Announcing Ordoro’s Advanced Analytics

 

The ability to sift through a wealth of data for valuable information can seriously impact a business’ success. In some cases, it drives merchants’ every action. We get it – and that’s why we’re releasing our own Advanced Analytics to help you dig up truly actionable insights that support and validate your business decisions.

This isn’t about pretty graphs and charts that make you feel like a legitimate business. This is about taking real data and using it to legitimize your strategies. Our Advanced Analytics compile lumps of sales, shipping, and inventory data across all your sales and supplier channels, and splits them into digestible, understandable tidbits of knowledge.

Features that deliver

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We’re all about shipping and inventory here at Ordoro, so we’ve packed some analytic features that deliver. Unlike other platforms’ analytics, we have the ability to filter all your data by supplier channel to see quantity sold, shipping costs, and more. This is particularly useful for multi-channel retailers interested in analyzing and comparing the costs to source and ship by supplier channel, as well as the fulfillment efficiency of each.

As you may have noticed from the screenshot, you can also segment data by sales channel to narrow your insights down. Having to add up the numbers and track trends across all your platforms is no longer a tedious necessity. We’re committed to keeping all your marketplaces and shipping accounts in one place – the same goes for data.

And if you’re manic about marketing, we’ve got the fix for that too. With Advanced Analytics, you are better suited to target a customer on any of your platforms – whether it’s Etsy or Shopify – with a potent promotion. You can now filter your top customers and products by your sales and supply channels to view what’s killing it in each. To top it off, you’re also able to check out your revenue by geographic region to help focus your potential marketing campaigns even further.

Piqued your interest? We hope so! Whether you want analytics to help cut carrier costs, create marketing campaigns, consider the effectiveness of your sales channels, or just collect data to look at, we’ve got you covered for that, and more.

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Fulfillment Strategy – Just in time

JITJust in time fulfillment (oftentimes referred to as JIT fulfillment) is a method of managing your inventory and shipping that involves purchasing product as orders come in, packaging, and sending them off to customers on your own. It’s definitely an uncommon strategy for most merchants, and there are some pros and cons to consider before giving it a shot.

Reaping the benefits of JIT

Rather than dumping some cash on a bunch of product and having to tie up your money in inventory as orders flow in, JIT merchants simply purchase product from their vendors after the customers place orders. When Cornelius Cobb, your top customer, buys his favorite corn accessories (these do exist) from your marketplace, you do the same and buy the product from your vendor. The vendor ships the product to you, you wrap it up in some corn husk packaging, stick it in a box with a corny letter saying “Aww, shucks! Thanks for the order!” and send it off to Cornelius in Iowa.

JIT fulfillment, unlike other methods of fulfillment like in-house and dropshipping, avoids the pain of managing an unwieldy and expensive amount of inventory, while providing complete quality control when it comes to shipping. Because of that, JIT merchants are oftentimes able to expand their product portfolios – you could offer popcorn makers or handbags made of corn, solely because you don’t have to handle inventory. And, because you handle packaging and shipping, you’re able to put some personal touch into your product marketing to grow that customer loyalty that keeps them coming back.

The shear truth of JIT

On the surface, JIT seems like a preferable strategy for fulfillment. You don’t have to handle the irritations of a large inventory, and you have complete control of your packaging and shipping. But there’s a reason why it isn’t as common as cornfields in the Midwest.

To put it bluntly, JIT is operation overload. While the peril’s of handling inventory are reduced, the downside is that you must purchase and ship products on your own, and rely heavily on tight relationships with vendors that possess a supply of products to meet your demand. Granted, a JIT merchant is in full control of how the product gets to the customer – how it looks, and how it’s packaged – but it’s at the cost of time. JIT fulfillment typically extends shipping times, and it functions best under the assumption that vendors will have the product in stock when you need it. That means you need to be pretty good at forecasting your demand.

