Tag Archives: ecommerce

Black Friday Returns – Are You Ready?

downloadBlack Friday Returns Management – A Horrifying Prospect?

The real drama for Online Sellers will come in the days following the mega sales and fist fights, as consumers return a potentially incapacitating volume of purchases for retailers to deal with.

Industry experts predict that over £5billion of goods will be sold within the period of 24th to 28th November – but how many of these will be returned? And are retailers paying enough attention to returns processing?

It’s difficult to predict how Black Friday 2016 will compare to previous years, however, what we can say with certainty is that shoppers will turn to online and mobile platforms to make their purchases. Unlike America, where Black Friday encourages consumers to go out to physical shops to grab their bargains, UK retailers are focusing more and more on attracting consumers through their online platforms.

Fashion is particularly big in online and mobile shopping, and Black Friday will be no exception.

On average, of all online clothing purchases made, 40% are returned. So, for retailers to be the true winners this Black Friday, they must consider the scale of returns, which could add immeasurable pressure to their logistics operations, have a lasting effect on their customer relations and, ultimately, impact retailers’ bottom lines.

Returns processing has been amongst the Black Friday nightmares seen in the past few years –  getting money back to customers, and ensuring stock levels are at the right level in time for the second wave of Christmas shopping has caused hell on earth for some retailers. Those that have learned from being close to collapse will be the leaders – both in profit margins and in customer service.

Certain items that will not be accepted back into prime stock – if retailers have prepared for returns, they will be able to approach this strategically, and will already have plans in place to make deals with this stock elsewhere, without writing the returns off.

A lot of consumers who will be shopping during the Black Friday sales are especially savvy. This means that when they are looking to purchase online, they will look at the returns policy before pressing the buy button. If retailers aren’t aware of this, they can lose strength in their position within the market; returns really do matter to consumers

By preparing with an easy and efficient returns policy for customers, and making this work as prescribed, retailers will be able to retain custom way beyond Black Friday. A clear policy will also help retailers forecast likely demand on returns, so they can prepare when it comes to stock levels and back end logistics.

We help retailers take an intelligent logistics approach to peak. If forecasting and planning has been backed up by a ready to rock IT infrastructure , ‘Black Fiveday’ should be a time for retailers to delight customers, improve their inventory for the festive period and rake in revenues.

There will be much debate and post-event analysis from retailers and across the industry once ‘Black Fiveday’ is done. But, by this point, retailers may already be feeling like they are playing a leading role in a horror film with no way out. Sadly, if you are reading this and can feel a sense of gloom encircling, it may already too late! 

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Four lessons UK retailers can learn from China about mobile commerce

china-m-commerceMobile commerce in China is at an all-time high. Estimates for 2016 predict it will account for 55% of online sales and it looks set to become the most important channel for all retail sales over the next few years. Dominated by commerce giant Alibaba, the mcommerce market is fiercely competitive and retailers wishing to endure in this environment have had to create mobile products that glitter – the younger generation of Chinese consumers shopping on their mobiles are digitally savvy, fickle and expect a high standard of service.

WeChat has provided the ultimate gateway for retailers to reach consumers via smartphones. A combination of online browser, messaging app and social media platform all under one virtual roof, ‘super app’ WeChat is life for 700 million users accessing over 10 million internal apps (known as official accounts). It’s one of the most important multichannel portals for businesses – both in China and overseas.

While the WeChat framework doesn’t exist in the UK just yet, the tactics employed to enhance user experience, achieve sales and convert customers into loyal buyers in China via mobile can be adopted by UK retailers using available technologies and channels.

Personalise the shopping experience with an app

A mobile-friendly site is imperative, but an app will be even more beneficial. It personalises the shopping experience and streamlines the path to purchase with its layers of functionality and engagement, which are proven to drive conversion and revenue.

In China, traditional marketing channels are gradually losing their ability to attract new users, and standalone retailer apps no longer have the same clout as an account on WeChat. The same goes for retailer’s own mobile sites – WeChat can reach a far larger target audience.

A lesson for retailers in listening to the market and placing investment where customers spend their time – 94% of users log in to WeChat every day.

Care about content: engage and entertain your customer

Social media and mobile marketing strategies need to be dynamic, engaging and, most of all, relevant. Posting audio and video content, news and promotions are proven methods of adding value to a brand and building positive relationships with customers, but it’s also important to keep exploring new, interactive channels that appeal to the demanding consumer.

