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5 trends disrupting the traditional wholesale distribution model

Multichannel Distribution Specialists

Integrating Wholesale Distribution alongside In-Store, Online and Machine-to-Machine to let today's multichannel businesses increase efficiency and reduce costs while achieving flexible and agile control of the supply chain.

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Archive for November 2015

How can your business avoid Christmas click-and-collect chaos?

30th November 2015

2015 will be click-and-collect's biggest Christmas

Over the past 2-3 years we've seen the popularity of click-and-collect grow exponentially, to the point where the UK has become one of the leading pioneers of the ‘order online, collect in store’ model across the world.

The Christmas period in particular seems to generate a surge in click-and-collect orders – 39% used the service last year alone - and this has obvious benefits for multi-channel businesses. For starters, it's cheaper than home delivery, and logistically it's less hassle to co-ordinate.

Secondly, the average click-and-collect customer spends up to 53% more than the value of their original order when they arrive in-store to pick it up, according to store management solution, Collectec. There's a huge opportunity here to drive impulse purchasing, and to increase upsell on complementary items.

However, in-store collection services are not immune to the pressures of multi-channel trading, and Christmas time can push these pressures to breaking point. For example, in businesses utilising multiple channels, bricks-and-mortar has to take on a complex role serving all touch points – online and offline.

So rather than just being a place for generating sales, today's store has to handle complex customer enquiries, place in-store orders for online delivery, serve as a distribution centre for stock not available at the warehouse, and of course become a collection point for online orders.

This is fine in theory, but it relies on the workforce being able to multi-task between hugely varied requirements – usually at a moment's notice. Locating and processing a click-and-collect order is not necessarily a quick task, and can have a knock-on effect on those who've arrived straight at the store to make their purchase.

During the festive period, both store footfall and online activity soars. This creates a situation in which eCommerce is actively driving traffic towards an already saturated bricks-and-mortar environment, which can easily result in a compromised customer experience.

Rather than let the store descend into chaos, companies need to look at better ways to streamline customer requirements. For example, they may want to consider a separate point of sale for click-and-collect customers. Another effective tactic is to have a single checkout but make one member of staff a 'click-and-collect' ambassador, and give them the technology to swiftly handle orders.

Creating a richer, more effective customer experience this Christmas

Point of sale capabilities are incredibly important here, as sales associates need to have detailed access to customer information to handle click-and-collect enquiries efficiently. They must be able to look up an item, locate it, call for it if necessary and process payment – or fill customers in on the order's status if the item hasn't arrived. If the Point of Sale is integrated with customer data, they even have the capacity to recommend further products based on their buying history prior to that particular order.

But the most important factor is that they can deal with every aspect of redeeming a click-and-collect order using a single device, and process it quickly so as not to slow down the queue of shoppers waiting to make purchases the traditional way.

Just one additional point worth noting; click-and-collect is no longer solely the domain of consumer channels. Increasingly, multi-channel companies are implementing click-and-collect strategies within their wholesale strategies as well. Given the need for smooth service during the Christmas holiday trading, many of these same lessons from the store can apply to the B2B environment.

Serving multi-channel customers this Christmas with BlueBridge One

Meeting customer needs however and wherever people shop means having a single version of the truth across all channels. BlueBridge One is a leading implementation partner for NetSuite multi-channel commerce solutions, at both wholesale and retail level.

We join up companies' touchpoints and technologies to create data-driven connected experiences, including streamlining fulfilment processes such as click-and-collect. Find out how we can help you make multi-channel more efficient, and improve the customer experience this Christmas.

Could Black Friday and Cyber Monday come back to haunt multichannel businesses?

23rd November 2015

The hidden perils of Black Friday

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday bar keeps rising. Previous estimates of £1billion sales have now been increased to £2billion – but have the retail and wholesale industries stopped to consider the impact of huge commerce spikes on pre-Christmas sales overall?

Having discussed how multichannel businesses can run Black Friday in a previous post, we now want to explore the ramifications of early season promotions on festive trading as a whole.

Changes in Christmas shopping behaviour have placed new stresses on retail; goods must be supplied to consumers quicker and more responsively. However, whilst multichannel businesses have the front-end capabilities to market and sell these goods, they don't necessarily have the infrastructure to complete the orders.

