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.


pre-orders add sales to your woocommerce store

If your customers are counting the days for one of your products to arrive in your store, and you know it is going to be in high demand, then adding the ability to take pre-orders is a great way to attract buyers and enable them to buy your product first.

We recently worked with a book publisher whose readers were waiting for a long-anticipated title to arrive, and adding pre-orders to their store was an incredible way to boost sales.

Pre-orders work well for books and media, apparel and electronic goods.

If you are considering adding a pre-order and / or back-order module to your store, xocbox can help – contact us for details.

 


stop displaying out of stock items in your yahoo store

out of stock items
 
If there is one thing that is driving shoppers crazy it is displaying products in your store that you don’t have available. Whether it says, Sold Out, Not in Stock or Out of Stock – they don’t want to see it.

If you display a product on your Category or Section page, and the shopper clicks through to the item description only to find it’s not available, they will soon move on to another website for a more satisfying shopping experience.

Even if you show products on your Category and Section pages as Out of Stock, or Sold Out, it soon looks as though you don’t have anything that is available. We all know how hard it is to keep up with updating your website with fast moving, in demand products at the holidays, but to a shopper it might even look as though you are going out of business!

xocbox has the answer for Yahoo merchants who don’t have the time or resources to keep up with the time consuming process of marking products in and out of stock. With xocbox, once your item count goes to zero, the product changes to not orderable in your Yahoo catalog manager.

No manual changes for each item!

Contact xocbox to learn more about this feature.


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.


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.


Is Lowest Price the Right Price?

pans with prices marked down

Many e-retailers use price-monitoring services to check prices of their competitors, and then adjust their own prices accordingly.

Often a product’s price will change more than 10 times in a single 24-hour period, according to data from the price monitoring firm, Profitero Inc, but does that mean that you have to change your prices 10 times as well?

There is no doubt that retailers are well aware of the price cutting strategies employed by Amazon, and other large retailers such as Sears, and Walmart, but is price cutting the best strategy for your business?

Being informed is essential, however, many retailers believe that they need to find the right price for their business model, and rather than simply slashing prices, prefer to find ways to offer their unique services and quality to win a customer’s business.

If you have researched similar products to those you are offering, emphasize the superior quality of your products, excel in customer service, and offer a fair price (though not necessarily the lowest).  Anything that sets your product apart can win you the sale – custom-made, free alterations, personal shopping advice.

Building up your email list and tailoring offers to each buyer’s personal taste is a great way for you to personalize your shopper’s experience.

Once a shopper has built a relationship with your store and loves to shop there because of service, quality and personal recommendations just for them, paying more for an item will be worth every extra penny!

Research has shown that retailers who can figure out how to price their products using some of these strategies are still able to sell plenty of products, and make a profit.


many small businesses still not online

shop online on all devicesThe results of holiday sales 2014 indicate that online retailers had a good year.

The web tracking company, comScore, released data this week showing an increase of 15% in November and December, better than their original estimates.  These figures do not include sales made on mobile devices.

The figure is expected to increase to over 17% when mobile sales are taken into account, and this falls into line with many other reports and research that shows shoppers are now very comfortable making purchases on their mobile and tablet devices.

Big box stores and large enterprises have certainly embraced this, but smaller businesses appear to be having a more difficult time keeping up with technology trends, as noted in research from the nonprofit group, SCORE, which is supported by the Small Business Administration.

Their research showed that only 51% of small businesses have a website, yet 97% of consumers begin their product search online.

They also found that the small businesses that do have a website often lacked a call to action, did not engage in social media, and were not mobile and tablet friendly.  There were even some that didn’t have a phone number, so contact by customers was difficult, if not impossible.

When you look at the volume of sales being made online and on mobile devices, it is clear that if your company does not have a website, you need to get one.  Also, if your site is not yet mobile friendly, that is something you should have on your 2015 To Do List.

If it is that simple, why don’t more small businesses have a website?

The main reasons cited for not having a web presence were:

  • Lack of time – they are working round the clock to run their business, so don’t have time to devote to new technology and / or skills.
  • They don’t feel web savvy enough to delve into ecommerce, and stick to what they know.
  • The task is just too big.  They don’t take credit cards in their store, so the jump to internet retailer is too daunting.

At xocbox, we try to make getting your business online an easier process, and one that doesn’t give you nightmares.

We can help your business, if:

  • You do not have an ecommerce site, and do not know where to begin because the large number of products you carry makes it overwhelming. We can help you get products online, and use xocbox tools to add and edit products.
  • You need to integrate your online store with bricks and mortar, and point of sale system. Manage inventory and work with suppliers / drop ship vendors to ensure that products sold online are actually available.
  • You have an ecommerce site, but find it difficult to keep on top of the volume of work involved keeping products up-to-date.   xocbox tools reduce the data entry required in most ecommerce platforms.
  • You don’t already have a catalog and SKUs set up.
  • You have products with many colors and sizes, and need to quickly create professional looking listings with multi-views and swatches.

