15
Dec
Packaging Design Tips from a 10 Year Old
By admin on Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

packaging-design-package-it-betterPackaging is a core part of our business at Xpadite.

So when we found out our primary school children were learning about packaging, we were delighted.

Looking at their work was even better. They had a really strong understanding of what good packaging design is all about.

Here’s what they learned.

The schoolkids’ packaging design challenge

Our children were given cookies. Great! Every kid loves cookies. But there was a catch. They didn’t get to eat the cookies right away.

They had to pack them and send them through the mail first.

And they got to design and make their own packaging.

Here’s what they learned from the exercise.

1. List all the criteria for your packaging before you start.

packaging-design-criteriaIn this instance, the design criteria were fairly simple.

  • Waterproof
  • Able to be posted
  • Able to protect the gift
  • Environmentally friendly

In the grown up business world, there are other criteria we might need to consider.

For example:

  • Cost. From a functional point of view, packaging costs should be kept to a minimum. From a marketing point of view, spending more on packaging can enhance value, attract attention and increase sales. It’s an investment rather than a cost in the strictest sense of the word. But you still need to control the cost.
  • Information requirements. These could be legal requirements like weight, dimensions, ingredients, expiry date or country of origin. They could be consumer information like required battery size. Or company contact details.
  • Aesthetics and messaging. This is where marketers focus. Brand colours, logos and positioning. Images. Promotions. Ratings, awards and endorsements. Ways to make the product stand out on the shelf, including unusual shapes or finishes.
  • Ease-of-use in the logistics chain. Shape, size and weight are key here. Will your package product stack easily on retailer shelves? What about on pallets and in warehouses? Is it too heavy to lift easily? Do you need a bulk volume specified by a particular retailer?

2. Investigate different options for your packaging materials.

packaging-design-testingOur children needed something which would protect their cookies. They tested three different packaging materials.

They packed the cookies into each material, then dropped them. If the cookie broke, they recorded the height of the drop. If not, they increased the height and dropped them again.

So they knew which material scored best against the ‘protect the gift’ requirement.

3. Develop packaging specifications.

The children were working in small groups. Each group needed to be able to make consistent packaging. And diagrams, with labels, were easier to understand than words alone.

packaging-design-specification-2  packaging-design-specification-1

Exactly the same principle applies in real-world packaging design. In all design, in fact.

And the more precise your packaging design specifications, the more likely you are to get what you want. Look at the things our children included.

  • Dimensions
  • Colour
  • Materials
  • Order of steps to package the item.

4. Test your packaging design and learn from failures.

The ultimate test for our kids was receiving their packed cookie. Did it arrive in one piece? How did it taste?

But that wasn’t the end of the process. They also reflected and learned. packaging-design-learn-from-failures

So next time they’ll do it better. If the school ever offers to send them all cookies again, that is!

Let’s look at one last packaging assessment.

packaging-design-final-score

The lowest score for this particular packaging is 5 – for its aesthetic qualities. That’s practical packaging design, not promotional packaging design!

Of course what we really want is packaging which works for both. And if you’ve got the creative ideas, we’ve got the practical experience and expertise to work with you and deliver it. Drop us a line and let’s discuss your packaging needs.

24
Aug
Drop-shipping: Is it right for your business?
By admin on Monday, August 24th, 2015

What is drop-shipping?

drop-shipping-diagramDrop-shipping means that when people buy goods from you, the goods ship directly from your supplier to your customer. This business model is especially common for e-commerce operations.

Your supplier could be a manufacturer or a wholesaler. The important point is that they are happy to pick, pack and ship small orders direct to end-consumers rather than wanting to deal in bulk.

They also ship as if the goods came from your business. They use your company name, branding and packaging. The contact details on the shipment are yours, not the supplier’s.  So you maintain control of the customer relationship.

Benefits of drop-shipping

1. Drop shipping reduces your inventory headaches.  If you can drop-ship all your items, you don’t need a warehouse at all. You don’t need to touch physical product at any time. You have more free time to concentrate on marketing, customer communication and business growth.

2. Drop-shipping can be fantastic for cashflow! If you’re selling non-custom items, you can simply promote product online and you won’t have to pay for any stock until it’s sold.

3. Even if you’re selling custom items and you have to pay for the goods upfront, drop-shipping can cut total shipping costs. If your supplier can store and ship goods for you, then each item is shipped once only. In a ‘normal’ shipping scenario, you’d get everything delivered to your location, then ship out again to the end customer, so everything would be shipped twice.

4. You can work from wherever you want. If your drop-shipping supplier is looking after all stock, you can communicate online from your home or from the beach in the Bahamas. (You might just need to check your time zones!)

5. Your business is easily scalable. It’s easy to handle increased volume without having to take on operational staff. It’s your supplier’s problem. This is great for easy business growth. It can help with seasonal variation too. But remember your operations are only as good as your supplier’s, so be careful who you work with! (Of course this applies when you outsource  your e-commerce fulfilment, whether it’s drop-shipping or not.)

Challenges of drop-shipping

1. Your cost of goods may be very high. It makes sense if you think of it from the supplier perspective. Why would they give you any volume discount when you’re only buying items one or two at a time? Unless you can offer something special, you’re not likely to make much margin on drop-shipping standard goods. So competing on price will be hard – you may need to compete on something else.

2. If you don’t see your product before you sell it, how do you manage product promotion, product quality and product support? It’s harder to check out features or to take great photos for promotion. You can’t check each order for quality as it leaves the warehouse.  If your customers call with queries about how to use the product, it’s hard to replicate their experience and talk them through the issue. One option is to buy a single unit for yourself.

3. You may not have full visibility of stock levels. What happens if you sell something and the supplier’s out of stock?  You may need to invest in technology to ensure you have real-time inventory information on your website.

