Creating Customer Centricity with eCommerce Fulfilment
As the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Alongside life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, you can now add another inalienable right: two-day shipping on practically everything.”
It has become increasingly clear that as eCommerce evolves and customer expectations increase, order fulfillment will remain an integral part of selling online — it’s just getting faster, cheaper, and more high-tech. Same-day drone shipping anyone?
The standard for customer service, and ultimately customer retention, starts with delivering a product promptly and accurately. Based on the number of US postal trucks I saw last year stuffed to the brim with Amazon boxes making deliveries on Christmas Eve, we know Jeff Bezos has won the equivalent of the eCommerce Super Bowl on this one. In fact, he has changed the game for everyone.
By everyone, I mean everyone. This applies to both the B2C and B2B worlds. B2B buyers are accustomed to immediate and accurate delivery in their personal lives, and they expect it when placing their business orders as well.
The Secret: One customer record
We often hear pundits and consultants tell us that we can achieve this Amazon-level of service if we are “customer-centric.” Many interpret customer-centricity to mean that you should put the customer at the center of your business and provide amazing service. Well, anyone can do that. My plumber claims to provide amazing service. It’s painted on the side of his van.
Customer-centricity represents a customer-focused company that cultivates a positive customer experience at every step of the customer journey. Customer centric strategy grows customer loyalty plus their satisfaction which points for more customers to promote your business. Putting the customer first your eCommerce will increase customer retention and obtain more customer orders.
Customer centric organizations beside using customer insights to deliver excellent customer experiences they also create customer centric marketing campaigns to obtain benefits of customer centricity programs.
What if I told you that customer-centricity isn’t really about the customer? It’s about the customer record.
Whether you are a locally-owned online food business or sell palettes of shingles to big-box stores, great customer service starts with your company organizing around the customer record. When the customer record is stored in one central system, you can see the big picture as well as every possible piece of information needed to fulfill and track orders. This customer record becomes your one-stop-shop – your one version of the truth that accurately gives you what you need to deliver today’s order and predict tomorrow’s inventory needs.
Business owners that want to create a customer centric culture can take this information from customer records, which often includes user research, and use it to study trends that will help them gain more customers and streamline their operations for success. Imagine an automated inventory management system that allows you to add, edit, delete and transfer inventory in real-time – or, analytics and business intelligence software with real-time dashboards and reports. Now, imagine combining all of that together into one powerful platform because it is fed by the customer record. By enabling your employees to access all this information using one central dashboard, they can make faster and more strategic decisions to meet your customers’ needs.
An Example of the Customer Record in Action
Anyone who runs an eCommerce business knows that there are many moving parts in the fulfillment process, from routing and managing inventory to selecting the right packaging for shipping. Each step of the fulfillment workflow has very specific steps. It’s essentially a five-step process:
- Inventory storage
- Order processing
- Returns processing
When we become customer-centric, the customer record coordinates all of these processes. When this happens, processes align and gaps disappear because they are all being directed by this single point of truth. As a side benefit, it eliminates the need to enter and re-enter information. Capture it once at the point of sale, store it in the customer record, and let that record do the work.
So, the value of customer-centricity really shows up operationally. Let the customer record be the guide for joining and streamline the processes. This is the core ingredient of Amazon’s success formula. It shows up as immediate delivery and intuitive product recommendations, but it begins with streamlined operations and keen business intelligence, both of which come directly from the customer record.
However, there is no point worrying about customer records if your customers never check-out.
Delivery Starts with a Completed Order
Did you know that a whopping 74% of North American shoppers abandon their online shopping cart, at a cost of about $2-4 trillion US dollars for e-marketers per year? Reasons for this phenomenon, known as ‘shopping cart abandonment’, include extra costs such as shipping fees and taxes, return difficulties, a complex checkout process, and the requirement to create a user account before checkout (I am guilty of this one). There are also some other key drivers that should get our attention. Over 50% of consumers say that the speed of delivery is an important factor when it comes to evaluating their online orders. In fact, 16% of consumers will abandon their shopping cart due to slow delivery.
I’ll say it again, this is not just a B2C problem; it’s a B2B problem as well.
The eCommerce bar has been set high, which means that customers expect – in fact they demand – accurate tracking of their shipment and communication. The purchasing journey and customer experience need to be smooth, reassuring and secure. Instead of entering an order at POS, fulfilling it through another system, and then shipping it using a third system, companies need to minimize gaps and mistakes by streamlining everything and connecting it to one customer record. This also ensures your data is accurate for billing, payments and returns. I am sure many of us can tell a story about a great eCommerce experience that was ruined by inaccuracies with billing or an onerous return process.
The good news is that retail eCommerce sales continue to trend upward, and consumer confidence is at its highest level in 19 years, according to the Consumer Confidence Survey® conducted for the Conference Board by Neilson, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch.
Customer-centricity doesn’t end with your marketing efforts or customer record. Your eCommerce sales team can likewise take the customer-centricity approach and build a more customer-focused plan.
These stats tell us that the eCommerce boom isn’t slowing down anytime soon, especially on the B2B side. But, in order to ensure that you score a touchdown in the eCommerce space and capitalize on the boom, companies need a thoughtful strategy that includes modern, connected technologies and data that quickly and efficiently drives decisions and keeps your brand ahead of the competition – and set your customer front and center.
Dean Mansfield is the President & CEO of Systum.com, an all-in-one platform that allows wholesale distributors to successfully operate a B2B eCommerce business. Before Systum, Dean helped thousands of companies scale their businesses through sustainable revenue growth, including leading NetSuite to its IPO in 2007.