How consumerization in B2B is driving growth in sales

In today’s crowded space, businesses are doing what they can to grab and keep their customer’s attention. As a result, marketing has gotten much more personal. This trend began with B2C companies creating personalized, relatable content for their audiences, and is known as consumerization.

However, a popular myth associated with consumerization is that it only applies to B2C companies. This simply isn’t true. Consumerization is visible today in the marketing strategies of most B2B companies as well.

In this blog, we’ll try to understand the phenomenon of B2B consumerization and how it impacts sales.

 

What is B2B consumerization?

In simple words, B2B consumerization is the result of companies using more technology to engage with their clients. As in the B2C space, where consumers expect to be able to immediately access information and purchase products through digital means, B2B buyers now expect such options from the companies they do business with.

The shift towards B2B ecommerce is widespread. According to 2020 Gartner research, 80% of total B2B sales interactions will be digital by the year 2025. What’s in it for the B2B Sellers?

Makes sales more efficient

Any B2B marketer will tell you that, conventionally, B2B sales have relied heavily on personal relationships with clients. The biggest investment is the time put in to close a sale.

However, with digital products, companies are able to save their sales teams valuable time. By developing deeper insights into the targeted audience’s behavior before approaching the sale, sales teams can curate personalized sales strategies and offerings for their potential clients. This makes it easier to close more deals faster.

Leverage multiple access points

An access point, or a customer touchpoint, is any point through which the customer comes in contact with your brand. That includes radio ads, pay-per-click (PPC) banners, or elevator pitches.

Today, your business most likely interacts with your target audience using multiple touchpoints. Some of the most commonly used channels for B2B marketing are:

  • Blogs/articles,
  • Emails and newsletters,
  • Push notifications,
  • Digital and conventional advertising, and
  • Social media.

Using multichannel selling, your clients become familiar with your products or services while you have the opportunity to directly interact with potential customers.

Naturally, you’ll  want to reach your target market using as many touchpoints as possible. By collecting data from your customers, and with a bit of computing prowess, you can monitor and predict how your target market will react to your products or services.

 

And the result?

A much more efficient sales strategy with higher sales numbers. If you wish to scale your B2B business, try Cin7. Cin7 not only makes it effortless to manage your B2B orders but also helps in creating an online B2B store. Use it to showcase your product portfolio and boost your sales. Cin7 also comes with built-in inventory management features, so you efficiently manage your stock and prevent stockouts.

To learn more about how Cin7 can help in boosting your B2B business, book a demo with our experts.

Top 10 technologies driving ecommerce growth in 2022

New technologies continue to drive innovation in the ecommerce world. How is your site keeping up? Check out our predictions for the top 10 technologies that will drive ecommerce growth in 2022.

 

1. Voice and image search

Increasingly, consumers are using their voice and images to search online. As a result, businesses that want search bots to find them should incorporate text that mimics spoken questions into their sites along with high quality images.

 

2. AI chatbots

AI chatbots may be the future for the ecommerce industry. Their sophisticated programming allows the AI chatbot to respond to customers as if the chatbot were a real human being.

Unlike rule-based chatbots, AI chatbots are constantly learning from their conversations and can develop unscripted responses to queries. They are designed to read tone and emotion as well as help customers get the best recommendations for the products and services they are seeking.

 

3. Smarter mobile shopping tools

Brick-and-mortar retailers do not like seeing customers looking at their phone screens, for it indicates that the customer is price shopping or using their store as a showroom for a later online purchase elsewhere.

Therefore, savvy retailers offer their own GPS-enabled mobile shopping experiences to help customers buy in-store or anywhere else. For any retailer, a mobile-optimized site and store is a fundamental element of a positive ecommerce experience.

 

4. Omnichannel presence and support

The term omnichannel refers to the integration of multiple channels for ecommerce, such as an online storefront, website, or social media page. When you offer omnichannel support, your customers can enter information in one channel, and you can access it in another, providing a more seamless customer experience across channels.

 

5. Fast and secure e-wallet functionality

Speedy and secure e-wallet technology allows customers to store all of their payment information digitally in one place. This increases efficiency when shopping online because instead of having to enter information for each purchase, customers can check out of a site with just one or two clicks of a button.

Businesses equipped to accept e-wallet payments can level themselves up in the ecommerce market with better scalability of services and reciprocal security to attract even more customers.

 

6. Metaverse and other gaming platforms to facilitate sales

The concept of the Metaverse is still evolving, and it isn’t ready as an advertising platform. However, it represents a potent potential marketing channel for various ecommerce brands. Global brands like Nike, Coca-Cola, Vans, and Gucci are already gearing up to treat their customers with virtual products.

Various gaming systems have also opened their platforms to ecommerce brands. For instance, leading fashion brand Balenciaga recently teamed up with Epic Games to launch its Fortnight clothing line. Nike turned to Roblox to launch Nikeland for purchasing virtual Nike gear for the gaming avatars.

 

7. Livestream commerce

Remember TV shopping channels? Livestream commerce or Livestream shopping is almost like that. It is a video streamed on a commercial platform where the host shows viewers various goods in real-time. Thus, the audience can easily buy products directly from the shopping site.

