Website Chatbots: What to Know to Embrace This Emerging Technology

In the United States, more than 50 percent of millennials and Gen Xers have interacted with chatbots, making these conversational programs one of today’s hottest eCommerce trends. But in reality, Siri’s and Alexa’s “parents,” Eliza and Parry, actually date back to the mid-60s and early 70s.

Simulated human conversation may not be new, but thanks to modern advancements in technology, these programs can now be integral parts of your marketing and branding strategies. Our fulfillment warehouse experts share what you need to know to successfully incorporate website chatbots in 2019.

Chatbots: Personalizing the Online Experience

Real-time interaction is a major advantage brick-and-mortar stores still have over virtual storefronts. Nearly one-third of online shoppers cite difficulty in getting answers to simple questions as their biggest frustration with eCommerce.

Chatbots are uniquely equipped to handle common customer service inquiries. Once you import your company’s FAQs, chat history and other relevant information, a chatbot uses the data to “train” itself. As the chatbot interacts with visitors to your website, the experiences serve to further refine its performance.

Need more reasons why you should be using chatbots?

• More than 50 percent of the participants in a Facebook survey said they’re more likely to shop with a business that provides chat services.

• Global research and advisory firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of engagement with eCommerce sites will be conducted via self-service options and chatbots.

• Surveys by Oracle, one of the leading multinational computer technology companies, indicate 80 percent of businesses currently use chatbots or are making plans to by 2020.

Value Add-On for Improving Productivity

Customer service is a natural application for chatbots, but their usefulness doesn’t end there. In addition to providing information, chatbots have the ability to gather data more fluidly than human agents.

• Chatbots can be programmed to ask targeted questions in order to qualify potential leads.

• Hard-to-navigate websites are another top source of frustration for online customers. Chatbots direct shoppers to the proper area of your website simply by asking what they’re looking for and posing other leading questions.

• Use of chatbots frees your staff to work on more urgent tasks, reducing operational costs while maximizing effectiveness. Chatbots are also available 24/7 without being subject to down time or attrition.

Chatbot Guidelines

1. No matter how sophisticated a chatbot program may be it’s meant to supplement human interaction, not replace it. Proper use of chatbots includes programming them to “know” when a customer should be directed to a human customer service agent.

2. While consistency is one of the advantages of chatbots, the programs are not one-size-fits-all. Chatbots are designed to be fit the needs of a specific industry, so a chatbot used by a healthcare organization will not be the same one you would want for your eCommerce business.

3. Start simple. Create a chatbot to handle basic customer requests that form the bulk of your customers’ interactions. Once the chatbot has been operational for a while, review the chat logs to detect patterns and trends, and then decide if you want to add further refinements or develop new chatbots to handle other tasks.

4. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Think of chatbots as a way to streamline basic business interactions, not add complicated and unnecessary bells and whistles.

Personalized Fulfillment Warehouse Services for a High-Tech World

Are you tired of fulfillment warehouse companies that treat you like nothing more than a number? At Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics, we consider ourselves a partner in your success, so your specific needs are our first priority.

Contact us to learn more about our cost-effective, flexible and scalable fulfillment warehouse services.

Three Reasons to Find a New Fulfillment Partner After the Holidays

How did your business do this holiday season? Hopefully it was prosperous and efficient, but maybe it could have been better. The busiest time of year can be illuminating and leaves some businesses shopping for a new fulfillment partner.

If you were feeling a little overwhelmed through the holidays, take heart – the New Year is here. It’s time to review performance and improve your operations.

Inhouse to Outhouse

You’ve been shipping your own orders and now it’s time for a change. The holiday season was hectic and it would be more efficient to have a fulfillment partner. Just think – next year you could concentrate on your customers and promotions while someone you trust handles your merchandise accurately, quickly, worry-free.

How Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics and Sprocket Express Can Help: When you decide to outsource fulfillment, there are a lot of details to consider. We are great at helping a small business outsource smoothly.

Gotta Get Outta Here

You care about your customers deeply. When they want something, you want to accommodate them so they stay happy. But not every fulfillment business is capable of delivering accurate and trustworthy service in keeping with the image you want to portray. The last hands on your product is the warehouse and you don’t want any complaint about shipping packaging or accuracy. You can avoid bad reviews with a reliable fulfillment partner.

Mistakes not only cost money and time, but they damage customer trust. Medallion and Sprocket Express have a 99.99%+ accuracy rate and exceptional customer service personnel. Plus, our fees are among the lowest in the industry. Learn more about our fulfillment services.

Becoming a Free Agent

Some fulfillment companies require contracts with their clients. When the contract period ends, it’s time to evaluate your options. Not every 3PL is a good fit for every client and it’s ok to shop around. If you are considering switching to a new fulfillment provider, take a look at our tips for a successful transition.

