In the world of ecommerce, to attract and retain customers (i.e., be successful) you have to provide shoppers with a fast, easy way to find products and checkout; ensure they receive their orders on time; and handle returns and exchanges, and other customer-related issues, in a timely manner. While all that may seem obvious, creating a positive online experience -- and managing an ecommerce site -- is not as simple or straightforward as some vendors would have you believe.
That’s because many ecommerce business owners, especially smaller and newer ones, rely on a hodgepodge of task-specific solutions to manage their front-end (i.e., their Web store) and back-end operations (such as shipping and billing), solutions that were not necessarily designed to work together. As a result, online business owners often find they have less control over their site, and wind up spending more time and money than they had anticipated coming up with workarounds and fixes -- and find it difficult to grow and scale their online business.
Integrating Ecommerce With CRM
When he was just starting out, Ilan Douek, the CEO of Inkjetsuperstore.com, like many entrepreneurs, went with a variety of a la carte ecommerce products and services. Then the orders started coming in, and he and his small team quickly felt overwhelmed. Though he took the time to learn HTML and create spreadsheets, Douek wasn’t happy with the way things were going and knew he either had to hire more people or find a full-service ecommerce/customer relationship management solution that could grow with the business – that he and his team could manage themselves. After exploring the options, and what each would cost, Douek opted for the latter – and signed up with NetSuite. (Note: Douek currently pays $99/month per user for NetSuite. With 50 users, that comes out to around $60,000 per year, which is less than what it would have cost him to hire staff to manage the old system.)
"NetSuite provides an end-to-end ecommerce management system to run your entire business – from ecommerce, to warehouse and order management, to marketing and support," explained Baruch Goldwasser, NetSuite’s Ecommerce Vertical Market Expert. And by storing your customer and order information in the same system as your marketing and support system, you can instantly leverage that data to improve customer service, create targeted marketing campaigns and improve sales, he said.
For Inkjetsuperstore.com, which has customers in many countries and accepts many currencies, having that front-end-back-end integration has created tremendous efficiencies. And, said Douek, it has helped them better serve their customers.
"The whole idea behind NetSuite is having everything in a central location, which you can immediately see and act upon, without having to be a programmer," he explained. "I don’t need to jump around between programs." That’s because with NetSuite, "you can see pretty much your whole business from one dashboard," he said. So now with just a few clicks Douek and his coworkers can see, for example, which of Inkjetsuperstore.com’s 6000 SKUs (inkjet cartridges, toner cartridges, and printers) are selling, which are not, if they need to reorder a specific item, and if returns are up.
Equally important, NetSuite has simplified and shortened the purchasing and checkout experience for customers, decreasing bounce, exit, and shopping cart abandonment rates, by allowing them to search for items by model and providing a customized store check out process. That’s critical, explained Douek, because "we know that the smoother your transaction is, the more satisfied you are with your purchase." And the more likely that customer is to return to the site at a future date.
Create Targeted Email Campaigns for Faster ROI
Another feature Douek really likes is NetSuite’s ability to create targeted email campaigns.
"You can run targeted drip marketing campaigns based on any information tracked in NetSuite, such as a shopper's purchase history, length of time since last purchase, or items abandoned in their shopping carts," explained Goldwasser. "And you can view the lifetime ROI of each marketing campaign in real-time, because the campaigns are associated to the customer and tracked across their lifetime for all their online and offline purchases."
For Inkjetsuperstore.com that meant when the company recently double ordered an ink cartridge, Douek could go into NetSuite, find all the customers who had purchased that particular ink cartridge (or SKU) create a custom coupon, and target an email campaign at just those customers, who, chances were, would eventually need to reorder anyway. (This way they just might do it a bit sooner.)The result? The open rate and sales were much higher than those associated with a traditional email blast (which Douek knows because of NetSuite’s built-in analytics) -- and Inkjetsuperstore.com was able to swiftly move those ink cartridges.
Since switching to NetSuite back in 2003, Douek said that Inkjetsuperstore.com has gone from shipping 50 orders a day to over 1,000 – and fulfilled its millionth order last November. Moreover, the company has experienced 50 percent year-over-year growth, without having to hire dozens of additional employees. He also uses NetSuite to manage his other ecommerce site, TonerZone, which has also experienced a positive ROI.
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to Internet.com and runs a blog for and about small businesses.