|what about fulfillment|
my little site isnt little anynmore
im writing as i think about the question "what next" I mean, having an ecommerce site in the first year (as everyone knows) is kinda like a hobby, maybe selling 1 or two units a month.
so, what if you dont have a shopping cart.... do you say "well when were busier well just add one. Then reinventing your site in the process... or having a system from the start, that will scale with you.
so, lets say you have a cart, spent a lot of money, or did it yourself and learned programming...
what about shipping. 1 or two orders a day is easy... just put aq label on the package, double enter the shipping address on the USPS/UPS site, print a label, tape it on the box, etc. what about 80 orders a day, many with multiple items going to multiple addresses... cant do that, or would have to hire people to do what should be automated. What i did was create an application that integrated with my backend for bulk shipping, error handles and sends up to 100 label requests to a UPS label server, and then the labels are printed via a thermal label printer in real time. programmed it myself as we are undercapitalized, however, what do people do about this
why dont shopping carts have this feature built in, that is how to fulfill and scale the interent business you have the shoppin cart for. see i had to implement this before it was needed in the hopes that i would reach the volume (and minimums of the shipping company) just seems so advanced for a site that started with 1 sale a month..... but sooo necessary in the business now
what do people do when they scale?
Hopefully as your business grows so does your income.
You don't start out buying a lear jet when all you need is a one way trip to Chicago.
I think it's just hard to build affordable software that'll manage all of the different kinds of problems that growing Internet retailers have to manage.
I think the trick is finding the right people.
I'm working with a retailer that has grown from 1 box per month to $1M+ over the last few years. They managed to survive the initial jump because they hired friendly people who were willing to answer customer support e-mails quickly, and pack boxes in their spare time. Automating things for employees didn't have much to do with it ...
Instead, we focused on automating the processes of getting their products up on shopping comparison sites and affiliate networks -- things that are relatively simple compared to automating production and logistics, and have a much higher payoff than saving a couple of minutes typing up a printing label.
In the meantime, they've bought some bigger tables, more tape guns, and improved the layout of the warehouse and packing area to more easily find and package products. Relatively cheap stuff!
Now that the business is firmly in the black, we're revisiting the core software behind the site, and starting to look at improving some of those deeper technical issues. Yield management, information distribution amongst employees, that sort of thing.
There are several order management systems available that are designed and priced for smaller businesses. For a couple thousand dollars you can get a system that will pay for itself quickly even at 10 or 20 orders per day, but can also handle up to several thousand orders per day as your company grows. If you Google "order management" you will find links to some of them.
have a much higher payoff than saving a couple of minutes typing up a printing label.
ya i guess if all you (or the business) was doing is ecommerce then those tasks dont really need to be automated until things are more mature, however, thats not reality. A lot of people hve sites as a side project, or a way to make more money with their B&M business. Our site was at one point an extra to our B&M retail, (which was in deep dept) then it becomes the main source of revenue. so happens, that automating the process of shipping labels, etc, (as well as integration with the shopping malls, SEO, targeted viral marketing) is the only way it can be afforded, since most of the labor that can be afforded by the business are to meet the demands of the B&M side. If i had my way wed be just an internet fulfillemnt center, and close the B&M store as it is always in red, but unfortunately that would erase the point of the site (to save the B&M business)
so at what point is it a value to use the technology and innovation of ecommerce order management to come ahead, considering the other side of retail (B&M) seems so labor and rent intensive, and nearly impossible to scale etc.
We use E-fulfillment and are very happy with them.
Interesting -- the case I was talking about above was a traditional B&M store that turned a marginal web presence into it's biggest profit center. What made it work for them is that the people who worked in the B&M store knew the products, and had a lot of spare time when the shop was slow ... so they were able to effectively provide customer support and do various fulfillment tasks without too much of a time constraint.
But, now that e-commerce is effectively driving the entire business, they're looking for ways to streamline order management and fulfillment.
All things considered, it seems like there's no magic bullet. Businesses grow organically, and what's right for one company could be baseless for another.