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5 Key Differences Between Cross-selling And Upselling (+ Why And How to Use Both)

Category: Growth Hacks

5 Key Differences Between Cross-selling And Upselling (+ Why And How to Use Both)

Cross-selling and upselling are proven sales and marketing techniques. 

Both techniques offer customers in the sales funnel the opportunity to purchase additional products and thereby increase sales. However, they are very different in terms of what they offer, how they are used, and what’s required to sell them.

Get it right and you will increase revenues and give your customers a positive purchasing experience. Get it wrong and not only will you end up with high levels of shopping cart abandonment, but your customers will also be left frustrated and take their custom elsewhere.

5 Key Differences Between Cross-selling And Upselling (+ Why And How to Use Both)
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What is it?

Let’s keep it simple:

Upselling offers the customer the chance to purchase the same product, but a better version. For example, a customer may wish to purchase a bluetooth headset for phone calls. While they have chosen the basic model, the sales operative could recommend the same brand of headphones but a high-end model with additional features as an alternative at a higher price.

Cross-selling offers the customer add-on products that they may not have originally intended to purchase but will complement the original item. An excellent example is the purchase of a mobile phone. The mobile phone on its own will be fine, but a great cross-seller would suggest the purchase of headphones, a protective case, or even an additional phone charger and cable.

What’s the difference?

Yes, they both offer sellers the chance to increase the average value of sales. But that’s it. Here are five key differences between upselling and cross-selling:

  1. Upselling increases sales values by offering a higher quality product while cross-selling is about offering more products. Perhaps you created a software program for inventory management for Shopify. Your customer subscribes to the basic package, but they are expanding their operations. You could upsell the next tier that will meet their additional needs for an increased fee.
  2. Offering a similar item to the one the customer initially selected is upselling. Cross-selling, however, offers different items that may complement the chosen product. A fast-food vendor may offer a supersize meal. That is upselling. However, when they ask if you want fries with your burger, that’s cross-selling.
  3. Upselling requires in-depth knowledge about one type of product, all the varying levels of quality and models available for that item, and how that will add benefit to the user. Cross-selling incorporates a wider range of products, therefore more knowledge is required about what products will complement the original sale and how they will all add benefit to the user.  
  4. Revenue is increased from the sale of a single product in upselling, but cross-selling makes multiple gains from the sale of several products.
  5. Large single-item markets offer the best opportunities for upselling. If someone wants to buy a widescreen HD TV, upselling allows the opportunity to offer a 55-inch screen compared to the 50-inch one they are looking at, or even the 4K version, but offers have to be about a TV.

However, the opportunities for cross-selling are much wider because they can be done in and across any market. Along with the TV, you could also offer them a 3-month free trial of a streaming provider, or perhaps a deal on a media package.

Why use Upselling and Cross-selling?

The opportunities provided by upselling and cross-selling should not be underestimated.

Increased revenue

Upselling and cross-selling will boost revenues.

According to McKinsey, cross-selling alone can increase sales by 20% and profits by 30%. While Sumo claims upselling increases revenues by 10-30%.

Figures like that are impossible to ignore.

Personalized customer experiences

Customers want every step of their purchasing journey to be tailored to them, from advertising, to purchase, and post-purchase. They want to engage with brands that have done their work and know what they want before they know it themselves.

When you can make recommendations that are relevant to their purchasing behavior, customers are far more likely to make that purchase because they feel you have tailored that package for them.

If you want to build a better site, you need to make sure it can adapt and offer personalized experiences for your customers by making specific and relevant recommendations, not a popup featuring random items.

5 Key Differences Between Cross-selling And Upselling (+ Why And How to Use Both)

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Increased customer retention

When you offer relevant recommendations that are tailored to your customers, you build brand loyalty. Customers who continue to return, help you generate a higher customer lifetime value; the net profit that you can achieve from a customer for the duration of their relationship with you.

We live in a competitive world. It’s more cost-effective to focus on customer retention rather than customer acquisition.

If your upselling and cross-selling strategies offer your customers the opportunity to buy everything they need from a single location you are demonstrating that you know them and care about their choices. This convenience will help you create long term customers who are loyal to your brand.

Less selling, more sales

Random sales recommendations will frustrate your customers rather than encourage them to make additional purchases. Your recommendations should be reframed as a solution to their problem, rather than a pushy sales gimmick.

For example, you provide quality assurance testing, and your customer wants help with product quality improvement for their latest hairdryer. Offering additional services for testing electric toothbrushes, because that’s a new service you want to push, is not going to help them.

Upselling and cross-selling should increase the average order value ensuring every sale is optimized.

Providing recommendations to customers who are already engaged increases the average order value in the short term and the customer lifetime value in the long term. Cross-selling alone helps introduce products that your customers may not have known were available.

How to Use Upselling and Cross-selling

Now you know the benefits, you need to know how to use cross-selling and upselling to achieve them.

Here are a few tips:

1. Know your audience

76% of people expect personalization these days. You can’t personalize your customer experience until you know them. That means research.

