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E-commerce Operations | SOPs for Ecommerce | Ecommerce Standard Operating Procedures

E-commerce Operations | SOPs for Ecommerce | Ecommerce Standard Operating Procedures

The growth of e-commerce has been unprecedented, to say the least. The way it has caught on and has found universal acceptance is without any parallel in recent history. That said, for a business to succeed as an e-commerce brand, the customer who is the cornerstone of the business must be offered an unmatched customer experience. Else, they would switch to the next best alternative at the click of a mouse, loyalties change very quickly in the online space.

This makes it rather important that an e-commerce brand remains focused on providing a consistent customer experience. One of the practical ways of doing it is through Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). By implementing SOPs for e-commerce business, a brand can ensure that processes and systems are standardized to offer a consistent experience that not only helps long term sustenance but equally enhances the company’s reputation for being a reliable brand. The write-up seeks to inform readers on areas where SOPs (i.e. e-commerce business blueprint) can be defined and implemented, here it is:

Ecommerce Order Management & Fulfillment:

If it is a growing e-commerce brand, it is not easy to manage the quantum of orders received on a daily basis. It would be extremely prudent on the part of the e-commerce brand to have an ecommerce order management system architecture. A standardized set of procedures in the form of SOPs that would streamline the process of order management & e-commerce order fulfillment. Else, there is a good chance of getting a lot of complaints from dissatisfied customers during the last-mile delivery and after-sales. These two phases happen to be critical for an e-commerce business where enough standardization with an order management software for ecommerce (also called: OMS Ecommerce) would make a great difference.

Ecommerce Inventory Management:

This is one of those things in an e-commerce business ecosystem if not handled properly can have great repercussions. Overstocking and understocking (out-of-stock scenarios) are real possibilities with improper e-commerce inventory management processes. By implementing SOPs aligned with an ecommerce inventory management software and/or ecommerce warehouse management system, the business will have better inventory control and have the right number of SKUs according to the existing demand. The ecommerce operations SOPs would establish the necessary processes for inventory monitoring at regular intervals to ensure there is no overstocking nor understocking. A multi-channel inventory management for ecommerce business can help with amazon inventory management, inventory at other marketplaces and your website, wherein all SKUs are synced together and available for all channels of sales.

Ecommerce Customer Service:

Today, e-commerce businesses are connected to a lot of communication channels such as social media, online forums, google reviews, marketplace reviews, customer care numbers and so on. This makes it altogether important for brands to have guidelines in place well-before a contingency takes place. With the implementation of well-articulated e-commerce customer service SOP (Standard Operating Procedures), an e-commerce brand stands to gain from seamless communication protocols without any room for lapses or ambiguity. E-commerce customer service agents would accurately know what is to be conveyed to the customers most appropriately. Such a robust system will help the business manage pre-sales and post-sales communication in the most effective manner.

Product Catalogue Management:

In the online business, no one is directly selling 1-2-1 to the customer, hence the product itself has to do all the “talking.” This makes it all the more important to have strict guidelines in place so that the product and the associated product descriptions get displayed error-free. With SOPs for ecommerce, there can be standardized processes that need to be followed when listing the product on-site as it acts as an e-commerce business blueprint. By following through with the established procedures, there is minimal chance of an error occurring during the listing of a product or catalogue management on an e-commerce website.

E-commerce Operations Management:

Successful business operations of e-commerce are dependent on internal stakeholders working in alignment with external agencies to achieve a common goal. By having well-articulated and system integrated, ecommerce operations sops, a business will have standardized systems that are less person-dependent and would ensure work flows seamlessly without any chaos. Poor systems have an adverse impact on operations management and at the same time hampers brand reputation as it leads to delayed deliveries, poor customer service, OOS situations, etc.

Ecommerce HR Management:

A company’s culture is what defines and differentiates it from other brands in the same space. Organized working culture is not something developed overnight, but it gets created over a while during the course of the business. HR challenges in the ecommerce industry are way different from a traditional business, thus ecommerce business operations will have a direct positive impact if it has an HR handbook and policies in a standardised format. This will allow existing and new employees to easily align their actions with the company expectations & culture. In the long term, the management would not have to deal with low productivity situations, as the KRA’s, KPI’s, and its implications on the role becomes transparent with HR Standard Operating Procedures.