This type of ecommerce is very popular in China. For instance, in 2020, during the Global Shopping Festival on the Taobao platform, live broadcast generated sales of about $6 billion. Companies in the US have also noticed a tendency toward this upgraded version of ‘shoptainment.’

This approach to online retail lets you present items in every dynamic and develop client interest by creating urgency with limited-quantity or limited-time offers.

 

8. Headless and API-driven ecommerce

Headless commerce is a solution that lets an online store’s ecommerce platform de-couple from the front-end presentation layer. More ecommerce businesses have adopted headless technology due to its flexibility on the backend, added SEO and digital experience capabilities, and content marketing.

 

9. Progressive web apps

The progressive web app is a technology that lets you create web applications that look like native mobile apps. While building these solutions, developers use web technologies like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML.

Retail giants like Walmart and Alibaba have used PWA to generate more revenue and increase conversion rates. Progressive web apps are perfectly suitable for any small and medium-sized organization.

PWA’s primary functions include:

  • Offline application access
  • Application access via the smartphone’s home screen
  • Push notifications

 

10. Cin7 inventory management

Popular brands know that the bigger your business, the more crucial it is to have a scalable infrastructure. Cin7’s flexible, future-proofed and hyper-scalable inventory management software is purposely built for retail businesses.

It offers various integrations with a speedy, expert-led implementation having a success rate of 97%.

 

Wrapping up

More innovations in ecommerce technology are likely to evolve in 2022. As you evaluate whether a new technology is worth incorporating in your business, consider magnitude, relevancy, and functionality. While some may provide a huge value, others might be out of touch with your particular customer demographic or be too costly. One technology we certainly recommend is Cin7 inventory management software.

Cin7 inventory management software makes all your business operations, like purchasing, selling, warehousing, accounting, and shipping, hassle-free and virtually effortless in order for you and your management team to focus more on other aspects of your business.

Book your demo now!

Top 20 B2B apps to boost sales in 2022

To increase sales and beat competitors, you need the right technology. Apps that improve efficiency, like sales rep management tools, can boost your bottom line.

But it can be a challenge to determine which sales apps are the best for you and your team. So, we’ve done the research for you. We have compiled a list of the best sales apps that can improve your business performance.

Here’s the list of the top 20 proven sales apps to boost productivity.

 

1. Slack – team communication

Connect your remote teams and centralize communication with this best-in-class messaging app. Communicate seamlessly with your team and boost collaborative productivity using Slack. It’s one of the most reliable sales team tools.

You can discuss projects, share files, and maintain transparency within the team. Plus, Slack integrates with other CRM tools to manage sales efficiently.

  • Work with external contacts, adding them as guests.
  • Create channels for different topics.
  • Engage with team members to share vital messages quickly.
  • Set reminders to complete tasks on-time.

 

2. LinkedIn – lead development

While technically LinkedIn is a social platform, our clients still rank it as one of the top tools for lead development. LinkedIn is an excellent place to find leads and nurture sales prospects – especially when selling to companies. You can search profiles of key decision-makers and even contact them through LinkedIn messages.

Knowing the key players saves sales reps from navigating multiple gatekeepers before reaching decision-makers.

 

3. MailChimp – email marketing automation

MailChimp is a cost-effective way to manage your email subscribers. With over nine million users, MailChimp is one of the most popular email marketing platforms.

Their tools allow you to send well-designed emails to targeted audiences. MailChimp has advanced analytics to measure the effectiveness of outbound emails. MailChimp integrates with numerous third-party apps to sync customer data and streamline workflows.

 

4. Saleslion – sales proposal creation

With Saleslion, you can create interactive proposals and sales materials online which will help in closing more deals faster. The platform allows you to optimize every step of your sales process – be it clarifying audience motivation or comprehending the sales message.

Ultimately, you can design smarter processes and sales strategies to close deals with prospects. Be prepared for any sales objections and confidently handle sales calls with Saleslion.

 

5. Snov.io – outreach and lead generation

Snov.io is a CRM that saves you time. Snov.io’s toolset is easy to navigate so you can spend more time nurturing and converting leads than searching for them. The app uses personalized automation for email campaigns designed to engage and convert, including follow-up.

Snov.io has over 2000 integrations to boost efficiency. Connect with customer service platforms, multi-channel marketing apps, and productivity tools.

 

6. Hunter – email hunter

Hunter connects you with professionals who matter to your business. Search first and last names or company websites to find the email address of the person you want to reach – provided the company has a verified domain that’s publicly available.

It’s one of the best apps for finding business emails for sales prospecting.

 

7. Badger Maps – route planner for sales

Badger Maps is a multi-stop route planner designed for in-the-field salespeople. With Badger Maps, you can meet the right prospects at the right time, using the fastest route with over 100 stops.

With features like check-ins, lead generation, and follow-up reminders, Badger would streamline every aspect of a field salesperson’s job. Badger Maps is one of the best sales route planners for sales reps and their teams, with the selling capabilities of a CRM and a prospecting tool.

Badger Maps is available for iPhone, Mac, PC, and Android. It also syncs seamlessly with multiple CRMs to keep important customer information in one place.

 

8. Zoom – video conferencing

Cut down the travel expenses and save time by holding conferences, meetings, and webinars online with Zoom. It’s a leader in modern enterprise video communications and a perfect solution to conduct distance meetings.