4. What happens when a customer buys goods from two or more different drop-ship suppliers? The short answer is, you have to pay for two shipments. But your customer is buying from one business only – yours! So you can only charge one shipping fee.

Quite apart from this cost issue, your customer experience is also less good. They place one order, but goods arrive one by one. And the paperwork probably won’t show their complete order either! (Would you let supplier A see what was ordered from supplier B?)

5. You may have less control of your shipping service levels and costs. If you use your supplier’s shipping, you’re tied into their rates and services. As long as these match your business model, it’s not a problem, but make sure you check.

There’s an additional problem if your supplier is overseas. In this case, drop-shipping may make your delivery times longer. The cost of lots of small international shipments can add up too. And there’s the risk of items getting delayed by customs.

On the other hand, where are you shipping to? If you have customers all over the world, shipping from a supplier in China, India or Singapore may be a lot cheaper than shipping from Australia every time.

6. Returns are much more complex.  There are now three parties involved – your customer, you and your supplier. But the only reputation on the line is yours!

Was the product faulty? If so, will your supplier pay for return freight and for shipping a replacement item? You need to address this in your contract with them before it happens.  Even if they cover everything, your brand is still damaged.

What if the product isn’t faulty but the customer changes their mind? In this case, the customer should be willing to pay return shipping, but is your drop ship supplier happy to take stock back?

Worst of all, what happens if the customer is unhappy with the item but the supplier thinks it is up to standard? You’re caught in the middle. Hopefully this will be rare, but you may have to wear the cost of refunding a customer occasionally.

Is drop-shipping right for you?

In the end, the only person who can answer this question is you.

There are pros and cons to drop-shipping. It really depends on your situation and your business goals.  There’s a great post here comparing a drop-ship ecommerce store to one which has inventory. Perhaps the most interesting thing of all is this – the owner of the drop-ship store would like inventory next time around, but the one who has inventory would like to go with drop-shipping next time round. So it seems the grass is always greener!

Some questions you may want to ask when trying to decide what’s right for you?

1. Are you selling standard products or custom products? Standard products are easier to drop-ship, but there’s more competition and less margin.

2. How expensive are your products to ship? If they’re big, heavy or extremely fragile so they require careful packaging, there’s more opportunity to save on shipping costs by drop-shipping.

3. How many different suppliers do you use for your entire product range? The more you use, the more complex drop-shipping will be.

4. Do customers generally buy one item at a time, or multiple items? Orders with multiple items from different suppliers make drop-shipping more complex and less attractive.

5. Do you sell high volumes of a few items or small volumes of many items?  Keeping a large product range in stock can be expensive, which makes drop-shipping more attractive.

6. Where are  your customers located? As discussed above, this can have an impact on  your total shipping costs.

7. Does it have to be an ‘either-or’ choice? Would a hybrid model work for you? Keep stock of your core product range, in your own warehouse or with a warehousing partner, then use a drop-ship model as a low-cost, low-risk way to extend your range.

To explore fulfilment options for your specific business situation, contact Xpadite today.

 

 

 

23
Jun
Australian E-Commerce: building future growth
By admin on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

What’s happening in Australian e-commerce right now?  What will the future look like?  A couple of recent reports have set us wondering.

  • australian-ecommerce-future-growth-imageAccording to eWay research, Australians spent $4.37 billion online between January and March 2015. That’s a 22% increase from 2014.
  • In May, PureProfile surveyed 1,000 online shoppers across Australia and New Zealand.  They found that 29% had given up on online retail altogether, thanks to poor shopping experiences.
  • AT Kearney’s Global Retail E-Commerce Index 2015 shows Australia in the top ten countries for e-commerce.

But Australia has slipped one place in these rankings, from number 9 to number 10.

So what’s happening?  Australian e-commerce is growing. But maybe it’s not growing as fast as it should. And maybe the issues are more complicated than GST-free competition from overseas sites.

What’s driving Australian e-commerce growth? And what’s holding it back?

83% of respondents in the PureProfile survey value the convenience of online shopping.

That’s not surprising, given the pressure of modern life.  Interestingly, the 6pm to 9pm timeslot is the best time for sales.  Fully 20% of all transactions take place in those three hours.   It seems people get home from work and spend a bit of time in the evening looking for all the things they don’t have time to shop for during the day.

So they’re looking for convenience and speed.  But they’re not finding it.

  • 45% have abandoned a purchase due to difficulties with the site.
  • 47% have gone to a second site to purchase
  • 29% have given up on online shopping altogether

And they’re spending a massive 15.5 minutes on average browsing an online site to find the item they want.

What can Australian e-commerce sites do to improve customer experience?

1. Implement effective search

42% of survey respondents said online search options did not match their criteria.

If your site has more than a handful of products, consider implementing search.  Exactly what your site search will look like depends on your business but consider the following points:

  • Make your search easily visible and the same on all pages
  • Make sure your product data is strong enough to support search.  If you have categories, is every item in a category? Do you need some items to be in two or more categories? For example, if you’re selling jewellery you might have earrings, necklaces, rings and sets, but you might also want ‘gifts for her’ or ‘gifts under $100″ or categories for special occasions such as weddings or prom nights.
  • Consider other criteria people might search on.  Size, for clothing.  Price range. Current availability.

Get more e-commerce search tips here.

2. Make sure your checkout service is easy to understand

australian-e-commerce-buy-keyboard57% want an easier checkout process. Consider these questions

  • Is it easy to see and change what’s in your cart?  At all times?
  • Is the ‘checkout’ button available from every page?
  • Do customers need to create an account or is there a ‘quick checkout’ option if they prefer that?

Remember, you know your site so well you don’t even notice the problems.  It never hurts to get a complete novice to test your checkout service, while you sit quietly by and watch.

Get more ideas about checkout practices here.