IT Infrastructure Planning:

The proverbial backbone of an e-commerce business is the technology infrastructure. Without that, it is difficult to get an e-commerce business off the ground. In technical parlance, it is utmost necessary for a digital business to have a robust online infrastructure with state-of-the-art technology supporting it. Moreover, the technology should be able to keep pace with the growth of the business. Meaning, there should be the addition and integration of ecommerce IT solutions to the existing processes in a streamlined manner with time. This kind of exercise can be made seamless with an online business blueprint that will serve as the guiding document to serve as the road map to fulfil a company’s growing IT needs.

Why choose YRC to develop E-commerce SOPs?

YRC comes with years of experience of having developed and implemented e-commerce SOPs for online business catering to different niches and verticals. YRC as an e-commerce solutions companies is a go-to expert for online businesses when it comes to designing e-commerce SOPs i.e. ecommerce customer journey map, e-commerce order management process flow chart, e-commerce business process flow, e-commerce process flow chart, e-commerce business process diagram, e-commerce process flow diagram, ecommerce customer service sop, e-commerce HR SOP, and so on.

YRC is a business partner for online businesses in implementing e-commerce best practices that are prevalent among established e-commerce companies. Overall, involving YRC in the creation of best-fit processes for an online business can ensure the reduction in error rates and as a result negative reviews pertaining to order processing, return and customer support reduces drastically. We come with a reputation for implementing well-written and IT system-integrated SOPs so that the process blueprints do not just remain on paper. Our e-commerce solutions services drive towards an objective to make the company more system-dependent and less person-dependent and reduce errors in systems that are hampering the growth of the company.

FAQs

What are ecommerce operations? How to improve ecommerce operations?

Ecommerce Operations is the backbone of any ecommerce business. It includes functions like Inventory Management, Order Fulfilment and Customer Service. It supports the business objectives, helps achieve efficiency and plays a vital role in brand reputation.

Ecommerce Operations are very critical as it’s the reflection of how organised the company is? If Ecommerce Operations are not streamlined then it shall lead to order delays, high rate of returns and high volumes of negative reviews.

Ecommerce Operations can be improvised with a perfect blend of softwares, human capital and SOPs (i.e. Standard Operating Procedures)

Ecommerce Operations SOPs must be defined supporting the softwares used i.e. OMS, WMS, Inventory Management and Customer Service Software, so the team shall be productive enough and ensure minimal errors within the processes.

Thus, defining the SOPs is the first step towards improving the ecommerce operations.

How to improve ecommerce customer service?

Ecommerce Customer Service has a direct impact on brand reputation. If customer service is not responding on time and/or in an unpleasant manner, then it shall lead to negative reviews and brand may lose repeat buyers, which is the key for any ecommerce business to be profitable. Since the CAC is high in ecommerce, losing customers shall keep the average CAC (i.e. Cost of Acquiring a Customer) on the higher side consistently.

Ecommerce Customer Service department can be streamlined with the help of the right Customer Service Software and SOPs defined especially for the customer service team to handle returns, refunds and customer complaints. If the customer’s complaints are responded to faster, there is a 72% probability to retain the customer and stop them from giving a negative review. Thus, software alone cannot help arrest the problems, it’s the blend with SOPs which shall streamline the customer service for any ecommerce company.

What is order fulfillment in ecommerce? How to improve order fulfillment process?

Order Fulfillment in eCommerce means the process of receiving the order up to the last mile delivery of the ordered products. The fulfilment can happen from the company’s warehouse or the 3PL warehouse or the marketplace warehouse. Thus, there is a high probability that fulfilment is happening from different stock points, making it challenging to manage inventory.

Ecommerce Order Fulfillment Process can be streamlined with the help of OMS (i.e. Order Management System) and in case of multiple stock points a multi channel inventory management software would be required.

Along with the software, well-defined SOPs (i.e. Standard Operating Procedures for Ecommerce) would be needed to ensure the team who is executing the process is well aware of the nuances of the process i.e. Order Picking process, Quality Check before dispatch, Packing guidelines, Last Mile Delivery process, etc. Delay or error within the order fulfilment process can lead to order delays, wrong order delivery, damaged goods delivery and numerous other deviations which can lead to a higher return rate, order cancellation and dissatisfied customers.

