Preparing Your Omni-Channel Business for Holidays Sales with Automation – Register2020-08-19T22:56:31+00:00

Preparing Your Omni-Channel Business for Holidays Sales with Automation

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Ebru Saglam Ebru Saglam Senior Product Marketing Manager

With retail disrupted astronomically, are you concerned about how the looming holiday rush will affect your ability to meet customer expectations? This on-demand webinar hosted by RetailX, we will cover how to get operationally ready for the upcoming holiday sales by automating key business processes. Having the right systems in place in advance of the rush can help you streamline your operations—and your margins.

In this on demand webinar with RetailX TechTalk learn:

  • Why you need to prepare your business for the upcoming holiday sales ahead of time
  • How to create a winning plan to get ready for the holidays
  • How you can benefit from integration to automate key E-commerce business processesn
  • Best Practices for picking the right integration option for your business

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Full Webinar Transcript
Hello everyone, and thank you for joining us. Welcome to Tech Talk– a series of sponsored webinars within the RetailX virtual experience. These are quick, 30-minute sessions, including 10-minute Q and A, where industry experts dig into various technologies that are moving retail forward. My name is Brian Anderson, and I am a conference producer for RetailX. RetailX has evolved alongside the retail industry’s expedited shift to digital reshaping of the customer journey for DTC e-commerce and brick and mortar brands. Once limited to an annual physical event, RetailX has blossomed into a multifaceted content platform in-person, and virtual educational opportunities are led by industry leaders and visionaries throughout the year. I’ll be your moderator for today’s session, Preparing Your Omnichannel Business for Holiday Sales with Automation, presented by Celigo. I’ll introduce our speaker in just a moment, but before we begin, let me take a moment to explain how this webinar works. It is now my pleasure to introduce today’s presenter. Joining us today is Ebru Saglam who is a senior product marketing manager at Celigo. Ebru has had a diverse background with over a decade of combined experience in marketing, technical sales, and customer service roles across start-ups and enterprises. She also has hands-on experience in the e-commerce landscape. She has spent more than five years running her small DTC e-commerce business for consumer goods– running the complex operation including outsource manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, multi-channel e-commerce sales fulfillment, marketing, customer support, accounting and more. That was a mouthful, so I am especially happy to introduce our presenter, Ebru. Please take it away. Thank you very much, Brian. So yeah, I’m really excited to be here today. And as Brian mentioned– so I have actually first-hand experience on what to expect from holiday sales and also what can go wrong without proper preparation. And also at Celigo, I had the chance to see how successful businesses, ranging from small/medium businesses to midsize enterprises, leverage automation in unique ways to streamline their key processes so they can easily scale their operations with increasing demand. And so today. I will be talking about preparing your own internal business for holiday sales with automation. So this year, holiday sales will be different, right? No one knows for sure how it will turn out or how COVID will impact the holiday sales. And, so in spring we already saw COVID caused a huge shift for retail with shift from retail sales to online sales. And here you can see at some point in May e-commerce in the U.S. had a 123% increase, so more than doubling year over year. And it’s pretty much maintained the trend with double sales until now. And so again, some point in spring at April I believe Shopify CTO tweeted their platform start to see Black-Friday-level traffic every day now. So with consumers shopping online already at what would typically be considered holiday level, the question is really if we will see a huge increase in holiday sales this year or not. And well, I mean, from my own experience I always saw November, December, January, more than a 100% increase in sales. And of course, that would totally depend on the line of business. And so coming back to this year, so it is unknown like I said. So there are many studies, analysts forecasts, out there with predictions that suggest we should be expecting an increase in online sales during the holidays. And here is actually an example, research conducted by one of the leading e-commerce platforms. And they saw a raise of thousands of consumers across the globe. And their research shows based on different lockdown scenarios how holiday shopping behavior would be affected this year. So if you look at this, even in lockdown 63% of consumers are not planning to decrease their holiday spend, and 80% say they would not decrease their spend if things go back to normal by that. So the best bet would be for any business to be prepared for high demand and then not to lose on the opportunity that may come and also be ready to handle increased number of orders with having the right systems and processes in place. So, yeah. Assuming we will see higher sales than usual this holiday season, so what can you do to get ready? First, you can start by identifying your goals and what you’re trying to achieve. For example, do you want to avoid stock-outs or do you want to ensure great customer satisfaction by shipping orders with them to business base. And then next step would be to evaluate your current processes for automation. On a high level, you can always look at which tasks are taking the most resources, right. Are there slow manual processes that pick up too much of your time. And so, for example think if you can handle increased number of orders. If your staff has the capacity to handle like 500 orders a day, what will happen if you suddenly start receiving 1,000 orders a day? So will there be a huge backlog? Some of these things released to your fulfillment centers. Is this going to cause you not to be able to shift the orders within two business days as you planned? Or are your current processes going to cause delays and visibility into inventory levels? Right. Will there be errors from manually entering the orders? So as an example, I recently ordered a new phone case and done a– when I finally received the shipment, it was a huge disappointment for me, because I received the black case, but actually I had ordered the red