Archive

Author Archive

Connecting eCommerce Sales and Supply Chains with Channel Allocation

January 31st, 2014 Ranjit Goray No comments

Merchants in today’s connected world face a market where the buyer has access to a lot of information for making a purchase decision. Merchants need to play a facilitating role in decision-making processes, and then offer a price which is competitive for different markets. To help the purchase decision, the merchant needs to have presence on the web, on devices, on phone, and in the physical world (retail outlets for B2C merchandizing). These are what we call “Demand Channels” in Ignify eCommerce.

Sometime purchase decisions are influenced by stock availability, time taken to deliver, or more complex requirements that require a closer engagement via the sales quote process. All these influencers are tied to what we call “Supply Channels” in Ignify eCommerce.

Both demand and supply channels have come much closer over the last decade, thanks to technological advances in connectivity. For a merchant to become successful in an eCommerce world, it’s important that both demand and supply channels are appropriately modelled in their eCommerce platform.

Ignify eCommerce has incorporated the concept of these channels into the eCommerce platform, providing merchants with a way to keep an efficient supply chain as they connect and service customers at multiple levels. These channels are designed to operate as a simplified plugin to merchants using Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM products. Merchants can also use the Ignify eCommerce platform without Microsoft Dynamics, and add Microsoft Dynamics ERP or CRM products in the future as revenues grow and there is a need for capabilities that Microsoft Dynamics brings.

Demand and Supply Channels

In Ignify eCommerce, the channels are categorized into two different groups: sales channels that are essentially demand channels, and service channels that are supply channels.

Sales channels are the ways in which a customer can interact with the merchant’s brand and potentially purchase items or services. Supported sales channels in Ignify eCommerce are:

  1. Web Store,
  2. Retail Store,
  3. Call Center.

Service channels are the channels that are involved with servicing the customer’s post-purchase needs. So a service channel could be a:

  1. Retail store,
  2. Warehouse,
  3. Or a Call Center for electronic delivery/non-physical goods.

The sales order acts as the bridge between the sales and service channels. An Ignify eCommerce order is shown below with both sales and service channels captured on the two fields called “Placed At” and “Fulfilled By”. “Placed At” is the sales channel while “Fulfilled By” is the service channel for an order. In this case, the order was placed on the website.

“Placed At” is the sales channel while “Fulfilled By” is the service channel for an order

“Placed At” is the sales channel while “Fulfilled By” is the service channel for an order.

Setting Up Channels

This classification of sales and service channels helps build a multi-channel framework in Ignify eCommerce. Shown below are different types of channels that have been configured in Ignify eCommerce. Each channel has a Channel Manager who has the visibility (and can get notifications) for various events occurring in his channel.

A merchant’s Manager Panel showing different types of sales and service channels used by the company

A merchant’s Manager Panel showing different types of sales and service channels used by the company.

Channel Allocation Rules

As explained earlier, the “Placed At” channel on a sales order is simple – this is the sales channel through which a sales order was accepted. The “Fulfilled By” channel on a sales order is more dynamic. Ignify eCommerce gives the merchant control on deciding how each order should be fulfilled through “Channel Allocation Rules”. These are rules that determine which service channels will be linked with the sales order – for physical goods this translates to which warehouse(s) will fulfill which sales orders.

Some examples of the types of channel allocation rules that merchants use can be based on:

  1. Zip Code: A merchant can specify that orders shipped to a certain zip code are to be fulfilled by a specific warehouse.

Automated channel allocation by ship-to zip code

Automated channel allocation by ship-to zip code.

  1. State: A merchant can specify that orders placed in a certain state are to be fulfilled by a specific warehouse.

Automated channel allocation by ship-to state

Automated channel allocation by ship-to state.

  1. Country: A merchant can specify if orders placed by customers in different countries are to be fulfilled by different warehouses.

Automated channel allocation by country

Automated channel allocation by country.

  1. Customer Class:  A merchant can specify that orders placed by customers belonging to different customer classes can be fulfilled by different warehouses.

Automated channel allocation by customer class

Automated channel allocation by customer class.

  1. Channel: A merchant can specify that orders placed by customers in certain channels are fulfilled by different warehouses.

Automated channel allocation by channel

Automated channel allocation by channel.

  1. Sales or Customer Service Representative: A merchant can specify that orders placed by certain customer service representatives are fulfilled by certain warehouses.

Automated channel allocation by sales or customer service representative

Automated channel allocation by sales or customer service representative.