In China, endorsement by online influencers is creating new marketing opportunities for sellers. Online beauty retailer Feelunique not only has its own official WeChat account but has cooperated with other WeChat influencers whose followers are interested in cosmetic and personal care, and regularly share Feelunique’s content and product details. Feelunique can benefit many times over by providing a better mobile purchase experience; converting customers from other sources into followers, engaging them with useful content and stimulating sales directly. In the UK, forming partnerships with influential bloggers offers the same potential.

Peer-to-peer recommendation carries weight and sharing new purchases on social media is second nature to the Chinese consumer. Encourage sharing by UK consumers on social media by offering incentives such as samples or coupons. It will increase trust towards the retailer and helps to increase conversion rates.

It’s crucial to speak your customer’s language. For example, Chinese consumers have nicknames for popular branded cosmetic products they refer to when discussing beauty issues within online communities. To help customers find the right product through search engines or on-site search, online retailers add these nicknames alongside the actual product name.

Make payment painless

Mobile shopping requires a convenient payment system. Nobody wants to spend ages on a tiny keyboard typing in their card details each time they purchase an item. Since 2010, the People’s Bank of China has issued over 200 licenses to non-financial institutions to provide third-party payment services and declared a national mobile payment standard. This has led to explosive growth in the Chinese mobile payments market – increasing by almost 25% in the past 12 months.

There are plenty of convenient mobile payment solutions available in the UK, which retailers should embrace. Apple Pay and Google Wallet are leading the way and it is will be interesting to see how well Android Pay, which launched in the UK in May 2016 takes off. If retailers want to encourage mobile commerce, it’s essential they offer one-touch payment options.

The next step is to integrate mobile commerce with offline. Many retailer apps on WeChat include a barcode scanner function, allowing users to quickly scan the label on a physical product instore and compare prices or choose to purchase on their phone. An idea that UK retailers can easily implement.

Don’t dismiss older technology

QR codes are ubiquitous in China – one of the main reasons for their success is that QR codes contain URLs and Mandarin is fiddly to type. When WeChat made a QR code scanner a built-in feature it brought the technology to millions of users, and is proving a particularly useful tool for marketing incentives such as discounts and VIP cards, both offline and online. Purchases can be paid for on their phone via QR code.

The QR code may have been ahead of its time when it was first introduced in the UK in 2011, and the subsequent years represent a lifetime in the mobile commerce development world. A whole new generation of people shopping primarily on their mobiles, plus more people willing to do so have emerged, so the value of the QR code should be re-examined.

China has a highly developed and integrated approach to mcommerce, but the UK has inherent advantages Chinese retailers can only envy. Mature multichannel infrastructure is pioneering while geography is on your side in terms of logistics.

It’s all about streamlining the experience.

China’s infamous Singles Day on 11 November had just recorded that 90% of its sales these years comes from mobile, with Black Friday upon us, my guess is that the percentage of purchases made by mobile will continue to break records.

online-retail-ecommerce

Top 3 Tips for E-commerce Retailers to Gain More Customers

E-commerce Startups

Marketing your E-Commerce business requires time, dedication and           know-how.

A constant flow of site visits don’t happen overnight and your followers on Twitter or you likes on Facebook don’t come out of thin air. It takes a lot of planning and carefully thought out practices to maximise your marketing potential and help achieve your goal of increased sales. No matter how much you read and study around the topic of gaining online followers and having that authority on social that you require, the only thing that works best is to just go out and try it yourself to determine what methods work best for your business.

Here are the top 3 tips for you to get more customers:

1. Automated Emails

It is very important to keep your brand at the top of the mind of both current and potential new customers. It is paramount that you find a way to retain your re-engage and retain your current custom but also acquire and convert new custom. Why don’t you consider using the various marketing software that allows you to schedule emails for specific times, dates and for specific reasons. For example, emailing someone straight after they have just purchased from your site asking for them to leave a review either on your website or another platform. Perhaps its been a few months since a certain customer has purchased from your site and you want to send an email asking them to buy from you again. You could also send emails through to customers who have abandoned their basket or cart, reminding them that they can still purchase from you and not somewhere else. These few techniques could be the difference between converting sales or letting cold hard cash slip through your fingers.

2. Consider Facebook

Admittedly there are mixed reviews about Facebook and its capabilities etc. but boosting posts and spending money on Facebook Ads can be quite beneficial. On top of that, why not launch a Facebook store while you’re there.