You must engage in ongoing studies of your customer base using analytical tools and key demographics. Perhaps you could involve your staff in an innovation challenge to help write the perfect script to maximize upselling and cross-selling techniques that demonstrate knowledge about both your products and your customers’ needs.

If you want your upsell or cross-sell to feel genuine, rather than aggressive, it needs to resolve their problem. Understand why your customers need your products, what problems they solve for them, and tailor your offer to add value.

2. Keep it simple

If your upselling or cross-selling techniques overwhelm your customers, you need to tone it down. Use empathy maps to learn how your customers feel about their experience. Are you bombarding them with discounts and offers that only create confusion and lead to a negative experience?

It’s best to keep it simple. Limit your upselling and cross-selling offers to products that are relevant to that customer.

3. Price

Always be aware that pricing can make or break your success using upselling and cross-selling offers.

With upselling, you want to offer upgrades that solve problems but are still within the customer’s price range. For example, your customer may want to upgrade their user testing app but has a limited budget. There’s no point in offering the premium package if it is five times the cost of their current package. Keep your solution reasonable.

Likewise, with cross-selling, add-on items should be priced lower than the original product to increase the likelihood of a purchase. No one will buy a shoe cleaner that costs more than the shoes.

4. Pre-purchase and post-purchase

Before and after a customer pays, are the perfect opportunities for upselling and cross-selling, especially in eCommerce.

Online supermarkets make the most of pre-purchase opportunities with the ‘have you forgotten…’ pop-up once a customer clicks on the checkout button.

Amazon is an excellent example of how to use post-purchase cross-selling. At the bottom of their order confirmation emails, there’s always a list of additional items that other customers have purchased.  

5. Product bundles

Who doesn’t like product bundling when you can buy a group of related items together, for much less than you would pay for them separately?

Maybe you’re an online advice blogger with pay-per-view access, but your how to rate an app page is outperforming your app testing page in terms of hits. Perhaps you could offer them together with a buy one, get one free deal?

Bundles offer shoppers a convenient opportunity to purchase multiple products, but in a way that doesn’t come across as pushy. A customer is more likely to accept a cross-sell if it’s packaged as a deal.

5 Key Differences Between Cross-selling And Upselling (+ Why And How to Use Both)

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Beware…

Upselling and cross-selling are one of the easiest ways to increase both sales conversion rates and average order values.

However, to strengthen your relationships with your customers you must make them relevant and personalized.

To get those conversions you need to understand your customers and their needs, and tailor your recommendations so they add value and help buyers resolve their problems.

Aggressive, pushy, and irrelevant upselling and cross-selling only leads to confused and disgruntled customers who will walk away from their purchase and lose their trust in your brand.

 

Kate Priestman Kate Priestman – Head Of Marketing, Global App Testing
Kate Priestman is the Head of Marketing at Global App Testing, a trusted and leading end-to-end functional testing solution for QA challenges. Kate has over 8 years of experience in the field of marketing, helping brands achieve exceptional growth. She has extensive knowledge on brand development, lead and demand generation, and marketing strategy — driving business impact at its best. Kate Priestman also published articles for domains such as CEO Blog Nation and VMblog. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

9 Ecommerce Growth Hacks That Will Boost Your Sales

9 Ecommerce Growth Hacks That Will Boost Your Sales

In the internet age, effectively growing awareness of your online presence and converting leads into sales is crucial to your business’ success. It is not enough to simply be online and offer products – you want to be selling them. This is where ecommerce growth hacks come in. 

Growth hacks are cost-effective and low-resource marketing tactics to rapidly grow a business, using rapid experimentation and regular testing to improve the customer experience. 

Growth hacking used to be the exclusive domain of early-stage startups. Startups are often in the challenging position of having to achieve rapid growth on a tight timeline and an even tighter budget, leaving them unable to resort to traditional marketing. However, nowadays even the biggest companies have started exploring the utility and relevance of growth hacks for their business models.

To truly maximize your online sales and success, you should consider implementing ecommerce growth hacks into your business strategy.

When integrating growth hacks into your organization, make sure to also consider how well your online presence functions more generally – is it working securely and as intended? You’ll want your IT team to be able to create efficient bug reports in software testing for your platforms to run as smoothly as possible. 

There are a plethora of growth hacks out there, but it’s hard to know where to start – or which to prioritize. This article will help you to get a start in your own organization with nine straightforward and actionable growth hacks that will boost your sales. 

1. FOMO & the power of urgency

The customer’s journey is time-sensitive. Customers only have so much time to spend looking for products, and unless it’s a truly urgent purchase they will browse and compare at their own leisure. 

For this potential customer to choose your product or service and choose it as soon as possible, you need to present them with an enticing offer, that they know they need to jump on quickly. This is where FOMO, or the ‘fear of missing out’, comes in. 

FOMO, is a social phenomenon that, as the name implies, can prompt quick decision making for fear of missing out. Use it sparingly – too often and your buyer will learn they can simply wait for your next limited time offer – and you can create a sense of urgency in your prospective customer.

