Cover Story: A How-to-Do-Everything-Great-in-2012 Guide for Cross-Channel Retailers
How to Make Your Back-End Operations Shine
Your business has just finished the holiday shipping season. During this recession you’ve worked hard to lower expenses and improve productivity. How can you continue to make further gains? The best way to improve operational performance is to conduct an audit of your supply chain and warehouse operations. Here are five steps necessary to performing an operational assessment:
- Walk through and observe. Don’t assume you know how all operations work. Things get changed without leadership knowing the processes. It’s helpful to develop step-by-step process diagrams and flowcharts for your major processes. Managers can then review and make suggestions to improve.
- Gather and store necessary data and metrics. This data should include internal performance and cost reports, customer service and error reporting, among other things.
- Interview key staff members. Consult your entire staff to get their opinions. Your staff often knows where the pain points are and which areas need improvement.
- Do external benchmarking to look for areas of potential improvement. Use this process as a chance to compare your company’s productivity and methodology to other similar businesses.
- Seek an outside consultant to validate your processes and introduce new perspectives and solutions. Remember, you can’t improve a process you haven’t measured. This applies to productivity as well as processes.
Having pulled together your basic findings, the next step is to develop options for solving the problems that you’ve found. You generally can’t do everything all at once, so develop tangible savings and improvements. Prioritize the recommended solutions so that you’re working on those that bring the most benefit.
Here are some areas we regularly see cross-channel retailers executing on:
- Inbound and outbound shipping costs: Competitive bid frequently and renegotiate the continual upward increases in shipping.
- Management of labor: Look at simplifying processes and decreasing touches to products. How can the training of first-line supervisors be improved? How can their leadership become more effective? Can activities like put-away be staggered or shifted for different departments to make better use of their time and effort? Where can you streamline processes and reduce congestion and costs?
- Vendor compliance: Move inspection and value-added services up the supply chain. They can lower internal operations costs, eliminate bottlenecks in the warehouse, reduce inventory and eliminate problems with vendor paperwork.
- Warehouse capacity and storage: Determine how you can take the next step in applying automation and whether there’s a return on investment. — Curt Barry
How to Do Video Right
Here are five tips to help cross-channel retailers take full advantage of all the benefits video has to offer:
- Create your own videos. In a recent analysis of 7,500 videos across 25 e-commerce sites, Liveclicker found 71 percent of the top converting videos were created by the site where the product was sold. No one can describe your brand or products better than you can.
- Shorter videos sell better. As a general best practice, keep your videos short. The highest converting videos in the sample were less than 30 seconds long. Of course, all products are different and some warrant longer videos.
- Make your videos both mobile and social. Since Adobe announced last November that it would soon stop building Flash for mobile devices, it’s become more important than ever to support HTML5 video. In fact, 93 percent of a webinar audience (sample of 200) surveyed by Liveclicker in December agreed that mobile will play an even more important role in video commerce in 2012. On the social side, while humorous or emotionally charged product videos tend to get shared the most, 48 percent of all shared videos were plain vanilla product videos. Consumers sharing these videos might be more interested in soliciting real purchase advice from friends and shouldn’t be ignored.
- Use video site maps for video search engine optimization. When you submit Google video site maps, your videos become indexed by Google. This enables your video thumbnails to display in search results for video SEO purposes.
- Make videos interactive. Giving consumers the ability to buy a product, shop related products, read ratings and reviews, and click on interactive links and hotspots all within the video player itself creates an interactive shopping experience. — Justin Foster