3. Provide on-site assistance

34% say online service doesn’t match that in-store.  43% prefer in-store service.

What can you do to give better customer service on your site?

  • Anticipate common questions and answer them upfront.  Delivery times and costs.  Returns policy.  For clothing, how to measure your size and get a good fit.
  • A good FAQ page can be helpful too.
  • Have a clearly visible enquiry email.  Send all enquirers an auto-response confirming you have their enquiry and telling them when they can expect a full response.  Then make sure you do it!
  • Include a phone number, preferably toll-free.  If it’s not manned 24×7, say when it is available.  (And remember, 20% of transactions take place between 6pm and 9pm.  Sound like an opportunity for a call centre in Perth!)
  • What about online chat?  This is the equivalent of having a sales assistant onsite.  It also lets people ask questions anonymously, which increases comfort levels.  And it’s a great source of customer insights!

More ideas for online customer service here.

4. Offer same-day delivery options and free returns

67% of men and 79% of women surveyed wanted at least one of these options for their online shopping.

Same day delivery is important for gifts and other time-sensitive purchases. You need a cut-off time, of course.  If someone makes a purchase at 8pm it’s unlikely you’ll deliver it the same night, but if they order at 10am, perhaps you can.  Just make sure your cut-off time (and any location limitations) are clearly available on your website.

Remember, same-day delivery doesn’t have to be the only option you offer.  It’s quite OK to charge extra, as long as you’re clear about it.  For the majority of purchases where an extra day or two doesn’t matter, a slower delivery system can be a lot cheaper for you and help you remain competitive.

As for returns, Paypal Australia have recently launched a ‘free returns shipping’ service for purchases made via Paypal.  if you aren’t offering free returns for all orders, but you do take Paypal as a payment method, this could be one place to start.

Or you could investigate AfterPay, a Sydney-based startup which allows customers to pay after they have received their order.  Another way of reducing perceived risk from purchasing online.

5. Take opportunities to upsell, cross-sell and repeat sell to your customers

But don’t annoy them all the time with pop-up ads! That was the number one hate of online shoppers surveyed – 42% of them want fewer pop-ups.  Try some of these ideas instead to keep your Australian e-commerce site growing!

And while Xpadite don’t design, implement or improve e-commerce websites, if you want to review your e-commerce fulfilment operations, we’re always happy to have a no-obligation discussion.

 

product-sample-selectionCarefully targeted and planned product sampling can deliver fantastic results for a whole range of physical products.  Why?

  • It puts your product literally in the hands of the customer.  It’s more immediate and ‘real’ than any advertising campaign can be, so it gets immediate cut-through.
  • It lets your target market ‘try before you buy’. So they can experience your product fully.
  • It’s the ultimate ‘guarantee’. In essence, product sampling says, ‘We know this is so good that once you’ve tried it, you’ll be happy to pay the price we charge for more.’  It shows your confidence in your product’s value for money.

But successful product sampling means much more than just standing on a street corner, or in the shopping centre, handing out freebies to whoever comes past.  You want your samples to reach the right target market, at a time when they can appreciate them.

Some careful thought will make your product sampling campaigns as successful and cost-effective as possible.  Here’s a list of questions to consider.

What will your sample look like?

This may sound obvious, but you need to think about how the sample reflects your goals right from the start.

Which variety of your product?

You’re promoting shampoos.  Or beauty creams. Or health bars.  You have a product range.  Should you sample your new ‘flavours’, or should you focus on your top-selling core product?

The answer depends on your goals. If you want to increase market share, it’s probably better to go with the core product.  If you want to extend your range or increase awareness of new ‘flavours’, try those.  But you may not get quite so much conversion.

Full size or trial size?

A full size package is easier operationally.  There’s no need to design and produce a sample size.  On the other hand, it will almost certainly cost more to ship.  A full size sample also provides lots of uses to the recipient, so it will take longer before they convert to a sale.

Packaging

If you opt for a trial size, will you replicate the full size packaging, or will you go with a cheaper option?  (For example, foil packs versus a bottle.)

Cost is obviously one factor in this decision. Against that, a cheaper package may affect the product experience. And what if your packaging shape is a key part of your brand? In that case, simplified packaging may affect brand awareness and uptake.

Xpadite can help you assess custom packaging options for sample product sizes.

Should anything else be included with the sample?

Here are some options to consider.

  • Coupons. One piece of research done for the US Postal Service found that 89% of consumers said that an accompanying coupon would increase the value of a mailed sample box.  A coupon also offers an incentive for sales conversion.  If you do decide to use a coupon, you need to minimise the chance of it getting lost before it’s redeemed.  You could attach it to the product sample, or give it a magnetic strip to hold it on the fridge, for example.
  • Brochures. If you have a wide product range, this gives you the chance to promote more items.  On the other hand, it may dilute the power of your offer if the range is too wide.
  • Multiple samples.  What if you’re introducing several new flavours, colours or formulations?  Consider adding a feedback form with an incentive to complete it, and now you get some hands-on market research.
  • Competition entries or similar.  This can be another great way to collect consumer information and product feedback.

In this campaign, product sampling by direct mail was combined with a competition to collect further information and a discount voucher to encourage purchase.  You can bet those vouchers were individually tracked too, so the competition data and the purchase behaviour could be linked.

product-sampling-by-direct-mail-kenco-outside-view

  product-sampling-by-direct-mail-kenco-inner-view

 

How will you reach your target market?

As we said above, standing on a corner handing thing out to passers-by is not targeted product sampling!  But what are your other options?

Letterbox drops

If you’re a local retailer trying to promote business, this can work really well.  (In this scenario, a coupon is a great way to get people into your store rather than wherever they normally shop.)

If you’re the product manufacturer or distributor rather than a retailer, you can still use letterbox drops for product sampling.  You should be clear on the demographic characteristics of your core market.  Target suburbs which match this profile.