one. So how does this mix up happen? Who knows? Right. So maybe someone messed up entering these skus or maybe the order information was just passed out incorrectly for fulfillment. So anything might have gone wrong here, but it’s done. If this would have been an automated process, so the likelihood of an error happening here would be much less because it takes out human interaction from the process. So yeah. Let’s talk about what do your current processes look like? Businesses have many different systems in place. For example, you might be using Shopify for your online storefront and you may be selling on multiple marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. And maybe you are using different payment gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, and maybe NetSuite as your enterprise resource planning software and accounting system, and Square as your retail point of sale. And you might even be utilizing multiple 3PLs for fulfillment on top of all of these. So the bottom line is if data is not automatically managed and unified across all these systems, you will need to manually transfer or key in the data. And so this will cause delays, errors, and backlogs within your business processes. And on top of that, you won’t really have real visibility into your businesses’ how. So let’s review the typical business processes and these are really the ones that we see being automated the most, right. For example, first one is item management. If you have thousands of maybe– or millions of queues, this can take a lot of time and delay your time for market. And if you would like to adjust your pricing or improve your [SPO?] before the holidays, it might even be impossible to achieve this manually without automation. In [inaudible], there is order processing. So for each order received, you also need to key in the data across systems for processing. And I will actually share an example later, enviolo, a bicycle component manufactured– they had to create a customer– they have to put customer profiles and NESQs for every single order they receive in Shopify. So this was like a very, very tight consuming process for them. And then there’s item management, so if you won’t have real-time visible to your inventory levels, right? Across the different application, you may end up selling out of stock items to your customers. And it may already be too late for procurement, or to move in ventures between your warehouse location space on the map. And then there’s fulfillment. So, this can easily lead to poor customer satisfaction, right? Manually transferring orders to your warehouse, or three PL fulfillment standards is not only slow but again, it can [inaudible] back laws. It is very error-prone. And then, the last piece here is customer experience. So all of these processes, I just mentioned, they influence customer experience, right? Item management ensures customer are– customers are set with the right expectations about the product they purchase. So that there are no surprises at the end. And provides them with– Or yeah, order processing, for example, provides them with different payments options. To make the buying process easier for customers. And then, obviously, if you sell a customer an out-of-stock item, that will lead to frustration. And then customers also, they want to receive orders fast. And yeah, because consumer expectations, they are very high today. And things like providing customers real-time visibility to their order status is one of the very important things. But also, as you saw more products, you should expect more support with what comes in. And visibility means to think of how you’re currently providing support visibility into their customers’ orders statuses. So, do your reps need to log in to different systems? And collect the customer’s weight in order to correctly answer customer questions? So those are things to think of here. And then, now that we have looked at the popular business processes, and what to think of, let’s also talk about automation and public health. So, the applications you are using for all these processes can be actually connected with each other through integration. So this really means data can flow automatically between the app so that it is unified across every single system. So what does this mean for each of these processes? For example, for item management, you can use your ERP, or a product information management system, or maybe your storefront as your mass versus system of record. And update all other marketplaces, POS systems with the IT data automatically. So if you have very large number of SKUs, you will especially benefit from this automation. So you can keep your product accurate across system across different systems. And traditional how to bring products faster to market, and this will also pave your costs by eliminating the resources you were spending on the rebranding– redundant data update task. And then for order processing, you can streamline all your processes related to how payments are processed, confirmation emails are sent out to customers, and books are updated automatically. For inventory management. For example, we want to level across the print warehouses, and 3 PLs. They can be automatically synced into your ERP. And from there, real-time, accurate inventory levels can be updated into your e-commerce or retail location. And this way, you can avoid telling out of IT to your customer. But also, this can help you make healthier inventory forecasting and might make a timely procurement, and distributions decision. And then for fulfillment, the one-tier order processing system is connected to your warehouse or 3 PL. You can automatically submit orders for fulfillment without delay, and eliminate also errors such as shipping incorrect items or wrong quantities to customer. And the last one for customer experience, so you can basically integrate your customer support system. Maybe VENDAS, which are ERP. And provide your customers real-time updates into their orders, such as when they contact your customer support. And provide them with a better experience. So, yeah. There are different integration options out there. And you can develop your own codes, or you can go for a class form that lets you build your own integration. Or you can pick an out of the box integration app, and we will talk more about the different options in a sec. But on a high-level tier, and what to look for in an integration solution for automation. So first of all, easy monitoring camp management, right? Having [inaudible] integration running is basically not sufficient. You also need a solution that lets you easily monitor the integration, and make sure if it’s really running. And you can manage