One of the main difficulties is that retailers are using manual systems based around spreadsheets for order management and inventory control. The labour intensive nature of these processes means it's difficult to adapt to the demands of seasonal commerce spikes.

To truly embrace the new model of shopping pre-Christmas, wholesale, distribution and multichannel companies need to embrace a true ERP solution that can manage end-to-end processes efficiently, to streamline costs.

By creating operational efficiency, businesses can not only overcome the reduced profit margins that promotions such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday entail, they can create a lean workflow that will serve retailers throughout the festive trading period.

This is particularly important during December, when the excitement of discounted marketing initiatives like Black Friday have worn off, and customers are entering the store or shopping online with specific requests.

At this point, consumers won't just settle for a good deal; they want the item they require, delivered when and where they want it. Here, again, infrastructure plays a critical role. For all the trappings of marketing, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and that means getting the product to the customer in a timely manner.

What makes this challenge all the more complex around Christmas time is stock availability. Events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday may generate headline sales, but they also create a spike in returns. According to predictive intelligence firm Clear Returns, there's an average time lag of 15-21 days between an item being purchased and it being sent back.

This means that unwanted products from early seasonal promotions are landing back within multichannel retailers' systems mid-December – just when operations are geared towards sending goods out. As a result, there is a possible situation in which goods that customers want pre-Christmas are sitting in the warehouse, but as far as the shopper is aware they are unavailable to purchase.

In this instance, a cloud-based ERP system is invaluable, as it addresses inventory availability across the business. This means any stock that can be released is visible to all retail channels, so even with limited availability, goods can still be dispatched to eager purchasers.

How to survive festive trading peaks with BlueBridge One

At a time when every minute counts, your business needs an ERP solution it can rely on across all channels, to streamline processes and deliver what consumers crave.

As an experienced NetSuite ERP solutions provider BlueBridge One has the expertise to optimise your system, and provide invaluable support during critical trading periods.

Find out more about our commerce solutions, and the support we can offer you during festive trading peaks.

Black Friday 2015: Lessons for multichannel businesses

2nd November 2015

Black Friday pre-Christmas frenzy

The pre-Christmas shopping frenzy that is Black Friday is almost upon us again. Black Friday 2015 is on the 27th November. As multichannel businesses prepare to maximise on the opportunity, consider some of the things didn’t go quite as well as they should have last year:

  • Website overload
    • Many retailers experienced website problems as millions of shoppers tried to grab a bargain for delivery or for click and collect. Some of the websites of larger businesses were simply unable to process the volume of incoming requests in real-time.
  • Inventory
    • Many customers placed web orders for discounted goods which were erroneously displayed as in stock.
  • Fulfilment – click and collect
    • Tesco is one retailer that experienced severe problems with click and collect orders. Amongst other problems, customers encountered long delays at collection points and were sent erroneous emails that orders were ready to collect.
  • Fulfilment – deliveries
    • Many next day deliveries failed with customer services unable to provide answers about order status. M&S was criticised on social media as disappointed customers went on to have orders for similar products fulfilled on time by rivals Next and John Lewis.
  • Instore safety
    • Everyone loves a bargain, but the hype around Black Friday seems to bring out the worst in some people. Competition for limited stock turned ugly with security losing control as customers wrestled with each other.
  • Converting tripled numbers of web visitors into growth
    • Argos had 13.5 million visitors, three times as many as it had on Black Friday in 2013. The four-day 2014 event drove a 45 per cent rise in like-for-like sales. However, overall growth for the 18 weeks to 3 January 2015 was just 0.1 per cent.

Black Friday: Trial by consumer frenzy

Black Friday is just about the most arduous challenge that could be designed to test the multichannel capabilities of a business. Thankfully, most businesses in the mid-market won’t have to deal with the volumes seen by big brands and national chains. However, multichannel operations of mid-market businesses still need to link up properly.

Connect the dots of multichannel with BlueBridge One

BlueBridge One lets today’s wholesale and distribution businesses to connect the dots of multichannel. Wholesale, In-store, Online and M2M are elements that need to be integrated. BlueBridge One is an expert at developing NetSuite as an ERP and e-commerce platform for wholesale distributors that need to accommodate consumers, retailers and channel partners.

Click here to download our free guide ‘Creating B2C multichannel e-commerce experiences for business customers’ which discusses the role of technology in helping wholesale distribution to more effectively service the needs of customer.