Recipe for Success When Selecting an eCommerce Platform

May 28th, 2015

If you polled a group of consumers, what percentage would you assume had purchased something online in their lifetime?

To give you an idea, eCommerce sales are said to hit 414 billion worldwide by 2018! (Baynote)

It’s clear that online shopping isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s probably becoming more common among consumers. It’s crucial for companies to stay current with a quality eCommerce website; because, let’s face it, that’s what your customers are going to want and expect from a brand.

Helping to drive this growth has been an evolution within the world of eCommerce platforms. With so many options now available, all offering extensive features and benefits how does a company (big or small) decide on what platform is best for them?

We present to you, the recipe for finding the best e-commerce platform for your company.

Prep Time: 3-4 weeks of weighing your options

Yields: A positive customer experience and higher profit margin

3 cups – Cost efficiency

Whether you are a large scale company or a small one man operation, cost is always a critical factor. That is why this is the foundation of our recipe. Start by calculating your budget and decide on your must-have features. This will help you determine if you’re looking at an enterprise solution, or something a bit smaller; such as an entry level or open source option.

2 cups – Security

This one is self-explanatory and, let’s face it, common sense. Most platforms will be built with security as a critical component. This is very important for merchants, since you will be dealing with credit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and other sensitive information.

Although every platform come with some security features built-in, it’s still smart to do your research and compare your options. This ingredient is vital to your recipe!

1/2 cup – Quality Design Options

Your website is the front door to your business, so it’s no surprise that you’ve spent time designing it and branding it just right for you and your customers. So why wouldn’t you want to have an eCommerce platform that can follow the same design and branding principles?

You want to ensure that the platform you choose allows you or a designer to style it to match your branding guidelines and vision. If there is are major difference between your corporate site and online store, it may feel like two different websites. This can cause a negative user experience and a high bounce rate.

1/4 cup – Mobile Responsiveness

Mobile devices are being used more and more for web browsing and online shopping. In fact, 75% of consumers use their mobile device while shopping in store (Internet Retailer). Furthermore, 4 out of 5 consumers use smartphones for all their shopping needs (Convince and Convert). So why would you ever consider a platform that doesn’t allow for responsive design?

2 tablespoons – Support

Ever heard the phrase “Up the creek without a paddle?

We’ve all been there, and no one likes it. That is why support is a small but still an important ingredient to your recipe. Better support usually comes at a higher monetary cost, but consider the high cost of losing a customer. When you don’t receive support on a technical problem with your platform, the customer will suffer. Make sure you are able to contact them and receive appropriate support in the case of an emergency.

3 teaspoons – Usability

There are two parts here:

Front end: You ultimately want a platform that allows your customer to use it with ease; where they don’t need to contact you for help when they need to make a purchase. Front end usability is important to maintain a positive user experience.

Back end: You will need to maintain and update your platform regularly, so ensure that you don’t need an expert in-house (or have the budget to hire someone) to make regular changes. Cataloging, categorization, and price management should all be easy for you to manage.

1 teaspoon – SEO Features

Being searchable is crucial to your business. Look at whether the platform has any attributes that contribute to good SEO for your online store.

1 cup – Integration

Like any other business out there, you are most likely using a number of different systems or applications to run your operations efficiently. It’s vital that the eCommerce platform you choose allows for easy integration with the other systems important to you, such as your accounting package, shipping solution, marketing applications, etc.

Throw in little pinch of analytics at the end.

A quality analytics tool is a huge bonus for an eCommerce platform. Reporting is crucial for business, and helps you understand what’s working and what’s not. By adding this ingredient to the recipe, it can help provide that critical information you need to make the right decisions moving forward.
And there you have it folks!

This recipe should help you find you a quality eCommerce platform that is the right fit for your company. Happy selling!

kelly eBRIDGE Blog, eCommerce, eCommerce Integration ,

We’re Keeping it Green, Day after Day!

May 27th, 2015

We’re big believers in working online and saving paper. It’s one of the reasons why we’re proud of our integration platform and what it offers.

We wanted to provide you, our readers and customers, with an idea of how much paper we’ve saved on our existing platform.

Here are some interesting numbers that we would like to share:

  • Since 2008 we’ve processed over 21 million documents.
  • Imagine each document as a piece of paper – that’s 21 million pieces of paper saved.
  • A pack of paper is approximately 500 sheets – that’s 42,000 packs of printer paper.
  • Each pack is around 2 inches thick – that’s 82,000 inches which equates to over 6800 ft. (Nearly five times the height of the Empire state building!!!)

What we’re trying to say is this is A LOT of paper! Naturally, the next question would be “how many trees is this?”

