Littledata closes growth funding round

Littledata is excited to announce a major funding round that will help us accelerate growth around the world. The round, which consists of a mix of debt and equity, provides significant runway for Littledata to continue expanding our ecommerce data platform and to keep hiring the best and the brightest in ecommerce analytics. New investors in the round include Tomas Slimas, the co-founder of Oberlo, which Shopify acquired in 2017. “Ecommerce business owners are dealing with an increasingly complex world of ad blockers and omnichannel user flows,” says Slimas. “Littledata helps them see where their revenue is really coming from.” [tip]Learn more about why leading DTC brands around the world trust Littledata for truly accurate analytics.[/tip] In addition to funding from angel investors, Littledata secured a revenue-based loan from Element Finance, a boutique growth finance firm with offices in San Antonio, Texas, and Dublin, Ireland. Element Finance Partner, John Gallagher, commented: “We were impressed with the business (co-founders) Edward and Ari have built, and they have a fantastic vision for moving the business forward.” “This new funding round is central to the next stage of our growth as an ecommerce data platform,” says Edward Upton, founder & CEO of Littledata. “Element Finance in particular had a genuine understanding of where we want to go, and we feel that they will back us all the way. The funding allows Littledata to accelerate on its mission to make it ridiculously easy for direct-to-consumer brands (using Shopify, BigCommerce, and more) to connect their data and understand performance.” The funding will allow Littledata to accelerate product development and marketing to enable more use cases and reach a wider range of brands. “As one of very few automated solutions for server-side tracking — and the only one I know of in the ecommerce space — Littledata has a unique market position,” says Littledata co-founder and CMO, Ari Messer. “This new funding mix allows us to double down on what’s working, while also exploring a wider range of tech partnerships and co-marketing opportunities. We’ve always helped brands get better data for analysis in tools like Google Analytics, but now we’re expanding to enable data for action in tools like Segment, Klaviyo and Facebook (Meta) Ads. It all comes back to our company value of being inspired by data internally and in what we can offer to customers and partners.” Learn more about Littledata by reading our 5-star reviews in the Shopify app store or browsing our partners and available integrations. PS. We're hiring :)

by Ari
2022-08-10

3 ways to start using first-party data for ecommerce

First-party data is the buzzword floating all about the ecommerce world—and for good reason. As you probably know already, third-party cookies are soon to be no more. Add in the overhaul that iOS 14's tracking opt-out and other intelligent tracking prevention brought about, and getting accurate metrics on attribution and customer behavior looks a whole lot different to marketers than ever before. That's where first-party data collection comes to the rescue to save your campaign reporting. First-party data is data you collect directly from a user, and it's about to become the standard for data collection across the ecommerce landscape. To help you learn more about first-party data—and start using it yourself—we have three helpful posts covering different first-party data solutions and how they fit into your marketing strategy. 10 reasons to switch to server-side tracking for ecommerce analytics Server-side tracking is a method of collecting first-party data via a cloud-based server rather than by taking data directly from a website visitor's browser (known as client-side tracking). In addition to being a more secure way to process data, server-side tracking complies with new privacy regulations and is not disrupted by ad blockers. There are numerous benefits server-side provides, and we've got 10 of them for you to check out in this blog post. https://blog.littledata.io/2022/07/23/10-reasons-to-switch-to-server-side-tracking-for-ecommerce-analytics/ How to run dynamic Facebook ads with Facebook Conversions API While there are plenty of promotion methods available to ecommerce store owners today, PPC and social ads still reign supreme as the top option. From top DTC brands to small startup stores, ads are a great way to get your product in front of ideal buyers using personalized ads to convert leads into sales. Of course, ad blockers and tracking prevention has changed the way brands can leverage this tool. To help you learn how to keep personalized ads that return on spend, we have a guide on how to create dynamic Facebook ads using Facebook's Conversions API (CAPI). https://blog.littledata.io/2022/03/09/how-to-run-dynamic-facebook-ads-with-facebook-conversions-api/ How to build customer behavior reports in Google Analytics 4 Marketing methods aren't the only things that need changing in our new first-party data world. Reporting on your marketing efforts requires the same overhaul—and we can show you how to do it with the newest version of Google Analytics (GA). GA4 comes with tons of new custom reporting features and advanced capabilities previously only available to paid users. That includes the ability to use more custom dimensions to build detailed reports on customer behavior. One of the more helpful reports we recommend using is behavior reports. They allow you to see what customers are doing once they make it to your store, and what they do when they're at the checkout. Plus, setting these reports up in GA4 only takes a few minutes, as you'll see in our how-to video on creating shopping and checkout behavior reports. https://blog.littledata.io/2022/07/01/how-to-build-customer-behavior-reports-in-google-analytics-4/ [subscribe]

