Social Media Sales at Scale: Best Practices for Digital-First Retailers
Consumers today have more choices than ever before when it comes to the items that curate their life, which can often rely on the latest trends or fashion statements. When it comes to keeping up with timely demands, retailers often struggle to keep their shelves stocked with the latest trending item at any given time. Inventory challenges are often only compounded when it comes to a certain type of retailer: digital-first brands.
Typically born on social media, digital-first brands are designed to fit specific consumer desires, including subscription clothing services and innovatively breathable gym clothes. These retailers popularize their products through influencer marketing and social media ads. However, when demand starts to pick up, digital-first brands often find they lack the internal resources to match an increased influx of business. Customers may have to wait weeks to receive their coveted product during the holiday peak season as well as during “mini peaks” throughout the year, such as flash sales. For these digital-first retailers, it’s important to partner with companies that can help scale to meet demand, keep up with fulfillment and inventory demands, and address customer needs.
Scaling With Demand Year-Round
Promotional time periods throughout the year lead to more orders than normal, and it can be difficult for digital-first retailers to handle “flex fulfillment” and effectively address order volumes at scale. For these brands, it’s critical to map inventory needs to past trends and high priority regions, or VIP clients that can directly influence the brand and sales. The key to match the surge in demand during peak season and mini peaks lies within omnichannel technologies.
Omnichannel technology enables digital-first brands and retailers to effectively manage inventory across multiple channels. Therefore, if orders are coming in via an e-commerce site, mobile app, pop-up store or social media, brands can rest assured knowing their order management infrastructure is unified and capturing transactions seamlessly. Being prepared to manage orders no matter their origin is an important element for digital-first brands. Accurate, efficient and cost-effective omnichannel inventory management capabilities are critical to retail success. In fact, 82 percent of retailers agree that the rise in customer expectations has increased the need for streamlined inventory management. The right supply chain strategy is key to meeting these demands.
Omnichannel strategies and inventory techniques can also help drive more sales even during slower periods. For example, digital-first brands have demonstrated success with small store fronts, or even pop-up stores, which are attention-grabbing and drive brand awareness. Consider testing out omnichannel strategies in this environment as well. For example, scale by offering buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) models. Recent research demonstrates that 50 percent of consumers have decided where to shop online based on whether they could pick up their order in-store.
Don’t Go it Alone on Fulfillment
Now that thousands of orders have flooded in from the e-commerce site, mobile and social, it’s time to fulfill those orders. For large online retailers like Amazon.com, which have deep fulfillment networks, surges in demand are handled with relative ease. However, this need for constant touchpoints and quick delivery puts huge amounts of strain on digital-first brands and retailers.
Digital-first brands and retailers often have very small fulfillment teams that are only equipped to handle orders ranging in the hundreds. In some cases, digital-first retailers can need up to 7x their normal fulfillment staff during peak season just to keep up with the flow of orders. Retailers with small fulfillment networks also tend to struggle with their customer experience during promotional periods — e.g., flash sales or highly effective marketing and advertising campaigns. By teaming up with a logistics partner, brands and retailers can take advantage of their knowledge when it comes to managing supply chain needs and can also match an appropriate number of seasonal workers to scale up and down with the company's needs. Multinode fulfillment centers, which serve multiple clients, are uniquely equipped to help handle the ebb and flow of orders.
Prioritize Customer Care
The transaction doesn’t end with fulfillment and delivery. Customer care is increasingly important today with the proliferation of so many options when it comes to retailers and products to choose from. It’s no longer enough to just offer a good product; retailers need to deliver a standout customer care experience to set themselves apart.
To better meet customer care needs, digital-first brands and retailers can partner with companies that provide the necessary resources to keep up with the spike in activity. These brands need to be prepared with knowledgeable and trained staff to complement their online service options. Effective customer care even has the potential to drive sales, with research showing 15 percent of consumers being more likely to buy when agents know their past interactions. Customer care staff is vital to helping consumers resolve issues, with recent research from Radial showing that nearly half of consumers prefer to talk directly with a representative for product issues, filing complaints, and billing questions.
Many digital-first brands and retailers see their current successes and think they can easily scale up to match the demand generated during peak seasons. However, this success doesn’t always translate during times of peak traffic, and many brands find themselves quickly falling behind on everything from keeping shelves stocked, fulfillment orders processed quickly, and managing customer contacts. While it may seem impossible to ever match the strength of retailers like Amazon, digital-first retailers don’t have to go it alone. Partnering with an experienced company can provide the fulfillment and customer care capabilities they need to scale up during peak season and satisfy every customer’s needs.
Tim Hinckley is the chief commercial officer at Radial, an omnichannel technology solutions provider.
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