We’ve discovered that on average, there are 8,333 sheets of paper in a single tree, which means that to date, we have saved about 2500 trees. To put that into perspective, an acre of rainforest in Borneo has approximately 244 trees!

Now there’s some food for thought!  Find out how eBridge Connections can help your business cut back on paper usage. Contact us using this form or give us a call at 1-800-755-6921.

kelly eBRIDGE Blog , , , ,

What to Consider When Selecting an ERP Platform.

May 25th, 2015

Regardless of what size your business is, the ERP system that you select for your back office solution can have a significant impact on the success of your business. That being said, it is clear that the process of choosing the right ERP is very important and should not be taken lightly.

As a business owner or representative, there are many questions you will need to ask yourself when making this decision. We have narrowed these down to the main ones that you’ll need to answer before you decide which solution to go with.

What are your organizational objectives?

We have listed this one first because we’re firm believers in working backwards. It’s important to poll all of the departments in your organization in order to understand what your organization wants to achieve as a whole. Once these have been agreed upon, you’ll have a better idea of what to look for in an ERP solution.

What is your budget?

A budget will determine a starting point and weed out a lot of unattainable or unnecessary solutions. Your budget will be a clear indicator of where you need to start your search.

What are your training needs?

Once you have narrowed your search a bit more, take some time to work with the main departments who will be using the platform to determine how much training is required, and how it will be delivered.  This exercise will help to determine the resources you will need, how much manpower will be taken up and the cost to the business. Take some time to consider the following:

  • Who will need to be trained?
  • Who will be your in house expert with the implementation? (They will need extra training)
  • Consider the timeline and how long this training is estimated to take and how you plan to offset the work.
  • How much will training cost you overall in time and money?

How much customization is needed?

A large amount of customization will certainly increase the cost of purchasing an ERP solution. Try to consider all options for an ERP. Some may be more suited for your needs at the base model and therefore, could be more cost efficient.

If your business needs more customization and this is an unavoidable expense, consider which options are most flexible.

Do you have references?

It should never be an issue for a company to provide references of past clients that adopted their ERP solution. It’s important to hear the good and the bad, because either or both can affect your decision. References provide you real opinions and experiences, not the sales pitch that you have heard thus far.

It’s a good idea to seek out companies that are similar to yours with regards to size, departments and budget so you can get an idea of some of the ups and downs you might face.

Still have questions about what to look for?

We would be happy to answer any questions we’re able to or refer you to one of our ERP partners to provide more detail. Give us a call!

kelly eBRIDGE Blog , , ,

What to Look for in an EDI Solution

May 21st, 2015

EDI or Electronic Data Interchange can be an intimidating concept for some business owners. Some trading partners of yours may make it a requirement for you to do EDI with them before you can conduct any sort of business with them (See “Why am I Required to do EDI with my Trading Partners”). For some business owners, who have never had to perform EDI at all, you may not know what to look for at all.

If you are processing a small volume of orders or invoices the most cost effective EDI solution for your business is likely Web Forms/Web EDI. This type of solution simply replaces paper documents with electronic documents that are created manually using a web-based form. Conversely, integrated EDI is a seamless solution that is connected with your accounting or ERP system and does not require any manual re-keying or duplication of data. It is a must-have when you are needing to process hundreds or thousands of orders/invoices per month.
When choosing either of these options there are many features and benefits to look for and to compare between vendors.  We think the most important are:

Cost Effectiveness

Pricing for EDI solutions usually comes in the form of 2 different models. In the first pricing model, the customer is billed per document exchanged. The second model comes in the form of annual or monthly fees, per trading partner connection. Total billing in this model is not impacted by the number of documents exchanged. When evaluating EDI solutions make sure to get quotes for each of the different pricing models so you can determine what works best for your company.

Professional Implementation

For integrated EDI, you’ll want to look for a solution that is quick and easy to implement between your trading partners and your back office accounting or ERP system. In most cases an EDI solution will be accompanied with implementation services but make sure to check. System integration is complex and is best left to the experts to put in place.

Trading Partner Connectivity

Obviously, when looking for a quality EDI solution you’ll want to make sure that it can connect with all of the trading partners that you are working with or plan to in the future.  Trading partners will require that connectivity is established through one of a number of different communication protocols including AS2, FTP, and VAN.  An ideal solution will support all of the major communication protocols and deliver connectivity to hundreds of different trading partners.

Usability

Secondly, you’ll want to look for a solution that your employees can use easily, and do so with little or no training. It should be web-based, for remote accessibility, and provide an intuitive user interface for monitoring and auditing transactions/documents. In addition, it should be able to handle non-compliant documents by providing a mechanism for correction and reprocessing.