by Greg
2022-08-05

How to create source/medium reports in Google Analytics 4

When you're looking for ways to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, you need to be tracking your website's source/medium data. This stat is essential for getting an accurate measurement of marketing attribution—but with the changes to Google Analytics 4, it can be a tricky one to nail down reporting for. But don't worry—we've got you covered with a video walkthrough on exactly how to build this report as part of our GA4 courses series. We'll show you how to create source/medium reports in Google Analytics and provide some tips on how to use this data to improve your marketing efforts. How to build source/medium reports in GA4 As we've mentioned in past editions of our GA4 courses series—and you've no doubt seen if you have a GA4 property already set up—Google Analytics 4 takes a totally different approach to display your store's metrics than the old Universal Analytics. While things like customer behavior reports and sales performance reports rely on the new explorations feature to let users build custom reports, source medium reports don't need as much work. The out-of-the-box traffic acquisition report works as your base, and from there you'll add "source / medium" as a custom dimension to the report and remove the default dimensions. After that, all you need to do is save the report and you can view it in your GA4 library of reports. Check out the full video below to see step-by-step how to build the source/medium report yourself: [tip]Prefer to have an expert set your store up on GA4? Book a demo with one of our team members and they'll show you how to get GA4 reports up and running for your store in minutes.[/tip] How to use "source/medium" reports in GA4 When you're determining marketing attribution and calculating your ROI on marketing campaigns, the source/medium report comes in handy as a guide to your most effective traffic sources. Being able to pinpoint which sources send the most visits to your store allows you to focus more narrowly on winning campaigns, and by using UTM parameters in your marketing efforts you can determine the mediums that drive the highest traffic as well. Put it all together and you have a nice picture of which channels to focus on, which strategies in your promotion mix work best, and where you can cut costs and maximize ROI and return on ad spend. Dive deeper into GA4 Getting old Google Analytics reports to work in GA4 is one key piece of making the move to the new Analytics, but it's not the only thing you need to check off your list. We have plenty of resources to help you make sure you've covered everything you need to not only start using GA4, but make sure you keep historical data for your store and get the same reports you've always relied on. Jump into GA4 with Google Analytics Expert Krista Seiden How to start on the right foot with GA4 [Podcast] How to tell if you're ready to make the switch to GA4 Why you should switch to server-side tracking for ecommerce analytics How to build customer behavior reports in Google Analytics 4 How to create sales performance reports in Google Analytics 4

