Managing offline store is different with managing online store. An e-commerce needs different sales channel, different set of tools, and different process synchronization. Thus, we are here to share our experience boosting 50% sales by redefining an e-commerce management. An overview from both management and technology point of view.
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Let’s take an example :
You, as customer, sure have experienced your own shopping journey going with families or your own to buy new pair of jeans, cloth, or other products. Maybe, what I experience is similar to yours :
Arrived at the car park, greeted by the security.
Going in the entrance, greeted by shop keepers
While looking at products you want, assisted by another shop keeper
Before fitting, served by fitting room keeper
After fitting, request new measurement to another shop keeper
Lastly during checkout, served by cashier
Do you have similar experience?
Almost each of your shopping step is handled by different person. At least it applies here in Indonesia. The whole shopping journey is made up of several short and yet important steps to maintain your shopping mood. It is so important that retail stores invest their staffs’ working hour specifically for each step of the way. And that is how it works in offline store.
In contrast, when you are shopping online, e-commerce does not apply the same way. Instead of dedicated staff for each step, most e-commerce staff would follow customer journey from the beginning all the way to the end.
One Customer Service handles greeting
The difference begs such questions :
- As number of customer grows, how should number of customer service follow for an efficient business?
- To serve customer better, what tools does customer service need to support internal process? And what channels should be approached to reach out in online ecosystem?
- Finally, how to achieve an efficient e-commerce internal process from customer asking to shipping? And how to fully utilize various online sales channels?
Our client has been trusting us in kicking-off and maintaining their online retail business these last few years. We are going to share our experience as a case study below. We divide our improvement into 3 main learning : Source, Software, and Synchronization
Source & Platform
At first, our client started an idea of putting up product photos on Instagram to market themselves online. From the client’s brief, we knew that one dedicated person was appointed. She was given simple tasks : snap few products on offline retail store shelves, make the photo beautiful, and post it online. Then, online habitants (a.k.a potential customers) started to give response through various channels; by direct chat, by comments, by likes, by repost/retweet, etc. So, the beginning of e-commerce began. Sales was then monitored for few years after that but, unfortunately, the figure did not grow as expected.
When we started getting involved, we studied their online selling process; the whole consumer journey shopping online on their store. Our finding was that doing e-commerce via chatting alone was not enough, let alone chatting in only one specific platform. The online business should have several touch points to increase reachability by existing and potential customers. Moreover, by product of using one chat platform, time spent to serve one customer was significant.
One of our suggestions was to expand sales channel. Not only from available marketplace, social media, or chat platform, we also encourage our client to establish an e-commerce website and drive customer traffic into their own website. Currently, our client has 2 chat platforms, 3 marketplaces, 3 social medias, and their own website. Sales was increased by 50% to date.
Software & Process
Previously when customer buy the client’s product through online store, the transaction was recorded with pen and paper. Every transaction on one particular day was hand-written in a single piece of small paper for each transaction. Later on, when offline store is closing, those pieces were collected and inputted one by one to store’ cashier system. We could clearly foresee the problems that we will discuss below. Also, sometimes, customer also request live picture of a product. The product is stored in warehouse and need to be requested to warehouse staff to be transferred out. Goods transferred between warehouse staff and customer service were never recorded. It, again, would potentially create many problems. Furthermore, when dealing with shipment company and due to such manual process, airway bill needed to be hand-written, packaging label were typed manually, and reporting was always produced later than expected.
The first thing we really urged our client to do was to implement at least a point of sales software that is specially made for online business transaction. It would separate offline and online transactions. Once transaction is secured, we explained that processes before the transaction is made also need to be tracked using specially made software for its digital record. Those processes create a business flow that needs to be clearly defined by standard operating procedure. Their staffs must be guided by standard operating procedure (SOP) rather than mere software flow. On the other hand, before SOP implementation, we witnessed their baseless workflow, mistake made by running such workflow, and how they struggled to recover from its damage. So, the mistake has explained itself. We recommend SOP implementation and digital record of each activity on it to be at top priority.
Currently, SOP is undergoing revisions after revisions only to achieve its perfections. And we build custom made software suitable for their online business flow. Digital data is now made readily available of all internal process defined in the SOP. Input and output of each activity is clearly defined. Offline and online transactions are easily distinguished. And many other efficiency gained from what we and our client implement together; namely, goods transferred out from warehouse is recorded, goods received by customer service is validated, goods returned back to warehouse is monitored, booking made by customer is ready on their computer screen, transactions are handily made from booking number, airway bill generation is automated, payment reconciliation is not manual anymore, address and labeling are just a matter of printing, and many others. At the end of the day, report is now easily produced and always on time.
Synchronization & People
Prior to broadening sales channel while one chatting platform was still used for all selling process, we shared our idea to their staffs that we were going to enter marketplace. Reaction from them were to have dedicated personnel before being active in any marketplace. We were safe to conclude that they think chatting alone was busy enough although sales number did not reflect that. Also, they challenged our idea on expanding sales channel because of fear on coordinating those channels. Moreover, mixed data between online and offline transaction in one system made more confusion than a tidy digitally printed report. We understood the situation they were under. At that time, lack of coordination across departments made them work inefficiently, no SOP, no suitable tools/software, and no guidance from direct leader/manager are just few of their problems.
We briefly explain to them that an e-commerce consists of many systems, such as point-of-sales, warehouse, different type of marketplaces, website order system, etc. The business also involves many third parties, such as shipping company and payment gateway provider. These many components need to be synchronized by system or by workflow. Not only to external parties but also across internal departments. First, we aim to reach optimum efficiency on interrelated process as stepping stone. Then, later on, we want to achieve effective activities for our client’s staffs serving more customers with the same amount of working hour.
Progressively, from system point of view, we succeeded synchronizing their website to third party shipping company. It cuts down many inefficient activities such as manual airway bill generation, manual calculation on each pick up process, manual confirmation on customer address, etc. Also, with integrated software explained above, we can confidently observe improved efficiency on information and activity flow across internal departments. On the other hand, from people’s activity point of view, synchronization between their work is made centralized. One people shift to another exchange important work-related message through a centralized system. Each activity component on the SOP is made clear of its input and output. A leader is appointed to manage and oversee their daily routines. We hope the coordination across activities, integrated by software, and governed by SOP would ease staffs day-to-day work
In conclusion, inevitability of contrast difference on running online business and brick-and-mortar store should be embraced by a highly adaptable organization. Externally and internally, there are huge gap between offline and online store; namely among others are those we discussed above : type of sales channel, business flow and process, needs of various supporting software, and coordination of all related parties. We have discussed each point and we know they involve great number of resources, effort, technological knowledge, and people management to achieve desirable result. Comparison table below summarize our discussion :
|Multiple and various sales sources|
|Multiple and various customer interaction points|
|POS software for online transaction, separated from offline store cashier system|
|Other software to support online transaction from various sales sources|
|Digital record for each business internal process|
|On-time and efficient report generation|
|Implementation of Standard Operating Procedure|
|Coordination between internal business departments|
|System synchronization with third parties|
|People activity orchestration|
Above all, we measure our success not merely from abstract efficiency increased from each of those process but, more importantly, we let you measure our success on how our client could boost your overall business as ‘a beneficial side effect’ of an efficient business.
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