inventory control leads to happier customers

As 2017 progresses, and retailers are confronted with the uncertainties of the border tax and an ever-shrinking labor market, staying on top of inventory is still a guaranteed way to keep customers happy.

I read recently that one of the major turn-offs for shoppers is when they have spent time online choosing a product, especially if the product requires them to spend time choosing variables, such as a piece of furniture which has fabric, finishes and sizes to consider, only to find when their purchase is added to the cart (or later) the product is not available.

Most of these companies use some type of inventory management system to track products that are in stock, sold out or coming soon, yet accurately representing inventory is still one of the most difficult areas for retailers to stay on top of.

The one size fits all approach offered by many of the inventory control products available still leaves enough friction in the process of managing stock to turn customers away.

xocbox works with many different types of retailers, and we see that all have unique business scenarios that make managing their inventory unique. We work with retailers, suppliers and manufacturers and see the supply chain from both ends of the puzzle. Whether you choose EDI, assistance with supplier feeds or are a manufacturer looking to expand your selling outlets, talk to xocbox to see how we can help you fulfill orders and keep your customers happy.


strategies stores are using to stay ahead

The latest sales data indicates that online sales are continuing to grow, while the pace of in-store sales is slowing down for many retailers.

Big box stores are adopting different strategies to deal with this shift in the way consumers shop, but there is no question they are taking this trend seriously.

Target announced recently that its fourth quarter online sales grew by 30% in 2016, while its store sales dropped by 6.1% year over year, prompting Target to cut its prices at the expense of profits. They are also planning to make better use of stores as fulfillment centers, and equipping all sales associates with mobile point of sale devices. The concept behind this strategy is that shoppers will think of Target as a great place to shop with great prices.

The brand Tommy Hilfiger who in the past derived sales not only from their own stores, but also from high street giant Macy’s, chose a different route. Tommy Hilfiger’s in store sales were lackluster and Macy’s is planning to close many of its stores, further contributing to the brand’s decline. Deciding to modernize the brand, Tommy Hilfiger looked to social media to bring the brand to the attention of younger audiences, and then debuted its latest collection with a fashion show in Venice Beach, California – an unusual move for a brand that would typically show its products in New York. The results were astonishing, with a surge in sales online in the 24 hours following the show, and 50% of traffic from first time visitors.

In line the with these stores, Kohl’s has also seen growth in its online sales and a decline in its in store sales. To counter this, they are reducing the size of their stores from around 88,000 square feet to something smaller, and reducing inventory by 3% across all stores for the next three years.

Whether it’s a price change, a new way of marketing your brand, or re-evaluating the use of the square footage in your bricks and mortar store, the pace of change in today’s retail industry requires continual assessment to keep the attention of today’s consumers.

Small and medium sized retailers also have to be innovative looking to more control of inventory, switching from in-store to online sales, using physical space not only as a store but also as a fulfillment center, and using technology to bring it all together – and who said retail was easy!


does your store need automation?

cloud computing sofwareWith the amazing speed of delivery and array of products offered by Amazon, and the recent acquisition of Jet.com by Walmart, it is no wonder that we are getting more and more inquiries from small and medium sized retailers about store automation. The bar has definitely been raised on customer expectations in the online shopping world by the leading retailers.

xocbox provides solutions to Woocommerce and Yahoo (Aabaco) stores to automate many processes allowing owners to have products and prices be dynamically updated, and have orders pass through to suppliers for fulfillment.

We recently worked with a Yahoo store owner who requested that we automate as many of the processes in his stores as possible, so we did! Working with his suppliers, the resulting stores we have designed are practically “no touch” stores, as xocbox has eliminated much of the manual work normally required to process orders.

Orders that come in to the Yahoo store pass through to the supplier to be fulfilled via drop ship EDI, and shipping details and tracking notifications are then sent to the customers.

We have set up the process to check inventory, and automatically update complex products which vary not only by size and color, but also have option level pricing. The xocbox system also includes fraud checks, and customer risk assessment and if an order passes all checks, it can be sent directly to the supplier. Alternatively, the store owner can review an order, and approve it via a checkbox in the xocbox backend system before passing it on to the supplier for fulfillment.

If you are interested in learning more about EDI, drop ship or automating other processes in your store, call us today at 858-752-3803, or email info@xocbox.com.


drag and drop supplier mapping tools for your online store

xocbox has just introduced its new mapping tools to take the headache out of updating products and prices in your online store.

Whether you are a busy online store owner or a store designer uploading products to your client’s store to meet a deadline, the latest mapping tools from xocbox will free up your time, and keep you ahead of the game!

