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Entrepreneurs Leverage Multi-Channel Fulfilment to Exceed Customer Expectations

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

e-commerce 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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