Addressed mailing lists

You may have your own lists of existing customers, or of those who have responded to competitions.

There are many third party lists available where you can select on criteria including gender, age, household income and interests.

Collecting requests for product sampling via online or social media

As Australians move to the web, this has become more and more popular.  A properly promoted sample offer can help you build a list for future marketing as well as for your sample campaign.

This is also a great option if you have a range of different samples on offer – flavours, scents, lipstick colours or so on.  Each individual can request what best suits them.

But beware of people who just want ‘freebies’.  You may want to set some criteria for who can apply.  You will almost certainly need to limit the number of times you send samples to any one address.

Fulfilment for this kind of campaign needs to be looked at carefully too.  Ideally, you want to send samples out the same day they are requested so that they arrive quickly and reinforce good feelings about your brand.  This may affect operational cost though, since fulfilment is lots of small jobs rather than one large one.  It’s also harder to predict total levels of demand.  You’ll need to work closely with your fulfilment supplier – we know this from experience!

Include samples with e-commerce orders

This one works for both e-commerce pureplays and any other retailer who has an ecommerce site.

  • If you don’t tell customers you’re going to send something, then it’s a great way to exceed expectations.
  • If you do tell customers, give them some choice of samples and you get lots of ideas for how to extend your product range.

You may want to set a minimum order value to keep this offer viable.

It can be also be a great way to dispose of unsold stock if you have made some poor purchase decisions in the past.

How will you measure success?

It’s important to know what you are trying to achieve – and to set a baseline before you start!

Most companies have an idea what current sales are, so if you just want more sales, the task is relatively easy.  But what if you’re more interested in new customers? Or increased brand awareness?  Decide how you’re going to measure, then measure both before and after the product sampling campaign, using the same method.  Otherwise how will you know the level of impact you achieved?

So next time  you’re thinking of using samples, ask yourself the questions above. They should help you design a cut-through, effective campaign.  And of course you can always talk to Xpadite, both for ideas and for assistance with your fulfilment.

14
May
Parcel Delivery: Innovation from New and Old Players
By admin on Thursday, May 14th, 2015

parcel-delivery-innovationIt’s no secret that Australia Post makes more out of parcel delivery than it does out of letter delivery.  StarTrack and StarTrack Courier (the rebranded Messenger Post) have grown strongly over recent years.

But Australia Post is not the only option for parcel delivery.

Courier companies have existed for a long time.  They tend to be more expensive, but they operate door-to-door.  Now, the growth in parcel delivery means new entrants and new services being trialled.  So the future may look very different.

Much of the growth in parcel delivery has been driven by the developing e-commerce market, one of Xpadite’s core client groups. So we thought we’d take a look at what’s happening now and what might happen in the future.

Parcel Delivery to Your Car

Where do you want your parcels delivered?  What if there’s no one at your home address during the day? Your business address may be a good alternative for small items, but if you commute by public transport, you probably don’t want to take a dozen bottles of wine back home with you. And if you work on the road, the office may not make sense anyway.

Now Amazon, Audi and DHL have teamed up to test delivery to your vehicle rather than to a fixed address.

The service depends on the ‘Internet of Things’ – you need an internet-enabled car.  You also need to be a member of Amazon Prime.  And the trial is currently limited to Munich.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You enter the car details as the shipping address.  This includes the approximate location and a time window for delivery.
  2. The car communicates with the DHL delivery agent via a smartphone app which provides its exact loction.
  3. The agent also gets a digital access code to open the boot.
  4. Your parcel is delivered into the boot, and as soon as the boot is closed again, the code expires.
  5. Closing the boot also triggers a delivery confirmation to DHL and an email to you.

Actually, Volvo trialled a similar car delivery solution at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2014.  Here’s their video.

Amazon’s trial is limited to people in Munich who both have an internet-connected Audi and belong to Amazon Prime.  The question is, how many of these people are there, and how many want delivery to their cars?  Only time will tell, but if the numbers add up, it should be easy to extend the service.

One stumbling block to this service is that it will take a long time to become universal. Many cars currently on the road simply don’t have the required internet connections.  So any business is still going to need a back-up delivery option for some years to come.

A New Option for Door-to-Door Parcel Delivery

While courier services have always been door-to-door, it’s not part of the standard parcel delivery model.  Consumers usually have to go the Post Office to send their parcels.  If you’re a small e-commerce operation you may do this too – until you’re big enough to hand over distribution to someone like Xpadite.  Or you may pay more for couriers who come to your door.

Now Uber, better known as taxi industry challengers, are rolling out ‘Uber Rush’.  It makes sense.  If a driver can take a person from A to B like a taxi, why not take a parcel?

So who’s the Uber Rush customer?

This US reviewer of Uber Rush is an urban professional who needs something she forgot in a hurry.  And for her the cost was ‘a totally reasonable price to pay for the convenience’.

But what if you’re an e-commerce business?  It’s important to realise the impact Uber’s ‘surge’ pricing model might have on your business.  You’ll face different costs for each and every delivery – and that’s a logistical and financial nightmare!  How do you quote delivery on your website? Plus, what happens if the recipient isn’t there when Uber deliver?

Maybe this isn’t the ideal service for e-commerce, but it could have a positive impact after all.

The increased competition in parcel delivery may drive Australia Post to lift their game.  One apparently simple suggestion is to use their current postal delivery network better.  So your postie might pick up parcels as well as deliver them to you!

***

Who’d have thought parcel delivery could be so innovative?

But while changes are coming, if distribution is important to your business, it’s wise to be a little careful.  A tried and tested reliable option may be less sexy, but it’s also less risky.  And no one wants to be the business which doesn’t deliver!