by Greg
2022-08-03

4 tips for creating a powerful subscription experience

Creating and delivering a memorable subscription experience is a must in today’s competitive ecommerce subscription market. Not only is the market competitive, but the ecommerce subscription model is growing. It's estimated that 54% of online shoppers have subscribed to an ecommerce subscription box. Every touchpoint that a subscriber sees and engages with is an opportunity for your brand to impress your subscribers and drive a lasting impression. Building a strong subscriber experience will help your ecommerce subscription business in a number of areas, including: Growing your brand loyalty. It is estimated that existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more on average compared to new customers. By creating a powerful brand experience, you instill trust in your brand with subscribers, leading to more loyalty. Differentiating your offer. A generic subscriber experience does little to separate you from the thousands of other competing brands. By creating an engaging subscription experience, you stand out from the crowd and become memorable. Driving growth. By deploying a beautiful, frictionless subscription experience for your subscribers, you make it easier for them to shop with you. Thus, you're driving the growth that you need to take your business to the next level. While working on bringing an ecommerce subscription model to life and building out an experience may seem time-consuming and costly, it is actually just the opposite. Apps like Upscribe help your subscription business deliver a great customer experience and grow through out-of-the-box tools (more on that later). Here are four tips that you can follow to deploy a beautiful, memorable customer experience that drives brand loyalty and growth. 1. Match your subscription experience to your “regular” shopping experience When building an ecommerce subscription experience, you want to make certain what you're creating is connected to the rest of your brand's overall shopping experience. A disjointed experience could create confusion and friction in the eyes of the customer, hindering your ability to convert sales and drive brand loyalty. A mismatched subscription vs. one-off purchasing experience could lead to a few challenges for your brand, including: A decrease in the number of customers signing up for your subscription offering. Consumers could be confused as to what brand they are shopping with or may encounter friction going through the checkout process if the subscription experience feels different than the “regular” checkout process they're accustomed to. Increased churn. The enemy of any ecommerce subscription model is churn. If you're deploying a fragmented customer experience that makes it challenging for a subscriber to get what they want when they want it—they're more likely to churn from your subscription offering too. Less brand advocacy. If your ecommerce subscription model is delivering a sub-par experience, your subscribers will be less loyal to your brand and will be far less likely to tell their family and friends about it. Referrals play a large factor in growing your revenue, as it is estimated that customers acquired through referrals have a 37% higher retention rate than those acquired through other mediums. Having a brand that drives a high number of referrals puts less strain on your acquisition funnel which saves your brand valuable budget. Creating an ecommerce subscription model for your business may seem daunting, but it's actually rather easy to do. Assuming that you have an existing ecommerce business, you don’t need to build an entirely new website when adding a subscription model to it. Think of creating a subscription model the same way that you would think about adding a new product. Make sure that new product is part of the brand that you have built and that purchasing the new product (or in this case the subscription) follows the same process and path as purchasing any other item on your site does. The more connected your experiences are, the more seamless it will be for your existing customers to become subscribers. [tip]Learn how to track subscriptions in the Shopify checkout and improve the shopping experience for your customers.[/tip] 2. Build an on-brand customer portal As a fast follow to creating a connected experience, the subscriber customer portal that you deploy must match your brand aesthetics. This includes adding your brand's fonts, colors, and logos. We don't advise deploying a customer portal that has a different look and feel than the rest of your website experience. If you go down this path, it will negatively impact your brand loyalty as subscribers will be confused about what your brand looks and feels like. Creating an on-brand subscriber portal allows you another opportunity to build brand recognition and drive loyalty by enforcing what your brand looks and feels like. Plus, creating this on-brand customer portal for your ecommerce subscription business is relatively straightforward. As an example, by leveraging Upscribe's WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, a merchant can easily select their brand colors, logos, and fonts to deploy a beautiful customer experience in a matter of minutes. No need to worry about complicated, time consuming and costly coding customizations to the portal. Because Upscribe was built from a subscriber's perspective, all of the tools in the Upscribe tool kit are designed to make merchants look professional and save time. [tip]Discover 3 ways to better your subscription sales through a combination of the right strategies and tools.[/tip] 3. Make the subscription experience frictionless While aesthetics are important and highly visible, it’s just as important that the actual subscription experience is as frictionless as possible. Not only will this make subscribers' experience better—it also helps to reduce the customer support debt your team could face. We’ve all been locked out of an account or forgotten a password. In fact, a recent survey indicated that 65% of respondents will forget a password unless they write it down. Prevent this issue from happening in the first place by enabling Passwordless Login for subscribers in just a few clicks. Once enabled, when a subscriber wants to get into their account, they will get a secure email sent to their inbox and with a click they can login to their account, no password or headaches required. Similarly, it’s important that you meet subscribers where they are and let them manage their subscriptions directly from email or SMS. This reduces the friction of them needing to navigate complicated processes to add or edit a product in their subscription. Removing as many hurdles as possible so that buyers get what they want fast is the key to creating a frictionless and memorable experience. By implementing these tactics, you will be doing your part in creating a loyal and growing subscriber base. You'll also be more likely to see a jump in the metrics that matter most for your ecommerce subscription business, including average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value (LTV) since you will be making it simple for your subscribers to add items to their subscription. [tip]Learn to leverage these metrics and more with our complete guide to subscription analytics.[/tip] 4. Leverage your data to deliver subscribers smart recommendations Whether you use Klaviyo or another email service provider, customer data is more readily available than ever. However, it is not enough just to have access to the data. It’s important that you use your customers' data to deliver smarter, more personalized recommendations to them to make their subscription experience better. Doing so will not only grow your business, it will make your subscribers more loyal. Here are a few examples of ways you could engage with your subscribers to deliver them a more personalized and memorable experience: Send them a message on the anniversary of the first time they purchased a subscription from your brand. This small engagement point can go a long way in making a subscriber feel special and is a great way to differentiate your ecommerce subscription model from other competitors. Provide subscribers a discount on an item that goes well with their subscription. For example, if they subscribe to receive a pound of coffee every month, send them a coupon for a new coffee mug. In the message with the promotion, talk about how the mug is the perfect accessory to go along with their coffee. Give subscribers access to an exclusive pre-sale only for subscribers. This will not only make them feel wanted and special, but it will also give you the opportunity to increase subscriber LTV—a metric that every ecommerce subscription business is after. These touchpoints and sample engagement tactics are ways to show your subscribers that they matter. Even better, they allow you to prove to them that they aren’t just another “one” of your customers. These tactics are simple to try, but go a long way in building your brand, developing loyalty, and creating an experience that subscribers won't forget. Creating a memorable experience that fosters loyalty from subscribers and charges your ecommerce subscription experience has never been easier than with Upscribe. Upscribe gives you all of the tools that you need to grow your subscriber business and deploy a beautiful customer experience in a matter of clicks. Dan is the Marketing Lead at Upscribe. Prior to Upscribe, he spent time at Klaviyo and Shopify. When he is not working, he likes to run, golf and work on his side hustle business, a sock brand named Neon Bandits.