Be “all ears” with your vendors

Relationships between merchants and vendors are so critical, and vendor management is a big portion of just in time fulfillment. If you can negotiate and stay in constant contact with a vendor to guarantee a supply of product that can be delivered to you promptly, you’ve got little to worry about since shipping and handling are on your end. But when you’ve got a large portfolio of products with multiple vendors, it’s more difficult to ensure that each of your supply chains is reliable and available for any order that comes through. Communicating with vendors and selecting ones that are willing to listen to your needs is crucial.

It’s important, above all else, that your vendor is able to provide regular, accurate updates on available-to-sell inventory so you can better predict when supply may not meet your demand. Before selecting a vendor, be sure they have multiple ways of contacting them, and that they’re responsive. In the event that something goes wrong – whether a product is shipped late, or supply levels are inaccurate – there’s a better chance they will be there for you. Service Level Agreements (SLA) are also a good sign indicating a vendor is committed to top-notch service.

People often say “you’re only as good as the company you keep,” and that kernel of wisdom is as true as it gets for a JIT fulfillment strategy. If your company’s vendors aren’t good at keeping you up-to-date on stock levels and consistently carrying your products, your fulfillment strategy is going to reflect that. Having solid relationships with vendors that reliably ship your products to keep your fulfillment process streamlined from POS to the customer’s doorstep is absolute key to reaping the benefits of just in time strategy.

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Fulfillment Strategy – Outsourced warehouse

Ordoro Outsourced fulfillment

An outsourced warehouse is a popular fulfillment strategy for many entrepreneurs, especially those that have a high quantity of products to be stored. Essentially, it involves taking your inventory and shipping operations, and moving them to privately owned warehouse that receives orders and ships them off to customers. Like in-house fulfillment, there are benefits and drawbacks to an outsourced warehouse, so let’s unpack them.

Sourcing the benefits

The ultimate perk to an outsourced warehouse is the fact that you don’t have to handle the tedious, routine tasks of day-to-day, hour-to-hour order fulfillment and inventory management. If you’re fortunate enough to be drowning in a sea of orders, or unfortunate enough to be crushed by mountains of inventory, an outsourced warehouse is a potential option to relieve your pains.

Generally, an outsourced warehouse is likely to know what’s it’s doing, and they’re certainly experts on the ins-and-outs of efficient fulfillment, especially considering it’s their job. A merchant’s responsibilities extend beyond just sending out orders – there are other time consuming, just-as-important matters to attend to, like product and content marketing, promotions, brand building, etc. Seeing as shipping out your products is one of the final steps of the fulfillment process, it’s definitely a good idea to slot out some time for efforts that will get your customers buying to begin with. Outsourced warehouses can seriously provide entrepreneurs with the time to focus on other parts of their business.

Beware of the cons

But nothing is all pros; there are cons to an outsourced warehouse as well. Obviously, an outsourced warehouse is going to need to be paid, and that includes storage, shipping and handling costs. It may end up being more costly than if you simply stored and shipped product yourself, and you’ll have to gauge whether or not working on other business matters, like marketing efforts, are bringing in enough sales over time to offset the increased costs.

In the event that a product is returned, and the outsourcer’s shipping efforts were all for naught, returns management can be a little tricky. A return is more than lost revenue – it’s an opportunity to learn how the business can improve. Was the product damaged? Perhaps the product description was so amazingly written that it over-hyped the customer and led to dissatisfaction on arrival. A return is potential for valuable feedback, but, if it’s sent straight back to the warehouse it came from, it can’t tell you anything.

Control issues

Control must also be sacrificed if you partner with an outsourced warehouse. Merchants are unable to personalize packaging and add those personal touches to their customers’ orders that help drive customer loyalty and build brand awareness. Call it a cost of efficiency, but that personalized product marketing that takes a bit more effort and time is no longer an option.

Product marketing isn’t the only control that’s lost either. Your precious inventory is locked away in a warehouse, and can’t send you letters to let you know how it’s going. There’s a distinct lack of insight on the status of your inventory – what products are selling quickly, and what products are collecting dust. This makes it difficult to create effective promotions that get rid of pesky product that just won’t sell.