Contact xocbox today, and learn how we can help your online business.


Cyber Monday was a winner!

holiday decorations in storeFigures just released by comScore show that retail sales on Cyber Monday were over $2 billion, and these figures do not include sales made through a tablet or mobile device.  Wow!

The report went on to say that consumers spent 26% more in 2014 than they did in 2013 over the holiday weekend, and online sales are continuing to outstrip those of bricks and mortar stores.

Any retailer who has still not been able to get their products online, or has a website that doesn’t have mobile and tablet capability for shoppers is losing out on valuable revenue.

Contact xocbox if you are struggling to keep up with listing your products, and running your business – our tools can help you manage your store, and we have a great new product coming in the new year!


Black Friday Week or Month?

holiday shopping pictureLast night I purchased something from a local Banana Republic store, and at the checkout I was given a coupon called TGI(B)F which said “Early Access to Black Friday”, and had discounts I could use from November 24 through November 27.

The sales associate cheerfully told me that if I couldn’t deal with Black Friday shopping, I could shop early from Monday 24th.

I also read an article saying that Walmart plans to make it Black Friday week.  Walmart’s Black Friday begin at 12:01am on Thanksgiving and will include five days of sales online and in their physical stores, taking us through Cyber Monday.

It looks like many retailers such as JC Penney, Staples, Macy’s and Target are planning to open on Thanksgiving  – with some as early as 5pm.

Retailers are increasingly aware that shoppers are turning to the web to shop at times that suit them, not retailers, and Black Friday has become symbolic with the start of the holiday shopping season, not necessarily the one day for the best bargains.

With shoppers researching prices online, and checking spot sales in bricks and mortar stores, the 2014 holiday shopping season is going to offer bargains for weeks to come.

So don’t worry about rushing out the door to bargain hunt, as soon as you’ve eaten your turkey dinner – retailers will surprise us with flash sales right through the holiday season, and the best bargains may appear as we draw closer to the end of December.

 


Free Shipping

shipping options in store

I have just returned from the WooConference 2014 in San Francisco, and came away with lots of ideas and information.

With a host of great speakers, we didn’t know what to expect, and the interesting thing is they all offered great new ideas, and reiterated some of the concepts we know we should all be offering.

One of the things all store owners must be thinking about at this time of year is Free Shipping, and is it really worth it? Well the answer is, a big YES!

Speaker after speaker mentioned the value of having free shipping available in your online store.

One speaker stated that 73% will shop with Free shipping offered, and that 90% will buy more from your store if free shipping is offered.

Another speaker said that research showed 44% of shoppers will drop out without free shipping, and go elsewhere.

So how can you make free shipping work for your store?

If you can’t sell all your products with free shipping, try offering free shipping on the total value of an order over a given amount, such as $100. This not only attracts shoppers, but entices them to spend over the $100 amount in order to benefit from the shipping offer.

Another way is to offer free shipping on products that you are planning to mark down in the next few days / weeks. You may sell them at full price, simply because you are offering free shipping.

Try offering free shipping on combined purchases in a certain category or categories.

Set up an email campaign offering free shipping to those who buy a product / products before a certain date.  This way you will benefit from receiving revenue quicker.

Show a FREE SHIPPING label on your home page, so shoppers know it is available as soon as they land on your store. If possible, have free shipping in your header, so it appears on every page.

There is no question that competition is stiff in the online marketplace, but free shipping is here to stay and it is what shoppers have come to expect, not just from the big box stores, but from any online store or marketplace.

So don’t despair – in the long run, the more you sell, the better rates you can negotiate with your shipping service, so figuring out how to get started is crucial to your ongoing success.

Why not start by talking to your local shipping store?  By passing more work their way, you may be able to solve your own shipping problems as well.


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.


do you need omnichannel retailing?

desktop-gf-storeMost retailers know that being able to offer their products online is an essential part of their marketing strategy, rather than an option.

However, a recent report by comScore revealed that 173 million people in the US now own a smart phone, and are using this device to check emails and text messages all day long.

They are also using it to shop.

As retailers, whether we like it or not, omnichannel retailing is here to stay, and marketing-savvy retailers have been making sure their websites are mobile-optimized, and ready to offer features and services to customers during the holiday season, so they don’t miss out to the shopping giants and big-box stores.

So what can you do to get your store up to speed?  Omnichannel retailing really means that all the places where your customers can buy … physical store, online via desktop, smartphone, ipad or tablet … work together seamlessly for your customers.