Stock Availability

Within Channel Allocation Rules, a merchant can also prioritize how these rules should be evaluated. Each rule is evaluated and a corresponding service channel (warehouse) checked for stock availability. If the stock quantity is available, then service channel assignment logic stops and the warehouse gets assigned to the order.

But if stock quantity is not available in that warehouse, then the next Channel Allocation Rule is evaluated to decide the next preferred warehouse in a stock outage scenario.

Automated channel allocation rules with priority

Automated channel allocation rules with priority.

By allocating different fulfillment channels according to different channel allocation criteria, you can automate the connection between sales channels and service channels. This offers a competitive edge since orders can get fulfilled faster, leading to not only happy customers but also lower inventory carrying costs.

Legal Compliance and Accounting Book Updates

One critical difference between the sales channel and service channel is the completely different set of legal requirements that need to be satisfied. While sales channels have broader flexibility and a fewer set of legal requirements, service channels need to satisfy a stricter set of requirements, such as collecting taxes on the government’s behalf and accounting book maintenance.

To automate these legal requirements, Ignify eCommerce provides a Company/Legal Entity framework. This allows a merchant to define all of their legal entities in the Ignify eCommerce platform. These companies are tied to Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM product suites via readymade integrations.

Ignify eCommerce allows a merchant to define all of their legal entities in the Ignify eCommerce platform. These companies are tied to Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM product suites via readymade integrations

Ignify eCommerce allows a merchant to define all of their legal entities in the Ignify eCommerce platform. These companies are tied to Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM product suites via readymade integrations.

These companies own various service channels (such as warehouses and retail stores). A sales order assigned to individual service channels is routed to the respective companies for invoicing and payment collection.

If you would like more information on how Ignify eCommerce can help connect your demand chain to you supply chain via eCommerce, please email us at ecommerce@ignify.com.

Ranjit Goray is Vice President of Customer Satisfaction at Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERPCRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 5 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine and ranked as one of 100 most innovative companies in the world in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Borders goes Bankrupt – importance of getting Ecommerce right for Retailers

February 18th, 2011 Ranjit Goray No comments
Borders goes Bankrupt – importance of getting Ecommerce right for Retailers

Borders yesterday announced that it had filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Poor technology, the lack of a strong ecommerce offering and the Kindle unraveled Borders. It is unfortunate yet brings home a strong message to retailers. Get your ecommerce strategy right or face dire straits.

Other retailers that have gone through this include Circuit City, Barnes & Noble, Linens N things are examples of venerated brick and mortar stores with strong brands that become history because they didn’t transform themselves fast enough. It’s easy to dismiss this as a US or North America trend but this is a trend moving fast to other parts of the world. Several stores in UK have closed. That effect has also has spread to Asia-Pacific.

For example, Angus and Robertson – an Australian book store- went down hours after Borders went under.

We’ve seen our customers that use the Ignify eCommerce platform see revenue growth of over 20% on their online stores. While retail has been flat or negative ecommerce-done-right remains a shining star. However, eCommerce has become more challenging – just having a store is not enough – you need a mobile offering , table compatibility, personalized promotions, chained promotions, rich content, videos, product reviews, SEO friendly pages … and all of this without breaking the bank. This article by our CEO speaks about the trends for ecommerce in 2011 and what a merchant can do to be successful in this year.

We are proud that Ignify ecommerce provides just that and more in a very reasonable budget. For more information, email us at ecommerce@ignify.com .

Ranjit Goray is the Director of the eCommerce practice at Ignify. Ignify eCommerce is the only PCI certified eCommerce solution in the market that integrates with the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and Sage ERP solutions. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for four years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine. Ignify was ranked in the Red Herring Global 100 in 2011 – this list represents the top businesses world-wide with disruptive and innovative technology.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

What Should My eCommerce Store Conversion Be

December 9th, 2009 Ranjit Goray No comments

Every online retailer, at some point during their evolution, asks the question:  “what should my conversion be?”.  The hope is that, if you could only find this holy grail number, it would serve as a panacea for all of your online business ills and allow you to finally know where your online business should be when optimized.  If you jumped when you saw the title of this article, we can assume you might be one of these hungry souls.  The good news:  you can finally stop looking.  The bad news:  it’s because there is no answer. 

When You Can Find Data, It Varies Widely
The first challenge you encounter on your quest is actually finding published conversion data for comparison.  The reality is that there is no online retail metrics clearinghouse in the sky where online retailers faithfully subscribe and dutifully report all of there closely-held internal financial information.  There are a number of different sources that publish aggregate conversion data, but a quick review of these sources highlights significant disparities, overly broad ranges, and dissimilar definitions that make any attempt at comparison all but meaningless.