Facebook has dropped its organic reach for any post, no matter how many likes, followers, fans etc. to around the 1% mark. All in a bid to make you spend more money. However, spending a little bit of money isn’t such a bad thing. Lets say you spend the minimum for boosting a post, which is £4.00, you will gain an average reach of 1000 accounts. Out of that 1000 lets say you get about 40-50 likes on your post. This is now where you can get the most out of your £4.00. If you look at the list of the people that have liked your post just because you boosted it, you can directly invite them to like your page. And most of the time, having liked your post about your products, they will like your page too. We have worked out on average there is a 20% success rate here.

The next stage is then your store. The good thing about a Facebook store, is that it is easy to set up, and if you have your e-commerce store on the likes of Shopify, it can integrate directly. It is easy for visitors to find as a ‘Shop’ just comes up as another tab to click on when they are on your page. This is all part of the customer journey, from liking your post, to liking your page and then going directly to store and taking a browse right through to actual purchase.

3. Press, PR and Bloggers

If you’re looking for different ways to get the word of your business out there, look at optimising your PR efforts and also look into using bloggers to advertise and sell your stuff through their own websites and blogs. One good website/application for PR is BuzzSumo which is a highly robust search engine allowing you to find the publications and authors that most commonly discuss a certain topic. This will allow you to very quickly build up your PR database with contact and businesses that might want to cover your efforts.

Another great way to get your products out there is to take advantage of social media, the likes of Instagram and YouTube are brilliant for this kind of stuff. The best way to find bloggers is simply by looking for them on Google. If you’re in the e-commerce and retail business these can be great, but also for any other industry. The size of their audience varies, but some of them have large followings, and the process of reaching out to them is quite easy. All you need to do, is search for them on Google. You may have to play around with your keywords to find the people who may be interested in your product but there are many people who review products part-time or for a living.

Another tried and trusted method for increasing traffic is landing your business in the press. Now you might not get covered from very big newspapers and sites, but you have a better chance of getting press from local news sites and community papers. You have a good chance of being featured if you can tell a unique story, if you can talk about your product in interesting ways, and if you write a good pitch. When reaching out to the press, a concise pitch is nearly always better than the long pitch because reporters see lots of pitches. If you’d like to get press attention, write a short and compelling email. Tell them about what makes you different, and try to pitch yourself as a local success story.

And To Conclude

As a forward thinking provider of e commerce order fulfilment services to a wide range of retailers our experience and guidance helps our clients to sell more effectively.

Marketing efforts will always take time, especially early on as you figure out what tools and platforms work best for your brand, but these three tips will definitely help you. Here at 3PL these three tips are what we believe to be the most important in helping you get your e-commerce business up and off the ground running, with an edge on the competition. All you need to do is take the time to implement these strategies and put them to full use and the results will be visible over time.

As the old saying goes – nothing ventured / nothing gained.

(Why not also read our 2016 E-Commerce Success blog post)

Outsource Your Logistics Operations 3PL

2016 – Outsourced Logistics Becomes The Norm

Outsource Your Logistics Operations 3PL

Today’s business models demand a much leaner, flexible and scalable approach that is very much akin to the concept of outsourcing ALL non-core activities. Every business needs partners and 2016 will see a real shift towards outsourcing becoming best practice and the new norm.

So how do you decide if you’re ready to outsource?

With over 25 years in the sphere of third party logistics and currently providing warehousing and logistics support for many aspiring businesses Ian Walker shares his thoughts:

In-house Operations vs. Outsourced Operations?

The good news – there is no right or wrong answer here as only a set of pre-determined circumstances can determine the appropriate outcome. Such circumstances are governed by a wide range of factors including people, timing, finances etc.

When asked to quote for our services we start by understanding the key drivers for change and what are the perceived benefits to be realised from outsourcing. Adopting such an impartial and consultative approach at this early stage ensures that the right guidance is offered regardless. In the main outsourcing should be seen as a long term commitment and long term partnerships can only be realised when both parties fully understand and are able to satisfy each other’s needs.

It’s the same in marriage – so why should business life be any different?

The Climate

A decision to outsource can be determined by many factors and a subsequent weighting is normally applied. A number of common elements that act as the proverbial tipping point for outsourcing include:
– A dilution of the core activities due to a lack of time
– The existing building lease is up for renewal
– A desire to convert assets such as buildings and equipment to hard cash.
– A growing business with insufficient capacity and experience
– A decision to expand into International markets
– A need to reduce operating costs by Leveraging the collective buying power of a 3PL
– An Inferior service level compared to the competition.

