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December 2018

View all on this date written articles further down below.

THRIVING IN ONLINE RETAIL IN THE CHRISTMAS SEASON

Jingle bells, logistics hell, consumers giving bad reviews,  oh what fun it is at Christmas time to sing the online retailer blues – HEY!

Okay, it is the silly season so we thought we’d join in with what could be your version of Jingle Bells this year but we like to think it doesn’t have to be like this with solid planning and a little Christmas magic.

Why now?  Because now is the time you can really start to learn and note what is happening so you can improve things for next year.

While the 12 days of Christmas in a religious sense starts from Christmas Day and ends on 6 January, in this final lead up to Christmas day, we thought we would share some of the thing we know about online retail at this time in a traditional 12 points.

1. Woohoo it is the Silly Season with lots of customers wanting to buy your things -YAH CUSTOMERS – this also means that there is a high demand on both your logistics internally to fulfil this influx of orders, and a high demand on shipping agents to get your parcels delivered on time.  So make sure that you always have a way to scale your workforce and shipping at this time. Make sure all your systems are in place and are as foolproof as possible. With large volumes this is the time that mistakes can creep in, so test thoroughly ahead of time.

2. Be clear about expected delivery times on your website and communicate this information on relevant pages like the Product Page, Shopping Cart and within Checkout. This is essential.  Don’t make a customer search for your delivery timeframes at Christmas or be vague about what you mean (I’ve seen a lot of ambiguous statements this year!). It will be the make and break of the sale if they don’t know when they will get it by OR the cause of a lot of arguments if they order anyway and they had ‘expectations’!

3. More parcels are always going to mean that more things can go wrong – so also make sure your policies on refunds, lost packages and exchanges are clear and up-to-date on your website, otherwise it will just add to the morning after the Christmas party headaches. And make sure your customer enquiry number is easy to find.

4. Please help me Santa, my website is down! The only thing that should be going down at this time of year is one too many cocktails at your annual Christmas party and Santa down the chimney to deliver the presents.  Meet with your website hosting company and confirm your servers are large enough to cater for Christmas promotional traffic.  Consider increasing server sizes temporarily during this peak trade period.  Ensure you have proactive and reactive alerts in place (to let you know if your website is about to die / is dead).  Consider services like Pingdom.com and PagerDuty.com or NewRelic and Nagios.  

At The Playhouse Group, we can’t stress this one enough. Too often we see projects that clients want done ‘in time for Christmas’ but the timeline is not even mildly realistic (pro tip: to do it properly, and Christmas promotional traffic starts growing from October so your new website needs to be built and live by September). And while we would love to help, we take pride in doing a proper job.

The best time to come up with new project ideas for Christmas is earlier in the year, then you have time to see your agency, get quotes and pricing and ensure you have plenty of time for the project to be delivered and for your customers to be delighted. Also make sure you team up with your digital agency to ensure everything is up-to-date like security patches, load testing, payment gateways, shipping options etc.

5. Keep note of anything major or minor that happened during the Christmas season and actually invite your staff to a brainstorming session in the New Year to discuss what could be put in place to fix it.  Your staff will be eager to give you suggestions if they think it will cause them fewer headaches next year and if they think that you will actually implement solutions.What’s more, these solutions will probably help you on a day-to-day basis all year long. YAH efficiency!

6. Click and Collect – if you are going to implement Click and Collect in your stores make sure you do it properly.  If a customer puts in an order for a Click and Collect order and they don’t receive regular updates in regards to their order and when they can come and collect then this causes friction and unhappy customers.   People choose Click and Collect for a few reasons:

a) So they can save money on shipping 
b) For the convenience of online shopping so they don’t have to run all over the store themselves if they have a few things they want 

c) to make sure they secure the item at this busy time of year.  

It is generally expected that a Click and Collect orders will be ready to collect when ordered before 12 pm. If your Click and Collect method is not set up with in-store items you need to highlight this at checkout, not bury it in your Click and Collect terms and conditions.