 None of the Data Exactly Matches Your Business
 When you look across the published data you are faced with the challenge of deciding which number to compare to your business.  The reality is that there are dozens of differences between your business and even your closest competitor – different brand strength, different assortments, different promotions, number of offline stores, different geographies covered, marketing budgets, size of e-commerce teams, the list goes on and on.  So many variables can ultimately affect conversion that it severely limits the instructive value of the the metric itself.

A Fixation on Conversion Can Be Dangerous
Attempting to oversimplify your business and fixate on a single metric can also lead to incorrect conclusions and dangerous decisions.  Take the example illustrated below.  Scenario A depicts a retailer at “steady state.”  Scenario B depicts the same retailer after making in incremental investment in some low-cost marketing that drives additional but much less qualified traffic.
 

What should my conversion be

Does Scenario B represent an undesirable outcome?  But it must… clearly the conversion went down.  In fact the incremental traffic converted at 50% the rate of the steady state traffic.  But revenues increased (materially).  Marketing return also increased.  Why would we possibly focus on just the conversion number? 

Should You Ever Be Happy With Your Conversion?
Nielsen Online published the data depicted below in March 2009 showing top converting websites. 
 

What should my conversion be

What insights should we draw from this data?  If your conversion rate is currently at 1% should you resign now in disgrace and head towards the nearest bridge (or pub, I prefer pub)?  And what if you are Schwan’s with a staggering 50.5% conversion rate?  Should they declare victory, put things on auto-pilot and take an extended vacation (or head to the nearest pub)?  The one thing we can be certain of in either case is that senior executives at both your company and Schwans will be giving the same orders tomorrow:  get those numbers higher.  The bottom line:  there is no “final destination” for this metric — and if you think you have room for improvement you probably do.

Try a More Balanced Approach to Measuring Your Business
The reality is that is naïve to think that we can measure and run our businesses on an single, oversimplified equation like “traffic x conversion x average order value” any more than a brokerage can run theirs on the mantra of “buy low, sell high”.  Instead, we need a more pragmatic, balanced approach.  We recommend an adaptation of Kaplan and Norton’s famous balanced scorecard approach.

Building a “Balanced Dashboard” for Your Online Business
For our online retail balanced dashboard, we recommend focus on the following four areas:

  • Transactional Measures — Yes we should track conversion, but only in the company of a number of other meaningful metrics that span the customer experience.  This set should most likely include not only online metrics but also broader offline and brand impact measures (assuming those are part of your business objectives).  A cross-section of traffic measures, shopping funnel and related metrics across the online experience will shed light on how well visitors are behaving and moving through the buying process.

     

  • Repeat Customer Measures — Repeat customer measures should be given equal or even greater emphasis than transactional measures for one simple reason:  customers who return over and over again are evidence of a solid underlying value proposition (whether the value proposition is product, price, or experience-based).  Repeat customer measures should include not only the overall repeat purchase rates but also more granular breakdowns including tiering of repeat customers, average valuations and migrations within each tier, and new-to-repeat conversion ratios.  

     

  • Customer Feedback Measures — Customer feedback measures can serve as early warning systems for bigger problems down the line.  Tools such as site intercept surveys, email surveys, and net promoter scores can be used in conjunction with monitoring of return patterns and trends in service calls to identify problems and gauge the pulse of both visitors and customers.

What should my conversion be

  • Internal Process Measures — The final set of measures cannot be found in a web analytics package but are probably equally helpful in improving your business.  The goal of this set of measures is to gain visibility into what types of activities your online group is investing time in and which types it is not.  A high-performing online organization will spread their time across a range of value-added activities.  Average online groups, by contrast, will repeatedly get mired in a few areas (e.g. endless iterations regarding the home page spot or design of the next email creative) while ignoring more productive activities like customer monitoring, experience optimization, and product presentation.  Start with some simple time tracking by major activity area to see where your team is investing its time and you should quickly highlight some needed changes.

Once you’ve developed your dashboard, a baseline should be established for each set of measures at which point your task becomes tracking and monitoring these measures at meaningful intervals and investigating changes.

Slightly More Work, But a Better Result
If you’re seeking an answer to the question “what should my conversion be?” the answer is simple:  it should be higher.  If you’re seeking an answer to the question “is my business where it should be?”, take a little extra time, develop a balanced dashboard and the data that will provide you with the answer.

