Our digital age enhances our current business landscape. Few industries don’t utilize online assets and processes in some form. The eCommerce marketplace is one of the fruits of a technology that allows us to reach audiences from across the planet.
However, while eCommerce businesses rely on online environments to function, the internet is not the be-all and end-all operation. A successful enterprise also requires robust and efficient offline infrastructure and tools. Your company’s approach to logistics, staff behavior, even relationships with customers, can all be affected by your actions away from a broadband connection.
Dive a little deeper into the offline elements of eCommerce that can make a difference to your business. What are some of the key tools that will bolster your online activities? What strategies can help give you a competitive edge?
Managing the Supply Chain
The eCommerce experience is complete for many consumers once they’ve placed their order and are waiting for the delivery. But business leaders know that shipping and fulfillment are where some of the more significant challenges begin. Without a robust supply chain process in place, the potential for disruption and errors in getting items to your customer is high.
Though this isn’t a part of the online eCommerce process, proficient use of staff and technology is essential if you want to manage the supply chain efficiently. This should include:
Supply Chain Analytics
Logistics professionals cite the ability to collect, analyze, and interpret data as key to successful operations. The right critical approach can positively affect inventory management, efficient distribution, and an agile overall operation. While utilizing software is helpful, it’s equally important to understand what supply chain managers’ expertise brings to the table.
Managers have an in-depth practical overview of what each link in the chain does and the day-to-day challenges. This means they have subjective insights that allow them to interpret the data better to solve the unique issues to their business’ circumstances.
Operating an in-house fleet gives companies more control over the logistics process, but it’s also an organizational challenge. With an experienced fleet manager, businesses can make efficient, sustainable deliveries to clients and partners. This is also a role that requires a combination of soft and technical skills — fleet managers manage delivery schedules, settle issues with drivers, and optimize resources’ consumption.
The position is becoming increasingly technical. It has become essential to utilize software that provides fleet managers with tools to make agile decisions about route mapping, make alterations when traffic conditions change, and keep on top of how drivers comply with industry regulations.
There is a lot of competition in eCommerce spaces. Part of the challenge for any business owner is being heard over this vast amount of noise. Marketing technology has become a significant presence in our online world, with a lot of attention paid to methods such as search engine optimization (SEO) and social media. While these are effective, your marketing strategy should continue offline.
Short messaging service (SMS) marketing is becoming increasingly important. Millennials are the largest consumer base in our present climate, and studies show that they prefer to communicate by SMS above email or phone calls. By utilizing SMS as part of a wider marketing strategy, eCommerce businesses can provide a personal touch to their approach and encourage engagement through invitations to reply or links to online resources.
Event sponsorship can also help tell your business’s story and invite consumers to build a meaningful relationship with you. Provide funding or resources to activities representing your company values — fundraising, signal boosting, live charity events. This goes further than providing greater visibility for your brand. It helps consumers understand what is important to your business and identify you as an enterprise that reflects their ethical priorities.
Companies and consumers alike are becoming increasingly aware of the negative impact running a business can have on the environment. One recent study showed that 88% of consumers want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly. It’s in the best interests of eCommerce businesses to ensure that their offline activities are sustainable.
Packaging — for both products themselves and shipping — is a key area of focus. Plastics are considered to be particularly harmful and can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade naturally. If products need to have the protection that plastics provide, it’s worth considering using bioplastics instead. These are made from raw materials that include vegetable oils and fats, which decompose much faster and, therefore, better for our planet.
As a tech-reliant industry, eCommerce can also benefit from adopting energy-efficient equipment and policies. This not only has a positive effect on the health of our environment, but it can also result in lower operational overheads. Approaches to energy efficiency include:
- Device Choices. Any computers, servers, and appliances should be Energy Star rated. This indicates that the device meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mandated guidelines for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction.
- Workplace Policies. Produce guidelines for energy-efficient staff behavior in the workplace. Ensure rooms, not in use, have their lights and air conditioning turned off. Require any devices to be shut down rather than left in idle or standby modes.
- Seek Green Grants. There are government-funded initiatives throughout the country that provide loans and grants to businesses that wish to upgrade their workplaces to meet green standards. Investigate the potential to invest in solar panels, heating, air conditioning automation, and lighting options.
While eCommerce is viewed as a primarily online model, there’s a lot behind the scenes. Offline activities such as supply chain management, marketing, and sustainability all have the potential to make a difference to your company’s overall success. A few smart improvements and alterations to these areas can result in a more efficient, ethical enterprise.