Summary

The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” is a complete lie in the world of an ecommerce entrepreneur. While there are several benefits to outsourcing fulfillment, you should be cognizant of the loss of insight into your inventory and fulfillment processes. Knowing exactly how much of a product is on hand, and how well it’s performing is of utmost importance, and the right inventory management sytems can definitely help remedy some of the drawbacks that emerge with an outsourced warehouse.

 

 

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Automation rules to simplify workflow even more

Ever see yourself doing the same tasks over and over again? Ever wonder if you could have a robot do them for you? Are you hooked on to the little life hacks that IFTTT lets you create? Well, we are.

Inspired by that and with our commitment to simplifying order fulfillment we are excited to announce the release of our automation rules engine!

Now you can create If this then that style rules to automate shipping, order-management and other repetitive back-office tasks. These automation rules go one step ahead and let you specify when to trigger these rules as well. Today we are doing a limited release of our automation rules with select tasks that you can to automate. We are adding more trigger events, properties and tasks so you can create your own automation ‘recipes’ as we speak.

Here’s a sneak peak at what these automation rules look like:

Automation rules

These automation rules can get pretty complex, so one of our goals was to make setting them up as simple and understandable as possible. To us, creating a rule is like writing a sentence. Triggers and actions are phrases that make up the sentence and users can fill in the blanks of those phrases using dropdown menus and free text fields. When you’re done building the rule, what you’ve created will be a clear statement that both humans and robots can understand. Everyone wins.

Interested in being a beta tester? Write us at info@ordoro.com.

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Ensuring order delivery to the correct address

Although difficult to validate, it is believed that about 1% of all packages shipped are lost in the delivery process. A large chunck of these can be attributed to inconsistencies in specifying the shipping address. For an ecommerce merchant these errors eat away at profit margins, but more importantly lead to a dissatisfied customer.

To reduce such instances we just launched an address validator that will help cut down on such shipping errors.

Ordoro Address Validator

When an order comes into Ordoro, be it from an integrated channel or manually entered into the app, the app checks the address against a database of valid shipping addresses maintained by the United States Postal Service, and flags inaccurate addresses. These flagged addresses fall into two different categories:

  • Warnings
    Flagged yellow, these addresses are missing some detailed information – like a suite or apartment number. The delivery folks can probably figure out where exactly the package goes to using the name on the package or just asking around. And so the app lets you create a shipping label for it. These warnings can be ignored and Ordoro will let you create a label for it.
  • Errors
    Flagged red, these addresses are invalid and the deilvery folks will not be able to deliver the package to the right person and will probably be returned as undeliverable. Typically such addresses don’t exist or are missing information like a city, state or zip code. Unless fixed, the app will not let you create a shipping label for such addresses.

But the address validator does not stop there. When you go on to fix the shipping address error, it also gives you suggestions on what the address could be. And with the click of a button accept one of those suggestions.

Ordoro Address Validator

 

Of course, this feature is automatically avaliable to all Ordoro customers. So just log in and ship your orders with confidence that you are shipping them to the right people!

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What is your eCommerce business strategy? (And why you need to know it)

Running a business is the act of creating value for customers, and capturing it for shareholders, through a sustainable competitive advantage.

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The key to developing and sustaining a competitive advantage is to pursue a specific strategy. In the classical definition, Michael Porter broadly outline three different strategies: Differentiation strategy, low-cost strategy and focus strategy. All your tasks, activities and actions are defined by and aligned with the strategy you commit to pursue.

And the important term here is ‘commit’. Flip-flopping between different strategies does not help develop a competitive advantage, actually erodes an established competitive advantage and leads to a mediocre business. Most great businesses commit to one of these strategies very early in their life and drive all their decisions in line with their strategy. Lets take a brief look at what each strategy entails, what are the general themes of each strategy, identify (retail and ecommerce) businesses that pursue such strategies and see how mixing two strategies is not consistent.

