Everything You Need To Know About E-Commerce Solutions

More companies have jumped into the world of e-commerce to harness benefits such as being able to reach geographically diverse audiences. However, e-commerce has its challenges. For example, businesses that sell via e-commerce marketplaces need to keep a tight handle on operations including supply chain management and customer support.

Those types of functions can seem daunting and cost-prohibitive at first glance. But they don’t have to be thanks to the prevalence of reliable, practical, and affordable e-commerce solutions.

 
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What Is an E-commerce Solution?

An e-commerce solution is typically made up of e-commerce software and/or accompanying processes that help manage and automate digital commerce workflows such as warehouse management, fulfillment, and dropshipping. Consequently, companies that fold e-commerce solutions into their operations should find it easier to manage their online store. That means better management of their supplies, getting the right products to buyers faster, and offering customers exceptional experiences.

To get a better understanding of how this type of platform works in the real world, consider the case of an up-and-coming e-commerce retailer. The retailer wants to sell a number of products online. At the same time, the retailer is reluctant to spend money on leasing warehousing space.

In this situation, the small business may seek out a third-party logistics (3PL) e-commerce solutions provider with offsite warehouse space. The retailer’s merchandise would be sent to the e-commerce solutions provider’s warehouse. Once there, it would be inventoried by the 3PL provider and kept until a customer made a digital purchase and it could be sent from the warehouse.

Of course, e-commerce solutions aren’t limited to warehousing. They can also be beneficial to help with order fulfillment and dropshipping.

Common Fulfillment and Dropshipping E-Commerce Solutions

Like warehousing, fulfillment and dropshipping can become friction points for e-commerce businesses and their growth. E-commerce order fulfillment is the process of delivering an order from a warehouse to the customer who ordered it. As such, it entails some back-end work like getting the products for the order from the warehouse shelves.

Dropshipping is the process of shipping products without keeping them in stock. It’s a form of supply chain management that involves transferring orders and their shipping details to a third-party such as the manufacturer, a wholesaler, a fulfillment house, or even another retailer. The third party then ships the product directly to the customer, making them responsible for issues like product quality, storage, inventory management, and shipping.

E-commerce solutions like 3PL providers can streamline fulfillment and dropshipping needs by taking on all the details. A provider’s team can pick and pack merchandise in a well-organized warehouse, ship the merchandise to buyers, and conveniently process returns. Instead of the e-commerce business being forced to do everything in-house, the e-commerce solutions partner can absorb and manage all the moving parts.

Benefits of E-commerce Solutions

1E-commerce solutions help brands scale.

Many retailers with e-commerce aspirations hope to take their brands national or international. Yet it can be hard to offer products 24 hours a day, seven days a week without putting more efficient practices into play.

E-commerce solutions can close efficiency gaps and enable expansion. A good example is an e-commerce company that works with an e-commerce solutions partner with multiple warehouses. The company gets the advantage of being able to rapidly move products without having to find and rent a dedicated warehouse space or pay for personnel.

2E-commerce solutions improve data storage, accessibility, and transparency.

Every day, e-commerce businesses amass large pools of structured and unstructured data. A digital e-commerce solution, like a cloud-based system, can help gather, protect, and analyze the information.

This type of convenience can go a step further when the e-commerce solution integrates with the e-commerce business’s other programs (e.g., the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system.) Being able to gather and evaluate data helps a business owner understand what’s happening and inform future decisions.

3E-commerce solutions elevate the customer experience.

Because of e-commerce giants like Amazon and Overstock.com, customer experience expectations are set around getting personalized, quick, value-added experiences online. Buyers don’t want to wait for merchandise or be told by a customer support representative that “there’s nothing we can do.”

This is another place where e-commerce solutions shine. Businesses that adopt e-commerce solutions have a better chance of impressing customers and gaining customer loyalty. Why? They can move the right items swiftly through the ordering and fulfillment processes. This allows brands to compete-even if they are small or newly launched.

4E-commerce solutions present unique marketing opportunities.

A complete e-commerce solution also helps an online business sell their products on multiple marketplaces, which is essential for expanding market reach. Take Amazon. It can be difficult for newer startups to gain traction on Amazon. But working with an e-commerce solution that’s already a trusted partner in the Amazon marketplace offers instant credibility.

A platform that provides access to additional marketplaces should maintain product information such as content, specifications, and images in a single location. The ability to become a trusted partner with marketplaces also helps build connections for introducing new product lines. 

E-commerce Solutions Technology

The gap between a supply chain’s requirements and its current capabilities has traditionally presented a challenge for businesses in the e-commerce world. However, e-commerce solutions can provide practical, effective means of providing the benefits of a supply chain, thereby making technology a key requirement of successful e-commerce solutions. Companies that already invest in technology are especially likely to realize a positive return on their investment in supplemental e-commerce solutions.

E-commerce solutions technology can integrate a variety of functions that affect both the company and other parties, like partners, vendors, and customers. In particular, it influences the three workflows of supply chains, which include physical, financial, and information flows.

