News from Digital Main Street

Technology solutions help small businesses stand out among e-commerce giants

Canada Post | March 28, 2017

"When an entrepreneur is launching their new e-store,” Gilbreath says, “they want to make sure that they can get out all the orders on time because of the high level of expectation that consumers have these days."

READ ALSO: A new crop of digital businesses is going physical and seeing results

Large or small, retailers do not get a second chance with online shoppers, he notes. "Amazon and other big retailers have set this bar really high. This is the new level of expectation."

Interested in reading more from Canada Post? 

Visit the Canada Post Shipping Solutions Blog  for more articles to help you operate your e-commerce business more effectively.  

Question your technology

Competing in the e-commerce market can only be achieved with the most effective technology, he says. But before working with an e-commerce partner, retailers should be asking important questions.

"Is the technology seamless, do they allow you to be efficient, are the processes outside of the technology messy or are they organized?" Finally, can the online platform be easily scaled up when orders take off. "How long does it take to get 10 orders out? Do the simple math on that to see what it’s going to take if it blows up in a good way and they get 100 orders, 1,000 orders or 10,000 orders."

Gilbreath, who — like ShipStation’s chief executive officer — has a background in retailing, knows how much of a challenge it can be for small businesses to operate in the same environment as Amazon. "We are not just shipping folks. We are folks that have been there, selling stuff out of our garages to ending up at some of the biggest retailers in America."

Think about logistics from the start

Most entrepreneurs start with a cool product or idea. Few spend more than a few moments thinking about backend logistics. "When you go from a cool hip thing that flashes through social media to turning into a real business, having the right technology partners in place allows you to grow up, if you will, without actually having to grow up. You can expand the product line, have the time to come up with new products, do more marketing, the things that make you successful."

Making the jump from a mom-and-pop operation to a well-oiled machine requires you to delegate some responsibilities, he says. The entrepreneur who has had his hands on every aspect of the business suddenly has to let go of key functions of an expanding company. "You didn’t get into this world to be the shipping guru. Shipping is usually the place where if you have the right processes you can hand that off to get your time back."

Gilbreath says successful online retailers put themselves in their customers’ shoes — or more accurately, the electronic devices they use to place orders. "We think about it from the checkout experience to what is the consumer experience through the whole process."

For the customer, fulfillment is all that matters

"Shoppers today don’t care if you are fulfilling out of a garage behind your house or a big warehouse, using robots or using your Mom. They don’t care, they just want their item."

Looking out a few years, he foresees an "ever increasing expectation of service. Consumers are expecting things much more quickly, they are expecting much more choice in where, how and when they get their packages, whether it is a pickup locker location, whether it is being able to change routing of a package in transit."

Are you ready to make your returns policy a competitive advantage?

Click here to download our free e-commerce returns whitepaper today!

READ ALSO: Growing E-commerce in Canada: Unlocking the online shopper opportunity [New whitepaper]

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Check Out March Events at Rogers Small Business Centres

Vickie Reichardt | March 16, 2017
 

Have you heard? Small-business owners across Canada are discovering Rogers Small Business Centres, located inside Rogers retail stores from coast to coast, where entrepreneurs can book an appointment – free of charge – with a Small Business Specialist to get one-on-one expert advice on Rogers products and services.

And there’s more: Rogers Small Business Centres also regularly host free events where small-business owners can gain valuable insights and network with their peers. If you haven’t yet checked one out, now is the time to register!

This March, Rogers Small Business Centres will be hosting an exciting series of workshops aimed at tackling a universal challenge for time-strapped small-business owners: how to boost productivity when you’re already overwhelmed and overworked running your company.

Among the speakers slated to appear are:

  • Productivity expert Ann Max, a motivational speaker and the President of consulting firm Productive to the Max
  • Vancouver-based social entrepreneur and Business Growth Strategist Hilary Kilgour
  • Valeri Hall Little, founder of Intandem, who specializes in helping small business owners streamline their operations and battle burnout
  • “Master Productivity Ninja” Jill Mallet of Think Productive, a firm that provides time-management solutions to small businesses
  • Futurpreneur Canada’s entrepreneur-in-residence, Chad Fryling

Whether it’s whittling down the number of emails in your inbox to a more manageable number, figuring out how to make the most of your apps and tech, or just getting some tips on how to improve the way you work, you can learn from local experts at Rogers Small Business Centres this March – and leave with a plan that will help you stay productive and competitive.

