Like many of you, we’ve spent the past two weeks talking with our clients about the results of Fall/Holiday 2008. Here is what we are hearing, along with what our clients think the outlook for 2009 is and some things you can do immediately to further reduce expenses.
Virtually every bit of advertising and promotional material produced by multichannel companies during the holiday season has contained a common phrase: FREE SHIPPING.
In preparation for an article that will appear in the February issue of Multichannel Merchant, we tracked hundreds of promotions that arrived in our postal and e-mail mailboxes from August through December, and polled dozens of multichannel businesses on their free shipping strategies. What we found was an unbelievable array of opinions, conditions, restrictions and timetables. What we didn’t find was any kind of consensus on whether free shipping is a strategy that works.
Look at all the advertising and promotional materials produced by multichannel companies during the recent holiday season, and there’s one phrase they have in common: FREE SHIPPING. It’s the one thing on which everybody seems to agree—yet it’s also something about which virtually everybody disagrees.
As companies grow in size and complexity, providing actionable, analytical information to senior management has become increasingly difficult. No one system provides more than 10% of the data senior management needs. Key data such as plans and history often exist in spreadsheets outside the information systems. Systems such as the telephone phone switches (ACD) have valuable productivity and service data, but management usually doesn’t have access to it. Reports from commercial systems by software companies often leave the user wanting a lot more.
With a soft economy, many retailers are trying to significantly reduce returns in order to boost profits. Some companies are putting more restrictions and conditions on returns. Frankly, I think this will cause further erosion of sales. Who wants to buy a product that can’t be returned, or that carries so many conditions for return?
Q: We would like to achieve world-class results in our operation, but our efforts seem consistently to fall short of our expectations. Can you suggest ways that, as a manager, I could improve the level of teamwork in our operation?
A: The solution could be as simple as improving the level of managerial effectiveness. If you review the following eleven questions as honestly as possible, you may discover that you have only tapped the surface of your capability to achieve world-class results.
Maybe your business is not located in a hurricane zone or tornado alley but they aren't the only natural disasters that can occur that dramatically affect a business. When something devastating occurs weather related or not, it demonstrates just how important it is to have a disaster plan in place. You have to be ready for the unexpected.
A catalog executive suffers from no shortage of metrics to watch for: from average order value to email inquiry turnaround times to indirect labor costs to number of calls answered in 20 seconds or less. The real questions, though, are how to use the numbers, and if the metrics even are appropriate to track for your operations. Comparing operations solely on numbers can be misleading. Is it better to establish a set of best practices and then hold your staff accountable to them?
It's been less than a decade since the word “multichannel” came into use to describe selling through more than one medium. But the complex new world of multichannel merchandising includes potential pitfalls that at best may confuse customers and at worst will alienate them. Chief among these pitfalls: maintaining different strategies and tactics for different channels.