With this advanced sales productivity tool, you can easily share screens with prospects and give effective sales presentations from anywhere at any time of the day – it’s a perfect solution for today’s global marketplace.

 

9. MakerMove – tools and resources

MakerMove is a special platform for makers and founders to discover useful resources and tools. There are numerous curated lists of resources available, but MakerMove puts them all together in a nice interface. This allows you to quickly discover innovative products to help you succeed.

Get inspired by the best podcasts and books to help you grow. Find journalists to get press coverage or connect with the best investors to fund your startup. Discover anything you need to boost your project – all in one place.

 

10. Track-POD – route planner software

Track-POD is the emerging leader in contactless and paperless delivery solutions. It’s more than proof of delivery.

The app provides route planning and optimization, real-time driver tracking, fleet management, customer portal and notifications, e-sign, and paperless proof of delivery. You can level up and scale your delivery management with Track-POD.

 

11. CircleBack – address book management

Good communication is crucial to building long-lasting relationships. But it isn’t easy to maintain meaningful connections when the contacts are outdated, or worse, scattered on post-its or other places. Avoid clutter and manage contacts with ease using CircleBack.

CircleBack is one of the best sales productivity tools to keep your information up-to-date and organized.

  • Scan business cards to add new contacts instantly.
  • Remove duplicate entries to keep your address book clean.
  • Connect multiple networks in one unified address book.
  • Integrate with CRM tools to ensure your contacts and deals are updated.

 

12. Feedly – news aggregator application

Don’t miss important news related to your industry. Now you can stay updated with the latest trends in the global marketplace with Feedly. Find news, content, and articles you like on a single platform.

Track what you read using Feedly’s history option. As well, receive suggestions for new blogs that may interest you.

 

13. Evernote – note taking app

Take the market research beyond bookmarks and eliminate scrap paper with Evernote. It’s a digital storage facility for vital data. Not only can you maintain a wide range of content but also store images, record notes, and upload PDF files using this smart note-taking application.

  • Tag the notes for quick reference.
  • Manage content from any internet-connected device.
  • Attach pictures and audio directly to notes.
  • Create shortcuts to frequently accessed files.
  • Set reminders for projects and tasks.

 

14. Tripit – itinerary and travel planner

Streamline travel plans in one place to stay organized with Tripit. Everything from flight details to hotel bookings are easily available within this app. Tripit offers a master itinerary for all your trips to ensure seamless and hassle-free traveling.

 

15. Basecamp – project management

Complete sales tasks on-time and collaborate with your team using Basecamp. Basecamp is a project management app and one of the best sales team tools. Eliminate complexity and keep projects and communications centralized. Basecamp organizes the who, what, where, and why for company projects.

  • Receive an email notification when new tasks are assigned or old ones are due.
  • Keep everyone in the loop with real-time project discussions.
  • View each detail related to a project in one place.
  • See deadlines, tasks, and events in one view using Basecamp Calendar.
  • Share large files hassle-free.

 

16. Doodle – meeting scheduling

Simplify the process of setting meetings and finding convenient times to meet with potential prospects using Doodle. Stay away from conflicting bookings and stay on track with this amazing daily sales app.

Whether you’re coordinating with 30 volunteers for a huge event or a small team for a monthly meeting, Doodle keeps everyone on the same page by seamlessly scheduling meetings and events.

 

17. Leadfeeder – website visitor tracking

Keep an eye on website visitors using Leadfeeder. Know who visits your site and what pages they look at with this high-end marketing tool. It is one of the best ways to convert site visitors into leads.

Leadfeeder integrates with numerous marketing tools to capture and manage leads.

 

18. Expensify – expense management

Tracking expenses is a necessity for business travel. Expensify is the easiest way to simplify and streamline expense management. Expensify is one of the best expense management apps, with more than 2.5 million users worldwide.

  • Create expense reports by clicking a photo of trip receipts.
  • Link credit and/or debit cards with your Expensify account to automatically place charges in expense reports.
  • Convert expense reports into customized invoices with just one click.

 

19. Chorus – conversation intelligence platform

Chorus uses artificial intelligence to record and transcribe sales calls into notes in real-time. This enables sales teams to store valuable information from phone conversations quickly and efficiently.

Chorus extracts insights from sales calls, which can help you fine-tune your communication strategies with clients.

  • Analyze sales calls and meeting recordings.
  • Discover top performing sales reps.
  • Create a playlist of great calls for training new sales reps.
  • Track performance and compare it with teammates by viewing the leaderboard.
  • Share recordings with the sales team.

 

20. Lastpass – password manager

This list would not be complete without a password manager. Our customers rely on LastPass as their password management app. LastPass stores your passwords in one location that you can access from anywhere.

LastPass syncs with multiple devices and is easy to use.

 

App integration with Cin7

As a small business owner, part of your job is staying one step ahead of your competitors. One way to do that is to streamline your processes – which is exactly what these sales apps do. Explore the extensive features of all these popular apps and leverage their benefits to improve your business’s bottom line.

Speaking of integrations, Cin7 integrates with 700+ business tools that your sales team can use to boost your business. Cin7 integrates with sales and marketing apps, 3PL providers, payment gateways, EDI suppliers, and a lot more. You can access the full list of our integrations from here. 

