Systems to help manage your eCommerce business
We are huge fans of automation here at Avasam, and with so many administrative tasks required to keep an eCommerce business growing, we’re pretty sure that if you aren’t already, you will be soon. If you’re launching your online retail business now, or you’ve been getting by doing things manually, then this post is for you.
Before we get started, there are a couple of points to note.
Firstly, you may not need to look for each of these systems individually, since some software and systems offer a combination of each of these systems together. Good examples of this include Linnworks, Volo, Veeqo, and many others that have order management, inventory management, warehouse management and multichannel listing included. These systems offer better value for money, and you won’t have to have developer skills to ensure your systems all work well together – because they simply will.
Secondly, when you’re choosing systems for your business, it is well worth looking at which systems can integrate easily with one another. Avasam, for example, connects with sales channels, including content management systems and Linnworks, which means data can flow between the two, and you don’t have to spend as much time switching between systems.
Inventory sourcing solution
If you’re set up with a warehouse and you’re importing, or otherwise sourcing your stock to dispatch from your own warehouse, then you may assume that you don’t need additional inventory sourcing. But even if you have a great amount of stock in your own warehouse and reliable sources, being able to source new lines and backup supplies is always a positive thing.
Being able to source stock from suppliers that fulfil your orders for you means that:
- Should demand for one of your products suddenly dramatically increase, you can continue to fulfil those orders immediately, without waiting for stock to be delivered
- You can diversify your business further, and increase the number of products that you offer your customers
- With a bigger product range you will see bigger basket sizes
- With orders being fulfilled immediately, and more choice, you’ll see increased customer satisfaction
- You will continue to profit from sales that your suppliers fulfil for you, helping your business to continue to scale
- You won’t need additional space in your warehouse or more staff
- You don’t need cash available to invest in additional stock
For businesses that are purely DropShipping, your inventory sourcing has to be spot on. Being able to source a wide variety of great products, and having access to suppliers that you can trust means that your business is much more likely to be successful.
In addition to the benefits that we’ve listed above, working with a system like Avasam also means that you can have confidence in the performance of your suppliers, and that your customers are more likely to receive their products on time.
Order management system
Order management can be done manually – simply using a spreadsheet – but this has a lot of potential for errors to occur. You might manage orders through each of your sales channels, but again, this can result in huge errors – especially when you are selling through marketplaces, your website and on social media too.
That’s why order management systems are an essential – You need to know what orders you have received, those that are pending and those that have been processed. Your order management system should facilitate this, and means that you can send your orders to the right warehouse (or warehouse location, depending on your setup). You’ll also be able to process your orders, and access reporting about the current status of orders.
If you’re purely DropShipping, then your order management system may be managed alongside your inventory sourcing, such as in Avasam – and pass your orders through to your suppliers automatically.
Inventory management system
Keeping on top of what is in your warehouse is an essential part of a retail business – so you need a system to help you manage your stock effectively. An inventory management system is going to help you to know when you are getting low on certain lines, and to help you to identify what is selling well, and where you have dead stock to clear. This means you can manage your product sourcing more efficiently, and make better informed decisions about your business.
In addition, if you’ve got a team, hopefully it is one that you can trust – but your inventory management will help you to ensure that you’ll know quickly if you have a team member that is pilfering your stock.
Inventory management systems can be manual – if you’re only dealing with a few lines, then a spreadsheet may do the job – but manual methods are definitely more prone to error, and they won’t tell you when you’re getting low on a product. Having an automated system means that you’ll get low stock notifications, and more sophisticated inventory management systems can integrate with your sales channels, and prevent you overselling.
Businesses that are only DropShipping still need to be aware of inventory management – since you’re reliant on your suppliers having enough stock to fulfil your orders. Your DropShipping platform should have inventory management built in, so that you won’t have to cancel orders because your supplier has gone out of stock unexpectedly. If your DropShipping platform can update your listings automatically, as Avasam can, so much the better.
Warehouse management system
If your business is purely DropShipping, and you have no intention of operating in any other way, then you probably don’t need to be too concerned with warehouse management systems. However, if you have any plans of procuring stock you may need to bear this in mind when you are choosing your order management, and inventory management systems.