Elimination of Manual Data Entry

As we all know, human error happens and it can sometime be hard to avoid when manual data entry is involved. Having a bi-directional, automated EDI solution integrated with your back office can help to avoid human error by eliminating the entry or duplication or data via manual processes.

Speed Enhancements

Reduced business cycle times give your company a healthy competitive advantage. When you send or receive data via an integrated EDI solution it is immediately ready for use. This will help you save time, and liberate resources. With reduced human intervention and more automation you’ll be able to focus on what is most important to your business.

Still have questions?

We are EDI experts and our specialists are happy to assist you with any questions you may have. Give us a call when you’re ready to discuss your needs!

Matt Train EDI Integration, EDI Tips and Tricks, Education , ,

Our Latest Updates at eBridge Connections!

May 19th, 2015

At eBridge Connections, we are constantly working towards improving our products. Like any technology company, we are constantly evolving through customer feedback, ongoing maintenance and product development.

Over the past month, we’ve released the following product updates:

eCommerce

Connector Update Customer Impact
Shopify and Mozu Launched new applications Both applications introduce the eBridge Connections integration platform to merchants by automating the retrieval of orders from their storefront and bringing them into ePortal, our web-based application for data management.
Magento Custom functions can be called during inbound shipment creation Using a Magento application that calls custom functions while creating shipments? We can call custom functions that handle simple data types during shipment processing.
Volusion Efficiency upgrades to the connector Near real-time time document processing for documents being sent to Volusion

Accounting

Connector Update Customer Impact
Microsoft Dynamics GP Outbound shipment component has been enhanced to retrieve documents by specified ship date on invoices GP users who currently export outbound shipments can now retrieve specific documents by ship date.
Microsoft Dynamics RMS Outbound product update component RMS Users who need to export product data
NetSuite NetSuite inbound orders can now handle promotional codes NetSuite users who use the promotions module can now track promotion codes through integration
NetSuite Outbound ASN component to export Netsuite packed item fulfilments NetSuite Users who do EDI document processing can export packed item fulfilments for Advance Shipment Notice (856) processing
NetSuite Outbound purchase orders component NetSuite Users who send Purchase Orders can now export data

CRM

Connector Update Customer Impact
SalesForce Our Salesforce connector can now map data to custom objects

eBridge Updates

Product Update Customer Impact
eBridge on the Cloud Flat file order create Clients who need to integrate their eCommerce or EDI partner documents as a flat file (for example: comma-separated file)
eBridge on the Cloud Flat file invoice export Clients who have data as a flat file (for example: comma-separated file) that they want to send to eCommerce or EDI partners
eBridge on the Cloud Label printing allows for multiple labels per file EOTC clients who print EDI labels can now save multiple labels to a single pdf file

Don’t forget to check back for more updates later. We’re always working on ways to help streamline and simplify your business processes.

Have questions about these updates? Give us a shout

kelly CRM Integration, eCommerce, eCommerce Integration , , , ,

Our Favourite Quotes about eCommerce

May 13th, 2015

It should come as no surprise to anyone that eCommerce is growing rapidly across the world. It is fiercely competing with brick and mortar stores for consumer share of wallet and changing how products can be bought and sold. If you’re reading this blog you’ve probably jumped into the world of eCommerce or planning to do so soon. Need some additional inspiration to stake your claim in this frontier? Here are some of our favourite quotes from the experts:

 

Tolman Geffs

“People don’t call it ecommerce anymore. It’s called omni-commerce, and it’s the idea that digital permeates every step of the purchase chain from product discovery to trial to pricing to actual purchase”

- Tolman Geffs, Co-President of the Jordan Edmiston Group (JEGI)

Jason Goldberg

“In the beginning, eCommerce was really about getting commodity products online as cheaply as possible. Now, we’re moving into the more exciting phase of eCommerce, where it’s about emotional products – the things people really cherish.”

- Jason Goldberg, Founder and CEO of Fab.com

Bill Gates

“How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or loose.”

- Bill Gates, Founder and Former CEO of Microsoft

Cushla Sherlock

“The eCommerce industry is a force that no investor can afford to ignore.”

- Cushla Sherlock, Corporate Communications, Credit Suisse

Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper

“By 2022, brick and mortar retail spaces will be little more than showrooms.”

- Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper, Co-CEO’s of Bigcommerce

Jeff Bezos

“If you build a great experience, customers tell each other about that, word of mouth is very powerful.”

- Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

Hil Davis

“eCommerce and mobile commerce have dramatically changed the way brands reach customers, making it faster and easier for consumers to make purchases on the fly while avoiding the hassles of going to the store.”

- Hil Davis, Co-Founder of the Online Men’s Retailer J. Hilburn

Did any of these speak to you specifically? What are some good ones that you’ve heard? Feel free to share some of your favourites in the comments.

kelly eCommerce, eCommerce Integration , ,

Reasons why you need to integrate your ERP and your CRM Systems

May 8th, 2015

As a well operating business, you most likely have ERP and CRM system in place to manage different functions. These systems work together in the sense that they both perform important, but mostly dissimilar tasks and provide invaluable tools that benefit your business. However, it’s important to understand they are still two entities that operate separately from each other.

In several scenarios integrating your ERP and CRM system can further streamline your operations and keep expenses down. Below we describe some of these scenarios and their key benefits:

Overall better customer service

When both your ERP and CRM are unified, all customer data lines up. Having an automated integration makes it easier for different departments to work together seamlessly. Your ERP can provide financial information for each customer or account record in your CRM. This provides valuable insight into possible selling opportunities for your sales team. In addition to this, integrated order and inventory data maintains accuracy; which in turn, contributes to a positive customer experience.

Visibility

With a quality integration solution, you will be able to view multiple areas of customer information at once. This creates an overall picture of each customer/account’s profile. Having to look for data in separate systems can hinder creative problem solving and prevent fast resolutions to customer inquiries and issues.

Increased Productivity

Integration gives your team the ability view and share customer information fast, and simultaneously. This increase in speed results in a more productive team. The new built-in work flows create a more streamlined process leaving more time for other tasks and projects.

Efficiency and Accuracy

This is probably one of the biggest advantages to integrating your ERP and CRM systems. Data entry errors can be quite costly to your business. An automated integration solution will eliminate the need for manually re-keying data, increasing data accuracy and integrity. Without the time-consuming data entry processes and mistakes to deal with your business will be equipped to run much more efficiently.

Still not convinced of the benefits?

With the bevy of different product options on the market, being able to access to accurate information in a timely fashion has never been more critical.  A quality integration solution gives you the ability to focus your resources on other high priority work, instead of tediously entering data in manually to your ERP or CRM system. It will give you the ability to provide consistent and reliable information to your sales and accounting teams, and save your business valuable time and money.

If you still have questions about integrations, give us a call, or learn more about our CRM integration solutions.

kelly CRM Integration , , , ,

How to Deliver Winning Customer Service on your eCommerce Store

April 28th, 2015

Deliver Winning Customer Service on your eCommerce StoreIn today’s market, if you’re not selling online, you’re already behind. Consumers are fierce, have high standards, and can be extremely disloyal. With the rise of social media and eCommerce giants, there’s not much standing between you and a competitor. So how does one stand out?

Customer service has and always will play a large role when consumers make decisions. It’s crucial that online merchants invest in this department. Customers will notice the difference and will remember you for it.

Below are a few key areas to look at when enhancing your eCommerce customer service policy.

Give customers options

A multi-channel support model is one of the best ways to give your customers options. By doing this, you recognize that every customer is different and you cater to individual tastes. Customers who would prefer to send an email can do that, while others who prefer to call and speak to someone can do that as well.

We’ve mentioned in prior blogs that we are big fans of having a chat feature. Everything is instant these days and customers expect instant support. Incorporating chat is a great way to approach this growing need!

Be a little more social

Social media is no longer a new concept, and businesses are expected to have a social presence on various channels. A lot of your customers will expect to find you on these channels and communicate with you there. Whether it be a question or a complaint, it is imperative that you’re there to respond.

In addition to this, social media is a fantastic area to listen to what people are saying about your brand. Listening and acting on what you hear shows that you care about your customers, and they appreciate it. Human interaction is a large factor in customer satisfaction.

Consumers are turning to social media for customer service

Image courtesy of Salesforce.com

Record everything!

As we mentioned above, your customers may be reaching out to you via multiple channels. Depending on how large your customer service team is, it may be a good idea to have all conversations, chats, and social interactions recorded. This prevents confusion when dealing with customers issues across various channels. Your team has access to all conversations so that nothing gets missed.

Remember, a complaint is a gift

Complaints are never fun to deal with, and it can be quite a time consuming process to rectify them. Having said this, it’s crucial that merchants recognize the value in these complaints. Customers are providing feedback of your product and service and giving you the opportunity to improve the quality. This relates back to our point above about recording everything. By keeping some sort of record of your complaints, you are able to revisit the solutions should you have that issue again.

It’s not an obstacle course!