2022-07-28

Littledata and Awtomic join forces to elevate subscription ecommerce management

Littledata is thrilled to announce our partnership with Awtomic, an innovative ecommerce subscription management platform, to help Shopify stores build delightful subscription products and bundles while getting complete data insights in Google Analytics. Founded in 2020 at the genesis of the modern subscription ecommerce boom, Awtomic seeks to help ecommerce brands build loyalty, increase customer lifetime value, and build sustainable businesses by leveraging the power of trustworthy subscriptions. Trusted by household names like Weight Watchers and backed by notable investors like Y combinator and Index Ventures, Awtomic has quickly become a popular choice for subscription management tools. Subscriptions are now a part of nearly every consumer's daily life, so subscription merchants need to provide a memorable experience while also making decisions based on accurate insights about their buyers. In our new world without third-party cookies, gaining those accurate insights to delight customers through personalization is a pressing challenge. Littledata and Awtomic's partnership means that merchants can leverage both tools to: Beat ad blockers using first-party data to preserve crucial insights into customer behavior and desires Convert more customers using flexible, personalized subscription plans unique to the merchant's offerings and goals Use automatic settings to manage inventory, shipping and dunning out of the box Connect Shopify to Google Analytics to eliminate data gaps and get a truly accurate picture of overall store health Offer product shuffles, bundles, and build-a-box subscriptions to customers that provide an elevated experience As the subscription economy continues to blossom both in size and revenue, increased competition and ever-evolving consumer demands mean that to win in the industry brands need to be able to stand out with their product offering and truly know their customers to tweak their product and stay ahead of the pack.   With Awtomic and Littledata, subscription sellers have two indispensable tools in their belt to accomplish their goals, fuel growth, and claim their piece of the subscription ecommerce pie.   Ready to take your subscription business to new heights? Learn more about using Littledata and Awtomic.

