Today I am coming out of the closet. I want to talk to you about a part of my life that I have not shared with you.
The Truth Comes Out…
Here’s my little secret.
Most of you know that I have an online decorative glass store, The Glass Market. What you probably don’t know is that beginning in October, 2012, I began working at a Top 20 retail company as an E-commerce Fulfillment Team Lead. Hey, if you want to learn about a subject, learn it from the big dogs. Right? It is like moving to a country where you don’t know the language. You quickly learn about their culture and how to communicate. I used the same principle in learning about E-commerce, business logistics and operations, and the retail business. I jumped in and I have devoured the mentioned subjects.
So, why am I telling you this? Well, for starters, after about a year of working the full-time job at the major retailer, running The Glass Market, and writing this blog, I found it nearly impossible to keep up with it all. At some point, adjustments needed to be made both for my sanity and the sanity of my family. The result was reduced Looking At Glass blog posts.
Secondly, I have become more and more aware that providing your customers many ways to do business with you is vital to keeping your business profitable in the future.
I feel a real sense of urgency when it comes to E-Commerce.
I am not saying that starting tomorrow you need to close your shop doors and only sell your products online. If you have a brick and mortar business, you actually have an advantage over strictly online stores. It is much easier to add an online store to an existing brick and mortar shop than it is to add a brick and mortar store to an online store. The term used to describe this inclusive commerce segment is Multichannel Commerce. Even the term Multichannel Commerce is on the verge of becoming obsolete. You will now see the term “Customer Touchpoint” slipping in. For the sake of this blog post, I will be using Multichannel Commerce.
A Multichannel Commerce business is a business that makes buying a product seamless to their customers. Customers can buy a product from their phone, tablet, PC, telephone, fax, or walk-in. As a Multichannel Commerce company, you provide customers a way to buy your product in a manner that is most comfortable and convenient for them.
What is E-commerce?
Part of a Multichannel Commerce strategy is E-commerce. E-commerce means different things to different businesses. At its most basic definition. E-commerce allows promoting and selling a product via electronic means. Depending on your size and customer base you can include under the E-commerce umbrella:
- Website customer contact forms
- Website request for quote forms
- Social Media
- Newsletter sign-up forms
- Account Registration
- Product catalogs
- Customer Support/FAQ’s/Tutorials
- Shopping cart/Order Form
When looking at E-commerce for your multichannel business, consider what can be done electronically that is currently being handled by hand. If you don’t want to ship your product, give your customers the opportunity to purchase online and pick up at your location. This E-commerce addition will give the customer another buying option for your product while saving you time.
And Another Thing…
For heaven’s sake, don’t have a slick Multichannel business and then have an out-dated Fulfillment operation. Operations and Logistics can be the undoing of a great Multichannel Commerce effort.
I recently needed to order a product from a company. This company has made a large investment in creating a social media presence. When I needed to make a purchase, I was surprised that the company had no online quote/order form on their website. Reluctantly, I sent them an email requesting a quote.
Three days later, I had received no response. I eventually called and received the quote over the phone. I told the customer service rep that I was ready to buy. I had my credit card in my hand, ready to purchase the product. I was told that the company procedure was to email or Fax me a “New Account Form.” Twenty-four hours later, I received the email. Guess what they need to know? My company name, address, and credit card number!
At a minimum, this information could have been handled over the telephone. At best, the whole purchase could have been made quickly online via the company website. Not to mention the fact that the social media persona did not match the order/fulfillment operations.
Take a look at your Fulfillment Operations from walk-in to online store. Count how many steps it takes to Fulfill an order and consider updating any procedures that would not work in a Multichannel Commerce business. It is easy to do things the way they have always been done. It takes much less effort to adjust to new procedures. The concern is that eventually the processes are taking up more time and effort than they should.
As you can tell, I could go on and on about Multichannel Commerce. And, in particular, E-commerce. It has become a passion. I continue to learn as much as I can about the subject every day and I felt compelled to share what I have learned with you. I believe that it is time to include Multichannel/E-commerce strategies and education in our trade shows, industry organizations, and publications. This subject is, in my humble opinion, THE MOST IMPORTANT TOPIC for the glass industry to address at this time.
If you would like to comment or contribute a blog post on this subject, I will gladly welcome your input. Let’s start talking about Multichannel/E-commerce!
Photo 1: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/428686458252190632/
Photo 2: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/30188259976511550/
Photo 3: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/194428908883199490/
Photo 4: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/495044184010284993/
Photo 5: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/102668066474888399/