The rise of Google Analytics 4 and sunsetting of Universal Analytics
Last week, Google formally announced that they will be “sunsetting” Universal Analytics and pushing all users to move to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) by the second half of 2023. Does this mean that you should drop everything now and start fully embracing GA4? Actually, things are a bit more complicated. Like everything in the world of data, we recommend a methodical approach to the change. We’ve already outlined Littledata’s approach to GA4 for ecommerce stores. So in this article, we’ll take a deeper look at what Google just announced, what this means for your analytics setup, and recommend next steps for merchants using Google Analytics with ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce. [tip]Get excited for what GA4 has in store with our 10 reasons to make the switch.[/tip] What’s happening to Universal Analytics? The summer of 2023 may very well be remembered across the ecommerce industry for the rise of GA4, as Google is officially sunsetting its predecessor, Universal Analytics (aka UA, GA3, or the “old version” of Google Analytics). Google’s official announcement, which you can read in full on their blog. This announcement may have come as a bit of a surprise to some. GA4 has been available for a while but wasn’t made a priority before. Fortunately, moving from UA to GA4 doesn't have to be a headache for your team—as long as you have the right setup in place. Littledata already has a GA4 connection in beta that select customers have been using for months. Google promises GA4 will bring an adjustment to more granular data, giving users more insights and better control over customers' privacy. That second point is especially important as the industry makes a major shift away from cookies toward embracing first-party data across platforms. [note]Setting up GA4 on your ecommerce store only takes a few clicks with Littledata. New and existing users can set up GA4 on their store free and ensure they're ready for the new era of analytics.[/note] What we know about GA4 On July 1, 2023, Google will stop standard Universal Analytics properties from processing data. Your Universal Analytics reports will remain visible for a short period after the change (Google hasn't specified how long) but new data will only flow into GA4 properties. In other words, if you haven’t already, you need to create a GA4 property ASAP. With the switch to GA4, Google promises several significant changes aimed at making its Analytics tool more “consumer-focused” overall. This, among other features, includes: A privacy-centric design to maintain key insights despite cookie blockers and privacy regulations A new UI designed to showcase customer behavior through key events, and out-of-the-box capability to track those events (without requiring set up through Google Tag Manager) Machine learning models that automatically identify trends in data, such as churn probability, potential revenue from customer groups, and demand increases Measurement of both app and web interactions to snapshot the effectiveness of each of your marketing efforts Data export to your BigQuery data warehouse [tip]See Littledata’s 10 reasons to move to GA4 for ecommerce analytics.[/tip] At the heart of GA4, Google says, is your customer—and more specifically how they interact with your business. This marks a move away from the old platform-centric measurement to instead track via User ID. The change should give a better picture of what actions customers took after discovering your business and track the whole lifecycle from first impression to final sale more effectively. Potential GA4 user concerns While there’s a lot to be excited about with GA4, the change from UA brings a few uncertainties for longtime users. Early versions of GA4, while positively received, did contain their share of bugs. As the platform won’t be rolling out at 100% perfection, we’ll help answer a handful of the most frequently asked questions we’ve seen around GA4. Will I be able to import historical data from UA to GA4? Most likely, the answer here is no. While you can run UA and GA4 in parallel as you make the switch, Google is launching GA4 as a new platform completely separate from UA. How difficult will it be to use the new interface? There’s no doubt users will experience a learning curve when migrating to GA4’s new UI. In essence, it will come down to thinking differently about what data you’re looking for and then creating reports around that. While this was a common concern in the early beta launch of GA4, Google has already added a number of template reports on funnels, user paths, and cohort exploration. We’re excited to see what’s next! To help our customers with the transition, we’ve already begun building our own Monetization and Retention reports in GA4 that will take over from Enhanced Ecommerce reporting in UA. Google does provide help documents and introductory courses on using the new interface. However, an easier (and more time-efficient) solution may be to have an analytics expert help set up a GA4 integration directly to your Shopify or BigCommerce store. Is GA4 going to be a privacy law compliant, long-term solution for my business? This is one big area where GA4 is not just a solution right now, but in the future as well. Many of the changes made—from the new event-based UI to the learning machine-powered core—are built to adapt and grow alongside the global expansion in privacy laws. In other words, as you venture into the world of first-party data, GA4 will be your loyal guide along the way. What you should do now Our Shopify and Big Commerce stores and agency partners know that when it comes to Google Analytics, you can always count on Littledata as a single source of truth for truly accurate ecommerce data. This will remain true with GA4, and we’re excited about the flexible reporting capabilities in the newest version of Google Analytics. Our recommendation is to add a GA4 property now, but not to rely on it entirely. Instead, Littledata recommends continuing to use UA and GA4 in parallel until at least early 2023. This means that you will be able to explore GA4 while still having accurate, actionable data in Universal Analytics, including Enhanced Ecommerce reports, lifetime value reporting, and subscription analytics. All Shopify and Shopify Plus stores will soon be able to activate both UA and GA4 connections directly from their Littledata dashboards. [tip]Remember, setting up a GA4 connection for Shopify on your store has never been easier than with Littledata! Get expert advice on everything you need to know to make the switch.[/tip]
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 :)
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]
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
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.
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.
10 reasons to switch to server-side tracking for ecommerce analytics
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?
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.
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