Jim Agger
April 18, 2014 | Jim Agger

Is your ecommerce fulfillment strategy prepared for modern challenges?

Discounted shipping or shipping included for many ecommerce purchases is a customer expectation rather than an added incentive. Many savvy retailers have realized that discounted shipping encourages customers to spend more, especially if they have to qualify for a price limit to get the offer, according to Practical Ecommerce. This approach can put strain on retailers as they race to lower costs for consumers, but the increase in revenue typically pays off. To offer customers the best experience possible while keeping your operating costs reasonable, you need to assess your inventory management, ecommerce fulfillment and wine shipping strategies. 

Here are some ways your winery can bring shipping operations up to speed to stay competitive:

1. Inventory management needs to shift to omnichannel
As wineries add new customer touch points, inventory management practices need to keep pace. Your wine inventory software needs to be streamlined so all data is kept in one place. More systems add confusion and lead to errors, Multichannel Merchant's "The State of Operations 2014" study reported. It isn't enough to sell wine online and through your winery - you have to offer customers the option to choose their preferred channels. In fact, the more integrated your enterprise systems are, the more efficiently your enterprise will run. 

2. Don't pretend returns never happen
As much as it pains you to process them, returns are going to happen. However, if you focus on making this experience as easy as possible for customers, it can be an opportunity to build satisfaction, according to the Multichannel Merchant report. The first step to improving how you process returns is ensuring you have a clear policy that's included in a highly visible page during checkout. If there are restrictions on returns or exchanges, do not try to obscure these in fine print. Always include the time limit. Consumers return products for a variety of reasons, and giving them the choice of an exchange can boost satisfaction. It may also be a good idea to include return information on the package just in case. This reduces the number of customer calls. If returns and exchanges are handled properly, it increases the chance that consumers will shop with you again. Although it can be hassle, returns provide several key business opportunities. 

3. Outsource ecommerce fulfillment
Outsourcing shipping to an experienced fulfillment partner is an effective way to reduce costs and create a more flexible strategy. This approach allows you to save on fixed overhead costs, such as renting wine warehouse space and packaging supplies, which can impact your margins. The right partner will be able to help you capture carrier discounts so you can pass savings on to your customers. Some providers even operate from multiple warehouses, which can put you in a more competitive shipping zone - allowing rates to be further reduced. The added flexibility allows you to be better prepared for slow seasons. Although these providers charge a fee, it can end up being cheaper than what wineries would spend to ship wine themselves. 



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