We now offer advanced drag and drop mapping tools designed to make your life easier – one for inventory feed mapping, and one for mapping supplier data for all your products, including new products, and price updates, together with product variations, GTINs, and SKUs.

So if you are tired of manually uploading and editing products from all your suppliers, or want to add more lines before the online shopping season begins in earnest, contact us today and learn more about our mapping tools.

If that still sounds like too much work, we also offer a low-cost full service solution that really does take the pain out of managing updates to your products – as we take care of the work!

 


as ecommerce grows, recruiting gets tougher

The recent headline on the front cover of Internet Retailer magazine screamed out Always Be Recruiting. What is happening in the etail world?

Due to the improved economy, and huge growth in e-commerce, experienced e-retail staff have found themselves to be in great demand.

While this is great news for those seeking work, it is making life difficult for employers trying to find the help they need to remain competitive, and is especially frustrating for small and mid-sized companies whose staff may be moving on to greener pastures.

The US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting strong growth technical jobs that are essential to e-commerce. In fact, a survey by Dice.com which finds jobs for technical staff, found that 71% of those surveyed expected to see an increase in the number of technical staff they employ by as much as 11% in the first quarter of this year, and this scenario is expected to continue throughout the year.

One way companies are approaching this problem is with the use of technology in their own systems and processes to fuel growth, and this is where xocbox can help.

One of our customers recently observed that a process his staff had been doing manually before incorporating it into xocbox’s system, had taken about 15 minutes to do and involved cutting and pasting information from one place to another and possibly reformatting the data.

Since xocbox provides a central place to manage data from different sources, we were able to include this task into their processes, allowing staff to update data in their site in a matter of minutes by simply pressing a button and cutting out hours of tedious work.

If you are thinking of hiring more staff to keep up with an increasing workload, and ever changing demands, contact xocbox to see how we might be able to help.


supply chain for small to medium sized business

shirts
 
 
Supply chain is again one of the hot topics and is predicted to be one of the biggest areas of investment in technology for retailers during 2016.

In fact, the scramble to get ahead by retailers can be seen in the recruitment of new faces to manage the supply chain operation in companies such as Target and Wayfair.

Target announced that they had hired Amazon veteran Arthur Valdez as executive VP and Chief Supply Chain and Logistics officer, while home furnishings etailer, Wayfair LLC, hired Staples veteran, Sharif Sleiman, to lead its supply chain operations (Sleiman has also held managerial positions at Groupon, eBay and Oracle).

At the last ProMat Supply Chain Management show the focus was on supply chain management software, with an emphasis on systems integration, and the ability to fulfill increasingly complex orders.

Many businesses (including some large companies) still rely heavily on manual processes, and according to a report from Supply Chain Insights, managing procurement and supplier relations is still one of the most time consuming tasks they undertake.

Why is supply chain so important to the retailing giants, and how can small and midsized companies compete?

Software integration is integral to an organization’s success. If all the processes required to carry out your business don’t “talk to each other” then a person will have to step in to connect everything together.

A growing number of smaller businesses is now realizing that the investment in technology to solve these problems can greatly improve existing processes, and save valuable time and dollars.

xocbox can help

xocbox offers semi-custom automation solutions for small to mid-sized businesses and has provided EDI solutions to allow communication with suppliers and the electronic placing of website orders for fulfillment, inventory management, and can provide integration with third party products.

A recent project working for a small manufacturer of custom products, allowed orders to be placed via multiple ecommerce platforms and processed through the xocbox management system, and a work-order was then produced from the system to be passed on to the shop floor to make the product.

Previously the work orders had been generated manually, and as the products usually involved more than one trade to complete, had to be generated multiple times by hand. This new process has saved many hours of administrative time, and reduced errors (and frustration).

If you are considering automating a process in your business and are not sure where to begin, contact xocbox to discuss how we may help.


xocbox offers Ingram Books EDI compliant solution

sell ebooks and print books onlinexocbox.com now offers a fully integrated EDI solution for publishers working with Ingram Books.

Working with a publisher who offered ebooks on their own Woocommerce website, and also sold print books through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, xocbox has now enabled them to sell print books directly from their own website through their partnership with Ingram Books.

The Ingram EDI compliant solution offered by xocbox.com means that the publisher can now offer their customers  a choice of purchasing an ebook, a print book or a bundle of ebook and print.

The system is managed through the xocbox product manager where all book details, such as ISBNs, retail price, sales price, author information, publish date and book covers can be organized and pushed through to the Woocommerce website.

xocbox makes managing data an easy process, with user friendly screens and drop-downs.  The variations screen lets you choose the medium for the book you are selling.

