Spring is the perfect time of year for small-to-medium size multichannel merchants to identify new ways to streamline their business operations and improve go-to-market programs. A good spring cleaning is in order as part of a solid plan that will attract new and repeat customers, allowing businesses to enjoy strong sales heading into the summer season.
Forrester projects that online shoppers in the United States will spend $327 billion in 2016, up 45% from $226 billion in 2012 and 62% from $202 billion in 2011. Over the next three years, it will be important for retailers to take advantage of this growth opportunity. More immediately, SMB merchants can take the following steps to dust off their ecommerce strategy to drive maximum sales and customer satisfaction.
Clean the windows to your business – website, search and other channels
The first step in effectively promoting any online business is to make sure the site has been optimized for search engines. A thorough review of the metatags, keywords and content used throughout the pages should have been completed during the website’s launch. There are hundreds of experts competing for this business, and you can get excellent guidance at a low price.
Assuming an SEO plan is already in place, launching a search engine marketing campaign on Google will ensure that your store appears in the paid results. You should also consider banner advertising on sites that your customer base is likely to visit, such as relevant associations or organizations. Multichannel merchants also understand that selling through additional channels, such as Amazon, can dramatically increase sales.
Organize your biggest assets – inventory and supporting data
Make sure all of your data is up-to-date, clean and indexed. This includes product descriptions and codes, prices and inventory information. Visibility into data is key, and inaccurate data can result in too much or too little inventory, which translates to lost sales.
During promotions and critical sales periods, this becomes ever more important. The last thing a retailer wants to do is sell the same item twice. It takes time to receive new inventory, enter the information in your order management system and make the products available on your online store. To ensure your site is viewed as current, you need to stay ahead of the game, order early and sell early.
Make sure you do a health check on your inventory management system to ensure it is ready for the increased traffic to all of your sales channels. A good inventory management system will manage the critical aspects of your business – including essential integrations with carrier, payment processing and accounting systems – so you can be sure that inventory is always accurate, orders ship smoothly and your customer service team can respond with confidence.
Dust off the Rolodex – use your partners and suppliers
Always make sure your partners’ and suppliers’ support contact information is available and know when they are accessible. Surprisingly, most merchants don’t know the exact times they can reach their service providers for assistance. It is important to know exactly how to work with those that help bring your product to market. A break-down in communication can cripple available inventory, resulting in lost sales and reduced customer satisfaction and loyalty. The costs associated with obtaining new customers are significantly greater than retaining existing accounts, so it pays dividends to make customer satisfaction a primary goal when refreshing business operations.
By developing a solid plan to ‘hit refresh,’ multichannel merchants can ready all of their sales channels this spring and ensure a successful customer experience at each and every touch point with their business.
Fred Lizza is CEO of Dydacomp.