Use integrations to increase sales and reorders and win new customers.

Contact us to book your demo now. We’ll take the time to understand how we can help your business.

How to successfully launch your ecommerce brand

The pandemic era and a massive shift to digital experiences have made the prospect of launching an ecommerce business very tempting. However, starting and sustaining an ecommerce business is easier said than done. You need the right business idea, suitable ecommerce solutions, a well-planned strategy, and more.

Still, if you’re thinking about starting an ecommerce business, you’ve come to the right place. This blog post will provide you with a step-by-step guide to start and run your online business. We’ll go through idea generation, technology options, online store management, maintenance, and more.

Here’s what you need to know to start and run your online business.

 

How profitable is ecommerce?

Trends show ecommerce business is becoming increasingly profitable. For established businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, ecommerce is a profitable model as both the sole focus of a business and an additional selling channel.

Data shows that in three months, a new ecommerce store can make more than $63,000 in monthly revenue. In just one year, a successful ecommerce store can average $127,000 in monthly revenue. After three years, a successful ecommerce store can earn an average monthly revenue of $352,000, which is an increase of about 175% between years one and three. On average, your successful ecommerce company can make as much as $39,000 of revenue in the first month in business, and some jump up to $6.5 million in total after three years.

 

A step-by-step guide to starting your ecommerce business

The ecommerce business journey begins well before you launch your business. A successful ecommerce business demands tremendous research early — whether you’re starting an online store or doing an ecommerce integration.

Thanks in large part to the pandemic, there’s more competition than ever. To succeed in this market, you need to think strategically and act methodically.

Step #1: Research your business model

An online business is a big investment, and you need to take it seriously. Your ecommerce business isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition— you must have a unique online business model. You need to map out marketing, manage inventory, coordinate shipping, and more. Because of all of these factors, research is extremely important. You should make sure to talk to an ecommerce consultant to ensure you have a viable plan. Look for an ecommerce development company as soon as you have a rough plan.

Step #2: Validate your target market

It’s time to identify your target market and the type of products you want to sell. Before finalizing your offerings, it’s essential to understand buyer personas. Begin with a few, well-defined product ideas. You can always expand gradually from there. Before you invest in products, you must evaluate them and think about leveraging low-cost methods like drop-shipping.

Step #3: Know your competition

Competitor analysis is crucial in any business. When you analyze your competition, try to understand them categorically. The presence of competition validates the niche you have selected.

For example, you must know all direct competitors and top players in the market. You will learn a lot from your competitors. Hence, analyze them and observe them closely. Take note of things you like and dislike about them. It’s also important to understand the kind of ecommerce platforms they use. For instance, if a competitor uses Magento ecommerce development, you should understand all the pros and cons that went into that decision.

Step #4: Create a brand name and register your business

It’s crucial to develop a brand name and logo that reflects your business model. In a world dominated by ruthless competition and brand identities, it’s impossible to succeed without a brand name. Make sure you’re sending the right message to your target audience through your brand image.

Register your business name and company name to get tax benefits, legal protection, and more. Make sure to apply for a business license, permits, and other certifications to operate without legal obstacles.

Step #5: Build your online store

The kind of online store you build determines a lot about your long-term strategy. If you want to build a customized online store, you need to make sure to choose the right ecommerce development company.

There’s a  large number of ecommerce solutions out there, and it can be overwhelming. The ecommerce platform you pick will impact your store’s performance and profit. It’s important to make an informed decision based on both comparison and research. Choose an ecommerce platform that suits your business needs. For example, smaller companies might find that Shopify solutions are the perfect selection.

For fully customized B2C and B2B ecommerce, we recommend Magento, which is popular among medium to large companies. While building your online store, you should think about mobile-optimized design, SEO, and secure payment gateways.

Step #6: Showcase your products

It’s important to display your products properly and professionally. You need to include well-written product descriptions and visually captivating images to entice your customers. Product pages should be custom-built and create an immersive experience for shoppers.  Reviews and testimonials are essential elements of your product pages, and you need to be strategic about displaying prices, too.

Step #7: Attract customers with great UX and marketing

Competition is more intense than ever, so you need to stand out and attract the right audience to your store. SEO plays a vital role in attracting the customers you want. The most successful ecommerce operators meticulously manage their brand and digital marketing strategies.

You can use paid marketing like pay-per-click or free marketing like content curation. Social media marketing is also huge for online store visibility. In order to be successful, you need to develop a loyal base of customers. Make sure to take advantage of loyalty programs, gift cards, coupons, and more. It’s important to keep your customers as engaged and loyal as possible.

 

How to launch a successful ecommerce business

The ecommerce economy is poised for significant growth in the coming years, but you can only expect to see results if you approach your launch the right way. The following tips are critical for a successful ecommerce launch.

Don’t rush the launch

One of the biggest mistakes ecommerce entrepreneurs make is rushing or forcing the launch of a website. You only get one shot to launch your website, so you shouldn’t mess it up.

It’s okay to purchase your domain name and throw up some sort of “coming soon” page, but you should avoid the big reveal until you lay some substantial groundwork (content marketing, SEO, social media, paid advertising, etc.).

Focus on your customers

Many ecommerce businesses fail because potential customers can’t touch, smell, feel, and see (firsthand) products before making a decision. Obviously, there’s no perfect solution to solve this problem. But you need to compensate for the lack of real-life experience in other ways.

Make sure you price your products well, offer free shipping, and make the checkout process as simple as possible. You need to make customers comfortable online if you expect to make sales.

Test everything

Invest in testing and analytics before, during, and after launching your ecommerce business. Think like a potential customer and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and the “why” behind those answers.

Leverage social media

An ecommerce entrepreneur who completely outsources social media is going to have trouble succeeding in ecommerce. Social media is the heartbeat of the business. It offers you an uninterrupted glance into the lives of your customers. While it’s okay to have a social media manager, it’s pertinent that you are involved with it, too.

Use testimonials and product reviews

Testimonials, product reviews, follow buttons, and social login options are huge in the world we live in. You need to leverage your customers, as well as their positive experiences, to make other customers feel comfortable enough to shop at your ecommerce store.

Make sure your mobile experience is seamless

Bill Siwicki of Goldman Sachs says, “Tablets will play an important role, as worldwide consumer spending via mobile jumped from $204 billion in 2014 to $626 billion in 2018.”

Those are huge numbers. And when you factor in the growth of the post-pandemic era, mobile is becoming even more popular. Simply put, you need to make sure that you are thinking about mobile shopping in every single decision you make.

Leverage SEO

As the ecommerce economy grows, more and more businesses will enter an increasingly crowded space. That means it will be increasingly important to stay on top of SEO and stand out from your competition. Connecting with a skilled SEO company can pay huge dividends in the long run.

Collect as much customer information as possible

Unless you plan to launch a single site and step away, you must collect as much customer information as possible. They will help with customer satisfaction, repeat business, and even future launches. Start building your customer database today.

Be flexible and adaptable

Never stop evolving. Technology, customer tastes, and trends all change. You must do the same if you want to succeed in such a fast-moving market.

Be creative with your brand

As you visualize your brand, try to be creative as possible and think out of the box. Mood boards, for example, are a fun and creative exercise that can help you visualize your brand’s overall direction.

Creativity helps keep you inspired and on track. Think about your brand’s fonts, images, and colors. What does it say about your brand? What will your customers think? It’s important to work with a designer to create a professional logo and other branding elements to use on the website and packaging.

 

If you’re consistent and focused, you will succeed

A lot goes into starting an online business, The process may be intimidating, but you can make it happen. Work through it step by step, and never worry about making things perfect right out of the gate. Most importantly, you need to learn by doing.

Success requires a lot of time, patience, and research. However, it’s also very important to have help along the way. Cin7’s inventory management software will make your ecommerce brand’s launch a lot easier and allow you to leverage useful integrations. Ultimately, we can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches. If you have any questions, or are curious about how we can help, book your demo today.

How to perfectly execute the 2022 holiday shipping season

It’s no secret that the holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for shipping and retail industries. In fact, It’s the most important time of the year for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. With increases in technology, ecommerce has become the driving force behind the yearly surge in sales. Shoppers spent $122 billion with online retailers alone in the past year. To keep up with the surge in demand in a short span of time, you need to have a streamlined shipping strategy and fulfillment process in place for the holidays.

These days, customers have high expectations when shopping online. They want free and fast shipping, free returns, and share-worthy unboxing moments. Businesses that are able to keep up logistically both bring in more customers and retain them better.

In this article, we will go through common challenges that DTC brands face during the holiday shipping season, and how you can streamline your shipping process for your online store’s success.

 

What is considered the holiday shipping season?

The holiday shipping season refers to the time of the year (Q4, or October through December) when order and shipment volume spikes, leading to more orders to fulfill and more returns to process. The holiday shopping season includes Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and general gift-giving that leads into Christmas.

In this period, supply chain management can get disrupted as online brands rush to keep up with demand, manage inventory, and fulfill a massive amount of orders. Shipping carriers get busier than usual and work harder to deliver packages on time.

 

When does the holiday shipping season start?

The holiday shipping season starts earlier than many people think. The shipping industry and eCommerce sales ramp up as early as October, and high demand continues until the new year. Here is an overview of major milestones and holidays that occur during the holiday shipping season.

Halloween (October 31)

Even if it’s an American holiday, Halloween is popular among consumers in Europe, too. Whether you’re selling “spooky” decorations, costumes, or other items, sales opportunities increase during this time. Many brands will try to capitalize on the holiday by running special promotions.

Thanksgiving (November 24)

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. You have Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday all occurring over the same long weekend. That’s when holiday shoppers begin to search for the best deals and try to purchase their holiday gifts early.

Christmas (December 25)

Holiday shoppers expect to get gifts delivered before Christmas Day (or even Christmas Eve). You must take note of your carriers’ holiday cutoff dates and communicate those with customers. They want to know when they’ll have to place orders for on-time delivery.

New Year’s Day (January 1)

Although the holiday shopping season starts to slow down by this time, return volume is at an all-time high around January 1. This often requires more from customer service and logistics operations teams for smooth returns and exchanges.

Other important dates

  • Black Friday: November 25,
  • Small Business Saturday: November 26,
  • Cyber Monday: November 28,
  • Free Shipping Day*: December 14,
  • Super Saturday**: December 17.

*Participating merchants provide free shipping on all orders, with promised delivery by Christmas Eve.

**The last Saturday before Christmas is a huge shopping day for brick-and-mortar retailers.

 

Common challenges during holiday shipping season

Expected or unexpected, whenever there’s a major change in the supply chain, it can throw off inventory management, shipping, and more. That’s why it’s essential to find ways to build supply chain resilience and ensure a successful holiday shipping season — even if there are delays and disruptions. To prepare your supply chain for Q4, here are a few holiday shipping season challenges to be aware of.

Black Friday sales

One of the biggest challenges to growing eCommerce businesses is managing an increase in order volume. Obviously, this is most apparent during the holidays. Black Friday sales add even more chaos to the mix.

Partnering with the right 3PL can take fulfillment challenges off your plate and put it into the hands of experts (even if the volume increases by 1,200% in a couple of weeks). This is a great way to avoid making common holiday season mistakes.

If you decide to keep fulfillment in-house, you must prepare to hire more packers (and be ready to ask family and friends to step in as required). You should also plan your holidays around running promotions and fulfilling orders on time.

Supplier holidays and factory shutdowns

Many brands partner with multiple suppliers and manufacturers to ensure they are not at risk if a primary supplier can’t deliver during shortages or shutdowns. Whether it’s a planned shutdown like Chinese New Year, or an unplanned one like what happened during the pandemic, manufacturers can go through shutdowns at any time.

Unfortunately, this means that receiving and replenishing inventory can be significantly delayed or disrupted — which could affect your entire eCommerce supply chain. As part of your business contingency or continuity plan, partnering with various suppliers can help reduce the risk of the inventory shortage. You can even get ahead by ordering surplus inventory. This helps avoid stockouts and gives you some wiggle room for the holiday shipping season.

Inexperienced 3PLs

If you want to partner with a 3PL, make sure they have the expertise, technology, and experience to deal with the increased volume that comes with the holiday shipping season. The wrong 3PL partner can cause major disruptions in your fulfillment process and lead to mispicks, slower deliveries, and inaccurate inventory levels.

The right 3PL, on the other hand, will always offer visibility and transparency into the supply chain. That includes real-time inventory data, information on shipping and fulfillment performance, and much more.

 

How to perfectly execute the holiday shipping season

If you are curious about how you can perfect your shipping strategy during the holidays, here are a few things to try.

Break the shipping process down into smaller steps

How long does it take you to fulfill an order? If you can get accurate data on each element, you’ll be able to better answer this question. You can break things down into the following:

  • Time to pack a product,
  • Time to take out the packaging material,
  • Time to collect all items in one place,
  • Time to print shipping labels.

Once you know where every second of your time is going, you can streamline some of the processes and add some minutes back to your day. Small changes can lead to big improvements in efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Communicate effectively

Effective communication with customers is a huge part of your relationship with them. As you ship orders you should make sure they receive updates, shipping times, delivery notifications, and more. This practice keeps customers in the loop and makes them feel as though they know what’s going on with their shipment.

Give your customers multiple payment options

Allowing your customers to pay in multiple ways gives you an edge and provides your customers with the flexibility they want. Since many customers use wallet payment options, accepting payment via wallets can simplify your customers’ shopping experience.

Save time with labels

Did you know you can save a significant amount of time by printing shipping labels in bulk? You can also integrate orders with Cin7 to print your labels in seconds.

Keep an eye on your supply

Each seller predicts how many sales they will make during a holiday season. Suppose you offer 50% off on apparel. You’ll need to make sure you have adequate stock lined up to cater to urgent requirements. Print labels in advance and stock your supplies for shipping. Most importantly, make sure you don’t get stopped midway during the peak season. Purchasing supplies in bulk quantities saves you the cost and headache that comes with last minute sourcing and production.

Display a shipping rate calculator

If you don’t offer free shipping, you should provide your customers the exact cost they’ll pay while ordering any given product. You can do this by offering a shipping rate calculator. This is usually based on factors like the customer’s delivery location and is a very important part of the checkout process. In fact, 44% of customers abandon carts due to high shipping costs.

Set a free shipping threshold

Many eCommerce sellers offer free shipping during the holiday season. This can help increase sales, but it can also burden you with higher shipping costs. Instead, try the following:

  • Set a threshold order value before providing free shipping.
  • Set a countdown for free shipping.
  • Send coupon codes for free shipping.

Setting a threshold on orders may help increase your average order value and encourage customers to buy items they might not have previously. Plus, opting for lower-cost regional couriers might be a smart option, too.

Offer international shipping

Scaling your business to ship internationally could be an excellent opportunity for sellers during peak season. Even if you haven’t shipped internationally before, there is no reason why you should not ship internationally this holiday season.

Seasonal peaks are an excellent opportunity to expand your options — especially when audiences look forward to shopping outside their borders for holidays. There are many low-cost global shipping options from Cin7, so you can quickly ship with premium carriers like FedEx, Aramex, and DHL.

Partner with an experienced 3PL

Partnering with an experienced 3PL company can help make the chaotic holiday season more manageable, especially for businesses that are:

  • Transitioning fulfillment from in-house to third party,
  • Preparing to launch a new brand,
  • Looking for new inventory management options or a hybrid approach.

Fulfilling holiday demands by your own can be challenging, and leasing a warehouse can be time-consuming and expensive. The sooner you start with a 3PL, the easier the process becomes. Cin7 can help you get onboarded quickly to start preparing for the busy holiday season that’s right around the corner!

 

Conclusion

One of the best ways to improve customer satisfaction during the holiday season is by making sure your shipping is quick, organized, and transparent. If you want to build your brand, stand out from your competition, and win repeated business — shipping times is a great place to start. Cin7 can help you manage your supply chain and help you reach your goals. Our inventory management software makes the process easy, painless, and profitable. Book a demo now to get started today.

Dock & Bay

Ben Muller might be one of the world’s most notable towel enthusiasts. He’s the co-founder of Dock & Bay, a brand with a single, noble goal: create the world’s greatest quick-dry beach towel entirely from sustainably sourced materials.  

The company’s founding idea was incredibly simple: to merge the concept of a compact, quick-dry travel towel with a nice, big, bright, colorful beach towel. Since then, they’ve had an incredible journey. It began with launching sales via Amazon and their own website, and — having barely reached the milestone of their first million in revenue — they had a lucrative layover at the Dragons’ Den, the UK’s cut-throat equivalent of Shark Tank.

“We had a nice little head-start in 2017 when we were on Dragons’ Den in the UK,” Ben says. “One of the dragons, Deborah Meaden, took us under their wing. It’s been a really good experience, to take the business from an idea into a bit of a startup.” 

The quick wins from the Dragons’ Den appearance was a huge hit of exposure to worldwide audiences via the popular TV show. “That brand awareness gave us a real head-start to moving forward as a business, as well as some goalposts to aim for, as we expanded around the world,” Ben says. “And when we took on Deborah as an investor, she made us more accountable — we weren’t just doing a little side-project anymore, we had to be professional and respectable. It was a good kick up the bum to take things seriously and do things properly.”

One of those kicks up the bum? Dock & Bay needed to get a grip on their inventory. You could perhaps say that the problem was they didn’t know where their towels were — and they needed to find out. 

Poor inventory management almost made Dock & Bay throw in the towel 

“Inventory management was the most horrible part of our existence, for the entire business,” Ben says. “It was always a challenge. In the past, our warehouse owned the source of truth for inventory, and they put their numbers into our eCommerce platform. What that meant was, essentially, we didn’t have any control over what we were selling.” 

Tired of using spreadsheets as a temporary fix, Dock & Bay team went shopping for an inventory management solution. Their main pain points were simple: inventory visibility, and an inability to do stock forecasting. “We didn’t have control over what inventory we had listed, because the systems around us seemed to be controlling what we were selling. The most we’d managed was Band-Aid fixes to our eCommerce platform.” 

The Dock & Bay team needed help, from somebody who knew how inventory management worked and what the best systems were, and could help them get their system implementation right the first time. They found exactly what they were looking for in SMB Consultants. 

SMB Consultants are Cin7 Experts. Their job is to help their clients find the best solution to grow and manage their businesses, and once that solution has been found, they work to seamlessly implement it. The foundation of their success is having a careful process that they go through with all their clients — first seeking to understand how the company is working, what the pain points are, and what changes need to be made to optimize operations. 

“We originally reached out to SMB to say ‘We’ve got a problem,’” Ben says. “We knew there were a lot of inventory management programs around — TradeGecko, DEAR Systems, Cin7, and so forth. We said, ‘We don’t know which one would be best, but in general, each of these seems to do something like what we need.’” 

Through a collaborative, in-depth scoping process, SMB helped Dock & Bay land on Cin7. 

“SMB helped us throughout,” Ben says. “The first step was to understand how we’re operating now, and SMB have a really good view of how business operates, the challenges that businesses face, and how those solutions fit into software. When we first started talking, it wasn’t just “here’s what Cin7 does and why you should use it and we’ll install it for you” — instead, they understood the business and the challenges it faced, and they could pinpoint why Cin7 was the best solution.” 

What clinched it for Cin7, Ben says, is the advanced level of integration Cin7 offers with Amazon. “It’s quite advanced compared to every other software available. All software has its own strengths and weaknesses, but Cin7 was the most well-rounded, best approach for us. SMB coached us, and their Cin7 expertise helped us understand how to implement our workflows in Cin7, and then train up our teams.” 

The towel company that always knows where their inventory is 

Dock & Bay have been with Cin7 for over a year, and a lot has changed. 

One of the main differences is that the Dock & Bay team has fantastic inventory visibility, and confidence in their data. They no longer have to manually update convoluted, unreliable spreadsheets. Reporting is reliable, and gives decision-makers access to up-to-the-minute sales and operations information. 

“The amount of data we’d have to deal with would break a spreadsheet,” Ben says. “But that’s where Cin7 comes in — we have trust in the data. And that’s the most important thing, because if you don’t trust your information, you can’t trust any reporting you try to get out of it. Cin7 gives us faith in our data, and automates the process of running reports, so we can make informed decisions.” 

Cin7 now acts as the source of truth for inventory information across all the apps and platforms that Dock & Bay make use of. Sales made on Amazon and Shopify stores all pull from availability data in Cin7, and the software also looks after the routing of products in and out of their third-party logistics (3PL) warehouses. 

Dock & Bay has five warehouses run by 3PL partners, one for each region they’re selling in — the UK, Canada, the US, Europe, and Australia. They also work with Amazon fulfillment in each of those regions, for a total of 10 warehouses across the business. On top of this, they also have different Shopify websites for either B2B or direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales for each region, in addition to third-party marketplaces like The Iconic and Nordstrom selling their products. This geographically disparate, multi-channel picture would be a near-impossible nightmare to manage, if not for Cin7. 

“Cin7 manages the inventory in all of those warehouses,” Ben says. “It knows how many open orders there are, and that gives you your available stock. Every time an order takes place on one of our sales channels, it comes to Cin7, which knows it needs to update the other sales channels and say ‘You can’t sell this item any more.’” 

Having this level of control means that Dock & Bay have been able to set up some routing rules, which simply wasn’t possible before Cin7. 

“For instance, we can prevent orders going straight to the warehouse if it’s a pre-order, or if the customer hasn’t paid or is using an alternative payment method, we can set up some rules to make sure those orders don’t go out straight away — we can put in a delay of say, two hours. Being able to control that workflow really saves us a lot of time, hassle, and ultimately costs.” 

Scaling up safely & sanely

Having Cin7 on their side has also given Dock & Bay something crucial: the ability to scale up safely. “Once a business hits a particular size”, Ben says, “a level of trust necessarily comes into the operations, as it’s impossible for any one person or team to check everything that happens. And if your system isn’t trustworthy, things can spiral out of control very quickly.” 

“You need to trust that things are happening the way you want them to, without human intervention. Cin7 gives us the ability to create rules and automations to run the business, rather than having people do all those steps,” Ben says. “Cin7 has allowed us to grow with confidence.” 

The high level of trust in their systems has been repaid with smooth operations, even over periods that typically give product companies nightmares. The Black Friday sales rush is awaited with dread anticipation by operations in the eCommerce world, with floods of consumers testing system integrity across the board. In the past, it’s been a huge bugbear for Dock & Bay. This time around, ready for anything, Ben told the support team they could call him anytime, 24/7. In the end, though, it wasn’t needed. Thanks to Cin7, Dock & Bay’s Black Friday went off without a hitch.

“In the past we had chaos, leading to weeks and weeks of issue resolution,” Ben says. “But this Black Friday we had no issues, because for the first time we had control of our data in all of our systems, and had the process down pat. I really do, 100 percent, put that down to the fact we’ve taken control of our business processes, and Cin7 is key to that.” 

Customer service is now a snap

A further benefit of the Cin7 implementation has been a sharp reduction in customer service issues. Thanks to a much clearer view of inventory and more control over stock, the classic eCommerce bugbear of overselling has been almost eliminated. 

“It’s reduced the number of customer service issues significantly,” Ben says. “Because we now own the information, and the process around it, we’re not overselling like we used to. The second thing is we now have a very valuable source of truth to look into where things may have gone wrong. In the past, we couldn’t really pinpoint where the issue was. Whereas now, we can analyze what happened in Cin7 and then identify where the issue is, and often even fix it ourselves.” 

Ben gives a typical example of the sort of trouble they’d often face before Cin7 was implemented. If the warehouse system they were previously relying on was reporting incorrect numbers, Dock & Bay had no option but to remove the product from the website altogether. Now, they can simply adjust the stock figure in Cin7 or put a hold on the item, and that will stop the product selling across all sales channels. “Now, we can solve the problem and get on with business. That’s where Cin7’s helping us.” 

Dock & Bay say that Cin7 has also saved them needing to expand the operations team. But that doesn’t mean skimping on hiring, or firing employees. Instead, they can run an efficient, high-performing, lean operation, and increase headcount in areas that will help grow the brand. 

“Because we have trust in the process and the data that’s flowing through Cin7, we don’t have to intervene very often. This means our operations team can run pretty slim, and we can invest in roles like marketing and sales that add more value to the business. We’re just much more efficient,” Ben says.  

Cin7 is Dock & Bay’s heart of gold and single source of truth

With the Cin7 implementation over a year behind them, Dock & Bay have a clear view of exactly how much being helped by a trusted Cin7 expert has benefited the company. The impact, Ben says, is absolutely huge, to the point where he says they “couldn’t have done it alone.” 

To other businesses considering implementing Cin7, Ben says that if you’re going to be using a platform that controls so much of your business, you may as well do it properly, and get a certified Cin7 expert like SMB Consultants to help. 

“SMB Consultants brought the dream to life. Having Cin7 has meant we could become more efficient, and trust the information in our systems. But we couldn’t have done that without SMB. We had to work with the right people as well as the right system to get where we are today.” 

It’s safe to say that knowing exactly where their towels are has made Dock & Bay a much better business than they were before. It might seem improbable, but having Cin7 at the heart of the company makes everything possible. 

“Cin7 is the heart of our business,” Ben says. “It controls what we sell, and where we sell it. It manages information from customers, through the warehouse, through our supply chain, into our accounting system, and all the way around our operations and support team. It touches every part of the business. We take all our trusted information from Cin7, and it’s our single source of truth.” 

“We’d be very lost and very sad without Cin7, because there’s really no way to visualize how the business could operate without it.”