by Greg
2022-07-25

10 reasons to switch to server-side tracking for ecommerce analytics

Six years ago we started Littledata to help brands get more complete data on their customer lifecycle — pushing the advantages of server-side tracking to generate accurate analytics. We’d seen how custom-coded server-side tracking for bigger brands like MADE.com had brought greater trust in marketing attribution and analysis, and we wanted to bring that technological leap to many more direct-to-consumer brands to enable them to be more data-driven. Fast forward six years and many others now believe server-side tracking’s time has come. Leading brands such as Dockers, Grind Coffee and Rothy’s are using Littledata to power their reporting and analysis — and your brand should be too. Here are the top ten reasons why you should swap out your Google Tag Manager (GTM) client-side tracking for a robust server-side tracking implementation. 1. Accurate revenue and orders Revenue and purchase volumes are paramount for any ecommerce store. However, tracking orders via the thank you page is increasingly unreliable. Getting the revenue in your analytics reports to match what your company is actually selling (as recorded in your financial results) is the #1 reason to switch to server-side tracking. Last year I wrote a longer article on why 12% of client-side orders don’t get tracked. In the year that followed, the release of iOS 14 (and beyond), the rise of ad-blockers, and web visitors increasingly opting out of tracking have all helped increase that number of lost revenue tracking to nearly 20% for some stores. Yes, you read that right — reliance on an outdated tracking script on your thank you page means you might be missing visibility on $1 in every $5 spent on your store. How would plugging that hole change your whole company’s attitude to analytics? 2. Data security Can you take the risk that important revenue and customer data is leaking out via the end user’s browser? Yes, data sent to the user’s browser and tracking pings back to Google Analytics are both encrypted. But data on the web page and the network requests can be intercepted by other scripts running via Google Tag Manager or a Chrome extension. In other words, data in the browser is inherently insecure. By contrast, if the checkout steps and orders are tracked server-side—directly from your ecommerce platform to your analytics platform—there is no risk of this kind of snooping. You can even add commercially-sensitive stock levels or gross margins to order events, increasing the usefulness of analysis without compromising data security. [tip]Related reading: Do you need to process customer data in-house to be truly data secure?[/tip] 3. Consistent data for reporting Have you ever dived into your website data and been utterly confused by which event names you need to report on? Things like typos, random capitalization (is it “Add To Cart” or “add TO Cart”?), and missing events caused by whoever set up Google Tag Manager. These make reporting a lot harder than it should be. Littledata’s server-side tracking follows a dependable and consistent data schema; you can be sure add_to_cart is always add_to_cart. This is especially important when you are working across multiple country stores (or multiple brands) and want to be sure you are comparing apples with apples when it comes to ecommerce conversion rate, checkout completion rate, or other key metrics. 3. Custom dimensions on your buyers Your ecommerce platform already gives you a fair amount of information about potential customers (more than you can safely expose on the web page as we just found out in the last point). With server-side tracking, however, you can enrich event data to get even more dimensions for reporting. These help you paint an even better picture of your customer, while still maintaining their privacy Littledata sends a range of user-scoped custom dimensions with checkout and order events. These reporting dimensions can be used to build cohorts based on when the customer last ordered, analyze customer lifetime value, or link a customer’s web activity in Google Analytics with their customer history in Shopify. That information goes a long way when you’re determining your best buyers and creating marketing campaigns to reach them. [tip]Learn how to use custom dimensions in Google Analytics for subscription ecommerce.[/tip] 4. Better sales attribution back to a specific Facebook or Instagram user Facebook Ads’ ability to attribute your sales to their mobile ads has been so eroded by iOS 14 that they strongly encourage all brands to use their new server-side Facebook Conversions API (CAPI). CAPI allows you to not only link an order to a browser session but also a range of customer identifiers. These identifiers improve your Event Match Quality score and better attribute your campaign spend—even between devices and browser sessions. Brands using CAPI have seen up to 30% improvement in their Return On Advertising Spend— so even just one use case justifies any cost in switching to server-side tracking. 5. Post-purchase events—refunds, cancellations, and fulfillment Some events in a customer’s journey from discovery to delivery don’t happen in the customer’s internet browser. So, they can’t be tracked at all without server-side events. A few good examples of this are order refunds and order cancellations (say due to fraud or delivery stock problems). If you exclude these from your analytics, you may have an overly rosy view of some acquisition channels with a high return or fraud rate. Your marketing team might also want to trigger email notifications or other campaigns when a customer’s order is out for delivery or delivered. Server-side fulfillment events can achieve this too, triggered by any shipping app that integrates with your ecommerce platform. 6. Seamless tracking—even with a rapidly changing storefront Before founding Littledata I advised brands like MADE.com and Figleaves.com on analytics setup. Even these larger, well-staffed brands found it really hard to keep their client-side tagging in sync with their store theme updates. Every time a page layout was changed, inevitably one of the GTM triggers (which expected on-page buttons or images in a particular HTML format) would break. The interruption in tracking wouldn’t be noticed until someone went to check the reports at the end of the month—and the accuracy damage to the data was done. Server-side tracking removes this risk. Whatever changes you make to the layout of the page, the data layer is maintained on a server and cannot be tampered with. 7. Avoiding custom scripts on the checkout Tracking checkout steps is important as part of the customer journey. But adding custom JavaScript to the checkout is a security risk for any store (see point 2). It would allow a hacker to scrape credit card information from the customer or redirect them to a fake checkout where the payment is intercepted. With Shopify, it’s just not possible to add scripts to the checkout. Although Shopify Plus has a workaround with the ability to edit a checkout.liquid file, it’s likely at some point Shopify will close the loophole for the reputation of the platform. This is an area where again server-side tracking provides a better way. As the customer steps through the checkout steps, their progress can be shadowed on the server and the same checkout funnel can be visualized without any scripts on the checkout itself. 8. Faster page loading Many of the brands we work with support many data destinations. When using client-side tracking, this requires multiple tracking scripts to be loaded and multiple network requests to be made to track a single event. All of this extra browser activity slows down the user experience, especially on mobile devices. A slower page load, as measured by Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, reduces the SEO of your landing pages. So, although the overall contribution of client-side tracking on your page load speed might be minimal (~5%), removing the tracking has a doubly positive impact on both traffic and conversion rate. The more reporting tools or marketing platforms your store is sharing data with, the greater the impact you’ll see from switching to server-side. 9. It’s the future! For all of these reasons, I believe in 5 years' time there will only be server-side tracking. The browser limitations, data security risks, and need for accuracy are only going to increase. Meta might be ahead of the curve with Facebook Conversions API but I would expect other marketing platforms to follow suit once they see its success. So why wait until your data is really broken? Get started with a no-code server-side implementation today. [subscribe]

