It is deceptively easy to get into the eCommerce game. Just set up a website with shopping cart capabilities and you’re in business, right? Well, not quite. While the website and shopping cart can indeed be relatively easy to set up, the actual administration of eCommerce is far more involved.
The online catalog must be complete and accurate. Pricing, availability and ordering must be correct. Credit checking and order approval might be required. Once the order is secured, fulfillment must be completed quickly and effectively, including: allocation; picking, packing and shipping; billing and collection; and follow-up to ensure customer satisfaction.
What about the proper handling of returns? Return rates for eCommerce sales are notably higher than with other channels. These, too, require efficient and effective logistical and financial execution.
And don’t forget that in today’s world of the Internet and Big Data, it is increasingly important to capture data from interaction with customers and prospects and use analytical tools to learn all you can about customers, products and experiences so that you can optimize product design, marketing programs, and all elements of that customer experience to gain sales and stay ahead of the competition.
The logistics functions (picking, packing, shipping, return handling) probably already exist to support traditional channels. But you can’t assume that eCommerce logistics will just blend in with those existing processes.
The seamless merging of eCommerce with other channels, throughout the entire customer experience, is the key to success in what has come to be called “omni-channel” sales and distribution. There’s a reason why there has been so much interest and discussion surrounding so-called omni-channel (Google or Bing any variation of the term and you’ll find millions of references). A simple definition is this: omni-channel retailing or supply chain uses a variety of channels, including browser-based websites, mobile apps and brick and mortar locations to provide an excellent shopping research and purchasing experience to the customer.
Your eCommerce function cannot stand alone.
Not only must eCommerce present a complete and consistent doorway to the customer experience, the supporting functions must be effectively combined to provide efficient completion of eCommerce transactions at least as well as those functions operate in support of traditional channels – customers won’t expect to pay more for eCommerce purchases to compensate for any additional costs for the supplier. They often expect to pay less.