Put yourself in the position of your customer and try to buy something from your own store through all the channels that you offer.  How was the experience?  Did you get smoothly to checkout?  Were there frustrating delays or screens that didn’t display correctly, or not at all?  Once you have pinpointed the sticking points, get your tech team and staff to iron out the issues.

You have probably already figured out your holiday marketing campaign, but research is showing that email is still a favorite by many retailers.  In the study mentioned above,  it was found that 42 percent of emails sent were opened on smartphones, and an additional 17 percent opened on tablet devices.  So definitely make sure your site is mobile optimized.

Follow the lead of large bricks and mortar stores, such as Staples,  who are aggressively using email campaigns to drive customers into their stores, and tempting them with a series of coupons and special offers.

Keeping in close contact with your customers through all devices will be key this holiday season, and those who don’t will lose out on precious holiday sales to retailers who have planned their omni-channel strategy to create an excellent customer experience at all of their store touchpoints.

If you would like information on omichannel retailing for your online or bricks and mortar store, contact info@xocbox.com.

 

 


Communication drives customer satisfaction

pensI recently read an article about the top five drivers of customer satisfaction in the remodeling industry, and at the top of the list was communication.

Others in the list included sticking to a schedule, being professional and organized, trust and problem resolution.

In reality, the list above could be applied to any type of business, including retail.

How many times have you purchased something online, and waited patiently for your item to be delivered, only to receive an email ten days later saying the item is on back-order!

Don’t let this be the experience your customers receive when shopping on your site.  Nothing will drive customers away from your site more than poor customer service.

No matter how busy you are, by setting a routine that you and your staff follow when customers purchase or call in for help, you can avoid disappointment, and gain a loyal following of happy customers.

What your customer wants

  • Promptly confirm purchases via email
  • Confirm that payment has been received
  • Advise when item purchased will be shipped
  • Once shipped, let them know package is on the way, and confirm tracking details
  • Provide updates and status on late or delayed shipments
  • Always include a packing slip or invoice in every package you send out
  • Include a returns policy in the package
  • Include a phone number or email address that customers can call with questions
  • Include a FAQ page on your website
  • Return customer calls within the same day, if possible
  • Resolve issues promptly, avoiding arguments
  • Issue refunds and credits promptly

What your customer doesn’t want

  • No confirmation that order has been received
  • Difficult to find company contact information
  • No tracking information
  • Poor returns policy
  • No return phone call or email
  • To be kept on hold
  • Product doesn’t arrive
  • Slow or no refunds policy
  • Goods not as described
  • Unfriendly service

Unfortunately, sometimes a customer will have a negative experience, no matter how hard you try.  If that is the case, don’t try to hide behind your policy, don’t lose your temper, and don’t take the complaint personally.

If this happens to you, work with the customer to provide an alternative product, a refund, and even offer a small gift or discount coupon off their next purchase.  You will be surprised how an unexpected gesture of generosity on your part can suddenly change the whole dynamics of a situation.  Your upset customer then becomes your biggest fan!

 

 


Are you ready for the holiday season?

holiday cardsBack to School is behind us, and the Holiday Season is just around the corner, so now is the time to make sure you have everything in order for that traditional increase in sales during Halloween and Christmas.

The short shopping season of 2013 meant that many etailers had difficulty fulfilling orders in time, and some unlucky shoppers received their gifts long after the holidays were over.

The 2014 holiday season will again be short, with just 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, only one day more than 2013, and predictions indicate that online sales will increase, with consumers spending more time shopping on mobile phones and tablets, and less on retail sites.

Thanksgiving falls during the last week of November again this year, and Cyber Monday will be in December.  So if you’re feeling behind schedule with your store planning, what can you do now to make sure you don’t miss those all important holiday sales?

  1. Most importantly, don’t panic!  There is still time to do some last minute planning.
  2. Make sure you have all your holiday orders placed with your suppliers, if you don’t already have products lined up in your warehouse.
  3. Ensure you have all your packaging materials and boxes ready to go.
  4. Plan out your holiday promotions and add these to your website in October.  Be ready for early gift shoppers by suggesting gifts by product type or gender, and create gift baskets or sets under a specific dollar amount.
  5. Make sure you have plenty of accessories, and gift-type products ready for your site by October.
  6. If time permits, make some seasonal color changes to your website and theme, however, products and promotions are still your main focus.
  7. Decide how you will cope with the extra workload – do you need to hire temporary staff for the season?  Think about the extra strain on your resources such as customer service,  product fulfillment, and gift wrapping.
  8. Plan your email marketing campaign, and social media strategy.
  9. Plan your delivery cut-off dates and make sure these work with your shipping carrier.
  10. Think back to what worked best for you last year, and repeat that process.

The Holiday Season is the most exciting time for shoppers and retailers alike, and even with last minute planning, you can still create a great experience for your shoppers, and a profitable holiday season for yourself.