This post is written by Ranjit Goray. Ranjit is the Senior Manager-eCommerce in the eCommerce Practice at Ignify. Ignify is a Global Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Partner specializing in ecommerce for Retail, Distribution, and Manufacturing businesses. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Top 10 tips to online retailers for the holiday season

October 27th, 2009 Ranjit Goray 3 comments

Top 10 tips to online retailers for the holiday season

 

Ranjit Goray and Sandeep Walia

 

October is here and before you know it Halloween will be kicking off the 2009 holiday season. In these tough economic times  there will be an increased number of online deal seekers this holiday season. In the flurry of online retail options, how will your online store fare against the rest? You should have already begun implementing a holiday strategy, but if you find yourself running a little behind or need an extra boost, don’t worry, we’ve put together 10 tips that will help you make your online appeal and customer experience rise above the rest.

 

10. Put in place a robust order management system and strategy – During a time of high traffic like the holidays you don’t want to be stuck with an order management and fulfillment system that is slow and is unable to support your expected traffic. It is important to work with a platform that is scalable and can integrate with your ERP and shipping systems. Why is this important? Ignify's research has shown that while customers will initially buy from a store based on how friendly the web interface and usability is but will do repeat orders only if the order fulfillment experience and the quality of the product itself is good.  Good usability and great web features drive conversion and customer acquisition. But a good order strategy system that incorporates an integrated eCommerce store, ERP system and shipping systems will increase repeat buys. Repeat customers will typically account for 70% of your profitability since you have already borne the acquisition cost with the first order so it is important for your store to be profitable that you focus on the after-receiving-the-order process.

 

9. Utilize social media tools– Kick off a social media strategy, encouraging discussion (and links) on social networks and other user-powered sites. Using the power of blogs, Facebook and Twitter allows your customers to connect with you, share ideas and feel as if they are part of an overall community. Social media will enable quick dissemination of deals, share company information and allow instant feedback from customers. Utilizing bloggers for product reviews can gain you a third party endorsement that is respected by your followers and encourage ‘social shopping’. Make sure in any avenue of social media you link back to your storefront.

 

8.  Ensure your SEO is not a one-time but a Wash, Rinse and Repeat process  – Too many merchants expect that a one-time SEO improvement process will lead to early results that will then sustain. First any SEO uplift because of improvements is not immediate  and it is key to implement SEO improvements now so that you can begin to see the benefit of the results at the peak of the holiday season. Second no single SEO initiative is going to drive sustainable results. Search Engine optimization needs to be a continuous process since search engines change their algorithms and ranking order frequently and your competitors will quickly mimic your strategy so you need to then shoot your next SEO arrow in your quiver.;. A few pointers around SEO:

-       Search engines reward sites that update content regularly so ensure your product information, images are constantly updated. New promotions and offers are a fantastic way to update content and increase your crawl rate. Fresh content will engage search engine spiders as well as your readers (this includes product, blog and other informational content on the site).

-       Make sure your URLs are not the random $%^^ type URLs but are human-legible and reflect the product category/ product name.  If you are searching for brown loafer for men, A web URL with www.Ignify.com/@@@@456y7&&**3478% as the page URL for the product page is unlikely to do pretty well Vs a page that has www.Ignify.com/products/mens-casual-brown-loafers (example of a static URL) as its web address. Also our research has shown that that pages with static URLs tend to rank higher than URLs that are parameter-driven

-       Use descriptive names for products and images to optimize word recognition. Ensure your HTML Page Title has the product name in it and your primary key words should be at the beginning of the title tag. Ignify's research has shown that there is a strong correlation between how high you show up on search result and the position of your keyword in your title tag. Titles with that keyword at the beginning will typically show higher in the search engine result.

-       Use ALT Text on your images (aka ATL TAGs) on your images so that your images are not dead images to the search engines but text that they can index. ALT tags filled with keywords can also be used to boost your keyword frequency and help you achieve better rankings. In addition, Alt text on your images will make your site more "readable" to people with disabilities and to computers trying to use semantics to make information more useful.

A unique and relevant HTML page title, matching content on the page and Alt Text on all of your images will bring a big boost to your customer acquisition if you are not already doing these things. 

 

7. Optimize your site for usability and navigation – There is enough holiday confusion already, who wants online shopping confusion too? To avoid customer mayhem, review the navigation on your site and make sure that items are easily accessible. Including a site map will help with navigation and is also a key to SEO. Clear and distinctive labels will help your customers get around the site easier and improve their shopping experience. Ease-of-use is a very important concept in the overall customer experience, encouraging return visits to the site. You e-commerce platform should enable your site with easy navigation, a clean interface, allow site administrators to quickly maintain or change content and enable the company’s brand to be communicated affectively.