Customers don’t want to wait excessively long times for their item if they thought that they could actually walk into the store and buy it today with a little more effort or if they thought they could source it from someone else. Just be honest about what you are doing here. Yes, with buried Click and Collect policies you might make a few more sales but just be prepared for all the extra manpower you will need to field the calls from unhappy customers. So if you don’t have it in store and it won’t be in for a few days, let your customers know this upfront. Successful retail = happy customers.

7. Communicate.We would like to say enough said but we will go into detail anyway. Make sure your automated email systems have been set up and are fully tested. There is nothing worse than customers not receiving the emails to keep them up-to-date on their orders. Worse still is if you don’t have your systems set up in the first place. And if you have a delay of any kind, have that email ready to go too. Minimising the friction that customers experience about their orders will mean more good reviews! Better yet, ask your customers for feedback at this time so you can learn from it for next year.

8. As retailers, you know that ‘Free Shipping’ is not all that free. In fact, it costs a lot!  But it increasingly influences people’s purchasing decisions online.  Shoppers want the convenience of not having to go to the shops but they don’t want to pay more either.  So consider how you can angle your shipping offers so that they actually work for you.  Consumers will spend more online to qualify for free shipping than they originally intended to spend. The trick here is to know your numbers so you can set your shipping offers at a price point that increases basket sizes but doesn’t break your bank.  Maybe you can set a flat shipping fee countrywide which reduces the cost of shipping for ALL your customers and also allows you to recoup some of the costs of shipping.

9. Customers will hold you accountable to the shipping experience they receive.  As a retailer, you know that when that package leaves your hands there is little you can do to influence it arriving on time and in good condition to the right address.  There is a little bit of a wing and a prayer because the shipping component is a third party business.  So make sure you are using people you trust and test out other options if you are not happy.  There is nothing worse than a customer being excited about the purchase they made with you, only to blame you for the disastrous shipping experience (lost package, damaged goods, delayed timeframes).

10. Stay on top of the packages you have shipped out and have an automated flag in the system if things aren’t reaching their destination on time.  You need to know what is happening because some customers won’t complain if they still get their parcel but they may be unhappy enough not to shop with you again.  It will also allow you to be on the front foot with your customer if you are communicating the delay to them. It will also let you know when you need to start trialling other shipping companies if your chosen provider is constantly letting you down.

11. What was true this year will not be true for next year.  Look at where trends are going to ensure you can attract more shoppers to your site for next Christmas and so you can plan ahead for your online projects. 

And drumroll please for our most important advice:

12. Smile!  It’s nearly Christmas! Consumers are more likely to buy from a happy elf than a grumpy grinch.

The Playhouse Group wishes you a very Merry Christmas for 2018 and an amazing New Year. We also regularly consult on, and assist businesses to optimise their logistics models and have rolled out advanced logistics offerings like Click and Collect for clients like Toys-R-Us. We can also help you get for site ready for the silly season. If you are interested in having an outstanding 2019 get in contact with The Playhouse Group for a free consultation.

SHIP-FROM-STORE AND HOW IT BENEFITS YOU

It goes without saying, in retail, business is tough. The competition is increasing on an almost daily basis, and margins have never been so tight.

With online revenues being the foremost revenue channel for many retail operations, organisations are always looking for new ways to position themselves above their competitors. This is one of the reasons why Ship-From-Store presents itself as such an appealing proposition.

What is Ship-From-Store?
A Ship-From-Store approach essentially treats each retail store as a miniature distribution centre and uses the stock that they have in-store to fulfil orders made online. One of the most significant advantages of this option is that the overall size of your retail business almost becomes irrelevant.

Why is it a good idea?
Let’s look at this from a consumer perspective first of all. They visit your website and the item they want is out of stock and won’t be available for fulfilment for another 4 weeks. How does that customer feel and what is their likely next action? Will, they visit their local store and pay travel expenses to get there if they think the item is out of stock? Probably not. Will they look for an alternative online? Most likely.

