The biggest opportunity we have is winning the intersection between physical and digital retail around the world.”
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Web retailers today have mountains of digital information about shoppers’ habits, products, transactions, customer service and promotions, and more is added every day. Managing this ever-growing heap of data means integrating different systems so they work together to expedite the purchase and delivery processes and mining the data that resides in the various systems. Data systems bring the information back to the e-retailers, enabling them to streamline services, improve efficiency and better understand consumers in a seamless cycle.
The tools themselves are as varied as the problems they solve. For example, a timely change in how its data systems communicate helped ShoppersChoice.com LLC reduce the effort it took to process damaged merchandise orders.
Each year ShoppersChoice.com takes back about $100,000 worth of damaged merchandise, including higher-end grills customers purchased on BBQGuys.com that may have been damaged during shipping.
ShoppersChoice.com was efficient in processing the customer’s request for a refund or an exchange, but less so in filing a damaged goods claim with the manufacturer or refurbishing an item for resale, says chief operating officer Corey Tisdale.
Previously, when a damaged item was returned the information was entered separately into customer service, order management and inventory management systems. In that process, customer service reps closed out the order once the return was processed. “We had dead money sitting on our warehouse shelves,” says Tisdale.
To fix the problem, ShoppersChoice.com, which does its own platform development work, created an electronic report for damaged goods and integrated the new report with its e-commerce platform, customer service and inventory management programs. With an integrated system and a better reporting process, fulfillment employees now have full access to customer service information and know when a damaged goods order was processed and completed.
Better systems integration generated a 60% reduction in damaged goods inventory. Only about 1% of freight damage claims are now rejected due to late filing, says Tisdale.
In some cases, web retailers need data management tools to identify erroneous or fraudulent information as it is being entered by a shopper. When Bladematrix.com got hit by foreign-based fraud, it didn’t take long for the small web-only retailer of knives and accessories to re-evaluate its payment processes, owner Kendall Dickerson says.
Before upgrading its payment security system, Bladematrix had required online purchasers to enter their card security codes and ZIP codes, but not a street address.
A criminal based in the Mideast—who had acquired a stolen credit card along with the legitimate cardholder’s ZIP code—placed an order on Bladematrix.com for shipment to Israel. Because the thief was able to enter both the ZIP code and the card security code, the transaction went through and the order shipped.
Luckily for Bladematrix, the true owner of the stolen card called soon afterward to alert the retailer of the card theft. Although the criminal had already placed a second order, Dickerson was able to terminate it before it was shipped.
Since then, the e-retailer implemented risk management technology from its payments processor.
The range of data web retailers must manage today is nearly bottomless. But, as the examples above suggest, technology is available to assist.