Differentiation strategy

You differentiate your business, product or service from others in the market. Typically your target market is not very price sensitive. Differentiation allows you to charge a premium for your product/service. To sustain this advantage you need to either continuously invest in creating and maintaining this differentiation or introduce barriers for other folks aping your differentiation (aka patents). Apple is a fine example in both, the retail and online space that follows this strategy. They invest heavily in both – product innovation and patents. Zappos is another example of how a company follows this strategy in customer service. There are several online stores you can buy footwear from but Zappos differentiates themselves by investing in their people.

Very few small/medium online businesses follow this strategy. Typically they are a single product business that have some barrier that prevents copycats (patents or exclusive suppliers). Dodocase is one such example.

Low cost strategy

You commit to having the lowest cost for your product/service compared to your competitors, continue to lowering the costs and invest in operational efficiencies. Large scale and low-cost strategy go hand-in hand. Scale enables businesses lower their cost in a couple of ways. One – it helps spread fixed costs over a large number of units – the larger the scale, the lower the fixed cost per product/service. Scale also helps negotiate better terms and costs with vendors.

This is a very difficult strategy for small/medium online businesses to pursue. Mostly because of the fact that they are small/medium businesses and to succeed at this strategy the business implicitly needs to be big. Since scale is a major factor in success of the low cost strategy, for a given industry, the winner takes all. We see this in the online marketplace (Amazon), big box retail (Walmart), online search (Google), etc.

Focus strategy

You focus on a specific niche and build a relationship with your market. This involves immersing the businesses in and around a specific niche. Create a reputation in the niche by building expertise, speak the same lingo and provide help to folks in the niche. This is typically done by generating content, participating in forums, speaking at engagements, sponsoring relevant events, etc. Some examples of businesses who have done this (in the home improvement industry) are Houzz.com for ecommerce and Homedepot for retail stores.

Most small/medium online businesses pursue the focus strategy. They focus on a specific community or interest group. Generate content about their niche and build a recognizable brand around it. They show up as top results for Google searches in their niche. As a matter of fact the whole SEO industry enables niche businesses.

Summary

It is important to at least think through what strategy you want to pursue with your business – as this influences the decisions you make everyday, helps them stay consistent and builds a business that is successful in the long term. Very few companies are capable of successfully pulling off two strategies at the same time. All small businesses must pick one strategy to build a solid, sustainable competitive advantage.

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New: FedEx One Rate, Saturday Delivery, Hold for Pickup and more!

Some exciting enhancements that our product team has been working on to bolster our shipping capabilities. Lots of good stuff in here to learn about, so let’s dive right in!


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FedEx One Rate

You can now use FedEx One Rate as a shipping method in Ordoro. What is Fedex One Rate you ask? It’s a flat rate shipping method that lets you ship in one of 12 standard Fedex box sizes as long as the package weighs less than 50 lbs. It’s a nice option to have if you’d like to set a flat shipping rate on your sales channel.


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FedEx Saturday Delivery

When you are creating Fedex Home Delivery shipments, you can now opt to get them delivered on a Saturday rather than waiting until the following Monday. Just choose the Saturday Delivery checkbox while creating your Fedex shipping label in Ordoro.

Create FedEx shipment with a future ship date

Want to create the labels today, but ship the packages out later? No problemo! Ordoro now allows you to set the actual ship date to be anything in the future, while creating your label and the tracking number right then and there.

More customs lines for FedEx international

For large international packages, Ordoro’s Fedex International form now allows up to 25 lines to be declared. Bam!


ups-featuresUPS Saturday Delivery

Just like the aforementioned Fedex Saturday Delivery, you can now also opt for UPS Saturday Delivery through Ordoro.

UPS Standard: Certificate of Origin

We’ve also added a checkbox to the UPS label panel to generate a Certificate of Origin with your label. When would you need this? Well, when shipping internationally, some destination countries require you to include a Certificate of Origin (CO) for certain type of products. So, if you are US-based retailer shipping clothes to Brazil and the clothes were actually made in China, then you need to specify China as the country of origin in the CO.


pickup holdVoiding USPS labels directly in Ordoro

We’ve made it WAY easier to void USPS labels through our system. Just delete the label and Ordoro will automatically apply for a label refund with USPS behind-the-scenes. The label credit will appear in your USPS account once the refund is processed (typically within 10 business days).