9 Ecommerce Growth Hacks That Will Boost Your Sales

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Utilize ‘limited time offer’ pop-up ads on your website, and send out email campaigns to your subscribers emphasizing the scarcity of supply and limited time they have left to pick up this deal. 

2. Popularity & peer pressure

Closely related to FOMO, you should also utilize the psychology of popularity. Your buyers are human, and humans are social creatures – we care about and take note of what our peers do. If a product is selling out quickly, it appears popular and thus attractive: ‘lots of people have/want this, maybe I need it too!’ 

The value of a product is increased in the eyes of the potential customer because they can see it is valued by their peers. This influences the potential buyer’s desire to make a purchase while they have the chance.

You need to give your potential buyer to see a product’s popularity linked to a sense of scarcity. Again, use these methods sparingly, but you might consider implementing things like a real-time stock counter for items you want to emphasize as limited. You might also include product reviews to emphasize quality, and might even highlight how many people purchased that particular item within the last hour. 

Once those customers are inevitably enticed to make the purchase, you’ll also want to have a robust online payment gateway in place.

3. Reward Programmes – giving them a reason to come back

Rewarding a customer’s loyalty and continued business is a simple yet extremely effective growth hack. You want to keep your customer invested in your brand. After all, if they see exclusive rewards for repeat business, why would they go elsewhere where they’d have to build a new relationship? 

If a customer trusts in your brand and feels that they are valued, they will come back for more. 

If a customer visits a set number of pages, or a particular page or product, perhaps offer them a discount. Better yet, incorporate an email sign-up where they can join your subscription list, offering them something like a % discount for their first or subsequent orders. 

Here’s an example from popular clothing brand AllSaints:

9 Ecommerce Growth Hacks That Will Boost Your Sales

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You don’t have to offer discounts constantly for these reward programmes to do the trick. Even the occasional offer will incentivise a customer to return. 

Use this sparingly. After all, if the discounts are constant, customers will never even have the opportunity to pay full price. 

4. Mobile apps – always with the consumer on the go

Mobile apps are great, aren’t they? Easily within reach, accessible to everyone with a smartphone – 85% of US adults as of 2021. And that number is only increasing.

People love their phones, they love the apps on them, and they love to spend money on those apps. Global app revenue has climbed 15% year-over-year in Q3 2021 to nearly $34 billion. That’s an incredible increase! There is global opportunity here, that you need to have the means to engage with.

9 Ecommerce Growth Hacks That Will Boost Your Sales

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Creating a mobile app that is specifically optimized for mobile users will ensure the best possible experience for your potential customers who are always on the go. There are numerous advantages of ecommerce mobile apps that you need to be utilizing right now.

With that in mind, you don’t want pop-ups too small to read or click – make sure that the UI (user interface) is as easy to read and understand as possible. Customer experience is essential to gain the benefits of an app. In order to incentivise app use, consider offering exclusive discounts or products only available to the app user. 

If you’re struggling or want to know more about the software, there are always QA conferences ongoing globally.

5. Cart abandonment – how to handle

This is a big one. Cart abandonment is a big issue felt especially on mobile devices, where up to 85% of purchases on a cell phone are abandoned at cart.

Potential customers can get distracted or put off, even at as late a stage in the customer’s journey as adding a specific product to their cart. You want to avoid and minimize this distraction and incentivise their making a purchase as much as possible. 

Shipping fees are a major reason for a buyer to be put off at the last second. Consider offering free shipping to entice those customers to finalize their purchase. Remember also to scale discounts or incentives accordingly. 

Free shipping is great for buyers who don’t meet the minimum threshold, but is useless to those who do. For these customers, consider offering upgraded shipping that will deliver what they considered purchasing sooner.

You should be using critical features like network monitoring to make sure that everything is working as intended; a smooth service will also reduce cart abandonment.

6. Live chat – hey, I’m talkin’ here

Nobody wants to spend ages looking for answers to their questions. If info about your product or service isn’t easily accessible, consider adding a live chat feature. This gives the potential customer the chance to communicate in real-time, getting answers for their specific questions and issues in a responsive and tailored way. 

Live chat is a conversation, and feels much more engaging and high-effort than something like a simple FAQ section. This makes the customer feel valued, which in turn increases the customer’s time spent on your online site and positively impacts customer satisfaction, loyalty and conversion rates. Software QA companies are a great way to monitor the success and impact of this feature.  

7. Minimalism & optimisation – less is more

Simplification and streamlining are enormously beneficial growth hacks to boost sales. 

What do we mean by this? Consider the UI of a theoretical online site. There might be buttons everywhere, redirections and just too much information in the customer’s face. It is likely all these redirects contain important info and features for the potential customer, but they also present something you want to avoid at all costs – distraction. 

Constant suggestion, too many options can overwhelm, so keep it simple. A single ‘proceed to checkout’ button will suffice, instead of overloading the customer with options like ‘empty basket’ or redirecting them to another page. 

Here’s how the ecommerce juggernaut Amazon approaches things: 

9 Ecommerce Growth Hacks That Will Boost Your Sales

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I typed in ‘T-shirts’, and added the first item from my search to my basket. I was brought to this page, with simple next steps and related products. I have only the necessary info, and don’t feel overwhelmed with ads or overly pressured – less is more. 