For example, e-commerce solutions technology can improve physical flows such as product and inventory levels. Additionally, it can optimize the flow and processing of information through an organization, which is an increasingly important capability. Enhancements to financial flow include more efficient solutions to transaction settlements.

Furthermore, e-commerce solution technology narrows the performance gap that normally exists between different levels of the supply chain through various electronic means. It also enables new capabilities such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like ERP, Megaventory, SAP, and Xero. While these platforms help companies manage their daily operations by themselves, e-commerce solutions technology can exploit these capabilities more fully.

Today’s e-commerce solutions do more than simply handle transactions. They also help companies bring other aspects of their business online, including supply-chain management with their trading partners. These companies need a full-service e-commerce solution that helps them build better relationships with their customers.

Types of E-commerce Solutions Technology

E-commerce solutions technology may generally be classified as an Order Management System (OMS), Warehouse Management System (WMS), or Product Information Management (PIM).

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Order Management System (OMS)

An OMS e-commerce solution enters, processes, and tracks all orders for all e-commerce companies using the system. Like most modern technologies, OMS e-commerce solutions effectively and efficiently populate order data across as many screens as possible. This cuts down on the need for someone to manually perform time-consuming “cut and paste” activities.

Each type of OMS is customized and may be customizable as well. Some of the most preferred attributes of popular OMS choices include:

  • Ability to organize, track, and synchronize orders from multiple warehouses
  • Easy-to-read order screens that look the same across all order types
  • Filters that allow order data to be broken down into fulfillments, split among multiple warehouse partners, etc.
  • High degree of data parsing and reporting functionality
  • Automatic noting systems and messaging to indicate issues within the order processing supply chain without the need for employee intervention

Warehouse Management System (WMS)

A WMS e-commerce solution supports and optimizes an e-commerce site’s warehouse and distribution center functionality. WMS options facilitate the management of these functions by automating daily operations such as resource utilization, the movement and storage of products and staff support. An efficient WMS should also minimize disruptions to business resources when performing these tasks.

Like a strong OMS, a solid WMS will usually have most if not all of the following characteristics:

  • A robust dashboard updated in real-time that all users with access can see on any device, including smartphones and tablets
  • Ability to create pertinent “tags” to better organize warehouse inventory or to identify zoned areas
  • Capable of evaluating information from multiple warehouses at once
  • Automated suggests regarding shipping package choices based on item weight and other attributes
  • Integrations with CRMs and other systems to give salespeople and customer support representatives insights
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Product Information Management (PIM)

A PIM manages the information needed to market and sell products through distribution channels. Its primary benefit is for companies with a multichannel marketing strategy. That’s because it uses a PIM to distribute a central hub of product data to a business’s various sales channels.

PIM-related channels may include e-commerce sites, social media platforms, and print catalogs. It could also include marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart.

What to Look for in an E-Commerce Solution

Are you thinking about investing in an e-commerce solution? Before making your decision, you need to understand which traits will be best suited for your needs and anticipated applications.

To be sure, e-commerce solutions often include many of the same basic features. However, the details of their implementation can serve as differentiating factors when you’re trying to choose the best solution for your needs.

The features of e-commerce solutions that you should examine more closely include integration, automation, and reporting.

1. Integration

The integration of an e-commerce platform into your existing operations involves the transfer of data between the platform and the critical components of your business. For most retailers, these components include accounting, customer relationship management (CRM), inventory, marketing, and sales.

This level of integration saves a great deal of time because staff members only need to enter data once. The e-commerce platform can then transfer the entered data throughout the system and store it so that users can access it for each account.

Integration allows retailers to serve many customers, especially when converting them on multiple channels at the same time. It also lets them track the path that customers take on their journey towards a purchase, regardless of the channels involved in the transaction.

2. Automation

E-commerce automation is the process of automatically performing technologically-driven tasks. That includes whether they’re initiated by customers or an organization’s own team members. Online and on-premises systems both perform these automated tasks without the need for direct human intervention.

A specific action can trigger an automated task, but a lack of action can also do so. For example, an e-commerce solution may automatically identify the number of employees that will be needed during certain times of the day based on historic orders. Similarly, e-commerce systems can figure out which warehouse to choose after an order is placed.

A general rule of thumb in business is that automating repetitive tasks saves time, money, and resources. Certainly, in the case of e-commerce solutions automation, it can save all three.

3. Reporting

E-commerce solutions should be able to easily generate reports at the touch of a button. These reports should be easy to understand while still providing actionable insights into customer behavior. This capability allows retailers to focus on growing business by making data-driven decisions.

Consider a company that ships orders from numerous warehouses around the country. It would be difficult to get a strong understanding of how a particular item was selling without the ability to create an instant report. The good thing about e-commerce solutions technology is that most providers allow users to break down reports in a variety of ways to make better use of data.

Without a doubt, the ability to interpret all data is highly beneficial for merchants. It’s especially useful for understanding how the aspects of their business connect with and affect each other.

