You have built a nice retail presence amidst a locale and clientele that supports you. The logical next step is to grow your online business. Maybe your website has already cast a wider net and is already producing results. Now you have customers who have never met you and probably never will. You are not the smiling face they know and trust. How do you create loyalty from people that do not know you?
How important is pricing to loyalty? Generally, price neither creates nor destroys loyalty—in general. You know your business best. How important are accurate shipments? Again, we can generalize, but here is what we know for sure: your local customers know you and trust you. The UPS or FedEx person is the closest thing they have to that familiar, trusted face from your company. They are your agent. The package itself must be the proof.
If there are mistakes in the package, the disappointment can be viral. It triggers a hassle they will remember and will avoid in the future.
How often do order fulfillment mistakes happen in your back room? Errors and shortages are always reported, but overages–not so much. How much is this costing you—not just in real dollars, but also in future business? Intangible expenses are so easy to exaggerate–ignore those for now.
Is it possible to eliminate shipping mistakes by providing that hourly summer worker with better tools, to confirm that the right items go into the right shipment? Actually, some new technology could work, without having to hugely change your process (or maybe even not at all).
One tech tool does a simple one-to-one comparison of barcodes—here is how it could help in shipping:
- Scan the barcode on the shipment order to program the scanner
- Scan the barcode on the item going into the shipment
- If the barcodes match, the scanner says “Match” –it is OK to ship
- If the barcodes don’t match, the scanner says “Mismatch”—do not ship
Barcode matching like this could help in other functions, not just in shipping. Such applications as:
- Compiling ingredients for a recipe or batch process
- Picking parts for an assembly operation
- Creating a kit
The interesting thing about these tech tools is that functions that are more sophisticated do not add a lot of cost. With some devices, it is possible to obtain a report, which will confirm to your trading partner that their shipment is correct.
OK, what about those intangible costs, such as lost customers? These are so specific to a company, “…as much as…” statements from us are unhelpful. You know what your costs are–and what your losses could be—in the case of shipping mistakes. But the technology we mentioned can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to a few thousand dollars. Customization can add additional cost—but as with the hardware, these are one-time costs. After that, it is all about the savings.