 

xocbox option screen

 

 

When a customer buys a print book, the order is passed through the xocbox middleware to Ingram and processed for delivery to the customer.

xocbox manages the data ensuring that all transactions comply with Ingram’s EDI guidelines.

Ebooks are fulfilled by the publisher in the normal way, and Ingram drop ships the print books.

Contact xocbox for more information about EDI and Ingram Books, and integration with your website.


keep the ecommerce platform – change the backend

cloud computing sofwareRecently we have been talking to several ecommerce merchants who have been considering switching their online store to a platform that offers more services, and is less expensive.

The big question they ask is, “how difficult would that be?”.

The simple answer is that migrating products to a new platform is something that can be done.
 
However, changing platforms is not something that should be taken lightly. Most people considering this have had their store for several years or longer, and it is easy to believe that by changing your platform you will receive immediate benefit, that is, sell more products.

Selling more products is definitely not guaranteed, and if you don’t pay special attention to the many details involved (such as, SEO, marketing, 301 redirects to name just a few), you could find yourself selling less.

If you are a mid to large-scale online retailer, you have probably found that as your business has expanded, so too has the complexity of managing all your backend functions.

Many of the functions that are needed to keep your products up to date, and to track orders often evolve into manual processes that take an extraordinary amount of time for you and your staff.

xocbox can work with you to take a look at your store backend processes and find solutions to problems that are taking you away from spending time with your customers.

We specialize in working with Yahoo merchants, and Woocommerce stores, but can offer advice on all types of integration problems regardless of the ecommerce platform.

Please call us for a free consultation at 858-752-3803, or click the contact button below.


managing inventory in your online store

inventory monitoring software
 
It’s that time of year again, new shipments are arriving daily, storage space is getting smaller, and there’s a buzz in the air anticipating the arrival of the holiday shopping season which has already started with the Back to School products.

eMarketer forecasts that holiday sales in the US will grow by 5.7% in 2015, the biggest increase since 2011, and while this is great news for retailers both on and offline, it does present some challenges.

How do you manage inventory so that you have enough of the popular products that are flying off the shelves, and don’t order more products that include those that have sold only a few items?

xocbox can help you. Our inventory monitoring and out of stock widget in your online store mean that you always know when products are running low or sold out, helping you to decide when to place orders to replenish your stock.

We will work with you to provide the level of automation that is right for your store. Whether you want supplier feeds to your store, or want to automate the whole process right through to sending orders to your drop ship suppliers, xocbox systems will save you and your staff time during the busy shopping season.

If you have more than one store, no problem – let xocbox track sales in all your stores.

For more information on how to take control of the inventory in your Yahoo or Woocommerce store before the holiday season, call us at 858-752-3803, or click the contact button below.


EDI and Woocommerce

fulfillment center
 
xocbox offers a fully integrated EDI solution for Woocommerce stores at an affordable price point, and we have been receiving increased interest in EDI and automation of business processes during the first half of 2015.

Whether you are sending or receiving orders, working directly with a fulfillment center or warehouse, or simply need EDI to work with the stringent requirements of a major retailer, xocbox can help you.

Woocommerce is an ecommerce platform that offers flexibility to store owners and web designers alike, and the ability to offer EDI compliant transaction documents with our integrated EDI solution can speed up business processes, and greatly improve efficiency.

If ASN 856, PO 850 and ASCII or X.12 are driving you crazy, contact xobox for more details about EDI and integration solutions for your Woocommerce store.


Improving Supply Chains

shopping
 
 
In a recent study carried out by Boston Retail Partners that surveyed 500 North American retailers, one of the main areas of concern was supply chain.

Of those respondents, 93% were working towards solutions that would allow them to integrate operations and sales from physical stores, and online sales from desktop and mobile devices.

Ensuring that the flow of products to customers is seamless from the purchase order issued to a supplier, right through to delivery – whether via drop ship or through the retailer’s own store has been made more efficient through the use of electronic data interchange, or EDI.

In fact, many of the major big box stores will not work with smaller suppliers if they do not carry out their operations in this way.

Rigid guidelines and standards must be followed to enable EDI to work smoothly, and universal forms and messaging formats, for example, Invoice 810, Advance Shipping Notice 856, are recognized formats.

There is no question that EDI is efficient as a business to business tool.

However, if you are a retailer trying to respond to customer demand as indicated by social media, Google data or other web signals, you may need additional monitoring tools to meet your company’s demand.

If your company is facing challenges with any aspect of its supply chain, drop ship or delivery, contact xocbox who would be pleased to discuss your business needs.