 

6. Predict and automate – Incorporate a purchase popularity system in your ecommerce platform that allows you to detect which products on your site are best sellers. The holidays are the best time to clearly feature those products on the front page. Ensure that your system can do that automatically so that in every product category your best-sellers are listed at the very top. In addition, personalized merchandizing help lift revenue by recommending relevant products to the customer, reflecting their previous browsing and purchasing habits. Having personalized ‘recommendations’ on the site or even sent to the customers inbox has an increased impact on brand performance.

 

5. Spread holiday cheer with discounts, giveaways and gift cards – The gift of giving resonates in any industry during the holidays. Giveaways are a great way to keep enhance your customer base as well as increase the repeat buys for customers. Look at your abandoned carts and follow up with those customers with a promotion code that will give them a discount if they come back to complete the purchase they had started. Don’t only focus on discounting or giving away items, but also think about enhancing and adding value to the purchase. Use social media tools to promote discounts and giveaways and increase customer engagement and interest. Also, include a way for customers to order gift certificates. That way if they are shopping for a gift for someone and don’t know what to get; they don't have to make a decision but still leave the site completing a task and having a positive experience.

4. Send and Receive; define your shipping details – Timing your holiday gifts is a difficult science, but with the right retailer and options you can get it very close. During the holidays customers are very concerned with timing, delivery and returns of their online purchases. Take time for a holiday assessment of your shipping and receiving methods. What are the customers’ options? Can they send gifts directly to the recipient? Do you have a gift return/exchange receipt process? The easier it is for customers to work with their order, the higher your conversion rate will be. It is important to offer a wide range of delivery options for both timing and pricing to get the sale to turnover. Make sure the instructions for delivery are clear and provide tracking numbers to the customers to make package communication transparent. Return shipping labels/easy (or free) returns are a good way to build customer rapport and trust.

3. Customer Reviews – If you don't already have this functionality, add customer reviews to your website. However, don't just add reviews – also add the ability for customers to rate other  users' reviews. There are three reasons to do customer reviews

 

a. Increase the level of comfort for customers that are purchasing an item – thus increasing conversion

 

b. Build a community of users that not only interact with you in purchasing by also contributing comments and reviews and rating other reviews.

 

c. Keep your websites content fresh and thus improve your search engine optimization.

Very often merchants will add customer reviews and will wonder why no one is entering them in. To kick start the process offer a discount to have customers provide reviews. After that ensure you have follow up emails after the purchase to request a review for the item. This email should go out only after you have been able to ship the item and the customer has had a chance to use it. Sending a request for a review to early in the process will mean that the request for review email is just going to get deleted.

 

2. Make your contact information clearly visible – Customers are much more likely to buy your products if they are easily able to find ways to reach you. Ensure your address and contact information is easy to get to. It is best to include your contact email and phone number on EVERY single page of your website. Even if customers don't call the fact that you see. Zappos.com is a great example of how they have built a strong comfort level by make it really easy for customers to rearch out them.  Why care about comfort level – because it is going to the your #1 driver of conversion. Shoppers routinely buy the same product at a higher price from a store they feel comfortable dealing with than one where the product is at a lower price but they have a low comfort level with.

 

 

1. Increase your Email reach out – Customers that have been to your site and had a positive shopping experience are more likely to shop with you again. Ensure you have several ways to have customers opt into to your emails . Good examples are during the checkout process,  in the customer's my account and a sign up box on your website pages. Building and continuously strengthening your house email list is important as email is the most effective overall tactic to increase revenue. 'The State of Online Retailing' Shop.org study by Forrester research published in June 2009 stated that while search is the most effective customer acquisition tactic, email to the house list is the most effective tactic to grow revenues. Use the house list in multiple ways

- Notify customers of deals and promotions

- Use personalized coupons to increase repeat buys. For example send a personalized coupon for an item to the customer that who has purchased an item that has a consumption life of 60 days in approximately that much time. That way you are hitting them just when they need to refill the item.

- Provide tips on products the customers have purchased

- Encourage your customers to come back and review the item they have purchased on your site.

 

Although the holiday season may have woken you up to thinking of new and fresh ways to boost your ecommerce business; all of the ideas above present opportunities to improve your customer relationships on a long-term basis and are fundamental for your business roadmap. When this holiday season cools down, revisit the steps to ensure that your online business is well-positioned for any time of year.

Ranjit Goray is Senior Manager of eCommerce operations at Ignify.  Sandeep Walia is President and CEO of Ignify. Ignify specializes in implementing its flagship Ignify eCommerce solution for mid-market and enterprise retailers.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: