eCommerce is your shop window on the world. The ultimate liberator for businesses trying to crack international markets. Potential customers across the globe can find you with just a few clicks of a mouse or strokes of a keyboard, and you can find them with the right Google AdWords strategy.
Or is it a nightmare waiting to happen?
Even the best businesses can find themselves falling victim to unexpected eCommerce success. The problem frequently arises as a result of simply being overtaken by events. A company decides to augment sales by adding an online channel and transaction enabling their existing website and doesn’t anticipate having to give it much more thought once the initial project has been completed.
There was a fairly natural assumption among many businesses that the online channel would never amount to a significant proportion of sales. eCommerce was after all in its infancy when the majority of these projects were initiated. This meant that there was no real attempt to integrate the online sales channel with other elements of the business.
However, as sales built up over problems also started to mount. These usually first manifested themselves in the crucial area of order fulfilment. Manual systems which were more than adequate to deal with initial quite low sales volumes can become overwhelmed quite quickly. In these circumstances, orders coming in through the online system can end up being stacked in a holding pattern awaiting attention from already busy staff members.
This is not good for either the company or its customers.
Other problems which can arise include the “half-processing” of orders. Items get taken from stock and packaged for dispatch but go nowhere for quite some time.
Even in cases where the manual systems are performing well in terms of delivering on customer expectations, there can still be problems relating to payment. The fact that the eCommerce sales channel has never been integrated with any other system in the company means that the sales team may not be aware of whether payment has been received when sending the order for dispatch.
These issues were probably just minor irritants when the flow of online orders remained at a trickle. However, with the growth in eCommerce generally and many businesses and consumers actually favouring the channel over more traditional interactions the extent of the problem has grown to the extent where it is actually impairing the performance of many companies.
From a purely administrative point of view, businesses run into problems with mounting numbers of orders in a queue to be dealt with by the accounts department. The company might not have any way of accounting for these additional sales using its current systems. The orders may not go into a workflow and with no integration with inventory or accounts, there can be difficulties with fulfilment and payment.
In the worst cases, this can result in reputational and financial damage to a company. In the social media era, a company can gain a bad reputation very rapidly as a result of just one or two unfulfilled orders. If that turns into a torrent the damage can be irreparable.
The financial damage arises from a number of sources. The first is the simple failure to get paid by customers. The second and almost more pernicious is the build-up in inventory which results from the broken order process. Items get picked and packed for dispatch but end up sitting in a room or a warehouse for weeks or even months.
Another major problem for businesses which are successfully trading online is returns. In our experience, return rates can reach 60 percent for some businesses and in the majority of cases, the returned items have to be sent back to a supplier for the issue to be resolved. The absence of an integrated system can result in chaos.
Goods come back in, have to be checked and repackaged before being sent back to a supplier for replacements or refunds, replacements have to be obtained and sent back to customers. With no means of overall control that wheel simply does not turn. The number of points of failure in a manual system leaves this key area prone to quite damaging errors which can result in dissatisfied customers and a loss of revenue to the business.
The other key problem for businesses is simple human error. Once the necessity to rekey any data is introduced to a system the potential for human error is magnified.
The answer to all these problems is surprisingly simple – integration. With TRC Solutions’ range of eCommerce options, we can offer an ERP-integrated web store which effectively replicates the online and offline sales processes and experiences. This deals with logistics management by enabling shipping and payments through an existing ERP system. Information can be shared directly with clients through their accounts on the integrated web store
This also assists with more effective online marketing. Marketing emails can be transformed into a valued service for their customers by tailoring them according to location, previous buying behaviour, and other characteristics. This means that a company is not just selling products, it’s helping your customers
Our solutions also integrate seamlessly with SAP Business One to fully utilise master data and price lists in a flexible and scalable online sales platform. This offers a single unified platform that covers all channels, from mobile to social to call centre, and improves the efficiency of your logistics.
These web stores and ERP integration solutions deliver an improved experience for customers, increased online sales, better returns management, reduced human error, greatly enhanced logistics and fulfilment, and vastly improved financial performance.