Hold for Pickup Option

If “Hold For Pickup” is requested on an order, it’s now very easy to set that in Ordoro. Simply select the “Hold For Pickup” checkbox when creating the USPS shipping label for the order. The destination Post Office will know to hold the package until your customer is able to pick it up.

Continually better USPS rates

Ordoro is working closely with USPS to continually offer you the best discounts in the industry. Whenever we get new discounts, they’ll automatically be available to you in your Ordoro account. Use our Shipping Rate Calculator to see how much you could be saving today!

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Fulfillment Strategy – Dropship

dropshipDropshipping is the fulfillment model where the merchant has their supplier directly send out the customer’s order to them. For more details on that check out Ordoro’s dropshipping page.

The dropshipping inventory model is perhaps the most attractive fulfillment method for a new ecommerce retailer to get started with. The thought of having sales online without the baggage of managing the fulfillment is like a dream come true. And for good reason.

Firstly, you can get started with the dropship model without any upfront costs. You do not need to buy any products beforehand, you do not have to rent any warehouse space (or your living room is not cluttered with boxes), heck – you could run a dropship business from your car of you wanted!

Secondly, the dropship model lets you leverage the supplier to manage all the tasks for you. These include making, storing, packaging and shipping the products. You are in effect outsourcing your whole back-office business operation. You could even leverage multiple suppliers at the same time. These suppliers could carry the same product (so you can get all the benefits of dual sourcing) or they could carry different products (enabling you to expand your product catalog)

With all the back-office operations outsourced, you can focus on sales and marketing activities. Be it talking to customers, making sales calls or doing tasks like blogging or paid advertising to increase your site traffic.

But this model comes with its own set of challenges as well.

For one, the merchant has no control over the quality of the order. They do not have any insight or influence into weather the right products are getting into the right box. They lose the opportunity to use their brand on the packaging and have very little control on when the package gets delivered. Managing returns are a hassle as well – should the returns be going to the merchant or should it be returned to the supplier?

Another aspect of quality of the order is that selling the product does not guarantee that the supplier does have the product in stock. Unless both, the merchant and the supplier, have sophisticated systems in place, getting real-time product quantities available for sale is a difficult task. Telling a customer that the product they just bought is not available, is poor customer experience. This hurts the merchant’s credibility, especially for a fledging business.

Then there are the usual monetary disadvantages of outsourcing – margins. Suppliers do want to be compensated for all the risk they take. They usually charge a premium for storing, packaging and shipping the orders. And chances are that the supplier is also selling through other channels and online retailers. Which means the merchant is probably in price competition with other merchants who sell the same products, which in turn affects margins. To add to that, coming up with shipping costs for dropship items in never an easy task. Especially is multiple suppliers are involved in fulfilling a single customer’s order.

But the biggest risk of the dropship fulfillment model is that the merchant is giving their customer information up to the the supplier. And unless there are contracts in place that explicitly preclude this, there is nothing stopping the supplier from directlyselling to the customer.

In summary, dropshipping is a good way to expand a merchant’s product catalog. Dropshipping, at times, does givbe the vibe of being a get-rich-quick scheme. But if used judiciously, can be very effective. We have seen healthy businesses employ the dropshipping strategy for one of three reasons- To test out a new product offering before they start stocking the product in-house, an alternative to fulfill products that they are temporarily out of stock or to fulfill products that are slow moving or expensive to stock.

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Effectively Managing Customer Returns

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After the holiday excitement and the rush of retail customers and sales, store employees and managers aren’t able to simply relax and bask in the afterglow of the holiday spirit. Instead, they need to stay on their game – now comes the advancing tide of gift returns!

In fact, the Christmas gift return season is just as traditional as the holiday shopping season! Even the most thoughtful gifts can be a wrong match. So how do stores handle the sudden influx of return merchandise? The same way they deal with the extra customers during the holidays: preparation.