To find out more about dates and speakers for events at Rogers Small Business Centres in your area, or to register, visit rogersbusinesscentres.com. Seating at events varies depending on the location, so be sure to register early to secure your spot

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Tips and tricks for efficient packing and shipping

Canada Post | March 16, 2017

 

Don't pay to ship excess space and weight

One of the most important aspects of efficient packaging is choosing boxes that fit your items easily and safely without leaving unnecessary excess space or adding excess bulk. Size and weight determine how much you'll pay to send your item, and nothing runs up costs more quickly than paying for superfluous space.

READ ALSO: How to set up a home office that helps improve productivity

Tip: Test a few different sizes and styles of shipping products and focus on finding ones that work for as wide a range of products as possible - you won't want to have to keep dozens of different box sizes on hand.

Interested in reading more from Canada Post? 

Visit the Canada Post Shipping Solutions Blog  for more articles to help you operate your e-commerce business more effectively.  

Standardize your systems

Decision-making leads to delays in fulfillment and delivery, so take thinking out of the equation for packers by coming up with clear guidelines.

Tip: Create a checklist that breaks down each step of the process so every employee knows the necessary steps, from picking the right-sized box to knowing how items should be placed in order to protect against damage, and how to properly seal containers before they're shipped.

Organize your warehouse effectively

The better you organize the area where products are warehoused and packed, the better you'll be able to handle fulfillment. Keep best-selling items close to the packing area (or pre-pack them if you prefer) and store them on easy-to-reach shelves. Don't put heavy items up high - it just makes them harder to access. If certain products are often sold together, make sure they're kept next to one another in your warehouse. Label aisles and shelves with large, clear signs so no one has to spend too much time searching for items. Finally, set up your packing area so all necessary materials, such as scissors, tape, and labels, are laid out in a logical, orderly fashion.

Tip: Set aside space to store items that have been sold but not packed, and clear another spot for orders that have been packed but are waiting to be shipped. The less clutter and confusion in your system, the better off things will be.

Get ready ahead of busy sales periods

Every retailer knows the weeks leading up the Christmas holidays, starting with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, will see serious increases in sales. Chances are, however, that there are other stretches of the year when you'll be busier than usual. Expedite order fulfillment during periods of peak demand by preparing packaging materials in advance.

Tip: Prior to peak periods, bring in extra staff to pre-build shipping boxes, fill them with packing peanuts or bubble wrap, and attach basic labels. If there are certain products you expect to sell a lot of, pack a whole bunch of orders in advance. The more work you do ahead of time, the easier it will be to ensure your deliveries arrive in time for key holidays.

Quality packing materials are worth the cost

Resist the temptation to cut corners when it comes to buying boxes and packing materials, such as foam caps, polystyrene peanuts, and bubble wrap. The extra money you spend on higher quality products will add up over time, but those costs will be offset by avoiding losses from damaged and broken items,

Tip: The added protection you get from using top choice materials lets you to ship items in smaller boxes, reducing shipping costs.

Communicate shipping policies to your customers

Customer relations are an essential part of good business; so don't forget about the questions and concerns of buyers when it comes to shipping and delivery issues.

Tip: Build a FAQ page for your website with answers to common questions about order fulfillment, returns, and delivery times. Update it to reflect any changes at busy times of year and include contact details for customers who can't find the information they need.

Verify addresses for new customers

From time to time, buyers will input an incorrect or out-of-date address into an order form. Send a shipment there, and it will end up back at your business or lost.

Tip: Before shipping to any new customer, verify their destination address is correct. A few seconds now could save you headaches and hassles later on.

You can also use our AddressComplete™ tool to verify your customer's address instantly and easily.

Avoid price surprises by using a shipping calculator

Before you set shipping prices for your products, make sure you have a sense of what it's actually going to cost to get them to your customers' mailboxes. The best way to do that is by using a shipping calculator. Enter the dimensions and weight of your package, and the destination, and you'll get an estimate of the final price.

Whether you're starting a new business, or looking to update current protocols, your packing and shipping procedures can probably use a once over. Make these processes as efficient as possible and you're sure to end up saving time and money in the long run.

Sign up for Canada Post Solutions for Small Business™ to save on shipping and direct mail – it's free.

Are you ready to make your returns policy a competitive advantage?

Click here to download our free e-commerce returns whitepaper today!

READ MORE: Small business survival tips for staff vacations

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