it. And then, a fast development. So there are integration options out there that would really– from your [inaudible] would need heavy coding, and they would pick long development time. But they’re also out of the box apps, and platforms that come with prebuilt integration to get you quickly started. So another thing to look for is usability. So if you’re a business user, make sure the software or platform of your choice comes with an intuitive user interface so that even business users can easily build the integrations because some solutions they require deep technical expertise and they’re not really built to be used by everyone, and standard flexibility for customization and expansion. So as your business grows, as the market changes, you may need to actually update your integrations to match your specific needs and expand to new integration and hardcoded solutions, they will not give you this option, and then you should look for guaranteed data delivery, that data is delivered no matter what, like, for example, if an endpoint is down it should be held and resumed when the system is back up, and then last look for total cost of ownership because as the number of your integrations increase also cost for development and maintenance will increase. So consider how the TCO will look like in the long term. And here are the different integration options I mentioned. So first one is the manual data transfer, and this is basically the process of manually downloading reports from one system and uploading them to another one and may also include manually entering data for some cases. And, obviously, this is slow, resource-intensive, and error-prone. And then there is direct API integration. So for this one, you would either need in-house resources to write the integration code for you or you can outsource the development. But then you would also require technical resources to maintain and update the integration on an ongoing basis and also these don’t have any flexibility for customization and also usually don’t provide means for monitoring temp-management. And then there are out of the box SAS applications that are ready to use. And, again, these usually don’t provide any flexibility for customization and expansion and so rather than matching to your specific business needs you would be expected to match your business processes to the way the integration works. And then these are– we often hear, actually, these are not scalable and may not handle large volume of transactions and they might not be sufficient to handle the holiday loads. And then last, there is iPaas, an integration platform as a service. So a platform will give you all the tools you need to build your own integration and it will also come with pre-built integration. You can use as baselines to get started though you can easily customize and expand your integrations based on your needs. And these systems are scalable, they can handle large number of transactions volumes, and they provide easy monitoring and management as well as guaranteed data delivery, and so coming back to usability, so most platforms are built to be used by only highly technical users. However there are actually platforms out there such as [inaudible] iPaaS that are built to be used both by business and technical users and then total cost of ownership for this will be generally lower compared to all other solutions because development and maintenance will take less effort on an ongoing basis. And also one last thing to add is having all integrations on one platform will help with data governance and compliance. So on an iPaaS, you can basically connect any application with any other application as long as there’s a level of connectivity and it can really support many different use cases. So I think this is a really nice illustration. It gives you an idea– so you can basically connect ERP system and e-commerce marketplaces, storefronts, POS systems, 3PL, sales and marketing platforms, customer support platforms, so you can easily connect any piece of your business with the other ones to automate your key business processes in one platform. And so I talked about processes that can be automated and then how these can help your business to get ready for the holiday. And, Sam, before I finish my presentation today, I just want to provide some quick examples, real life examples, of actually how some businesses use iPaaS, so I’ll just go quickly through these. So the first example is Perfect Keto. They’re a direct to consumer business that provides supplements and snacks to support a certain lifestyles and they actually saw 600% growth in sales through Amazon and Shopify within one year, and they had to spend lots of their resources into manually transferring older data between their system and their inventory management system for 3PL was also not reliable in reporting the level and as a solution– so they switched to NetSuite for finance and inventory reporting. And then they automated key processes between Amazon, Shopify, NetSuite, and their 3PL through iPaaS. And as a result, they were able to gain real time visibility into their orders, inventory status, and improved business decision-making, demand and inventory planning, and also they actually reduced the closing times of their books by two thirds. So their accounting teams got back like 10 to 15 days a month by eliminating the manual tasks and also they actually saved thousands of dollars each month that were previously spent on contractors doing manual financial processes. And then another example here is Enviolo. So they’re a European bicycle component manufacturer, and so they’re a B2B business actually but then– so they are originally selling their parts to bicycle manufacturers but to improve customer experience, they also wanted to make their spare parts available to consumers through bicycle repair shops, and they used Shopify to take orders, so. However, for each order they received. They had to create new customer profiles in their ERP systems and start– every order had to be manually copied and pasted from one system to the other for fulfillment. So this resulted with slow, error-prone fulfillment and also degraded the customer experience, and also cause problems with visibility into the availability of the parts. So as a solution they automated key business processes with iPaa] and they synced order fulfillment between their applications. And they were able to process orders without errors, improve customer experience, and also gained visibility into a monetary level. And on top of all that, they freed up their resources from manual order processing into more meaningful tasks. And so last use case I have here is for Lights4fun. So they sell over 700 