Tag Archives: online retail

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.

5 Ways To Win Amazon’s Buy Box

If you sell on Amazon, I am sure that you are aware of the ‘Buy Box’ – the holy grail for online sellers. For each product that is being sold on Amazon, there is an area on the product page which only one seller can obtain at a time, a.k.a the Buy Box. It’s a game changer, since obtaining the Buy Box can significantly increase your sales.

3P Logistics Amazons Buy Box
Image courtesy: Clker

1. Become a highly rated seller

This is the most important factor since Amazon will only give the buy box to highly rated sellers. This special status is awarded by Amazon based on different categories. In order to achieve such status you need a low order defect rate, which means the standard of your order fulfilment plays an important role here. Make sure you ship the right product out efficiently to keep your cancellation and late shipment rate as low as possible.

2. Offer a low total price

Keeping your price low is another key to achieving the Buy Box. Make sure you consider both the product price and the shipping price. You should always check out your competitors’ pricing when pricing your own products.

3. Maintain your quantity levels

Make sure your products are always available. For example, our warehouse inventory is directly synchronised with various marketplaces/webstores, which helps our clients maintain a consistent quantity threshold.

4. Achieve sales volume

Just like eBay, conversion rate is rather important here. You need to be a successful seller in order to obtain the Buy Box. Try to offer excellent customer service as this can help retaining customers effectively.

5. Minimize refund

Sales error is a big no, no for an Amazon seller, hence you should ensure your order fulfilment time is as fast as it can be. Consider outsourcing your order fulfilment so that your product can be shipped right first time, every time.

Social Media For Online Businesses

3P Logistics have recently hosted an event for online sellers and we asked the attendees what their biggest barrier is when running their online businesses. One of the most popular answers was ‘marketing’. Today we would look into social media for marketing as it can be one of the most effective ways to market an online businesses, and it is almost free (perfect for start-ups!)

3P Logistics Social Media

Why should you use social media?

1. They have proven track record of generating billions of dollars worldwide in ad revenue and sales – a powerful tool.
2. It allows you to engage with potential customers, which cannot be achieved through traditional media such as TV ads, print ads, etc.
3. It has people – a lot of people, and a lot of views. Social media sites receive trillions of views each month. And with their powerful search engines you can find target customers easily.
4. It can go viral. People share materials on their social profiles with their network, and this can build your ‘word of mouth’.

How should you use social media?

1. Research & plan

Nothing works without a proper plan, and before planning you first need to do your research.
You need to figure out what you want to achieve with social media to begin with. Is it to boost sales? Is it to generate brand awareness, or is it for customer services? For this article I would focus on generating sales since it would usually be the most desired outcome. The next thing to do is to figure out your price brackets – understand that the lower your price brackets, the more audience/customers you are likely to attract. With social media, start with offering products in the lower price brackets to gain awareness first, then try to drag customers up to the higher price brackets. It is all about trial and error. Doing A/B testing on your social media campaigns will certainly help.

2. Set up a killer profile

The key here is to stand out. This does not mean to go all extreme, but at least put some personality into your cover photos, profile picture and your bio. Think about what you sell – what type of people would buy your products and what images would appeal to them? For example, if you sell baby products then you can try to be cheerful, cute and sweet, and show that you understand mothers and babies.
As a side note, don’t forget to link your social media profile to your website and vice versa. At the end of the day, your aim is to drive traffic to your website so people could buy something from you.

3. No more sales pitches, say something interesting

I have unfollowed some online retailers because my whole news feed is filled with their sales messages – boring, repeating sales messages.  Ensure you make your sales messages interesting and please, do not make it too frequent. Shouting out every 2 minutes is not going to help.
Occasionally, you should actually talk about your knowledge on the type of products that you are selling. Using the previous example, if you sell baby products then talk about baby care – this would appeal to mothers, who are your target market. You want their attention, and it is even better if they start seeing you as the industry expert and begin asking you questions. This way you can start engaging with them.

 4. Engagement

With social media you have no reason to be shy – the worst thing that could happen is that they ignore you. You are not likely to see them again and I am sure they won’t point and laugh at you on the street. So, be brave and try to initiate a conversation, or respond and reply to other people. You are doing all of these things to build trust and relationships and this is how you generate long term customers. Try to use their name and be genuine when talking to people. Spend a little bit of time reading their profile, it helps the conversation flow. Remember – do not start selling anything before you have established a connection with your potential customers since it can put people off.

5. Competitions/Offers

These are a good way to attract and capture potential customers since people would repost/share these on their own profile and this can build word of mouth. Offers are best for conversions – make sure you have a deadline for your offer so people would feel a ‘sense of urgency’.

6. Social communities

This is great for targeting and engaging. Start by following users that have similar target audiences as you. Look at what they are doing and who is following them, then try to involve them in the conversations, as mentioned in step 4.
I have covered only a few points here and of course there are many others – If you have any points to add then comment below!
And most importantly, remember to track and measure – your work means nothing if you cannot measure the outcome properly.

865m Online Orders Will Be Dispatched In 2014

3P Logistics Delivery

Other key highlights include:

  • An estimated 17.5% of all orders are now from non-UK shoppers
  • Cross-border parcel orders are of higher value than for those delivered in the UK.
  • For UK delivery, quality of service continues to hold up well both in terms of ‘late’ and attempted (carded) delivery failure. – If current performance can be maintained, fewer than 12% deliveries will fail to live up to shoppers’ expectations.

Online retailers are on course to despatch 865 million orders via UK carriers this year, according to the IMRG MetaPack UK Delivery Index. After a slow start to 2014, February brought the Index back on target with 14.2% year-on-year growth in terms of volume – 760million orders were despatched in 2013.

Andrew Starkey, Head of e-Logistics at IMRG, said: “The IMRG MetaPack Delivery Index is now tracking well ahead of 2013 in terms of volume and quality of service.

“Although higher delivery prices are bound to be unpopular with consumers and retailers, they at least appear to be allowing the investment in the services necessary to improve customer satisfaction.

“However, even with these service improvements, the rise in volume means it is likely that more that 100 million orders will not be delivered to meet on-line shopper’s increasing expectations so there is still much to do.”

The IMRG MetaPack UK Delivery Index has been designed to enable the e-retail industry to track a wide range of key benchmark metrics to enable organisations to benchmark performance, track trends and inform strategic decisions.