Summer Prep for Profitable Holidays

Summer Prep for Profitable Holidays4 Simple steps to creating peaceful, efficient, and lucrative peak selling season

It’s summer, which means it’s time to batten down the hatches for holiday sales. But if you’re like most sellers, you might never be fully ready. Truth is, busy SMBs just don’t have time to project and plan for additional holiday inventory and fulfillment or even streamline workflows and minimize shipping costs. At best, sellers are just guessing at the expected velocity of sales. It’s no wonder that, although online retail continues to grow at an exponential rate, profits continue to diminish. Why? Because selling on multiple channels online is inefficient without the right tools. Sellers try desperately to increase order volume, but quickly become overwhelmed by confusion around both finances and logistics when sales do surge. And there’s a price to be paid for all that incongruity—for every dollar made, businesses could be spending more than a $1 on shipping and fulfillment.Not-so-fun fact: For every dollar made, businesses could be spending more than a $1 on shipping. @Stamps.com #HolidaySales Click To Tweet

Imagine an online retail world where all of your stores, marketplaces, and business applications actually work together to optimize workflows and profit margins. An order—or even a whole batch of orders—comes in from a store or marketplace and syncs directly with a central shipping hub. You instantly compare and choose a carrier based on price and delivery date, seconds later, you click to print a branded shipping label, then confirm and send the customer tracking information. Meanwhile, all that sales data—including customer and product information—syncs with your accounting software, so you don’t have to type in jack diddly squat. Your inventory quantities update accordingly, all fees, expenses, and sales tax are recorded, and you go enjoy some coffee and a glazed donut.

Taking into account time limitations, there are four simple things you can do right away to get ready for the coming surge.

  • Clean it up. What inventory do you have in stock that needs move? Don’t delude yourself that it will finally sell this holiday season—go ahead and make room for what you know will sell this holiday season and focus on what products are most profitable for your business. To move large amounts of overstocked product quickly, you’ll likely need to take a hit on margins. Go ahead and use Amazon as a clearinghouse or create a separate Amazon store that acts as your virtual sale rack. Even better, donate what you can to nonprofits that can use the products and be sure to get a receipt for your tax deductions.
  • Break it down. Low-tech as it may sound, make a list. Write down how you spend your work days and include how much time you typically spend on each activity. Put a star next to those tasks that you find most annoying or time consuming. If you have employees, ask them to complete the same exercise. If there are inefficient workflows or bottlenecks in your business, they will be revealed here. For example, if your manual pick, pack, and ship processes are taking up 85% of your day, consider the benefits of shipping automation and batch processing. Or if you spend your day spinning between several different sales channels to ensure your inventory is up to date for each one, find a tool that connects all channels together and syncs them your master inventory list instantly. Streamlining your workflows and operations now will clear time in your schedule—and your mind—so you can better manage your business during the holidays and thereafter.
  • Sync it. Take a typical online order and walk it through its lifecycle, both literally and figuratively. The order comes in and that data needs to go in several different operational directions: shipping carriers and tracking, fulfillment and logistics, inventory management, bookkeeping and accounting, customer lists for marketing, and business analytics—and that’s just one order! Ten years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find ways to automate and sync all of that data. These days, integration is the only way to go, especially since ecommerce selling, by nature, is so disjointed. Build your business model around tools that automate one set of sales data from your stores throughout the entire workflow, and you’ll be amazed by improvements in efficiency, accuracy, and speed that affect your entire business.
  • Count it. Make another list, this time write down your business’ biggest expenses to see where you might increase your profit margins and streamline your business model. What do you pay in marketplace fees each month? Make sure you’re moving enough product on marketplaces to justify those fees. Are you easily able to compare shipping carrier costs for each order based on delivery location? And now that you’ve been in business for a few years, maybe it’s time to renegotiate your contract with your payment processor. And what about data entry? Could the time and money you spend on entering sales data into accounting, inventory, and shipping be done for less money (and more accuracy) by an automation software? Hint: Yes.

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Online Marketplaces in North America

Online Marketplaces in North AmericaAs published in Internet Retailer

This holiday season, some of the biggest online retailers are ready to give Amazon a run for its money. Giants like Wal-Mart, Jet.com, and Costco, along with Facebook Inc. and other social media platforms have created alternative channels for marketplace sellers. These new channels are not only creating more avenues for listing products, amd pushing promotional offerings, but also an expansive marketplace to get more exposure.

“Online sellers should be selling on at least one online marketplace to increase reach,” says Parag Mamnani, CEO of Webgility, a provider of ecommerce automation software for multichannel ecommerce companies. “But in order to compete, merchants really must be selling on several different channels at once.”