Many people assume that inventory management systems and warehouse management systems are the same thing, and while there is some overlap in functionality (which is why many systems incorporate both), they’re not quite the same.
Once you have got your stock set up in a logical layout in your warehouse, and you know what is there, then it is all about being able to get those orders out the door as fast as you can. A warehouse management system will help you to do that quickly, by generating pick and pack lists for you, with stock locations and other relevant information. Great warehouse management systems will run on mobile apps, reducing the reliance on paper, and ensuring that you know exact numbers of items in stock, and how many orders are ready at any given moment.
Warehouse management systems will also help you manage returns, increase efficiency for your team, integrate with other systems, and provide detailed reporting.
Where retailers have multiple warehouses, a warehouse management system will help you to know what you have, and where, and may be able to help you with kitting and bundling, increasing value for your customers and sales for you.
Enterprise resource planning software
Enterprise resource planning software integrates all the systems in your business – from planning, to inventory, sales, marketing, human resources and so on. The right system will help you to get an overview of your business, with real time reporting in a web-based application. This can help to identify inefficiencies, and increase productivity, while they can also help to provide all the data needed for shareholders and other interested parties quickly.
These types of systems can be a waste of time if they aren’t implemented with care – they need to connect to all the systems used within the business, and the company needs to understand what they aim to achieve with the system before they start using it.
Social media management tools
Your social media channels are critical for marketing your business – but spending different times of the day updating them with new posts, and replying to your customers on different channels isn’t efficient.
Planning ahead is absolutely essential for maintaining a good social media presence. By planning ahead, you
Being able to tackle all of your post comments, likes and direct messages on those channels in one inbox means that you can whizz through them much more quickly, without needing to sign into each of them separately.
There are hundreds of social media management tools that you can choose from, with different features, and at different price levels, depending on the needs of your business.
Great free options (with limited functionality) include Buffer, Hootsuite, Later, and Zoho, with all of these options having subscription packages that mean you’ll be able to access even more functionality. Before signing up, it is well worth thinking ahead to try and make the best choice in the long term, so you don’t need to switch further down the line.
While you can make sales on marketplaces and an increasing number of social media channels, the best place to make sales is on your own website. As we’ve mentioned before when we’ve discussed choosing your sales channels, there are a number of benefits when you have your own website:
- There is less to pay in terms of fees (just your domain and hosting, and any paid plugins)
- You can access funds from your sales immediately
- You’ll be building brand recognition
- You can diversify your income with affiliate marketing
In addition to this, your website will help your customers know that they can trust you, particularly if you’re using your website to host your blog, and you publish content there that your customers will benefit from. This means you’ll be able to demonstrate expertise in your field, increasing trust and bringing customers back for further research and purchases.
You’ll also be able to link to your social media and any review websites that your business is listed with, and so on, increasing trust further.
Great ways to create your eCommerce website include BigCommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce.
If you haven’t created your own eCommerce website yet, then why not take advantage of our offer? You can get three months of BigCommerce absolutely free when you sign up here.
Customer relationship management system
A CRM is essential to collect information about your customers – and since retailers that only operate online have minimal contact with their customers, it is essential for businesses to have that information to be able to market to them effectively. You’ll be able to encourage customers to return to your business, by sending email marketing and special offers, help you to provide customer support, and provide valuable data that can inform decisions about the types of products you decide to offer when you’re diversifying.
When you’re choosing your CRM, be sure that it is compliant with the GDPR, so you can meet any requests for information, and prevent data breaches.
Examples of great CRMs include Hubspot, Zoho and Salesforce.
When you’re choosing systems for your eCommerce business, be sure to evaluate them carefully. Now is not the time to blindly follow a recommendation from a colleague – while your businesses may be similar, the requirements of each business are unique. However, what we can tell you is that automation is essential for eCommerce businesses to run efficiently, and getting your systems right from the start means that your business can run efficiently, with the risk of human errors dramatically reduced.
If you’re ready to start your eCommerce business – or maybe you’re ready to start scaling your business without any upfront cash investment – start your free trial of Avasam today. You’ll benefit from access to a huge product catalogue from verified UK suppliers, integrations with sales channels, and automation that includes product listing tools, order updates and shipping notifications. If you have questions, get in touch – we’re happy to help.
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