All of the above and many more are valid reasons to consider forming a long term alliance with a relevant industry expert.

Gain a Competitive Edge

There is logistics and then there is value added logistics. Do not be fooled into thinking the two are the same as they offer a very different proposition and can often prove to be your competitive edge in a “me too” marketplace. Value added logistics providers not only provide the basic warehousing and distribution services you would normally expect but will also provide on demand access to a comprehensive “sweet shop” of support services including:
– Re-work / Co-packing
– Pre-retail
– Product refurbishment
– Call centre operations i.e. Inbound telesales
– Customer services
– Web photography
– Digital studio i.e. Listing support & store design
– Demand planning etc.
– Freight forwarding and customs support

Traditionally such services would be spread across 4 or 5 business types but not anymore. Logistics pioneers of this variety remain in short supply and finding a partner that can offer such versatility provides a real competitive edge and greater efficiency.

Focus on Your Core Activities

If you’re a manufacturer, wholesaler or retailer then warehousing and transportation is not your core business nor is it your core area of expertise. Every day spent in this field may well detract both directly and indirectly from the main areas of focus and negatively impact the bottom line.

If you aren’t in pursuit of growth and you wish to touch and feel every aspect of your business then outsourcing probably isn’t for you. On other hand if you are seeking significant growth and your perceived constraints centre around physical infrastructure and industry expertise then forming an alliance with a reputable logistics service provider could well unblock the blockages.

Outsource to Gain Control

There is a common misgiving that outsourcing various services relinquishes control. In today’s modern world of web based applications and management reporting this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The time gained through outsourcing some of the more physical aspects of your business combined with info on demand puts you bang in control. Instead of being the oarsman operating below deck you instantly become the captain above deck and the management information supplied acts as your instant to dashboard for key metrics associated with the your business.

If you’re serious about scaling a business then a carefully selected partners are key to achieving this aim.

The Utopia

The last few years has seen a growing trend of businesses opting to downsize and relinquish physical operations in exchange for an out of town head office that also houses the sales function with showroom feature where applicable. More often than not it is the warehouse that governs the location of the head office and without the warehouse the choice becomes a whole lot more attractive.

Amongst our many clients across the retail, wholesale and manufacturing sectors there are many examples of a head office and a third party warehouse working in tandem and to great effect.

As a value added logistics provider 3P Logistics work in partnership with Splashabout International a leading manufacturer and retailer of baby swimming products worldwide. Our client conducts its central functions from its head office in Grimsby and from our purpose built order fulfilment centre in Wigan we provide an extensive range of support services including freight management, warehouse storage, b2b trade order fulfilment, b2c ecommerce fulfilment and client services.

Cross Border Trade and E-Commerce

cross border trade blog

20 years after the first recorded online sales transaction, e-commerce is now a worldwide market comprised of merchants ranging from multi-national retailers to single owner-operator businesses.

While the earliest days of e-commerce sales were dominated by the bricks and mortar retailers that were already well established, new technologies have allowed those smaller, and newer market entrants to quickly grow market share and revenue streams by rapidly responding to the constant change in market dynamics. This in turn has paved the way for cross border trade.

UK SME’s currently trail behind the rest of Europe in terms of exports, according to recent research from the UKTI. Of an estimated 5.4 million businesses in the UK, with Small to Medium Enterprises currently accounting for 99% of those businesses, you’d think that it would be more than one in five that currently export. France are one in four, and Germany one in three.

Although these are the figures for the UK, France and Germany, cross border trade is growing. 33% of retailers surveyed currently sell on international sites and one in four of those retailers earn more than 20% of their revenue through international sales. In 2013, cross border e-commerce sales between Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, the UK and the US totalled $105 billion. By 2018, this figure is said to jump to $307 billion. A near 200% increase. With this in mind, Bigcommerce’s Democratization of E-commerce Report predicts that US SME’s e-commerce market alone will exceed $100 billion in total sales in 2015.

However, there are still problems that retailers face when it comes to trading internationally. Examples such as language barriers or even fulfilment processes are amongst the most common. Retailers only need to invest time to research and build a strategic plan before taking the leap into cross border trade.

Trade between two nations is an excellent way to strengthen international bonds because it helps to create long lasting partnerships where before none may have existed.