2022-07-23

How to create sales performance reports in Google Analytics 4

Knowing your sales performance is a key piece of information when making decisions about many aspects of your ecommerce store. It's the best way to see everything from key high-level metrics like conversion rate, average order value, and total revenue to more detailed sales reports for different items and sales over a period of time. As you might already know, Google Analytics 4 comes equipped with a whole different layout than what we've gotten used to in Universal Analytics. But that doesn't mean you can't build the same sales reports you need to get vital revenue stats about your business. In this edition of our Google Analytics 4 courses series, we'll show you step-by-step how to build sales performance reports in GA4. [note]This is the latest in a series of how-to videos we've shared on creating reports in Google analytics 4. You can view the whole playlist on our YouTube channel.[/note] How to build the sales performance report in GA4 As we mentioned in our GA4 how to course on building customer behavior reports in GA4, the new version of GA relies on a feature called "explorations." This is going to be your hub for many reports in GA4, as the tool has shifted from pre-built reports to allowing users to customize what they're looking for and build reports from the ground up. When it comes to sales performance reports, you'll be adding actions that customers have taken specifically to craft the full report. The video below provides a quick walkthrough on each step you need to follow to add every parameter and event into your sales performance report. [tip]Want help from an expert as you get used to the new GA? Book a demo with one of our team members and they'll show you how to get GA4 reports up and running for your store in minutes.[/tip] Learn more about GA4 The sales performance report is just one of the many helpful reports you can build in GA4. check out our full GA4 courses series on YouTube to see the others, or follow the helpful links below to prep for GA4 and make sure you're ready for the new era of Google Analytics. How to build customer behavior reports in Google Analytics 4 Lunch with Littledata: Jumping into GA4 with Google Analytics Expert Krista Seiden The rise of Google Analytics 4 and sunsetting of Universal Analytics How to start off on the right foot with GA4 [Podcast] 10 reasons to move to GA4 for ecommerce analytics Google Analytics 4: Ready to make the switch?

