Keep The Customer Satisfied with a Professional Website
On-Line Order Tracking and Your Web Hosting Provider
There’s all kinds of stuff for sale on the world wide web – everything from services to information to products like shoes, books, jewelry – you name it. So, if you have a garage full of disposable thermometers, and you plan to sell home medical supplies on line, you better get your order fulfillment system in line first.
It’s NOT as easy as it looks. But given the right tools, you can sell online.
Take the full picture; plan the entire process.
Where are you storing your inventory?
It takes space to store products – even small products. Have you thought about where you’ll keep those boxes of knick-knacks? Do you have the room in your home? If so, is that inventory going to stay safe and dry (some basements flood when it sprinkles!)? Are you going to be able to get to the kitchen to rustle up supper? Is one of your kids going to sleep on the floor?
A lot of small web-reneurs fail to take into account just where all that inventory is going to be stored, and in most cases, keeping your inventory in your home is (1) going to cost money because you’ll have to buy in smaller lots and (2) be one big headache for you and your family.
If the dining room table is your shipping and receiving department, dinner time is always going to be an adventure.
Determine how much space you’ll need. Next, how much extra space do you have in the house? If you inventory won’t fit, time to move to Plan B = renting storage space.
Make a few calls to local rent-a storage places nearby and get quotes on cost per cubic foot. Always ask for cost per cubic foot so you can compare apples to apples. Some storage places have a “small,” “medium,” and “large” space rate so you don’t know what you’re paying for.
What is a Fulfillment Warehouse?
A fulfillment house is a company that specializes in product fulfillment services, on behalf of the product owner. An example of a fulfillment company is ‘End to End Fulfillment’. Before choosing a fulfillment company for your e-commerce store, be sure to research them thoroughly and get quotes for fulfillment comparison sites, such as ‘Warehousing and Fulfillment’.
How much time you got?
Let’s say you get an average of 20 orders a day – enough to keep you going but you aren’t getting rich on 20 sales a day (unless you’re selling Picasso etchings out of the spare room. Good luck with that).
20 orders a day sounds pretty good – until you figure out the cost of finding, tracking, packing and shipping those 20 orders Monday through…well, if you’re lucky, you’ll be shipping or packing daily – and that’s if you’re lucky.
But wait, there’s other things you need to do each day so the time it takes to pack up those 20 orders, affix labels, enter the ship date into your computer, drive to the post office, wait in line, drive home from the post office – it’s just about the time the kids get out of school and there goes your “free” time – the time you’d spend building your business to 2,000 orders a day.
Now, with 2K orders a day, you really have a shipping problem, but what a nice problem to have – especially if you’ve just started your on-line business. If you’re getting 2,000 orders a day, you’ve got some packing to do. You’re also one of the lucky web business owners who hit the digital mother lode.
When you’re the company CEO and custodian, time is money and you don’t want to waste either so, as you grow, you’re going to need outside help to keep up with an increasingly large number of daily shipments.
Got lots of money, too?
There are companies that do nothing but fill orders for lots of different clients. They’re called fulfillment houses because that’s what they do. Fulfill orders – your orders – and the orders of a few thousand other companies as well.
In order to build web success, repeat business is almost a given. You want that same, happy customer coming back time after time. And s/he will if you get that order shipped quickly, inexpensively and safely (as in NOT broken).
If you’re shipping a few small items each day, no problem. The kids can help, your spouse – it’s a real family business run by a family. On the other hand, if you’re selling fold-out sofas on line because your brother-in-law can get it for you wholesale, you’ll need fulfillment help the day you launch.
It’s essential that you factor in storage, packing, shipping and postage into your initial business plan. These expenses are pretty much fixed and you need to find the least costly way to get it from here to there in one piece.
It’s critical to long-term web biz success that your customers are happy for several critical reasons:
- Satisfied customers become repeat buyers and it costs 10 times less to keep an existing customer than it costs to find a new customer. That’s a number worth remembering.
- Happy customers tell their friends and family about your great products or service. This word of mouth (WOM) advertising is the best marketing tool you have. Hey, you’re more likely to see a movie recommended by a friend than one you just pick out of the paper. WOM advertising expands your client base exponentially.
- If you get the order right, in a timely fashion, you save money on returns. Somebody has to restock a return, or even send out a refund – something you don’t want to do too often.
- Returns also eat up valuable time and, again, time is money. Shipping and inventory management are invisible thieves. You feel like you’re doing well but to maintain that expanding customer base requires more time, more space, more money and less you. You have less time to do the other things the owner of a web business has to do.
While we are breaking it down, take a minute to review your company’s eco-strategy. Does your website utilize environmentally friendly, green web hosting? Does your company utilize traditional website hosting? These are things that your Internet visitor will consider, and so should you. Every business needs an eco-strategy.