Our award winning service requires no contract and we have excellent references. Our accuracy is documented at over 99.9%. Tell us more about your fulfillment wish list and let’s talk about how we can partner to help you succeed!

California and Massachusetts Fulfillment Services that Exceed Customer Expectations

Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics and Sprocket Express provide a comprehensive set of eCommerce services that scale to meet your specific needs. Contact us to learn more about why we should be your first choice in cost-effective and efficient California and Massachusetts fulfillment services.

Subscription Box Services Lead the Way in DTC Brands

Subscription Boxes Work to Build Your Business

Over 25% of consumers are signed up for subscription box services. The industry now contains over 3,500 established box services worth roughly $10 billion. And, according to MultiChannelMerchant, 75% of DTC (direct to consumer) brands will offer subscription services by 2023. As this model becomes more popular, many brands are wondering if they should ride this wave with their own subscription boxes or supply their products to mixed or mystery boxes to attract new customers. At the same time, fulfillment partners need to tone up their skills and highlight their capabilities in this area to attract and retain more clients.

Subscription boxes are beneficial to everyone, which is one of the reasons they have become so popular across the board. Here are some of the benefits.

Consumers

  • Save money
  • Try new products

The benefits to consumers are simple. Not only can they avoid running out of products that they use regularly and count on, they also save money on these products. Plus, they can discover new products in the samples included in the boxes. Sometimes the boxes are random selections, while other boxes are selected entirely by the consumer. Each has its own benefits. In a previous post, we explored some of the popular subscription box options.

Brands

  • Better order forecasting
  • Enhance customer loyalty
  • Improve bottom line

Order Forecasting
One of the challenges of retail in general is the predictability of order flow. Some brands experience a very regular pattern throughout the year, with peak season activity predictably raising revenue. But most brands struggle to anticipate the order volume. Forecasting isn’t easy, especially when it’s about the future.

The subscription box model helps regulate this flow by grouping orders and standardizing the activity among subscribed customers. Although some will cancel their subscriptions, the overall pattern will be more regular than businesses without subscription options, evening out cash flow and helping predict revenues month over month.

Back in the dark early days of e-commerce, a business would need to manually create reorder logic to ship to a customer each month. Today there are numerous services that provide this capability within existing e-commerce platforms, communicating with fulfillment partners as well as the customer and fully automating the process.

Customer Engagement and Loyalty

Subscribing is an act of loyalty. This model helps build a relationship between the customer and the brand. The consumer is more likely to purchase from the business that they deal with so regularly and the business has an easier time creating engagement for promotions or new items and cross-selling.

Building this level of trust paves the way for potential up-sells. Familiarity breeds customer loyalty in this case. And it’s worth noting that many of these brands would not have encountered or attracted the customers without the exposure to product trial that subscription boxes create.

Bottom Line Benefits

But subscription boxes can also save the brand money. By regulating order flow, there is more predictability in inventory, which prompts a leaner supply chain and reduces carrying costs. At the same time, the brand gains new customers and a more predictable order flow.

Fulfillment Services

  • Better forecasting
  • Fill niche services

Similarly, a fulfillment service that processes subscription boxes may be able to move inventory through more quickly, cutting down on stagnant inventory. Storage costs are rarely a significant source of revenue for a fulfillment house, but they can impact the brand’s bottom line. By filling orders and utilizing inventory in a more efficient manner, a brand can achieve JIT inventory (just-in-time inventory) and smooth the supply chain so there are less stuck-in-storage costs. This is good for everyone.

Shipping large volume for a client once per month helps a 3PL better predict staffing needs. 3PLs are accustomed to ramping up staff for peak holiday seasons, but when a client has a very successful sales promotion without warning, this can create a strain on the fulfillment operation. Again, subscription boxes help regulate this flow and make the peaks more predictable. Not only does the fulfillment partner benefit from more regular peak order volumes, but this improves efficiency which impacts the 3PL’s bottom line.

Much like the brands themselves, fulfillment partners can forecast revenue more easily with the more regulated pattern lent by subscriptions.

Fulfillment services who are adept at serving the subscription box market are prepared to handle the relevant logistics. These companies have worked out the kinks and are set up to provide service to this niche, which is growing rapidly. This expertise helps them provide quality service to their clients across a variety of fulfillment scenarios.

Conclusion

The subscription box model works well for all parties in the transaction.

  • Predictability (of delivery, order flow, revenue)
  • Efficiency
  • Relationships
  • Saves money (retail prices, inventory, supply chain, preparation)

If your business is not involved in subscription service, this may be a good time to research your options. Almost every brand has a product that fits in one or more of these boxes.

Sprocket Express is a division of Medallion Enterprises and owned by Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics.

4 More Signs it’s Time to Outsource Fulfillment

Questions on Fulfillment Services

There are many reasons your business may consider outsourcing to a fulfillment service. The most important, although difficult to monetize, is time. Once your business has grown beyond the startup phase and begun to sustain itself, prioritizing your time, and that of your employees or partners, is crucial to continued success.