types of lights for home and garden. And they’re selling through online storefronts, marketplaces across Europe and USA, and also they have fulfillment across– they also handled their fulfillment across 14 different marketplaces. And before integration, they didn’t have any visibility into their orders, inventory, or fulfillment, and they were looking for a way to streamline their operations and stand using iPaaS. They were able to integrate their systems and they automated the dataflows between the sales channels and 3PLs. They automated order processing, fulfillment, but also they gained visibility into their orders, inventory, and fulfillment through this. And so, yeah, this brings me to the end of my presentation. So before I hand it back to Brian, here is some information on Celigo. So Celigo is an iPaaS integration platform as a service company. And on the platform, applications can be easily connected with each other to automate key business processes. And what makes the platform unique is that, unlike many other integration platforms out there, Celigo’s iPaaS is really built to be used by both business and more technical users. And so, yes, thank you very much for giving me an opportunity to present today. And if you have any questions later on, please feel free to get in touch. I would be happy to hear from you. Thank you. And, yes, thank you everyone who participated. Thank you for your insights here, Ebru. If you have questions now, you can also ask them now. There is, on the left side of your screen, an opportunity to ask a question. So you can type your question in there. Here we have one from Everett. “I was wondering when is the right time to start planning for automation for the holidays?” Yes. That’s a great question. So, yeah, I mean immediately after this one would be the right time. So given it takes time engaging with a solution provider, then find the individual processes and workflows that would benefit from automation, it is actually really a good time to start right away because we only have a few months left till the holidays. And then you will also– on top of putting the processes in place, then you still need some time for the testing out your new system and making sure any necessary adjustments are done before the holidays. So yeah, please consider all of that. Okay. Coincidentally and not necessarily alphabetically, we have one from Eveline here who’s wondering– It says – all right – I understand all this helps with operational efficiency, but from an accounting perspective, can I benefit from automation? Yes. So we actually have a lot of customers who are accounting and finance professionals. So they allow actually integration because sales orders can automatically be updated into their accounting software and processes such as payouts, reconciliation, can be automated. And then with integration, you do not only remove potential errors in your books, but you also prevent missing out on any open payments or identify incorrect payments received. And also through accurate, and real-time data, you can actually make a healthier forecasting and financial planning. And then another thing is, of course with automation, accounting and finance professionals can actually get back a lot of time every month. Often here they get weeks back every month and they don’t have to do the manually updating data tasks anymore. I see. I see. [inaudible] would like to know, with an iPaaS, do I need to have technical staff to build and maintain the integrations? So that really depends on the platform. So for Celigo’s iPaaS, you don’t because like I mentioned, our platform has an intuitive user interface and it is really built to be used by both business and technical users. So someone can actually get started by themselves using our pre-built templates and integration apps. And then they can also maintain the integrations themselves because we provide them with easy to use dashboards and tools. And, yeah. And then, yeah, we actually have many customers who are e-commerce managers, accounting, accountants, operations managers. And they actually do it all by themselves without any technical resources. Super. And we still have time for a few more questions. If you have any place them in the Ask My Question. You can type them in there. We have one here. What are use cases for automation on the supply side? So we have some manufacturing companies as our customers. And so their use cases are really on the procurement, warehouses, fulfillment, or logistics request side. So they automate all of these processes. Right? So one example can be a bill of materials can be synced from a PLM system into an ERP for purchasing of raw materials. Or another recent example was a platform such as SAP Ariba network can be, again, integrated with an ERP to automate buying processes, to support things like automatically sending out purchase orders, processing invoices for payments, etc. And then also on the 3PL side, there are some very interesting use cases. For example, when Amazon suddenly earlier this year suspended the fulfillment of non-essential products on FBA on a temporarily basis. So for example, on our platform, merchants were easily able to switch their fulfillment from FBA to merchant fulfilled. And then this way, for any incoming orders, they were able to direct the fulfillment into their own warehouses or other 3PLs instead of the FBA warehouses. So yeah, automation provides a lot of benefits on the supply side as well. I hope that answers this question. It does and we’re going to have to end there. That’s all the time we have left for questions. [Abril?], thanks for your very comprehensive presentation here on using automation to get ready for the holidays. Thank you also for Celigo. I want to thank you for supporting our retailers and e-tailers, important members of our community who are looking for these innovations and ways to do business better. Wanted to take a moment before we conclude just to let you know about– during this time of retail invention, retailX and Retail TouchPoints are coming together to help you refocus your perspective, rethink your strategy, and accelerate your technology and business plans to meet the needs of a very different consumer base. Join us October 13th and 14th for the now 100% virtual 2020 Retail Innovation Conference. We’ll deliver timely content, strategic insights, and tactical best practices that will help brands and retailers secure a strong future and ignite innovation within your brand. Thank you for participating in this webinar and I hope you will join us for future virtual events in our series soon. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Have a wonderful day. Thank you. Thank you Ebru.