Getting Prepared For Holiday Retail Returns

The logistics of returning massive amounts of products to the shelves is both a logistical problem and a potential drain of financial resources.  Make sure you have enough employees to accommodate the manual work you will need, and create your holiday schedules well in advance so you can anticipate any staffing issues or other unexpected problems. Make sure your return policy is posted somewhere obvious where your customers can easily see it, like at the cash register or printed on your receipts.

Remember, just because a customer returns something doesn’t mean there is no chance for another sale. Train employees to ask the customers questions and listen to their complaints or comments about the product they are returning. Maybe there is an item on the floor that is just what they are looking for. Finally, be sure to take care of your employees and pay attention to overall morale. Don’t forget to tell your team that you appreciate the hard work they are putting in. A small show of appreciation can go a long way.

E-commerce Returns

When you run an e-commerce business, you know that returns are just part of the game. Online shopping is a boon to both customers and retailers, but online goods are simply more likely to be returned because the customer cannot inspect their purchase in person before buying. This means that it is especially important for online retailers to have well thought-out return policies. Even though returned merchandise can cause expense to any retailer, many customers have reported that they simply won’t consider buying from an online store that doesn’t offer free returns.

So what does this mean for the onslaught of holiday returns? First of all, make sure your return process works smoothly before the holiday season.  Settle on a return policy that makes sense for you, and make sure that policy is effectively communicated to your customers.  If you use shopping cart software, make sure that it is set up to easily handle returns. These programs can be really helpful here, and can make it much easier to track returns and keep accurate inventory counts.

 

 

 

 

 

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Picking your fulfillment strategy – In house fulfillment

Once you launch an ecommerce store, one of the key decisions you make is how do you go about fulfilling your orders. And most business pick in-house fulfillment – because it is the obvious, most intuitive way to fulfill your orders. There are several advantages to this approach.

Firstly, it is the easiest to get started. For most ecommerce entrepreneurs, their living room is their first fulfillment center. There is no initial investment needed – to rent space or to hire people. This is the quintessential lean way to get started with a business. As business picks up, you can have friends and family help out, move your ‘fulfillment center’ to your garage. And once you do get to higher, sustained sales you can move to a real warehouse and hire some full-time employees.

InHouse Fulfillment

Secondly, this approach gives you total control of your fulfillment and consequently your business. You get to ensure the order quality, use your branding on packing slips and even boxes if you choose. This is especially important if you are looking to differentiate your business using your fulfillment process. Few examples of such differentiation include hand written notes, coupon codes for re-marketing or special packaging.

Moreover, having in-house fulfillment lets you react faster to changing demand – Llama T-shirt selling like hot cakes? Purchase more to re-stock quickly. DVDs of the latest transformers moving too slow? Run a marketing special. Notice customers buying the similar groups of products? Prepackage them together to save on packaging and even shipping.

Another (not so obvious) reason to go with the in-house fulfillment approach is returns. As any successful entrepreneur will tell you – customer feedback is very important to business, especially when you are starting off. For online retailers there is no better feedback than returns. Understanding your returns gives you valuable insights on what customers don’t like about your orders and enable you to react quickly. Damaged returns mandate better packaging, incorrect items need better quality control on picking and packing, unsatisfactory products may need you to remove them from your store, etc.

While there are several good things about the in-house fulfillment approach, there are some drawbacks that you need to be aware of as well. Having your own warehouse (apart from your living room or garage) needs some investment, both upfront (security deposits) and ongoing (rent, insurance, etc). Doing your own fulfillment is busy work and it does take away your time away from other, more productive tasks you could be doing such as talking to customers, running ads for your products, bringing more traffic to your website, etc

And just like your time, the same thing applies to your money. Having inventory in-house is like having loads of cash sitting in your warehouse. When you do buy and stock inventory beforehand, you are essentially using up money that you could use on promoting your product and website.

While there are several benefits of this simplest of approaches to fulfillment, being aware of tradeoffs you are implicitly making can help you make more informed decisions when you go about growing your business.

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