4 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.
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.
With Unify, this ominichannel company increased sales 1000% and increased the speed of order processing 83%.
- Product Bahn makes emergency foods and storage, camping foods and gear, natural foods, and supplements.
- Founded 2010
- Challenge: Quickly and accurately transfer data into QuickBooks and sync inventory to and from multiple stores and brands, plus integrate with NovelAspect
- Solution: Webgility’s Unify automated all data entry and inventory management
- Bonus Reconciling fees and expenses
Some ecommerce companies are undaunted by new projects and truly take advantage of how fast moving the online industry can be. Product Bahn was originally founded in 2010 with the urls PrepareWise.com and BuyEmergencyFoods.com, starting with food storage and then expanding to emergency foods and survival gear. Unhappy with their manufacturer, within two years they started making their own food and expanded to another brand, LegacyFoodStorage.com, which sells dehydrated camping food and gear. Their latest offshoots are BannockOutdoors.com and SilverFernBrand.com which both sell healthy foods, treats, snacks, desserts, and supplements made with natural ingredients. Continue reading
How to make ecommerce overselling a thing of the past and peace of mind your SOP.
When used correctly, QuickBooks can be a very powerful tool for tracking inventory. But the key to using QuickBooks to track inventory successfully is in appreciating how and why QuickBooks tracks all inventory activity at the item/product level.
1. Proper Item/Product Setup: It may be tempting to start recording your sales in QuickBooks and watch the revenue grow, but to get the most reliable financial reports, you’ll need to put in some time and effort up front. Here’s how to think through your inventory setup and list organization:
- Do you want to use the SKUs from your website or other sales channel for your item/product names? If so, you can populate the “item name” with this info or choose to populate another data field with the SKU. Webgility Unify’s mapping features help to streamline the matching of different SKUs between all sales channels.
- Decide how to organize your list. QuickBooks Online allows for product categories, but QuickBooks Desktop does not have the category feature. However, you can organize your QuickBooks Desktop lists by using the field: sub-item of.
- Consider adding a few income accounts within your chart of accounts for a clearer view of your income on the P&L. Once these accounts are set up, you can choose to which account each item/product’s revenue maps from the dropdown menu in your item/product screen. Also, if you are in QuickBooks Desktop, you can change your mappings in bulk: Lists > Add/Edit Multiple List Entries
- The cost field in the item/product setup is mostly just used to populate the default value on your purchase transactions (bills, purchase orders). This cost field is not directly used to calculate your inventory value—more on that below.
2. Accurate Starting Counts: Ideally, you want to get started with a physical inventory and accurate item/product counts. But realistically, it can be a challenge to get all of your inventory counted at once. If this is too overwhelming, start with a large even number, like 100 or 1,000 units for the inventory count of each item/product, and then adjust as accurate counts are done using a quantity adjustment. When recording the adjustment, Just be sure to use the date of the actual count.
3. Proper Inventory Workflow: Now that you have inventory set up, you need the proper workflow to maintain accurate counts and costs. The following transactional documents can add inventory quantities to QuickBooks: Continue reading
The power-packed metrics that will have a big impact on your bottom line
Data is a hot topic lately. If you sell online, you know that order information from your marketplace stores enables the massive big data feeds of Amazon and the like to predict broad consumer behavior and seasonality, manage prices and fees across the channel, and control their interests in the inventory and fulfillment industries globally. While you’re powering someone else’s data, it also seems like every day you’re told to climb aboard the big data bandwagon where you, too, can ride into the sunset of freedom and happiness of higher sales, profit, and success.
But when it comes to practical application of collecting data and understanding the insights they offer, you draw a blank. You’re not alone. Turns out, 94% of companies across all levels have experienced internal challenges when trying to improve their data quality. One could theorize that this dissatisfaction may stem from sheer size and that big data has just become too big. Case in point: The fact is, every second of every day we create new data. To understand the scale, 40,000 Google search queries are performed every second, which makes it 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year. Each of those, at a minimum, creates new keyword and search ranking data. On a more relevant note, while it’s wonderful that Amazon has 304 million active customer accounts worldwide, what can you learn about tapping into that fire hose, or more specifically, why does your store suddenly and inexplicable have a following from Stanley, Idaho? Continue reading
Tips for setting up workflows that produce more cash and less chaos.
When it comes to selling both B2C and B2B, with every product, price, and customer comes more data complexity. In fact, the pressure selling to these two groups puts on back-end systems is often the cause of unpleasant confusion on both sides of the sales funnel.
Let’s consider the simplest use case—selling products with different price points. If you have different price points for different customer segments, you’ll need to keep track within some system of record, typically in accounting. Instead of creating proper structural rules, most sellers end up creating different SKUs and then tagging a different price for each of them. Or they keep the product at the same SKU but provide different business logic for each customer segment and its corresponding price point. Continue reading