Be careful too not to inundate with options to sign up to email lists – you don’t want to appear desperate or overly promotional. If you like what you see from Amazon, know also that you can use fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) to utilize their efficient system to get your orders filled fast.

8. Competitions and giveaways – give and you shall receive 

Competitions are a win-win. If you do a giveaway, someone will win – that’s great for them.  But in the process, you could win many, many new leads – that’s great for you.

This is a pretty straightforward hack. You garner interest, publicity, and incentivize potential customers by making them aware that you have products and/or services that they could win, completely free of charge.

Giveaways can be used to sign people up to your email campaigns or to tag their friends in social media posts thus generating more publicity. Giveaways get them to follow your page, exposing them to more of what you have to offer to them, and lead to sales and positive reviews

Expanding your reach is essential to boosting sales, and competitions are a great way to do so. If you haven’t tried one, now’s the time to give giveaways a shot. 

9. Consistency is key

Consistency builds trust in a brand.

Let’s take the example of Nike’s brand. When I think of Nike, I know what the brand offers in terms of quality, price, you name it – Nike is a known quantity. This is because they are consistent. Across platforms, in language, in UI, in their iconic ‘tick’ branding – I know what I’m going to get. 

This builds familiarity and trust – and subsequently, sales – that a brand that’s all over the place or confusing cannot hope to emulate. Nike offers a consistent service, and its customers have invested an understanding of it. You should also consider things like the social values your brand presents.

9 Ecommerce Growth Hacks That Will Boost Your Sales

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Let’s illustrate this further. Imagine it was my birthday. I’m a loyal customer and Nike offered me 10% off my next purchase – wonderful! What a great birthday treat. But then next week when it’s my friend’s birthday, they get offered 15% off. As a loyal customer, how do you think I’ll feel about Nike then? They offered me a birthday discount – which they didn’t have to – but it wasn’t the same for everyone. 

Inconsistency negatively affects customer perception and sales. Make sure that marketing tactics are clearly communicated amongst your organization. It is vital that you avoid appearing inconsistent at all costs. For comprehensive communication to maintain inconsistency across larger teams, consider implementing free WebEx alternatives. Communication is key in ensuring your growth hacking efforts are well-integrated across your organization. 

With that in mind, you’re ready to begin your journey into growth hacking. After a little initial planning and deciding what tactics are best suited to your organization, you’ll begin seeing results in your growth and marketing reach in no time.

Kate Priestman Kate Priestman – Head Of Marketing, Global App Testing
Kate Priestman is the Head of Marketing at Global App Testing, a trusted and leading end-to-end functional testing solution and automation test planning for QA challenges. Kate has over 8 years of experience in the field of marketing, helping brands achieve exceptional growth. She has extensive knowledge on brand development, lead and demand generation, and marketing strategy — driving business impact at its best. Kate Priestman also published articles for domains such as CEO Blog Nation and Stackify. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

Guide to Automating Your Invoice Processing For Easy Cashflow

Guide to Automating Your Invoice Processing For Easy Cashflow
Processing invoices, especially when your business is starting to grow, can be painstaking. 

When performing the task manually, it can be easy to make mistakes which leads to delayed payments and upsets in business relationships.

Follow this guide to improve your business cash flow and develop reliability when it comes to invoicing for your business. 

Invoice Types

There are two main types of invoicing available to businesses. These are:

  • Before payment (accounts receivable or payable)
  • After payment (receipts and copies of transactions for record-keeping)

Before Payment

This is a common approach for many companies. These invoices detail the services or products which were provided and the amount they cost. 

It is essentially a request for payment within a period and needs to be completed by the relevant people before the deadline. 

Manually creating before-payment invoices can create issues when it comes to consistency and efficiency. By automating you can:

  • Automatically invoice clients;
  • Register invoices for your accounting department to see outstanding payments;
  • Receive reminders when payments are due.

All of these processes help to improve productivity so if you use them before payment invoicing, you can benefit greatly from automation.

After Payment

This process acts as a receipt for a client. It acknowledges that payment has been made and provides proof for bookkeeping purposes. 

A common area for these forms of invoices is online stores where you receive a receipt once you have purchased an item.

For small and growing businesses, creating manual after payment invoices whenever something is purchased from your web store is time-consuming and costly. 

Here you can automate: customers receiving copies of their invoices; making exact copies of invoices automatically for record-keeping and creating invoices instantly to accelerate the payment process.

Why Wait?

Guide to Automating Your Invoice Processing For Easy Cashflow
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Let’s for a moment consider a hypothetical new business start-up. 

The imaginary owners want to create a great external customer service experience, so they look at articles on how to start a contact center. They manage invoice payments manually for the first year of their company’s existence as there aren’t too many to manage, but suddenly they begin to grow exponentially due to the success of using vanity phone numbers in a marketing campaign. 