by Greg
2022-07-16

How to improve multichannel order fulfillment

Going multichannel is an important step for any growing ecommerce business. Whether you start on Shopify, Etsy, BigCommerce, or your own direct-to-consumer store, diversifying to other channels allows you to spread risk, find new markets, meet new customers, and secure your business against changing platform requirements. At the same time, that diversification can introduce a nightmare of logistics issues. Selling through multiple channels can mean overselling, needing overstock to prevent overselling, and other warehousing issues. You might quickly find that your job changes from store manager to warehouse manager. Taking steps to streamline the process will save you time, reduce inventory management headaches, and ensure your customers have a consistent and positive experience – no matter which channel they buy from. In this article, we’ll talk about leveraging outsourced solutions, mastering your distributed order management data, and other fulfillment best practices. [tip]Related reading: 4 tips for Shopify Plus merchants selling internationally.[/tip] Leverage outsourced solutions As your ecommerce store scales, you’ll have to make a decision between investing in inventory and order fulfillment infrastructure or outsourcing it. For most small-to-midsize stores, outsourcing is the way to go. It’s cheaper thanks to economies of scale, faster thanks to enhanced efficiency, and scalable thanks to wider warehouse networks. Many ecommerce organizations don’t have the budget or the resources to set up a fulfillment and distribution network. Relying on a partner that specializes in fulfillment enables you to quickly leverage infrastructure to enable the kind of fast, traceable, and reliable order fulfillment your customers want. Third-party logistics providers Third-party logistics (or 3PLs) include a range of services—all basically amounting to paying for logistics as a service. Often, this includes warehousing, pick and pack, fulfillment, and returns handling. 3PL providers may also maintain a network of geographically distributed warehouses, allowing them to ship products from closer to the point of order. In other cases, they’ll use their own shipping networks as well. 3PLs also offer other advantages, like: Existing warehouse management software and infrastructure Shipping volumes high enough to offer negotiated postage rates from shipping providers Integrated order tracking with automated pick and pack and warehousing management Affordable packaging and labeling capabilities The ability to meet packaging requirements per channel – e.g., Amazon boxes for Amazon sales and Walmart boxes for Walmart sales. Of course, not all 3PL offer the same services. Not every provider will offer a good trade-off between control of inventory and costs. However, you can research and choose an option that suits your business well. How to find the right fulfillment partner Your fulfillment partner should be a partner to your organization. This means they should be able to adapt and make changes for your business, should meet all existing needs, and should have a growth plan in line with your own. In addition, you’ll want to look for: A warehouse management or inventory management system that integrates into your own software solutions AND sales platforms Order tracking capabilities in every market you sell in Support for features/offerings you need (geographic locations, type of inventory, certifications, returns, etc.) Flexible order fulfillment options (so you can offer different types of shipping, different packaging, etc.) Packaging and labeling options (for custom branding, packaging inserts, discounts, return labels, etc.) Data-driven inventory management/analytics (so you can see costs, rate of sale, inventory flow, etc., to better inform your own inventory automation and planning You’ll also want to look for an organization that is communicative, able to respond to your growth, able to adapt features to meet your needs, and otherwise able to be a partner rather than solely seeing your business as another revenue stream. [tip]Littledata provides accurate and deep analytics on every aspect of your store, from the customer journey through to fulfillment and subscription order tracking.[/tip] Marketplace fulfillment solutions In addition to 3PLs, many marketplaces provide their own fulfillment solutions exclusively for purchases made on their platforms. Of these, the most popular comes from Amazon. Fulfillment by Amazon Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is Amazon’s in-house logistics service, which operates globally and is famous for lightning-fast delivery speeds. In addition to excellent customer experience, FBA provides advantages when selling on Amazon. Quality guarantees, boosts to product visibility in search, Amazon returns, and the ability to easily expand to a global market are just some of the benefits. For example, FBA listings can get the Prime badge, indicating the fast fulfillment speeds that consumers look for. However, whereas many 3PLs can accept shipments directly from your manufacturer or provider, Amazon has specific packaging and labeling requirements, so you’ll still have to be hands-on about FBA prep. Master your inventory management While a 3PL will cover fulfillment, you’ll still have to stay on top of inventory and order management. Doing so means adopting good software, deciding on an order management system, and optimizing that over the long term. While there are many options for managing inventory across multiple sales channels, you’ll normally either have to choose between splitting that inventory or using software to synchronize sales in