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!

 

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.

 

are etailers leaving money on the table?

dollar signsI was recently asked a question about common issues that we see that are causing small and medium-sized etailers to leave money on the table in their online retail stores.

Of course, no-one would be doing this on purpose, but sometimes opportunities can be missed because they are not immediately apparent.

One thing we have seen is that merchants are missing opportunities to keep shoppers on their site by not optimizing their home page or landing pages.

The first thing a shopper should see is the most attractive merchandise and the best offers. This could be products that are well priced or popular for other reasons – such as Back to School products.

For example, if you sell apparel that has price variations according not only to size, but also color, your home page can show an attractive or seasonal color with the price below, and also show a price and label for the less expensive color.

By showing the lower price alongside the more expensive price of the product shown in the image, the shopper is drawn to the product.  Even if they eventually buy the higher priced product, the lower price on the home page attracts their attention.

Another example would be making sure that bestsellers are visible above the fold on the website and out of stock items are pushed to the bottom or removed.

This is something that can be updated on a regular basis, or automated in response to events and triggers, such as a product going out of stock.

xocbox can help with automation and placing of products on landing and section pages – contact us for details.

 

GTIN requirements for google changing may 2016

barcodeAs most retailers probably know, in an attempt to improve the user’s experience online,  Google is expanding the requirements for GTINs in May 2016.  This should help people understand more clearly the product being sold.

If you sell new, manufactured products online and don’t have the correct information associated with your products via a GTIN, you should probably check the Google requirements. If the data is incorrect, this will impact your ability to sell with Google ads and affects thousands of online sellers.

Warnings started being sent to online merchants in February advising them to update their product data if the GTIN was missing or incorrect.

After May 16, 2016 merchants will begin to receive item-level disapprovals and will need to meet Google’s requirements in order to continue serving ads for products.

May 16, 2016 is the deadline, so if you haven’t considered your UPC’s and the new Google requirements yet, visit Google’s support center for more information.

meet xocbox and aabaco at IRCE, june 7, 2016 in chicago

The Aabaco Small Business Roadshow will be held in Chicago on June 7, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and xocbox is excited to be taking part in one of the panel discussions covering back office processes.

xocbox has been working on some innovative solutions for Aabaco merchants such as our drag and drop tool for section pages, EDI solutions and managing multi-stores.

We will be available at the Aabaco Small Business Conference throughout the day to answer questions and discuss your store, and during June 8 and 9 at IRCE.

If you are an Aabaco / Yahoo merchant, why not stop by and see how xocbox can help, or contact us now to set up an appointment.

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.

etsy and woocommerce integration with xocbox

handmade clay pots

Woocommerce stores can now sell their products on Etsy using the xocbox product manager and integration tools.

Etsy offers Woocommerce stores that sell unique and/or handcrafted products another channel without any additional work when using xocbox.

Once your product information is in xocbox, you can push it to both Woocommerce and Etsy, and if you want to make your product descriptions unique for each store, additional form fields allow you to do this before publishing.

If you currently sell on Etsy and would like to open a Woocommerce store using your Etsy listings to get you started, no problem!

Once your Etsy products are in the xocbox product manager, any new products added can be pushed to one or both stores, as you move forward.

Selling more products just got a whole lot easier with xocbox!

drag and drop tools for aabaco (previously yahoo) merchant stores

hats

While the changes have been taking place at Yahoo to transition merchant stores to the new platform, Aabaco, xocbox has been working on new drag and drop tools to make arranging your products and section pages a breeze.

One of the difficult things about setting up your online store is trying to visualize how products will look on a page once you publish them next to the other products already listed.

Creating section pages can also be challenging once you’ve listed products in a certain category or brand.

New drag and drop tools from xocbox allow you the freedom to choose colors, and products and place them where you would like them to appear on your store page or section page. Products can also be listed on multiple section pages.

This great addition to the xocbox toolset not only provides a practical solution to creating pages and sections within you store, it is also great fun to use!

Contact xocbox to learn more about section page features, and drag and drop tools.

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.

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.

easily update yahoo store options

adding options in xocbox
 
 
One of the benefits the xocbox product manager offers is the ability to add and edit product options and variations in your Yahoo store.

If you have products, such as apparel and shoes, and currently offer every color as a separate product, xocbox offers a simple way to add color and size options.

This greatly reduces data entry as you enter the style and description once, and then add the variations through a pop-up screen – one for sizes, and one for colors.

So if you have a sweater that is offered in 8 colors, instead of creating 8 different products you simply create one in xocbox.

You can save even more time if you have a brand that offers styles in the same size format by creating a size template that you can re-use.

Each size and color variation is then created as a unique product with its own SKU that you can publish to your store or stores.

If you would like to learn more about managing color and size options, contact xocbox.

Xocbox product manager offers semi-customizable screens that can also be adapted to suit your business.

Call us at 858-752-3803 to discuss your store, or select the contact button below for more information.

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.

meet us at the san diego apparel show

sports shirts in store

 

We will be at the San Diego Apparel Show, March 9 and 10, 2015 being held at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center.

Stop by our booth #104, and learn how xocbox image and management system can help you get your products on line fast.

We will also have Show Specials for retailers and suppliers.

Come see us at:

xocbox, Booth 104
San Diego Apparel Show
Town & Country Resort and Convention Center
500 North Hotel Circle
San Diego, CA 92108
 

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.