They are now stuck. Their company is wasting precious time and money creating invoices that have errors. Their clients are getting confused and feel misguided and relationships are fracturing. The company chooses to switch to automated payment systems but loses money during the transitional period. 

If the company had switched to automatic invoice processing before their sudden growth, they would be able to scale up payments and keep up with demand so consider doing this immediately. 

What is automated Invoicing?

Automated invoicing is the process of making a historically manual job automated through computer systems and software. 

The aim is to make an arduous and error-filled practice straightforward, efficient, and accurate. When you have your processes set up, scheduling payments, sending receipts, and creating invoices will be simple and means cash flow remains uninterrupted. 

It is important to recognize that the options for businesses are wide. However, some companies strive to make the process of moving from manual to automated invoicing as seamless and trouble-free as possible. 

One example of these companies that provide brilliant software is Paytabs. They have video tutorials available to those just getting started and have great customer communication channels to make sure your needs are met continuously. 

Benefits

So why move to automated invoicing? 

Guide to Automating Your Invoice Processing For Easy Cashflow
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  1. You reduce your costs vastly. Paying employees to manually create invoices is expensive, especially when they make a mistake and have to go through the process again to make sure it’s right. Furthermore, an automated service is trustworthy, so senior officers and managers won’t need to review every payment before it’s sent. 
  2. It reduces errors. Automation means you don’t need to worry about human error. When people make mistakes it can upset clients and fracture relationships, much like having out of stock products, with important vendors or clients. Ditching manual means you won’t have to worry, as the software is created to serve a specific purpose.
  3. Faster turnaround times. For all businesses, making your invoices automatic means you can make payments quickly and it minimizes the amount of admin. When money moves quickly and reliably, companies are happier. 
  4. Employees have the time to focus on higher-impact jobs. Without the need to process invoices, they can be asked to perform jobs that are more valuable to your company such as performing affiliate program monitoring.

What does it involve?

With all the software available to businesses nowadays it’s clear that automation is the way to go to improve efficiency and reduce costs. More people than ever are involved with creating new software, IoT app development, and websites. So where do you start?

Create Your Forms

The first thing you need to do is decide on the program which suits your business approach and requirements.

It is important to consider the needs of your company and the information required to process payments properly. Modern software allows you to use digital signatures, or provide simple drop-down menus with lists of clients or services to make payments even smoother. 

Once you have made this decision, you need to use pre-built templates or create your invoicing form. Creating a form provides clarity to users and uniformity across all of your payments. This is often instantaneous, meaning you can use the forms straight away. 

In the past altering forms manually would be challenging but modern solutions mean you don’t need to be a coding expert to make complex processes a reality. The automation and control you can exert, when it comes to creating your forms through appropriate software, is often very user-friendly and truly customizable. 

Consider Your Approval Workflow

Regardless of your payment process, more valuable invoices need to be sent to senior officers or company presidents for approval. Again, these processes are easily managed when it comes to software. 

Imagine that your company requires that all invoices over $10,000 are sent to the senior officer before processing. 

Modern software can be employed to ensure that this process happens every single time without error. 

This means that managers are only seeing the payments which they are required to under company policy thus saving time and improving efficiency.

Integrate 

It is important to consider how integration between your new and old systems will look. It is key that your payment records are kept up-to-date for bookkeeping. For example, when it comes to reviewing company profits or gathering information regarding a payment discrepancy in the future. 

This is where considering how you are going to ensure a seamless transition between manual and automated systems is vital.

Much automated software comes with the ability to integrate with current financial management systems.

Generally, companies are likely to use an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system for their finances, and manually entering order numbers into databases is time-consuming and costly. Find software that fulfills this process automatically and works well with the methods you currently employ.

Next steps

Guide to Automating Your Invoice Processing For Easy Cashflow
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Training

Whilst the initial set up of an automated invoicing software comes with difficulties, over longer periods you will find that the time previously spent on completing invoices, can be used for other important parts of your business. Use a time management tool to reap the benefits of spare moments.

Using a new piece of software can come as a challenge to many companies. Your staff must be trained to use new programs. You should have an approach laid out in your IT strategy to help employees manage and understand new systems.

The ultimate aim is to make the payment process easier and making sure everyone understands produces fluidity in sharing information and issues. 

Use and Review

Having an initial testing phase is important so make sure you do that immediately. 

However, after some time using the new invoicing software, your company must be reflective in regards to its effectiveness. 

Asking companies who have processed payments through your new approach for feedback can further develop your use of the systems. 

Gaps and difficulties can be challenging to overcome when filling out invoices manually. However, using automated software means you can quickly customize and change your invoicing forms and process to adhere to changing needs, so listen to feedback from clients and employees. 

Final Thoughts

For those who process a few invoices per quarter, or those doing hundreds a day, switching to automation contributes to great efficiency and reduces costs swiftly. When used correctly, it can alter the way your business operates and free up time for employees.It is important when considering moving to automation, that you find software that is effective for your business. To save time, don’t scour the internet, start with PayTabs, take a look at the great services they offer, and watch a few videos. You may find that they provide exactly what you need clearly.