as close to real-time as possible. To split or not to split inventory Splitting inventory is the process of creating a separate inventory or stock per channel you sell on. In some cases, this can be a good idea. For example, if you make sales on Amazon using FBA, you might run into FBA stock limits, especially during the fourth quarter. In addition, stockout events could harm your listing. Plus, if you don’t utilize Amazon’s multi-channel fulfillment solution, FBA only ships to Amazon. In this case, retaining at least some stock to ship from your own warehouse or another provider would be a good idea. You can sell at a higher volume than FBA allows – while preventing selling out of product. In most other cases, it doesn’t make sense to maintain separate inventory pools for each channel you sell on. Separate inventory pools increase costs, add overhead cost calculating delivery per channel, and increase complexity—aka the likelihood of things going wrong. For example, if your product sells more quickly on Walmart Marketplace than eBay, your product could sell out on Walmart. You’d lose sales while more inventory sits, unused, in your warehouse. Similarly, if you’re splitting inventory, you have to buy for peak sales across all channels – meaning you’ll overstock. If something goes wrong or the product loses popularity, you’ll be stuck with a lot more dead stock. For this reason, split inventory is generally avoided unless it has a practical purpose, like trialing a new channel or supplementing FBA. Utilize distributed order management software Distributed order and inventory management software is built to handle the needs of multichannel sales. Often, that means automation that uses API to synchronize inventory across channels – so sales show up in your central inventory management near real-time as possible. Here, tools like Flxpoint offer centralized product and inventory management complete with order fulfillment processes, automation, and data integration for both suppliers and sales platforms. Flxpoint also offers custom price points, categories, and product descriptions per channel, distributed order management to automatically select the warehouse nearest to the customer, and purchase order management with automation linked to total product stock. Tools like this allow you to track sales across channels – ensuring that you don’t oversell – by synchronizing and automating data import/export. When a product sells on Amazon, it updates the central inventory via API, which is then pushed out to update available inventory on all other channels. So, available inventory is always up to date. That same centralization also adds value in direct fulfillment, where orders are pulled into a centralized system and can be managed in one place. Even if you’re running your own warehouse, you can see everything in one location, making it less likely that you’d miss sales going through a less-busy channel. Eventually, that improves your full order fulfillment process, allowing you to get in control of incoming/outgoing, stock, and actual sales data across every channel. Keep an eye on sales trends A good order fulfillment solution and good inventory management software will solve most of the problems you might have with multichannel inventory management. However, there’s always room to improve by auditing sales and acting on predictive trends to optimize your logistics. Audit your sales regularly. Taking the time to understand where sales are actually happening can help you to optimize your warehousing and order fulfillment options. For example, if you know that one product most often sells on Amazon, you could move it to FBA. If you rarely sell it on Amazon, moving it out of FBA could save you significantly while improving your Inventory Turnover rating. If you know where sales are coming from, you can optimize fulfillment for that channel, that geographic location, and more. [tip]Tracking sales trends is easier when you have the right tools, like Segment's robust data reporting source which reports sales data along with detailed insights.[/tip] Invest in a cohesive buyer experience While many channels don’t require that you offer fast shipping, it’s important to offer a cohesive experience across every channel. Customers often research and look up brands across multiple channels. If you offer free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime, most customers will choose that unless you also offer free 2-day shipping on your other website. That holds true for other aspects of fulfillment like shipping options, free shipping thresholds, customer service offerings, return offerings and other aspects. These should be as cohesive as possible across every platform you sell on – because you’re building a brand not just meeting platform requirements. Wrapping up – streamline your multi-channel fulfillment for better results Ultimately, the key to good multichannel order fulfillment is having all of your inventory management in one place, having good infrastructure with which to support that, and ensuring you have traceability between orders and delivery on every platform. Utilizing a 3PL partner and implementing multichannel inventory management software will get you most of the way there – however, you’ll still want to invest in data management so you can make smarter decisions with that centralized data. Rachel Go is a content marketer and strategist at Flxpoint, an enterprise ecommerce operations platform. Flxpoint enables merchants and brands to unify and automate every aspect of your ecommerce operations, and scale without manual processes or custom development slowing you down.

2022-07-14

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