According to Mamnani, online retailers are often intimidated by the prospect of selling on these different channels. But he says there are several steps they can take to fully leverage the different channels available to them. First, they should firm up their entire technology stack. “Stress test your operational workflows, make sure you don’t have any break-points in your orders management, inventory tracking, shipping or bookkeeping,” he says.Solid advice for multichannel sellers this holiday season. #ecommerce #unify Click To Tweet

Then, Mamnani recommends, online retailers and their teams should discuss replacing any inefficient tools or processes. “Now’s the time to clean up that inventory spreadsheet and create a better system to organize it,” he adds. “Is someone doing full-on forensic research every time there’s a return or exchange? Examine your return system and do a bit of research on return optimization and automation. I promise, trimming those inefficiencies now will pay off during peak selling season.” Continue reading

Enter ShipStation’s Holiday Sweepstakes

Enter ShipStation's Holiday SweepstakesA busy holiday season is quickly approaching and there’s no better time to get ahead of your shipping strategy than right now! ShipStation strongly values the success of small business owners and entrepreneurs—and wants to help you stay as efficient as possible.

With holiday productivity in mind, ShipStation is excited to announce a Holiday Sweepstakes. They are rewarding ONE lucky winner to a dream workstation valued at $4,500, and four additional runner-ups to prizes that will help you become more successful!

One GRAND PRIZE winner receives:

  • ShipStation FREE for 1 year
  • 256gb Pro Tablet
  • Thermal Printer + Labels
  • $100 gift card
  • Industrial Shipping Scale
  • Barcode Scanner
  • Hand Truck Dolly
  • Tape Gun + Stickers + Branded Tape
  • Support Visit from ShipStation + feature within our social community
  • Weekly Prizes

Four (weekly) runner-up winners receive:

  • $40 ShipStation swag
  • $25 American Express gift card

It’s simple to enter AND you can earn up to five entries! Get started on the ShipStation Holiday Sweepstakes page. Sweepstakes starts on Sept. 28 and ends Oct. 25.

Enter the ShipStation Sweepstakes at shipstation.com/sweepstakes

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Purchasing does not improve your chances of winning. The ShipStation Holiday Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 U.S. and D.C., 18 or older, and businesses that are located within the 50 U.S. or D.C. and Canada (excluding Quebec). Void in Quebec, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, outside the U.S. and where prohibited by law. Sweepstakes begins at 12:00:01 AM ET on 09/28/17 and ends at 11:59:59 PM ET on 10/25/17. Click here for entry details and Official Rules. Sponsor: ShipStation, 3800 N. Lamar Blvd #220, Austin, TX 78756.

Holiday Planning: Your November Checklist

Holiday Planning: Your November ChecklistIt’s go time!

November is already here, which means two of this biggest shopping days of the year are quickly approaching: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Now’s the time to take your planning from September and October and put it all into action. This month, focus on launching some key campaigns to prepare your customers for the holiday season and get them to your checkout!

Read on for more tips about the campaigns that will make the most out of your holiday shoppers. Continue reading

Severe Weather Alert: How to Prep for the Holiday Storm

Severe Weather Alert: How to Prep for the Holiday StormHere’s how to stay centered in the midst of the chaos

It’s September, which means it’s time to batten down the hatches for holiday sales. But if you’re like most e-tailers, you might never be fully ready. Truth is, busy small businesses just don’t have time to project and plan for additional holiday inventory and fulfillment or even streamline workflows and minimize shipping costs. At best, sellers are just guessing at the expected velocity of sales. It’s no wonder that, although online retail continues to grow at an exponential rate, profits continue to diminish. Why? Because selling on multiple channels online is inefficient without the right tools. Retailers try desperately to increase order volume, but quickly become overwhelmed by confusion around both finances and logistics when sales do surge. And there’s a price to be paid for all that incongruity—for every dollar made, businesses could be spending more than a $1 on shipping and fulfillment.#eCommerce weather alert: How to prep for the #holiday storm @ShipStation #Shipping #Unify #Inventory Click To Tweet

Imagine an online retail world where all of your stores, marketplaces, and business applications actually work together to optimize workflows and profit margins. An order—or even a whole batch of orders—comes in from a store or marketplace and syncs directly with a central shipping hub like ShipStation. You instantly compare and choose a carrier based on price and delivery date, seconds later, you click to print a branded shipping label, then confirm and send the customer tracking information. Meanwhile, all that sales data—including customer and product information—syncs with your accounting software, so you don’t have to type in jack diddly squat. Your inventory quantities update accordingly, all fees, expenses, and sales tax are recorded, and you go enjoy some coffee and a glazed donut.

Taking into account time limitations, there are four simple things you can do right away to get ready for the coming surge. Continue reading