Jessica Day
Jessica Day – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad
Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business hosted IP PBX communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn. She has also written content for Pretty Links and Kanbanize.

6 Basic Steps of Order Fulfillment and Challenges You Need to Know

If you’re launching your first ecommerce site and looking to sell across a distance, you need to understand the order fulfillment process. Third-party solutions, like dropshipping or fulfillment by Amazon, can make things easier on your end.

However, they just move the complexity to places you don’t control. You need a clear business process to run your order fulfillment. What is a business process, and how does it help?

A business process is any sequence of steps you need to take to achieve an outcome. David Allen writes in Getting Things Done that a “project” is any outcome that requires two or more actions to complete. “Business processes” may sound complicated, but it’s just the principle – i.e., mapping out the steps needed to accomplish a goal – that’s applied to teams and whole companies.

By documenting and clarifying your business processes you can begin optimizing them. After all, what isn’t measured can’t be improved. If your returns process isn’t optimized, you’ll find your staff’s time being taken up by proactive customer care when things go wrong.

The order fulfillment process has lots of moving parts where a lot can go wrong, but the customer sees none of that. They just expect their product to arrive quickly and easily. If they don’t get that, because your order fulfillment process wasn’t well-run, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

With that in mind, let’s look at six basic steps of the order fulfillment process and see some of the challenges your business might face with them.

6 Basic Steps of Order Fulfillment and Challenges You Need to Know

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1. Receive your goods

Whatever the size of your business, you’ll be receiving inventory in bulk to be stored in the warehouse. Above a certain scale, boxes will be sent on shrink-wrapped pallets to be slotted directly into the warehouse shelves either on pallet trucks or a forklift.

Shipping in so much bulk requires investing in machinery and the skills to use it. But such big shipments mean warehouse staff can pick from the same pallet for a longer time before you have to ship another one over.

One of the most reliable small business management tips, in any case, is to automate processes wherever you can. Processes like inventory management and ordering, the generation of pick lists, and the management of returns can all be automated along with countless other steps in the process. Some of these jobs, like pick lists, might seem small, but the sum of many little efficiency gains can add up to big changes.

Not only will automation save the staff time and the company money, but it also reduces the chance of human error. This results in a more consistent and high-quality experience for your customers, and they’re one way you can turn your order fulfillment process from a necessary job into an asset to the company.

2. Store your stock in the warehouse

Once the stock is received in bulk and staff have checked the shipment is accurate, the goods are stored throughout the warehouse. Deciding how the goods should be stored is one challenge, but getting it right can benefit your bottom line.

The difference between sales operations and revenue operations is while sales operations looks at the sales process from end to end – from marketing to purchase – revenue operations run across the whole business.

In practice, this means RevOps will be looking at the whole order fulfillment process to increase profit margins. For example, the layout of goods in your warehouse should be updated periodically to reflect your sales data. If you have a product range that sells better for one season every year, you should place that close to the loading bay to save workers time and energy.

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3. Pick your orders

Your order to cash optimization process runs in tandem with the entire order fulfillment. This ties back into your revenue operations and it’s about running your administration, warehouse, and shipping processes in the most cost-efficient way possible.

When the order comes in and it’s confirmed everything is in stock, a pick list is generated and sent to the warehouse. The list includes product names, SKU numbers, and their exact locations in the warehouse. 

The work that goes into creating this list should be automated. Not only does this save time, but having all the information on the sheet coming from one database keeps everything in a single source of truth.

4. Pack your deliveries

When the picked items are all assembled at the loading bay, they have to be packed to ensure they arrive to customers in perfect condition. Depending on the product and the “unboxing” experience you want to create, this might require bubble wrap or packing peanuts.

If you’re shipping packages that can be carried by hand, your shipping might be complicated by local shipping regulations that dictate how much it costs to ship. A RevOps team might try to optimize your order fulfillment process around these to increase profit margins. The savings here would be extremely small, but, at a scale, that adds up to a lot of money over time.

If you’re shipping pallets full of stock, you’ll be dealing with haulers and trucking companies. This would dictate the pace of your order fulfillment process because the truck is expensive to drive. It has to operate on a strict schedule in order to be cost-efficient. In order to make any deliveries, you have to get all of your orders packed up for a certain time that’s determined by what’s best for the trucking company.

6 Basic Steps of Order Fulfillment and Challenges You Need to Know

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5. Your products are shipped

After your package leaves the warehouse, it’s on its way to being shipped to your customers.

Shipping costs are a crucial business decision in ecommerce. Are you going to pay for those at all, or will you add them to the customer’s bill? Should you offer different tiers of shipping so customers can get products faster?

This depends on the kind of service you want to deliver and what you can afford to deliver. You can maybe kill two birds with one stone and offer free shipping to your customers on orders above a certain total. This will keep your order fulfillment operation profitable while increasing total sales along the way.

Your packages will move from your warehouse to your courier’s own warehouse. From there, they’ll divide all the packages based on their destinations and send them out for “last-mile” delivery.

