Boom or Bust? How Brands Can Automate in an Endless Channel Environment
Today’s brands are enjoying a once-in-a-century gold rush predominantly sparked by rapid digital growth and a discernible willingness on the part of consumers to take their shopping experiences, even those once thought to be sacred to brick-and-mortar retail, into an e-commerce environment. Add to that a seemingly endless number of sales and distribution channels — retail, marketplaces, social commerce platforms, a booming drop-shipping industry — and the deck certainly feels heavily stacked in the favor of brands of all sizes.
The numbers tell the story: Online retail sales are projected to reach $6.51 trillion in 2023. However, a gold rush is only as good as the picks, shovels and pans with which to mine. And many brands, unfortunately, find themselves in the middle of a boom cycle without many of the tools needed to capitalize.
It’s a classic “too much of a good thing” problem. Ubiquitous sales channels, yet not enough resources to realize the true potential of them all. Or put another way: Gold everywhere with no pails to carry it.
Inventory, product taxonomy, order management, invoicing, fulfillment, and data can be nearly impossible to manage across hundreds if not thousands of channels — at least without the proper tech stack and systems set up. Here’s how to do it.
Adopt a Centralized Inventory System
Keeping track of inventory is one of the most difficult aspects of maintaining a distribution strategy in a fragmented e-commerce environment. Adopting a centralized inventory management system can help brands maintain a real-time picture of stock levels across all channels — even if there are hundreds of them. Avoiding stockouts, reducing overstocking, and optimizing fulfillment procedures allows for maximum efficiency … and maximum return. A unified inventory management system will automate and organize SKUs, track sales trends, and assist leaders in making data-driven distribution decisions.
Automation is key in an environment where sales of just a single SKU could be coming from dozens of different channels. Software that's able to automatically handle taxonomy, mapping, pricing, and more saves hundreds of manual hours working one-on-one with every single one of your merchants. Case in point: Inefficiency costs brands 20 percent to 30 percent of revenue per year, according to multiple industry studies.
Give Drop-Shippers a Leg Up
The biggest brands have thousands of drop-shippers, so if giving each and every one of them undivided attention seems far-fetched that’s because, well, it is. However, it doesn’t need to feel that way — at least not to them. Streamlining order processing, fulfillment, and tracking orders utilizing the latest technologies makes a drop-shipper’s life a lot easier. Give them the tools they need to succeed. The more efficiently you can service your drop-shippers, the more fruitful the relationship for both parties.
Take Work Off Your Partners’ Plates
Selling through retail partners is an important aspect of many brands’ distribution strategy. However, a brand that manually integrates with a retail partner is knowingly or unknowingly creating hundreds of hours worth of work for that partner’s e-commerce and tech teams. A larger brand with hundreds of product listings integrating with a smaller retail channel partner might easily overwhelm the team, not to mention budgets. That’s a bad start to any relationship.
Instead, come prepared with auto-adjusted product images according to the retailer’s specifications; standardize all product data in multiple languages to fit retailer requirements; make available pricing in multiple currencies; and provide real-time inventory updates based on each retailer’s specific formats and frequencies.
For brands and channel partners, the highly fragmented e-commerce market brings both obstacles and opportunity. Strategizing around automation to maximize efficiency and scale might provide a competitive advantage. It also might just provide the picks and shovels necessary to capitalize on this gold rush.
Roy Avidor is the CEO and co-founder of Cymbio, a marketplace and dropship automation platform.
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Roy Avidor is the CEO and Co-Founder of Cymbio, a marketplace and dropship automation platform that enables brands to seamlessly scale their digital sales channels via automation and a network of hundreds of retailers, marketplaces, department stores, social commerce platforms and sales outlets. Roy is also a board member and shareholder of I.A IL, an exclusive distributor for premium brands in Israel, where he’s based. Roy has more than 15 years of experience in the eCommerce and retail industries and is an advocate for building a more connected commerce world.