10
Dec
Test your Marketing to the Limit: 6 Marketing Test Ideas
By admin on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

marketing-test-compare-optionsEvery professional marketer understands the value of testing.  A marketing test can help you identify what works and what doesn’t, so you can get a better return on your future marketing investment.

Most professional marketers test less than they want to, and less well than they want to.  Testing takes time, and we’re all short of that.  Too often tests are dropped, or thrown together under a deadline, without the time to structure them properly.  So the results are not as clear or helpful as you might have hoped.

2015 is approaching fast.  The start of the year is a traditional time to review and update marketing plans.  If you’re doing this, why not plan ahead and build in the time for some really well-planned marketing test activity next year?

Here are some ideas to start you off.

1. Test direct mail versus email

An existing customer list is ideal for this, since you are likely to have both an email address and a delivery address.  (Even e-commerce websites have to deliver somewhere!)

So split your list of targets in two, then send one group an email and the other group a piece of direct mail.  Better yet, split your list into three – and send the third group both direct mail and email.  This way you repeat the offer.

The direct mail will cost more, especially if you add personalisation.  But response rates are generally much higher for print than for email too.  ROI is probably the best metric!

2. Test different headlines

Email marketers do this all the time – except that they call them subject lines, not headlines.  Why not try it on your printed pieces too?

Digital printing technology means you can print small quantities of two (or more!) test headlines.  Distribute these, then wait a while to see which generates the best response.  You can then use this headline for the bulk of your campaign.

Just make sure you plan far enough ahead to send out the test, collect results and till hit your deadlines.

3. Test the power of images

A picture speaks a thousand words.  There’s plenty of research suggesting pictures with people in add human interest and increase engagement.  Or you might want to try different colours, as mentioned in our blog post last month.

4. Test different kinds of promotional offer

Make sure you measure your results properly in this kind of test.  Promotional offers usually affect profitability, since you either discount the price or you add on the cost of a bonus giveaway.  Gross margin dollars or percentages are usually the best measures.  Which of these will give the best return to your business?

  • a discount for ordering by a certain time
  • a discount for buying more than one product
  • a giveaway for buying a certain amount
  • a prize draw or competition with a major prize

5. Test personalisation on direct marketing

marketing-test-email-personalisationIt sounds like a no-brainer that personalisation works better, but is that the case in real life?  This article from Mailchimp suggests personalisation may actually hurt response rates.

The chart shows that MailerMailer found the same thing Maybe you should test it for your customers?

6. Test something new. Anything!

Manufacturers, pharmaceutical, automotive and technology companies invest in R&D.  Shouldn’t marketing do the same?  One option is to earmark 3-5% of your campaign spend for a new channel, or a new list, or a new marketing format or technique.

Which of these options have you tried?

  • pay per click advertising (within this category, try not just Google Adwords but Bing, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn)
  • email marketing (try a new list, or a new selection)
  • addressed direct mail (try different formats including postcard, letter only, letter and brochure, sample etc)
  • unaddressed direct mail or letterbox drop (formats include all the above plus fliers, catalogues or even just a business card)
  • offering samples.  A great way of collecting contact details and building a marketing list.  (And yes, Xpadite can handle the fulfilment easily.)
  • offering a voucher to every new customer.  You’ve done the hard work and acquired this customer.  Now do something to raise their lifetime value!

***

But what if you really can’t find the time to set up and conduct a marketing test?  Use your existing data to try and learn something.  The results may not be as clear-cut, but you can often get good insights.

Here’s three bonus ideas

7. Analyse your most successful campaigns from the last 12 months

Which ones were they?  What did they have in common?  What can you learn and copy?

While you’re at it, look at your disaster campaigns too.  Is there anything you should avoid in the future?

8. Ask your customers what they do and don’t like about you

Customer surveys are a great way of getting feedback.  Many companies run an annual survey.  Another option would be to request feedback soon after orders are fulfilled.

9. Analyse which communication channels your market uses most

Have you ever done the numbers on how customers and prospects contact you? How many email enquiries do you get?  How many phone calls?  How many SMS messages? What about contact from social media networks?

Why does it matter?  Well, you could just include all response methods on every marketing piece, but research shows that too many calls to action can reduce response rates.  Potential purchasers get confused about what to do next.  So you might prefer to focus on two or three main channels and promote them loud and clear.

You can also try surveying ex-customers.  Or prospects where you quoted, but failed to get business.

Always include a free text field.  That way, people can say anything they feel is important, even if you didn’t ask about that topic.  These comments can be the most illuminating of all!

marketing-tests-improve-results

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Whatever you decide to do, good luck with your marketing in 2015.

Here’s hoping you get fantastic results which really grow your business!

 

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You may like these other posts from the Xpadite blog:

Marketing Collateral Which Works

Direct Mail vs Email – Which to Use When

Letterbox Media Reaches More Australians

Are these Web Habits Damaging your Offline Marketing?

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And don’t forget to download our 30 Great Print Marketing Ideas!

 

 

 

 

13
Aug
Subscription Service Models for Online Retail
By admin on Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

subscription-service-e-commerce-graphicSubscription commerce – it’s a recent buzzword and a growing trend.  Even if you haven’t heard of it, you or someone you know is probably using a subscription service for online purchasing right now.  It could be groceries from AussieFarmersDirect.  It could be a Pet Circle autodelivery of dogfood.  It might even be a box of fashion and beauty treats from LustHaveIt or HerFashionBox.

The subscription service model works for these companies – could it work for you too?  Let’s take a look at key issues to consider.

Kinds of Subscription Service

There are two main kinds of subscription service.

  • subscription-serivce-petcircle-autodeliveryRegular repeat orders, with the content of the order chosen by the customer.  Ideal for items like petfood, grocery staples or nutrition supplements.
  • Subscription boxes, where you choose the content.  This works well for sectors where customers want to try something new.  Consider beauty samples, fashion accessories, children’s craft, books or DVDs.  (Think Mills and Boon!)

Most businesses offering a subscription service choose one of these models.  Aussie Farmers offer both.  You can set up a repeat order where you specify what you want every week, or you can opt for a ‘box’ where they decide what to include.

Benefits of a Subscription Service Model

Customer retention is an obvious point. The whole idea of the subscription is repeat deliveries to the customer.

  • The commonest model is automated repeat billing.  This means customers have to choose to leave you, rather than simply fading away.  On average, they’ll stay longer.
  • Alternatively, you might bill in advance for a set period (monthly deliveries for the next year, for example).  In this case, you get the cashflow advantage of full payment upfront.  And you can still invite customers to renew when the time period expires.

Whichever model you choose, a subscription service is likely to increase customer life-time-value – and your profits.

Regular deliveries to your customers also give you multiple chances to up-sell other products and increase revenue per customer even further.

More predictable sales give you other advantages too:

You can manage your cashflow and budget more easily as you know what to expect.

Reduce product cost by negotiating based on guaranteed sales.  You could negotiate a lower price based on a commitment to regular orders.  Or you could buy a larger volume and store until needed, with little risk of overstocks.

Improve your fulfilment operations.

  • Packing a thousand identical subscription boxes is a far more efficient fulfilment task than picking a thousand individual orders.  (Note you must control the time your boxes go out.)
  • For repeat individual orders, you may need to do more analysis.  Identify products commonly ordered together and rack them near each other for quicker picking.  Identify quiet times in the warehouse and get ahead by picking and packing upcoming orders then.  (But don’t ship early unless you’re sure your customers are happy with that!)

Challenges of Subscription Service Models and how to overcome them.

For repeat individual orders, the most obvious challenge is maintaining margin.

Price comparison is almost always easy.  As an online retailer, you save cost by not maintaining a storefront.  On the other hand, you have to cover delivery costs to the home, which may negate that advantage.  Key areas of focus are controlling costs and making the most of upsell opportunities.  You may achieve more margin from one-off sales of related products.  You could also make money by letting others promote to your customer base – for example, include a leaflet for dog grooming or dogwalking with all your dogfood orders.

For subscription boxes, there are fulfilment and marketing challenges to consider.

Marketing needs to build trust.  Customers are trusting you to provide something which matches their tastes, so provide as much reassurance as you can.  All the subscription box services we quoted above offer a range of options.

This helps you tailor your boxes to your customers and also gives the customer some sense of control.  A generous returns policy can also build trust.

subscription-service-lusthaveit-box-options

Show the brands which are in your box.  Show past box contents.  Use a blog, social media and email marketing to promote and share.  Seek testimonials.  Seek feedback generally and use it to select product better in the future.

Make the delivery a special event.  Your customers are getting a surprise pack in the mail.  They more than anyone else need to feel like it’s a treat.  Custom packaging with strong branding is vital.

On the fulfilment side, manage product quantities carefully.  You may need to order extra of some items – its better than running out.  Offer these as upsells after the subscription month – if you’re doing a good job of selection, some of your customers will want more!

Pin suppliers down to deliver on time or your fulfilment operations will suffer.

Use an e-commerce system which supports subscription service models

Which system is best for you will depend on your business model and your existing e-commerce platform. Search online and you’ll find a mass of companies advertising.  When you investigate them, consider issues such as:

  • cost
  • local support in Australia
  • integration with your current systems
  • installed user base (can you get references?)
  • frequency of updates
  • capability and flexibility

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So can a subscription service model help your business?  If you think it through and implement it carefully, the answer is probably yes.  It’s worth noting, though,  that very few e-commerce businesses are pure-play subscription services.  Those using the model also aim to upsell to their subscriber base.  It’s hardly surprising – the whole aim is to increase the revenue per customer, by whatever means you can.

Does your e-commerce business need help with fulfilment, for subscription services or one-off orders?  Contact Xpadite for an obligation-free discussion today.

You might like these other blog posts from Xpadite:

E-Commerce Growth in 2014

Direct Mail vs Email Marketing – Pros and Cons of Each

E-Commerce Packaging and Gift Wrapping Tips

Make the Most of Your Despatch Note

27
May
Trade Show Tips
By admin on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

expo-trade-show-tipsTrade shows, love them or loathe them, are here to stay!  A recent Forrester report found that nearly 20% of business-to-business marketing spend is committed to live events.

Yet many marketers have a love-hate relationship with physical events.  Planning, operations and logistics are exhausting.  Something always goes wrong.

So how can you best manage trade shows to deliver great leads, while still keeping your sanity?  Here’s the Xpadite list of top trade show tips, compiled from our experience helping clients plan for and achieve better results.

Before the Show

Start your planning early.  If it’s too late for that, start your planning now!

Set your goals and your budget.

You know the audience profile and the likely number of attendees.  Set a realistic, measurable goal for the show.  Most commonly, this is a number of qualified leads, but you could also have other goals.  Trade shows offer great opportunities to:

  • Make immediate sales on the floor
  • Have face-to-face meetings with clients from other cities time-efficiently
  • Meet with industry journalists and generate publicity
  • Find potential business partners or investors
  • Conduct hands-on market research

Your budget will include the cost of exhibiting, the cost of your stand and travel expenses for staff.  You should also budget for on giveaways and marketing materials.  Be careful not to skimp on these – they make all the difference to your end results.  Without them, your investment in the show is wasted.

Decide on your message

What’s the key message you want attendees at this show to take away with them?  This should be something people can grasp in a few seconds.  Trade show visitors are already suffering from information overload – don’t make it harder for them.  It’s best to keep to one simple message, which you can promote before, during and after the show.  Wait until visitors are actively engaged at your stand to go into detail.

Promote your stand in advance

The trade show organisers are focused on getting attendees to the show, not on getting them to your stand.  Most visitors won’t visit every stand.  Most plan at least some of their visit in advance.  You need to get your stand into their schedule.

  • Send invitation emails.
  • Include a line about the show in staff email signatures to promote the show and your stand.
  • Send invitation postcards.

Give potential visitors a reason to visit your stand – you could offer them something as long as they bring the postcard with them.  Now they have a reason to keep it for the weeks before the show, and you get additional exposure there too.

Or you could offer pre-booked appointments, with technical experts or a senior figure in your company or industry.  It’s harder to break an appointment than a vague promise to ‘catch up at the show’.

Be preparedtrade-show-tips-lead-form

People – decide who will be on the stand and when.  Then train these people.  They need to know the purpose of the event, they need to know who the target audience are, and they need the tools to qualify potential leads they meet at the show.

A custom lead form can be really useful for qualifying.  It’s easier than writing on people’s business cards, plus the form itself acts as a reminder of the qualifying questions you want your team to ask.  When the stand’s busy, staple business cards to the forms or ask visitors to fill them out themselves.  You will need to organise lead forms in advance though.

What marketing material are you going to have on the stand?  Company brochures, product catalogues, flyers, case studies, vouchers or trial offers, giveaways…  You’ll need items for display on the stand, which can range from printed material to samples to screens playing promotional videos or interactive demonstrations.  You’ll need material for visitors to take away too.  If you have a range of material, you may want to prepare packs in advance so they’re quick and easy to hand out.  Use Xpadite’s kitting service to make this easy – all you have to do is tell us what you want and we’ll compile your packs and deliver them to the trade show ready for you to pick up.

Finally, don’t forget your ’emergency box’ – this is for things you probably won’t need, but if you do, you really need them!

  • notepads (preferably branded – Xpadite can organise these for you too)
  • pens (more than one)
  • highlighters (multiple colours)
  • post-it notes
  • rubber bands
  • stapler
  • paper clips
  • scissors
  • sticky tape
  • duct tape
  • cable ties
  • extension cord
  • power board
  • screwdrivers
  • generic business cards

At the Show

Drive traffic to your stand.

You have to compete with every other booth there.  How do you make it enticing?  There are three main options:

Giveaways

Keep your giveways inside the stand.  Don’t make it too easy for people to take them without stopping and engaging

Make giveaways really valuable.  Most trade show visitors have enough pens and stressballs.  How about:

  • Something relevant to your product or service.  Oven mitts for a food show or a home and giftware.  Screen cleaner.  Seeds at a garden show. pocket screwdriver set
  • Something useful for travellers.  Many women trudging round tradeshows would love shoe cushions, or hotel size bottles of foot lotion.  Lip balm in cold climates or sun cream for hot places.  Hand sanitiser. Aromatherapy mini-candles
  • Something relevant to the location of the show.  If it’s in Sydney, you could hand out USB memory sticks  or boxes of mints shaped like the Opera House.  If you’re local and know the area, you could hand out leaflets with insider tips on where to eat or lesser-known sights to see.

Experiences

There are some basic options here which will appeal to a lot of people at a trade show.

  • food.  Cookies or even savoury snacks are probably better than lollies.  And just like giveaways, don’t make them too accessible.  The aim is to get people to stop and come in!
  • seating.  There are never enough places to sit at a trade show.  If you want people to stop and take a while to learn more about what you have to offer, give them a comfortable seat while they watch your video, interact with your demo or read your literature.
  • live demonstrations or sampling.  Of course this depends on your product or service, but it can be a great draw.

Or try something more imaginative.  Organise prize draws, quizzes and contests; offer free massages or style consultations.

Education

The trade show has probably organised some workshops or seminars – but don’t let that stop you offering some at your stand too!  People come to trade shows to learn, after all.

  • Invite an industry expert.
  • Set up a debate about an industry topic
  • Demonstrations are educational as well as an experience.

Capture and qualify leads

This is where your preparation before the show pays off.

The team at your stand know who you are targeting and what key selling messages to push with them.  They have lead cards to remind them of qualifying criteria and to note down contact details and specific points of interest.  They have pre-prepared kits to hand out to qualified leads.

Many shows now let exhibitors scan visitor name tags to capture contact data.  Do this by all means, but complete a lead form to capture specifics as well.

The trade show is more than just the stand.

Try these trade show tips to reach out to people in a more refreshing way

  • Attend seminars and strike up conversations.
  • Tweet about the show from the floor.  Don’t forget to read others’ tweets as well!
  • Explore the other exhibitors.  Check out your competitors and see what you can learn.  Look for potential marketing partners – you might have different offerings, but if you’re at the same show you’re probably targeting the same customers.
  • Host an after hours event.
  • Haunt the bar at the show hotel.
  • Go back to your room, put your feet up and start connecting with the best leads of the day on LinkedIn.  That way you’ll have less backlog when the show’s over and the adrenalin’s gone.

 

After the Show

Use the leads you capture.

It’s so obvious, yet so many companies simply don’t do it.

  • Follow up quickly.  It helps to have some standard templates prepared in advance which you can personalise as necessary.
  • Thank everyone who visited your stand, tell them you’ve put them on your mailing list, but they can cancel any time they like.  Then send out regular newsletters so you stay top-of-mind.
  • If you ran a competition or contest, get in touch with all the people who didn’t win and offer them some kind of consolation prize.

Review your trade show experience

  • report actual outcomes against your original goals
  • identify what went well and what didn’t
  • improve your planning and activities for next time.

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So that’s our list of trade show tips.  From the practical to the imaginative, all of them can help you get better results.  Don’t be put off by the work involved either – there’s plenty to do, but you can get help.

Xpadite can’t assist with everything you need to implement these trade show tips, but we can help with many of them.