Last-mile delivery is a whole article in and of itself. It’s why Amazon hires economists to help them figure this kind of problem out, and it’s why you should leave last-mile delivery to a third-party courier service. It’s why the global ecommerce fulfillment industry has grown to over $77 billion in value.

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Shipping a truck full of goods from a warehouse for hundreds of miles is cheaper and faster per mile than delivering a few packages across one town. This is because there are so many complications along the way, such as different buildings to navigate, dealing with packages for people who aren’t at home, and making all the deliveries on one tank of petrol.

For you, all you need to worry about at this stage is tracking. If you track your packages and you ask for the customer’s email upon order, you can enhance your customer service and support by sending them an email as soon as your product has arrived. If your product is technology or a home appliance you could email your customers some setup instructions along with the contact information for your support channels.

6. Process returns

A good returns process is about customer interaction management. You should make your returns process clear on your site and use it as a selling point.

Returns are inevitable no matter how good your product is, but you can turn the returns experience into an asset if you use the recovery paradox. This is a well-documented phenomenon in which customers think better of a company for recovering well from an error – such as a faulty product or a service outage – than if they’d performed flawlessly the whole time.

Nevertheless, a good returns policy will see you eating the cost of shipping the product back to your warehouse, and that means you want to reduce them as much as you can. Innovations like augmented reality ecommerce allow users to see products like furniture in their homes before they buy. This helps reduce the number of pricey returns in total, which streamlines your operations and helps your order-to-cash optimization.

6 Basic Steps of Order Fulfillment and Challenges You Need to Know

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Turning your order fulfillment process into an asset

At every stage of the order fulfillment process, from receiving your goods to the courier handing over your product, there’s room for you to optimize your business or improve your customer service. Using the data you generate already and feeding it into automated software can speed up your internal processes. And tracked shipping can help you make a great first impression when it arrives at the customer’s door.

Jessica DayJessica Day – Senior Director, Marketing Strategy, Dialpad
Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. She has also written for domains such as DesignLike and Unstack. Check out her LinkedIn profile

10 Practical Tips to Drastically Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate

Shopping cart abandonment is one of the most frustrating problems in ecommerce. It means you’re doing almost everything right. But at the last minute, you’ve missed out on an interested customer. With around 76% of carts in the Middle East being abandoned before checkout, what could be going wrong?

Online shopping cart abandonment can be caused by a range of things, but luckily there are plenty of ways to tackle the problem. Let’s look at ten practical tips you can employ very quickly.

 

1. Improve shipping

According to the Baymard Institute, the number one cause of cart abandonment is extra costs (and that often means shipping!). 

10 Practical Tips to Drastically Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate
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Many retailers avoid being upfront about shipping costs, hoping to slip them in at the checkout stage as if they’re an afterthought. Unfortunately, this tends to have the opposite effect to it’s intent – customers notice, and often leave.

One way to avoid this is to make your shipping costs clear earlier in the purchase journey. However, this alone may not increase successful conversions. Price-sensitive customers who would have abandoned their cart are instead likely to abandon the purchase at the browsing stage.

Getting your customer the most attractive shipping cost should be central to your ecommerce pricing strategies. Negotiate with your carriers and see if you can provide a flat cost. Alternatively, use tiered pricing or provide free shipping above a certain order value.

 

2. Use your returns policy as a selling point

One reason your customers abandon their cart is that they’re almost sure they want the product but they’re not sure about your returns policy.

Luckily, this is an easy fix. Make sure your returns policy is easy to find, and easy to understand. It should be so good that it becomes a selling point, and your customers should know about it at the start of the checkout procedure – maybe even during their initial browsing. Display it prominently across your site, from the product page to the confirmation email.

If a customer has any doubt in their mind about buying, a clear returns policy removes it as an obstacle to purchasing.

 

3. Tell them your USP

Often, people abandon their shopping carts to compare your competitors’ offerings to your own. You can prevent this by emphasizing your unique selling point (USP) at every stage of the purchase journey.

Review your product photography/imagery, A/B test your product page’s layout or optimize product feed text ads to make your USP as prominent as you can. You might be emphasizing what makes your product unique. Alternatively, if you’re selling a similar product to your competitors, emphasize what makes your service unique. Maybe you offer very good shipping rates, or a uniquely good returns policy.

Your USP shouldn’t just be prominent on your website. Make sure everyone in your sales, marketing, and customer support teams know your USP by heart. By making it prominent across the whole purchase journey, you can make your competition irrelevant in the mind of the customer long before they’ve reached the checkout.

 

4. Employ live chat

Your customers might abandon their shopping carts because there’s an aspect of the product, shipping, or return policy they’re not sure about. If the customer has a question like this, it could prevent them from ordering. You want to be able to answer those questions in an instant.

10 Practical Tips to Drastically Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate
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Providing a live chat service on your site is a great way to address these questions. This could be a text chat window, voice chat, or free video calls. If you can’t have someone online 24/7, implement a chatbot that can answer questions or refer customers to your email.

Talking directly to your customers is also a great way to gather data on their concerns. If you keep hearing the same issues, make the answers to those questions clear on the product page or add them to your FAQ page. You could even add that information to your chatbot so it can answer the customer directly.