If you have your own ecommerce warehouse or fulfilment centre, then you can watch this video on “7 Steps to Design E-Commerce Warehouse Layout “. Click here.

How to manage ecommerce inventory?

Inventory is the lifeline to any ecommerce business. The key challenges in ecommerce inventory management are: introducing fast moving products, being competent with value of the product, multi-channel inventory management, cross-border returns, damage of inventory during transit, inventory handling issues at warehouse, OOS inventory, etc

In order to ensure the inventory is managed in an organised way, robust inventory management software and SOPs to manage ecommerce inventory shall help to streamline systems and ensure minimal error rates.

To know about “5 Simple Tips for ECommerce Inventory Management”, click here.

Case-Studies

Scarters

Raymond Custom Tailoring

Kayfi

Aditya Birla Grasim Chemicals

Nana

Taza-iq

To know about what our clients like about YRC, click here to watch video testimonials.

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We work only for Visionaries.

PROCESS AUTOMATION

The idea of having Ecommerce Consultants on-board from the beginning itself points towards reducing the involvement of the promoters in daily operations. Ecommerce Businesses willing to be a brand reaping profits & sustaining the competition must ensure that most of their processes should be automated. The more the manual intervention, the more would be the errors.

In Ecommerce business, you get only 1 chance to impress the customer & if you mess up there, you lose the customer for long.

Process automation in respect to all the activities pertaining to customers from order receiving to order fulfilment is a must for a seamless experience for the customers.

Task Management is another grey area where most deadlines fail as 90% of the tasks are assigned manually & are forgotten, unheard, misunderstood or mistaken.

YRC Team of Ecommerce Management Consultants helps to make maximum of the processes system-driven to ensure minimalistic manual intervention.

VIDEOGRAPHY & PHOTOGRAPHY

No matter how good your product is, the customer would know only if it looks good.

Photography includes the following steps:

  • Cataloguing your products
  • Cataloguing your images
  • Backup your images (A few cloud storage solutions include Dropbox, Google Drive, Bitcasa, Apple’s Cloud Storage etc.)
  • Choose the right camera & lens (You may also outsource the photography to a third party agency)

DIGITAL MARKETING

Digital Marketing includes SEO & SMM. SEO i.e. Search Engine Optimization includes activities like back-linking, meta tags, blog-writing etc. to ensure your website ranks on the 1st page on Google Search.

Next comes SMM i.e. “Social Media Marketing” which as the name suggests including promoting your products on all the social media sites, email marketing, influencer marketing & several other BTL activities.

These activities are going to be recurring & would decide the traffic on the website, the conversions, whether the right target market is tapped, the likes, the views, the orders, the reviews & much more. YRCs Ecommerce Consultants create a budget for digital marketing right from pre-launch to launch & for each month thereafter.

Building digital marketing strategies in coordination with the agency, selecting them to signing them off would be the role of YRC.

This ensures seamless coordination, detailed interactions & desired execution as it is always advisable to work with a single agency than multiple of them.

IT INTEGRATION

Selection of the right software for smooth functioning of back-end operations right from production to webstore display would be suggested and integrated by YRC Team.

YRC’s Team defines SOPs of Product Movement, maps it with the locations & people. They then create a blueprint of all the features required in the software & help in shortlisting & selection.

IT Integration involves connecting your offline inventories with real-time online webstore so when a sale occurs, inventories get deducted real time across offline as well as online platforms.

This helps in accurate inventory management, maintaining the MOQs, re-order levels & achieving the optimum inventory levels.

Some popular software include unicommerce, viniculum for your front-end website management & Genisys for your entire back-end Purchase, Production, Accounting, Invoicing etc. management.

WAREHOUSE & LOGISTICS PLANNING

  • How many cities or countries you wish to sell in?
  • Where should your Warehouse be located?
  • Should you have one warehouse in each country or city?
  • Should you be having your own delivery team in your base city?
  • Would the 3rd party vendors be reliable? What happens when they lose or misplace your product during delivery?
  • How should I manage the logistics if my goods are coming from different countries?
  • How should the goods be stored and barcoded?
  • How much space do I require for warehouse?
  • I am sure several such questions must be haunting you while you think of starting your own fashion ecommerce brand.

 

At YRC, our warehousing and logistics experts can help you devise a strategy for all of the above mentioned queries and much more.

We design the layout of the Warehouse considering the inward, goods processing, software entry, barcoding, outward, goods return, scrap storage, goods stacking & much more.

Logistics route plan is devised considering the manufacturer to your warehouse and from there to last mile delivery locations.

UI & UX DESIGNING

This Step involves 03 distinct parts:

Part 1: Choosing the right Platform:

From several platforms available in the market right from Shopify to magento, woocommerce, prestoshop, wordpress etc. you must choose the one that fits best for your business

Part 2: UX Designing:

“UX” denotes User Experience, which if put in simple language is building the functional requirements of the website.

UX Designing includes designing the features required in the website, customer journey map, website features, the browsing features, navigation features, ecommerce order management process flow, checkout cart features, catalogue management, ecommerce payment system, cross selling features & much more.

“As per statistics, 68% of the customers abandon the carts before payment”

An interesting UX ensures the customer sticks on to the website for a longer time.

Part 3: UI Designing:

UI stands for User Interface, which means designing the look and feel of the website. UI includes using the right colours, elements and the entire aesthetics of the website.

A good User Interface ensures the user completes the task that he has come for. It navigates the user through the journey of the brand in the simplest but most effective way.

The UX designer maps out the bare bones of the user journey; the UI designer then fills it in with visual and interactive elements.

If User experience is the bare bone, user interface wraps it up with an attractive cape.

At YRC, our team if experts can help you develop the entire User Journey to ensure it is engaging!

SAMPLING & PRODUCTION

This step follows the “Designing” Phase, whether you have an in-house design team, freelance designers or an outsourced design company. It is one of the most exciting phases, as here you see your designs turning into products & your ideas turning into reality.

In most start-up cases, production is outsourced i.e. brands tie-up with the established manufacturers/ job-workers to get their products manufactured.

Sampling involves multiple 04 Stages, Fit-Sample, Prototype Sample, Pre-Production Sample & the Production Sample.

Prototype Sample is the first sample provided to the buyer. It can be in any fabric/ colour. This sample is just to understand whether the product design looks equally great in reality.

Fit Sample, as the name suggests is prepared to check the fit of the garment i.e. the various sizes, length, width etc.

Pre-production is made by the actual production line. Here the stitching quality and other aspects related to manufacturing are checked. This is the last stage where rejection can be accepted.

Production Sample is made before the production which is the replica of what is going to be finally produced.

Once you are through with all this, you are good to go ahead & get your goods manufactured.

PRODUCT DESIGNING / SOURCING

Product Designing or Sourcing is the heart of the Ecommerce Fashion Brand.

Product Designing / Sourcing can be done in several ways, as follows:

  • In-house Design Team
  • Freelance Designers
  • Outsourced Design Team
  • Ready Product Sourcing (From Manufacturer or Wholesaler)

At YRC, we evaluate your business strategy & business model to arrive at the decision, which of the above ways would be best-fit for your business. In certain cases, product sourcing may be a combination of the above.

These are the people who are going to build your brand! Whether they are the designers or merchandiser, your brand look is going to be in their hands.

If you are designing each garment from the scratch, the sourcing would play crucial role in developing design identity of your brand.

Sourcing includes fabric, trims, lining & all the raw material required to build the garment.

BRANDING

Branding is the “Look of the Brand”, right from logo to tagline, the colours used, the brand story, the brand communications on social media, the packaging & all the other aspects which speak directly or indirectly to the customers. Branding constitutes the look & feel of the brand & hence must be thoughtfully planned to match with the product that we are selling.

Branding must appeal to our target audience. Example : A golden colour logo depicting finesse, art, richness, premium, however beautiful it may be individually cannot go with a brand selling affordable kids wear products. So, your logo must be in-line with your brand positioning, whether you are an expensive brand or a luxury brand or a value for money brand, it must be depicted from your “Branding”.

It is an integral part to attract the target audience.

ORGANOGRAMS & SOP’s

Organogram is the “HR Blueprint” of the business which is created at the onset, to map out the team required across each function at various stages of the business. At the launch, only key people need to be got on board to ensure the project gets started & at this stage, all of them need to multi-task. Similarly, certain financial as well as operational goals are set for addition of the further team. Example, for the operations team, we hire 1 operations manager during the pre-launch phase & we add 1 more only when the business kicks-off & we reach a volume of selling more than 1000 pcs/ month or a turnover of more than 0.1 million USD.

SOPs are Standard Operating Procedures, a bible to run the entire organization right from Sales, Purchase, HR, Order receiving to Order fulfilment, Inventory Management, Accounts, Warehouse, Logistics, Supply Chain, Production & all the other relevant functions for the business. Business must be organized from its first day of operations; only then the tasks can be delegated.

At YRC, we design the organization structure, the processes, and approximate time taken to execute each process, job profile of every member within the organization, their KRAs, KPIs & the Reporting Structure.

CRITICAL PATHWAY

Critical Pathway Analysis (CPA), is a project management technique which cannot be overlooked while launching an ecommerce fashion brand. Brand launch process is cumbersome with multiple inter-dependent & time-bound tasks involved, which need to be tracked to ensure the project remains on track.

CPA outlines key tasks across the project, their turnaround time (TAT) & the dependencies of tasks upon each other. It identifies the sequence of tasks, their interdependent steps from inception to completion, their criticalities, and their dates of onset, target dates of completion along with the key responsible person for the respective activities. Critical Pathway helps in understanding the unimportant & not urgent tasks which may jeopardize the execution of the project because of an unexpected snag! It also maps out the potential bottlenecks which might be posed because of the dependencies of tasks upon each other & cases where the next task cannot be commenced before the completion of the previous one.

CPA detects the minimum & the maximum time involvement of a particular individual or team to execute the task, thereby arriving at the overall deadlines associated with the project.

At Your Retail Coach, we design the Critical Pathway & review it periodically to ensure the project is on track & the progress is measurable.

BUSINESS STRATEGY & BUSINESS PLAN

Business Strategy includes the vision, mission, goals, business model, business plan & strategy for all the functions within the organization.

Business Strategy is a well-defined plan that outlines who, what, where, why, how & when for the company; for example, who would be the target market, how to attract the target audience, when to launch new products, where to operate from, how to handle competitors, what would be the USP, what would be long term goal of the organization & several other answers to the 5Ws of Strategy.

Business Strategy aligns the organization towards a common goal. Business SWOT helps company to identify & overcome their weaknesses & focus to sharpen the strengths. Business strategy forecasts future risks and helps business in building skillsets to overcome the potential threats.

YRC’s Business Plan focuses on creating a “Blueprint” of the business, thereby deriving the feasibility of the concept & gauge whether the opportunity is lucrative to invest time, energy & effort. Business Plan creates cash flow understanding i.e. building inflow & outflow cash projections from Week zero to week 60 i.e. 05 year projection. Business Plan calculates the capital investment, operating costs, one-time costs, recurring costs & all the other numbers relevant to obtain the breakeven sales, return on investment, return on capital, internal rate of return & several other ratios. Business Plan is also one of the important requirements if you are targeting the “Investor Route”. Fund raising becomes extremely transparent & channelized. With business plan panned out clearly, the business will know until what point must it be stretched & where to stop, which reduces the probability of unplanned investments.

MARKET RESEARCH

Starting the concept of Ecommerce Fashion brand with Market Research ensures we get detailed understanding of the industry & this research report also acts as a social confirmation for your concept. Market Research helps in understanding the target locations, their population, potential online buyers for your product, competitors for each category, and top selling products of the competitors, competitors’ price range, offers & their responses & much more. Market Research helps in thorough understanding of your brand position as compared to our competitors. It helps in identifying gaps in the market, in your category along with the scope of the said product in the desired market. This will help in validation of your concept & prevents you from making the same mistakes as your fellow brands, eventually saving your time, energy & efforts. This phase is also a make or a break phase, as the market research study may at-times come up with some eye-popping numbers & statistics which might compel you to re-think on your product or category that you are planning to sell or alter your entire concept itself!! Market Research Reports analyse the competitors’ webstore for their traffic, conversion & sales. This is extremely valuable information to derive our inventory budgets & projections, which takes us to our next phase.