Remove all unnecessary obstacles for your customers. Making your customer path easier could have a direct effect on your conversion rate and possibly improve your shopping cart abandonment rate. When customers have to sign up for an email list, or provide unnecessary information to make their purchase it becomes frustrating and unappealing. Customers want instant everything, so adding additional steps like this could deter them from making the purchase.

Customer service is a defining factor for a lot of customers!

Remember that customers will make a purchase because of your product, but will leave due to poor service. It’s important to implement a solid and effective customer service policy to keep your customers satisfied. Aim to build relationships, not just transactions on your eCommerce store!

kelly eCommerce ,

Why am I required to do EDI with my trading partners?

April 23rd, 2015

Most trading partners will require you to implement a solid EDI solution before they begin conducting business with you. This could be for a number of known reasons, but doing this will benefit your company as well.

Along with some operational improvements, you can expect to see some strategic improvements as well. Below are just a few you can expect to see:



Strategic:

  • Decreased operating costs
  • Improved cash and inventory cycles
  • Rapid integration of trading partners into business processes

Operational:

  • Invoices are sent out and in your partners in minutes
  • Increased security during message and transaction processing
  • Reduced data duplication, elimination of data errors
  • Reduced inventory levels
  • Reduced paper, postage and sorting activities

These reasons contribute directly to why a lot of major trading partners require customers and suppliers to conduct business via EDI. In a lot of situations, some companies won’t even enter business agreements without an agreement on an EDI solution.

At eBridge Connections we provide companies with end-to-end integrated solutions. Our platform powers EDI integration with any of 20+ supported accounting and ERP systems to achieve trading compliance while maintaining cost efficiency and effectiveness. To read more about how your company can take advantage of EDI Integration and visit our EDI Benefits overview.

kelly EDI Integration, EDI Tips and Tricks, General EDI , ,

How to Prevent Shopping Cart Abandonment

April 20th, 2015

Did you know that nearly 68% of shoppers abandon shopping carts on average? Or perhaps those retailers lose $18 billion annually due to shopping cart abandonment?

For the average online retailer, these numbers are scary and quite shocking. Shopping cart abandonment is a real problem for these business owners. This issue should not be taken lightly, and should be addressed as soon as possible. There are some key reasons for these situations, and identifying them is the first step to correcting them!

Additional prices found at check out
It can be frustrating to go the majority of the shopping experience thinking that you’re going to be paying one price, and be expected to pay another (much higher) one at checkout. The additional fees associated with shipping and delivery at checkout should not be a surprise to your customers. In fact, they should be posted and visible at all times. A good way of maintaining this is to include a note in the product description so they are able to see it.

Security doubts
Although eCommerce has become a trusted shopping method in North America, this is still a common fear for consumers. If a customer senses even the slightest lack of legitimacy, they will leave. They won’t be sticking around and completing their purchase if they don’t think their information is secure. Make sure you’ve purchased and enabled a SSL certificate for your transaction pages and are displaying relevant security badges in order to increase overall buyer confidence.

Limited payment/shipping options (regional limitations)
One of the benefits of shopping online is that you can do it anywhere at any time. Having said that, shoppers really do expect to be able to make their purchases easily and hassle free. This means, that you need to have various payment options and little to no geographical limitations. Don’t give them a reason to abandon their purchase.

Lack of customer support

This is an issue that can come in a number of forms. These include:

  1. Non-existent or unclear return policy: We’ve mentioned before that customers appreciate a “back button” when shopping. They need to know that there is a way out if they come down with a case of buyer remorse. Have your return policy stated as clearly as possible or at least give them an opportunity to click to it at checkout.
  2. Lack of customer service: Shoppers want answers to their questions when they have them, and they generally do at the checkout. A live chat feature is a great way to overcome this reason for abandonment. They get the answers at their most vulnerable moment which encourages them to finalize their purchase.

Store is not mobile responsive
This goes back to our point about having options. As we mentioned above, customers like to shop anywhere at any time; this means that mobile responsiveness is crucial on your eCommerce site! In fact, over 50% of eCommerce traffic is from mobile (Shopify). Having said that, customers may not even make it to the check out if they can’t shop comfortably on their device of choice.

How do online retailers fight back?
The first step in your line of defense is to identify when there is a problem. You can use your website or store analytics to see if shopping cart abandonment is an issue for you. Next, be aware of the issues that cause shopping cart abandonment. And finally, do something about it!
Fixing some of these issues may be a costly endeavor and may be a time consuming process, but the investment is worth it to bring down your abandonment rate.
Remember that customer and user experience is everything when running an eCommerce store!

kelly eCommerce, eCommerce Integration , ,