 

5. Remove distractions

In the world of online shopping, attention spans are short. According to CrazyEgg, a one-second delay in loading means 7% less conversions (not to mention the 16% decrease in customer satisfaction). It’s not just load speed that counts, however.

If your site is cluttered or asks too much of the customer, they might get distracted and abandon their cart.

Test your purchase journey from browsing to purchase and look for distractions. If you’re offering a lot of special offers, pop-ups, or upselling in your purchase journey, consider removing one of them in an A/B test. You want the journey from browsing to purchase to be as fast and easy as possible.

Consider the example of Stripe, the global payments provider who arrived in the Middle East in 2021. When Stripe asks for a customer’s credit card information, they don’t ask for their address. They only ask for a postcode, which they can use to work out the address. They don’t ask the customer to select their credit card provider, because this information is encoded in the credit card number.

Each step automated by Stripe is a step less for the customer to do – and the easier a purchase is, the more likely it is to happen.

Consider how much effort you ask of your customer in the purchase journey, and think creatively about how much of that you can remove. Many Shopify themes are built with simplicity in mind, but you can customize them to improve your customer journey.

 

6. Use reviews or testimonials

If your customer is having second thoughts about your product and abandoning their cart, it might be because they don’t have enough social proof. In a B2C context, you might encourage customer reviews on your site. This allows browsers to see how other customers have liked your products after purchase.

10 Practical Tips to Drastically Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate
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If you’re selling a B2B product or service, like work force management solutions or cloud storage, then your customers will be making more considered decisions about purchasing from your site. This gives you the opportunity to provide more in-depth social proof such as case studies and testimonials. Make a habit of collecting these from your clients,and keep track of this in a CRM or project management system such as Salesforce, a Bitrix24 alternative, or Asana.

 

7. Make it easy to change orders

One common point of frustration for online shoppers is changing their orders at the last minute. If your customer decides they want another item, just before they’re about to click “Buy”, sites often aren’t designed to make it easy to change this order. This isn’t good for your customer experience, and it leads to cart abandonment.

If your customer has to cancel their current purchase or go back to your main site to amend their order, they’ve just abandoned their cart. Whether they come back is out of your control.

Can your customers change their order within the checkout procedure? At the very least, they should be able to change the number of items they’re ordering. If your product comes with accessories or optional add-ons, make it easy for the customer to add these deep into the checkout process.

If your customer is in the checkout they’re obviously ready to buy, so this is a good time to make a last-minute sale on top of what they’re already ordering.

10 Practical Tips to Drastically Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate

8. Offer payment options

It’s become more and more common for online retailers to provide flexible payment offers. In late 2021, “buy now, pay later” solutions are almost standard for high-ticket items where price might put a customer off.

You should also offer as many payment methods as you can, from bank transfer, to credit card, to speedy solutions like Apple Pay, Union Pay International or mada. If your customer doesn’t have their credit card to hand, the delay this causes could lead to them abandoning their shopping cart.

 

9. Make it urgent

Give your customers a reason to buy here and now. If you’re selling a similar product as your competitors, you only have outstanding service to compete on. As we’ve mentioned, price-sensitive customers will think of comparing your offering to competitors. Make sure your product pages highlight the benefits of shopping from you.

That could be anything from your excellent returns policy, your low shipping costs, or your flexible payment options. It’s also worth considering limited-time offers. These can either happen via a pop-up at checkout or in a follow-up email (more of those in a moment).

 

10. Use marketing tactics

There are lots of marketing tips to reduce shopping cart abandonment outside of your website. Three key tactics are:

Retargeting

Platforms like Facebook and Google make it easy for you to deliver ads to people who have visited your site already. Consider delivering adverts to customers who have abandoned their shopping carts. This is a proven tactic for bringing customers back to finish the purchase.

This can have a great return on ad spend (ROAS) if you employ performance marketing. What is performance marketing? It’s when your advertising partners or affiliates get paid when an agreed-upon action is taken. This could be a clickthrough or a successful conversion. This allows you to cast a wide net without breaking the bank.

Exit pop-up

If your customer is at the checkout and about to click to another page on your site – or another window entirely! – an exit-intent pop-up can help. Your pop-up could do anything from offering a limited-time discount to asking for the customer’s email. This could convince the customer to complete the purchase then and there, or give you a chance to send a follow-up email.

Follow-up emails

A personalized follow-up email can help get customers back to complete their purchases. Include the customer’s name if you have it, and make sure it’s based on their browsing history.

If you’re not just emailing to remind them of their abandoned purchase, tailor the email to the product category they abandoned. Offer your customer a clear method to contact you directly. This allows you to answer any questions that might have prevented them from buying.

Try new things

One or all of these ten tips could drastically reduce your shopping cart abandonment rate. A lot of these tips will benefit all of your customers as an additional benefit, so it’s worth taking the time to A/B test anything that looks like it would suit your business. Who knows – the results may surprise you!

 

Jessica Day
-Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform with A2P SMS that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn