the reach, but are they there for your customers when you need them in a pinch?

The key is to ask questions of your prospective fulfilment company and grill them on the size and shape of customers they are already handling. Find out what price breaks are available on higher volumes. Delve into the experiences of other customers and check out online forums and reviews.

Engaging a fulfilment company will release your time, space and attention from the complexities of fulfilment. Finding the right partner is a crucial decision that can help or hinder your business. The more questions you ask the better informed your decision will be.

Price transparency

Most fulfilment companies don’t publish all the prices. Does this mean they’re worried their prices might chase you away? And if they do publish prices, there are often hidden prices. Some things to ask your potential fulfilment company are:

  1. Is the price all in? Fulfilment companies often treat the ‘fulfilment’ price as exclusive of the actual cost of shipping.
  2. Are they charging for storage from day 1, and if so how much?

 

Are they committed to helping you succeed?

Do they give you a Client Success Manager? Someone dedicated to helping you solve problems and grow, a real person that you can develop a working relationship with?

If the fulfilment company wants a long term contract ask yourself why they need this. If they’re good at what they do, they shouldn’t need to lock you into a long time term contract. Don’t agree to one, keep them on their toes. If they’re good they’ll be part of your success story. If not, they don’t deserve to be.

Why use a fulfilment company?

You’re only as good as your fulfilment company when it comes to keeping your customers happy. And with such a competitive landscape, any slippage on time, quality or efficiency can prove deadly to a growing e-commerce business.

As the old cliché says, a happy customer tells one person about their experience; an unhappy one tells ten. With reviews so crucial now, poor delivery performance can seriously damage your business’s ratings on the major sites. Getting it right is the only option.

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Third Party Logistics is changing the shape of e-commerce product distribution by providing a range of flexible storage and distribution services to their customers. The industry looks set to make even more advances with technological innovations such as automation and advanced IT solutions.

What are third-party logistics?

Third-party logistics, or 3PL, is a variety of services and processes that support your business.

Third party providers offer warehouses and distribution networks that get your products to your customers quickly and efficiently.

Many small businesses are turning to 3PL providers to reduce costs and overheads, improve flexibility and scalability and therefore ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

The growth of 3PL

More and more retailers are outsourcing part or all of their company’s distribution and fulfilment to third-party providers. A recent survey has estimated that 86% of Fortune 500 and 96% of Fortune 100 companies use these services.

However, 3PL is not just for big businesses. It is often the perfect solution for small businesses, allowing them to expand without the need for the financial outlay of warehousing and staff costs.

The 3PL sector has seen rapid expansion in recent years. In 2016, the global third-party logistics market was approximately 800 billion dollars. By 2020 that number is set to rise to $1.1 trillion.

The sector began as mainly in order to provide 3PL warehouses to customers without the space to store their own products. Alongside this, these companies developed inventory management and packing and shipping solutions for their clients. Today, 3PL can service almost all aspects of the supply chain.

What 3PL can do for your business

Third-party logistics offers a solution to many of the problems of start-ups and growing businesses. No longer do small business need to rent large warehouses or employ staff to pick, pack and post. Store your products in a 3PL warehouse and leverage the skills, knowledge and purchasing power of that company to grow your business.

Warehouse management can be a major headache for online businesses. Legal fees, contract negotiations, long/inflexible leases, security, heating, lighting, health and safety. All these issues are removed at a stroke with third-party logistics.

In addition, using a third-party solution can streamline your checkout system, alleviate customer concerns about payment security and solve the issue of customer returns.

Companies which offer Third-party logistics can handle the supply chain from manufacturer to consumer, allowing you to focus on other areas of your business.

How 3PL is changing the future of e-commerce product distribution

Because third-party providers are experts in warehouse management and inventory control, they can provide solutions that are far beyond the capabilities of many small businesses. 3PL invests in the most up to date technologies, so you don’t have to. They also have existing relationships with shippers and use the economies of scale to get the best deals on shipping costs.

3PL companies also invest in advanced technologies to streamline e-commerce distribution. As these technologies advance, their customers will automatically benefit from these advances which include the following.

Inventory management and stock picking

Inventory management is key to efficiency. Providers are using advanced software systems which integrate with popular e-commerce and inventory management systems such as Shopify and WooCommerce. They are investing in new technologies to streamline picking procedures to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Further advances on the horizon include automated identification and data collection, low energy sensors and robotics.

Improved delivery

3PL use real-time analytics to determine the fastest routes to get product to customers. This increases efficiency and reduces costs. In addition, as customers demand faster and faster delivery times, providers are able to respond to that need.

Integrated cloud-based platforms

By using cloud-based technologies, 3PL allows you to access information about your business at anytime and anywhere. Using cloud-based solutions also eliminates the need for IT system upgrades.

Overall, these advances will result in a cheaper solution for your business as well as a more satisfying experience for your customers.

If you are ready to move your business to the next level or want to remove the hassle of leasing storage space and running a delivery operation, then Huboo can help.

We offer the lowest prices, free storage and the flexibility you need whether your business is large, small or growing fast. In addition, our 99.9% accuracy rate will provide your customers with the five-star service they expect.

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