In addition to needing time to concentrate on business growth, here are four more signs that it is time to outsource your fulfillment.

Too Many Questions

You are an expert in your field. Your business knows its target markets and has a plan in place to increase sales. As your product offering widens and your customer base grows, your orders become less homogeneous. Soon you intend to pursue wholesale customers, increasing the variety even further. All of these changes bring questions.

What is the best shipping method for wholesale orders? Is it the same as retail orders? Should we use the same carrier for all packages to increase volume discounts, or can we save money in other ways? Do we need to stock more shipping box sizes? And, above all, are we paying too much for shipping?

A reliable fulfillment service already has the answers to your questions and will allow you time to market your business and develop your assets.

The Sea of Rising Costs

Shipping costs have risen over 60% in less than a decade. Many companies spend 10-12% of their revenue on shipping costs alone. Utilizing different carriers for different shipping scenarios can save money, but diffuses your volume discounts for a single business.

An established fulfillment service is able to offer discounted freight rates based on the volume they handle for all clients together. Leveraging this power in numbers will save your business more money than it can earn from its own volume discounts for many years, if not indefinitely.

As sales grow, many related costs increase: the staffing costs to pack and ship orders, packaging materials, storage space, shipping costs, returns processing, and more. This is in addition to advertising and marketing costs, manufacturing, freight, web development, legal and other expenses. And time, the most precious and nonrenewable resource. When the fulfillment need begins to drain resources, outsourcing is the decisive action that consolidates and manages these costs into one bill, one concern, one (very important) cog in the wheel.

A Barrier to Growth

Expanding to new markets and marketplaces requires planning and logistics management. The software integrations alone can save valuable time for a growing business. Third-party logistics partners (3PLs) like Sprocket Express have existing software integrations that can take your orders directly from most any shopping cart or marketplace and automatically process the orders through their system.

With expansion, peak season traffic also increases. This is great news for your business, but is your in-house capability ready for the heightened activity? With a professional fulfillment partner, your business can focus on promotions and social media, rather than shipping orders during busy times. They will have seasonal staff on hand to meet the demand and they have regular pickup, plenty of packing materials, and the experience to keep the whole thing running smoothly.

Trying to forge ahead once your business reaches the tipping point can impede your success. It’s like trying to start two businesses- one in your field and one in the fulfillment field. If that idea resonated with you, it is probably time to outsource.

Warehouse Space

Depending on your product line, warehouse space may become a concern early in the game. For businesses that import containers of goods, storage space is key. If your products are small and/or purchased in small quantities, it may not be urgent to find a separate location for storage. For those that deal with large items or quantities, a professional warehouse is immensely helpful. Over time, it will save money to use a warehouse rather than your own business space to house inventory.

Conclusion

Recreating a knowledgeable and experienced shipping department is a deviation of resources, both time and money. Once you have taken hold in your market, diverting your focus to this task may not be the best course of action. Outsourcing fulfillment at this crucial moment can streamline your operations and provide room to scale.

If you are ready to consider outsourcing your order fulfillment, contact us for more information.

Sprocket Express is a division of Medallion Enterprises and owned by Medallion Fulfillment & Logistics.

The Evolution of Ecommerce

History of eCommerce

In 1979, Michael Aldrich invented online shopping that continued to gain widespread popularity and made shopping a lot easier. It is now known as ecommerce. Over time, it has become the most preferred method of shopping and has provided significant opportunities for businesses around the world. According to a study, North America alone had around 223 million online shoppers in 2017, and world retail ecommerce sales reached $2.3 trillion. It is estimated that retail ecommerce sales will reach $4.9 trillion by 2021.

Early Years of Ecommerce

Michael Aldrich found a way to connect domestic television and a multi-user transaction processing computer via telephone lines. His invention was called the teleputer, and it allowed users to buy various items without leaving their homes. Aldrich’s invention enabled people to carry out transactions anytime and anywhere.

In 1991, when the World Wide Web became widely available, ecommerce experienced massive growth. One of the very first successful ecommerce platforms was eBay. In 1995, eBay launched an online auction website where people bought and sold used items from one another. By 1996, eBay sold well over $7.2 million worth of goods and had only two full-time employees.

Another company that saw its stock rise with the emergence of the World Wide Web was Amazon. Founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, Amazon was created with the intention to sell books. In the first month, it started selling books across the US and other 45 countries. Today, Amazon offers a wide range of products.

The Growth of Ecommerce

Ecommerce is continuously evolving since it has to keep up with the competitive online market and the rate of development. With the emergence of newer technologies, online retailers have to utilize new and effective ways to generate leads and make more sales. Some of the inventions that have drastically impacted ecommerce are digital marketing and mcommerce. The infographic below will further provide you with more facts about ecommerce.