How to Choose the Right E-commerce Solution

E-commerce solutions generally offer many functions that businesses will find beneficial. However, identifying the ones that are the best choice requires a close examination of the following characteristics for that company:

  • Budget
  • Technology
  • Number of products
  • Room for growth
  • Types of customer service

1. Budget

How much money should a company plan to set aside for its e-commerce solutions? There aren’t any set parameters or answers. Instead, every company needs to come up with a budget based on a few key considerations.

The first consideration revolves around warehousing. A company selling 150 products has far different warehousing requirements than one with a more massive product lineup of 10,000+ items. Obviously, the more warehouses that are needed-including ones that might require special considerations, like climate-controlled settings-the higher the budget will have to be.

The second consideration is the size of the company today, as well as the size that the company hopes to be in the future. After all, Company A may be satisfied to remain its size and sell merchandise on one marketplace whereas Company B may have aspirations to be on 40 marketplaces within 12 months. Therefore, it’s worth looking at business plans to flesh out a realistic spend.

The final budget consideration boils down to the type of e-commerce solution needed. As mentioned before, e-commerce solutions come in an abundance of shapes, sizes, and delivery methods. It’s best for corporate team leaders to name their biggest pain points. This will help when it comes to understanding how to solve those problems, as well as how much it will likely cost to achieve more streamlined operations.

2. Technology

Startups may find it easiest to determine what kinds of technology they need out of an e-commerce solution. Why? Startup ventures rarely have any deep connection to a legacy or preferred system. This leaves them open to working with almost any type of e-commerce technological solution because it won’t create any problems with their current workflows.

Companies that have been around for a long time may have technological programs they use and like, though. Consequently, their leaders may need technology that can integrate with the platforms their people are comfortable using.

Beyond integration capabilities, another key technological consideration includes the e-commerce solution’s analytics and reporting capabilities. Not all e-commerce solutions allow for customized reporting, for instance. For some companies, that’s fine. For others, it’s a dealbreaker. Being able to evaluate a potential e-commerce solution against its reporting features can help narrow down contenders.

3. Number of Products

The number of products your business sells is a key factor to consider when choosing an e-commerce solution. This factor refers to both the number of distinct products and the number of variants in the basic products.

A platform with a comparatively low limit on the number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) it can handle can restrict the growth of your business. Ensure that the solution you choose can accommodate your stock if you have a large product catalog.

4. Room for Growth

While not all companies intend to scale in the coming months, most appreciate knowing that they could. For that reason, all e-commerce solutions need to be evaluated on their growth abilities.

Take marketplace options, for example. An e-commerce solution with partnerships expanding into dozens of marketplaces-perhaps many that are difficult to sell on for newer e-commerce retailers-leaves room for advancement.

Even merchants that aren’t picturing expansion shouldn’t force themselves to be constrained by an e-commerce solution with no bandwidth to offer diversification, just in case.

5. Add-on Services

When picking an e-commerce solution, businesses will want to pay attention to special add-ons. These can run the gamut from marketing assistance to customer service help. Most solutions providers won’t lead with their add-ons, but those add-ons can be the differentiators an e-commerce retailer needs to profit and thrive.

From a marketing standpoint, e-commerce solutions providers might be able to assist with something as seemingly small as product photography, product copywriting, or other aspects of digital marketing. It’s important not to overlook those options. Taking appealing images and writing “sticky” descriptions can be time-consuming. Having a third-party e-commerce solutions partner tackle those responsibilities frees up a company’s time to focus on other endeavors.

In terms of customer service, e-commerce solutions providers can act as “backstage assistants” to customer support teams. How? If they’re engaged in the reverse logistics of quickly and professionally handling the processing of returns, they can reduce the number of customers calling into the main number to ask when they’ll get their money back, their replacement object, etc.

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Complete E-commerce Solutions FAQ's

What is a complete e-commerce solution?

A complete e-commerce solution provides all the functions needed to easily operate an e-commerce business, including dropshipping, warehousing, fulfillment and marketplaces.

Why do you need a complete e-commerce solution?

A complete e-commerce solution allows a company to integrate its existing platform with multiple marketplaces. It also provides meaningful insights into data on revenue, shipping and inventory from a centralized dashboard.

How many complete e-commerce solutions are there?

There are a number of e-commerce solutions to choose from, but not many that can be labeled as a “complete” e-commerce solution. Many help with certain aspects of e-commerce warehousing, fulfillment, or product management, but not in one centralized tool.

How is Tradefull a Complete E-Commerce Solution

Our roots as a retailer provide us with the knowledge and experience needed to meet the demanding requirements of today’s marketplaces. Tradefull offers a complete e-commerce solution that provides the following functions:

  • Marketplaces
  • Warehousing
  • Fulfillment
  • Marketing & Support

Tradefull provides easy access to over 40 marketplaces, including Amazon, Walmart, and eBay. We also offer exclusive access to premier online retailers like Pier 1, Dressbarn and Modell’s from a single platform.

You can also store your products in your own warehouse or one of ours, since our software makes it easy to track inventory. Our warehouses can handle a wide range of product types and sizes, unlike some of our competitors.

Want to learn more about Tradefull and how we can help your business grow? Contact us today.

e-commerce company using a reverse logistics process