September 11, 2014
Free twitter bar
Next stop: Buy Me on Twitter? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a lot of focus on one-click buying in order fulfillment circles, and with good reason.

Established online retailers like Amazon and eBay have embraced the impulsive allure of quick click purchases for some time, but it’s the more recent roll outs by social networks, first Facebook and now Twitter, that offer the most promising area for expansion.

Retailers already do plenty of work within their own digital walls to up sell and cross sell existing customers. Outside of their own ecosystem the focus has been to attract new customers through advertising and optimizing their sites for search engines.

Social networks, until now, have been an sandpit in which companies can talk to their customers and perhaps raise awareness of their products, but rarely are they seen as a source of direct sales.

Integrating easy-to-use buy buttons within the walls of popular social media sites could change all that, expanding the reach of ecommerce operators exponentially.

one click buying button

One of the main challenges to both retailer and social site to date has been losing control of the customer.

For the retailer, it’s a balancing act between showcasing products on a social network without selling too heavily and driving customers away from the brand in general. For the social network, sending users to another site for another activity has to be balanced with the desire to keep them on site, enjoying the entertainment element that brought them there in the first place.

If immediate buy buttons become a common enough element of social sites both of these problems could be addressed with one solution. Customers can spot a product they like, quickly process the transaction within the walls of Facebook, and get back to catching up with friends, commenting on a cat meme, or playing the latest Facebook game fad (and unwittingly inviting the rest of us to do so). Sale for retailer, easy purchase for customer, increased stickiness for social network, a win-win-win scenario for all involved, no?

The answer to that will slowly be revealed as Facebook and Twitter test their buy buttons, but there are certainly some obstacles.

For one, social sites aren’t currently considered as the online malls that retailers and tech startups might like them to be. Although some transactions are carried out already, such as in-app purchases and buying advertising, the general act of social media shopping is in its infancy. As such, there are plenty of bumps in the road to navigate before brands convince customers to not just like or follow them there, but also buy what they’re selling. And that selling is also somewhat at odds with the general consensus that social media marketing is based on being informative and entertaining, not yet another sales space. The former could limit the latter, even when simple sales functions are put in place.

The other aspect that still worries many customers is just who they can trust with their details online. The biggest brand names online and off – Target, Apple, Home Depot and many more – have been dragged through the mud this year thanks to digital hacker attacks, making customer leary of expanding their purchase activity outside of the providers they already trust. Overcoming these security concerns will be just as important as convincing customers that social sites are a place they want to shop in the first place.

Even against these pronounced challenges, social network shopping holds so much potential that retailers will be pulling out all the stops to build a foundation for its future.

If they’re successful, those of us providing ecommerce order fulfillment services must be ready to meet the resulting rise in demand.


June 3, 2014
mobile payment system in use
Mobile payment system in action | Credit: Håkan Dahlström

Mobile payment systems are on the rise.

By now most of us are aware of online payment veteran PayPal and have probably made a couple of  “quick click purchases” on a tablet, but the industry is rapidly accelerating away from these standard offerings to a diverse set of services and products, from smartphone card readers to ewallets and loyalty cards.

Research from Gartner pegs $721 billion as the potential value of transactions that such systems could process by 2017, making mobile payments a boom industry for anyone watching.

And be sure, ecommerce retailers are watching very closely.


Where Mobile Sales Meet the Supply Chain

As these systems develop to make mobile payments for products easy and secure, ecommerce vendors require a highly responsive supply chain to meet increased demand.

Apart from making the purchase process easier, increasing the speed of service at point of sale also raises expectations as to how quickly a product will be provided. Assuming that the goods haven’t exchanged hands immediately, the payment is the equivalent of a promise to deliver as soon as possible.

The fact that funds have been transferred raises the stakes for both buyer and seller, which is where the supply chain must swing into action to fulfil the pending order before disappointment sets in.


Building a Responsive Supply Chain for the “Always On” Generation

Having established that mobile payment systems will become commonplace in the near future, and that their rise will place an increased urgency on the order fulfillment process, it’s obviously important to take steps to ensure that your supply chain is ready to meet these challenges.

The “always on” generation as the technology and desire to place an order at any time and pay for it instantly. Ecommerce vendors who fuse a reputation for efficient ordering with quick fulfillment and delivery will be best placed to capitalize on the this impulsive-yet-demanding new group of consumers.

Some of the core considerations to gear up a responsive supply chain for this impending change include:

  • Seamless alignment of payments with your order fulfillment system to avoid gaps between transaction and delivery.
  • Accurate inventory management systems that set delivery expectations before a payment is made, based on where desired items are located.
  • More diverse sourcing options, both overseas and closer to home (ask the reshoring question.)
  • Nimble reordering systems to spot online transaction patterns and suggest inventory preparations.
  • Close integration with supplier systems to share real-time ordering data.
  • Clearly stating delivery terms and providing a range of shipment options to satisfy “need it now”  syndrome.


What ordering trends are you seeing as more and more transactions occur online?

Let us know on Facebook or Twitter and get in touch if we can help you prepare your business for the oncoming order storm!

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September 17, 2013

English: Gmail logo

Google’s latest tweak to Gmail may not be good for business. Retailers are getting the word out on any number of platforms these days, including Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter, but email is remains the workhouse of online retail.

Google has over the last few months rolled out a new framework for Gmail, creating several different folders within users’ inboxes. The “Primary” folder is intended for personal and priority emails. The other folders include “Social,” “Promotions,” “Updates” and “Forums.” The names are fairly self-explanatory. Google says simply that it wants to address email overload.

The organization may be useful for users, separating and perhaps prioritizing Gmail. The effect is less certain for retailers. The risk is that e-commerce emails will be shunted into an “email ghetto,” according to the New York Times. The open rate for promotional emails has decreased by about 1 percent since the introduction of the feature according to three sites that manage e-mail mailings, Yesmail Interactive, MailChimp and 3DCart.

It is possible for users to change the folders in which emails appear. Gmail from retailers may be dragged and dropped into the “Primary” folder. Once that’s done, future emails will also appear in that folder. The Gap and Groupon have urged recipients of their emails to do just that.

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August 28, 2013

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Twitter has appointed its first head of commerce, Nathan Hubbard, as it begins an e-commerce initiative. Details are sparse on how Twitter will facilitate retail in 140 characters or less.

Hubbard, the former president of Ticketmaster, said only that “We’re going to go to people who have stuff to sell and help them use Twitter to sell it more effectively,” in an statement to Business of Fashion. The article goes on to say that Hubbard will seek partnerships with retailers and payment services companies, rather than entering head-to-head competition. The move is intended to raise additional revenue as Twitter looks to an IPO in the months ahead.

How’s Social Media Working Out for Retail?

Twitter’s foray into social media comes at a time when social media is not working as well hoped for retailers.

Although some business sectors are taking a second look at Twitter for business marketing, a study of prestige retailers the digital consultancy L2  found that over the past four years, less than 0.25% of new customers have been acquired through Facebook and less than .01% from Twitter. In addition, the research disclosed that customers gained via social media spend less than other customers.

A number of retailers opened up Facebook stores to great fanfare in 2011. With the exception of Tory Burch, most are now closed, including:  Oscar de la Renta. the Gap, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, GameStop.

It would appear that the strategy that works best on social media is word of mouth. When someone hears from a friend or other trusted source that something works, they’re more likely to go with it. Pinterest has provided a great example of this type of personal “show and tell.” Brands may be finding that what works best is to make it easier for people to find and order items that they see and hear about from their own networks.