For the retailer, this impacts their overall service offering and of course their bottom line. Ship-From-Store changes this.

With this new strategy, the fulfilment of online orders will be carried out using stock that is housed in-store.

What this means is:

  • Customers who are located close to the retailer outlet receive their orders more quickly
  • It reduces a retailers shipping costs as a courier would be picking up from store and delivering to a customer that is in close proximity
  • It helps boost sell-through revenues for the retail operation
  • It improves the customer experience significantly, and
  • It delivers a superior stock-management strategy for the overall business.

Another huge benefit of Ship-From-Store for smaller retailers is that it means more boutique-style retail outfits can now expand their business without needing to invest in costly warehousing and distribution centres.

If you are considering Ship-From-Store, or simply looking for new ways to boost your revenue and improve your offering, then you aren’t alone; a third of retailers with a traditional ‘bricks-and-mortar’ presence have already included a plan to roll out this strategy in their 2018/2019 strategies.

Your inventory will be better managed
In retail, one of the constant concerns is inventory. If your stock turnover is down and you are literally sitting on stock it could start to impact your profits and overall business effectiveness.

Ship-From-Store can help to boost sales while helping to better manage your overall spread of inventory across the business. For instance, if a retailer is sending orders out from a distribution centre and the stock runs dry the chances are that sale with be lost. However, if a store has that particular item in stock, with Ship-From-Store you will sell the stock you have on hand and have satisfied customers.

Your customers will approve
Not only will the implementation of a Ship-From-Store approach enable you to keep up with your competition, but it will also significantly boost the experience you offer to your customers.

As we’ve already mentioned, this is something that retailers of all sizes can and will benefit from. When a customer enters a store, be that online or bricks-and-mortar, there are certain standards they expect as a minimum. Where service, shipping, and returns are concerned; these standards are the same regardless of the size of your operation.

Ship-From-Store helps provide retailers of all sizes the opportunity to deliver an efficient and low-cost fulfillment service to their customers by transforming the shelves of their stores into miniature distribution centres.

Ship-From-Store benefits both B2C and B2B
Regardless of whether you sell to the general public or to other businesses, you can adopt and implement a Ship-From-Store approach to your fulfilment. Both sets of clients have the same demand for quick shipments, and both sets of customers demand as near to instant gratification as possible.

Technology is a huge enabler in any type of business, and Ship-From-Store is no exception to that rule. Gone are the days where a shift in strategy requires a mammoth investment and intensive organisational training.

In the past, management of multichannel and multisite operations on this scale would have required a project team to implement the concept and intense ongoing management. However, by harnessing the power of cloud technologies, this gives each location complete ownership.

The software that is available can even provide your business with customised shipping labels, instant notifications, and other time-saving tools that can help ensure your organisation retains a professional image and delivers a high-quality service at all times.

Final thoughts
On-demand delivery is already here. When a customer decides they want something, the chances are, they want to get their hands on their desired product as quickly and hassle-free as possible.

In any retail survey conducted with consumers, quick delivery is always a key attribute that people look for when deciding where to spend their money. In fact, consumers are often willing to pay more in order to receive their goods more quickly.  

This game-changing strategy essentially makes all in-store products available to both online and walk-in customers. If you have a booming online business, why turn customers away or cause them to face unnecessary delays when you have the stock to fulfil their order within your business?

It is a revolutionary retail model that has been made possible through advancements in technology, and is being driven by consumer demand for quicker access to goods.  And when Ship-From-Store can save larger retailers from having to invest in more warehousing space, save money on shipping, and provide a more efficient service for their customers – well, it just makes sense.

The Playhouse Group regularly consults on, and assists businesses to optimise their logistics models and has rolled out advanced logistics offerings like Ship-From-Store and Click and Collect for clients like Target Australia and Toys-R-Us. If you are interested in rolling out Ship-From-Store for your business get in contact with The Playhouse Group for a free consultation.