Our print management experts can help you with all your printed marketing collateral, plus those all important lead forms. We can manage direct mail campaigns pre- and post-show.  Our sourcing arm can help you find some outstanding giveaways.  Best of all, we have the fulfilment expertise and manpower to deliver everything you need right to the trade show location.  So all you have to bring is yourself, your energy and your enthusiasm.

Contact us for a more detailed discussion about any of these ways we can help you.

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You may like these other posts from the Xpadite blog:

Marketing Collateral Which Works

Whether to Outsource Warehousing & Logistics: 10 Considerations

The Future of Print: Print that Performs

POS Marketing Ideas

24
Sep
Whether to Outsource Logistics and Warehousing: 10 Considerations
By admin on Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Any business selling goods needs warehousing.  So do many service businesses – plumbers need spare parts, for example, and even a gym or a consulting firm may find it has a lot of different things like marketing collateral and giveaways which need to be stored somewhere.  But is it better managed in-house or by specialist contract warehousing and outsource logistics providers?

The answer is complex and depends on your organisation, but here are some key points to consider:

1. Control

If you want complete control, of course you need to keep your warehousing and logistics in-house.  Just remember that with complete control comes complete responsibility.  So when you have a shipment to a new destination and don’t have any rates set up; or the OH&S regulations change, or you need to do a stocktake because your system says you have stock but no-one can find it – you’re the one who needs to sort everything out.

2. Flexibility and Scalability

Flexible warehousing is probably the single biggest benefit you get from using an outsource logistics provider.  You may have seasonal business which means you need more goods at certain times of year, or you may be expanding rapidly.  Perhaps you want to introduce new lines so you need storage for additional SKUs.  Having your own facility probably won’t work well in these scenarios – you’ll either run out of space or you’ll be spending more than you need to!

Another option is to use contract warehousing to supplement your own space.

3. Expertise

People like the Xpadite team have decades of experience in managing all aspects of logistics.  And because they live and breathe logistics, they stay in touch and up-to-date.  They know what’s possible.  If specialist services are required, they know who can provide them.

4. Shipping and Transportation Costs

When you outsource your warehousing and distribution, your supplier is the one negotiating with the delivery companies.  Although you might expect that you’ll pay more because there’s another step in the chain, the truth is that your supplier has far greater negotiating power due to the combined volume of all clients.  As often as not, they can get better rates and save you money, even after taking a margin for themselves.  It doesn’t hurt to check.

5. Total Cost

The cost of contract warehousing is clearly visible on a regular invoice from your provider.  It can be scary.  But before you decide that outsourcing is more expensive than keeping logistics in-house, make sure you do a genuine comparison including all the costs:

Staffing costs including salaries, benefits, insurance and management time to look after these issues
Space-related costs.  You may be leasing a warehouse or paying a commercial mortgage.  Also include depreciation on any racking, forklifts, software or other capital items related to your logistics.
Don’t forget packaging materials – from pallets to shrinkwrap to boxes and tape to labels.  You may also have scales and postage software to account for.

6. Opportunity Cost

This is another ‘hidden’ factor.  How many hours a week are you and your team spending on logistics issues?  What else could you do with that time?  How much would one more sales or marketing campaign per month add to your bottom line?

If you outsource, of course you still need to communicate with and manage your logistics provider, but the amount of your time spent on this area of the business should decrease significantly.

7. Simplicity

Xpadite’s policy is to provide a single point of contact for each and every client we have.  So you don’t need to contact the warehouse, customer service and the distribution fleet operator.  We sort all that out for you.  It’s one of the key ways we help you free up your time to focus on other parts of your business like growing sales.

8. Value-Added Services

Many businesses have irregular and occasional need for specialist fulfilment services.  It might be product assembly – for example putting together a Christmas gift pack of two or three items in special packaging.  It might be kitting – organising point-of-sale packs for a push marketing campaign, or compiling items into a show bag.  An outsource logistics provider like Xpadite knows how to manage this kind of fulfilment project, plus they have ready access to experienced staff.  All this means your complex fulfilment tasks are likely to run more smoothly and save you stress as well as money.

9. Reporting and Management

A contract warehousing arrangement generally includes access to inventory reports at no additional charge.  You have all the information you need at your fingertips without having to invest in expensive licences or develop your own system.

At Xpadite, your account manager also monitors your business, actively looking for ways to improve efficiency across your supply chain.  Helping clients reduce costs and improve service levels is not only immensely satisfying, it’s also good business – happy clients stay, trust us and refer others companies to us.

10. Standard Processes

If your business has grown organically, it may be that many of your processes are stored in your head.  That’s fine as long as you’re there, but what about when you’re not?  Are you sure your customers are always getting exactly what they asked for and expect?

A cost AND a benefit of outsourcing is that you have to look at your processes, then standardise and confirm them.  This takes up your time, which is the cost part of it, but your logistics provider is a warehousing, shipping and fulfilment expert, so you also get a great opportunity to improve the way you do things.  Plus the whole process is no longer dependent on you personally.  When you take those two weeks off in the summer, you know your clients are still getting great service, so you can put your feet up and relax!

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You may like these other blog posts from Xpadite:

The Hidden Costs of In-House

Make the Most of Your Despatch Note

Putting Together a Winning Package for Taylors

Packaging and Gift-Wrapping for E-Commerce

3
Jun
NEW Purpose built warehouse.
By admin on Monday, June 3rd, 2013

blog1warehouse

Our newly expanded purpose built warehouse can hold up to 4500 pallets and can store standard and non-standard pallets for flexibility when required. Additionally Xpadite’s management information system provides the ability to store up to 3 SKU’€™s on a single pallet ensuring maximum efficiency and further reduced storage costs.

For more information on Xpadite’€™s storage solutions please contact us.