Everyone that works within the retail channel is in agreement that customer satisfaction is crucial when it comes to standing out from the crowd. And in a world where consumers are looking towards the fast turnaround times of ecommerce giants as the basic standard when it comes to package deliveries, how are smaller online stores able to compete?
Once you look at the shear volume of employees within the logistics side of a company like Amazon, it’s not hard to see how a much smaller retailer would write off being able to compete on delivery times and postal costs.
However, an increasing number of platforms are popping up to offer services that can help indie retailers boost the turnaround times of orders, and help upgrade their parcels so they not only look more professional than a standard box, but also offer better packaging options to ensure that when a parcel does arrive, its contents is in perfect condition.
One of these is Weengs, a platform which promises to “simplify the order fulfilment process, from collection to customer service”.
Created specifically for small businesses, Weengs uses custom packaging and bespoke boxes to minimise the cost of shipping, reduce damages to orders in transit, reduce carrying cost of stock related to material, and removes the need to have space specifically devoted to packing materials. All of which CEO Pier Ronzi says helps to “free up business time, hassle and money, and allow retail business owners to get back to what matters most in their lives and businesses”.
The Weengs packaging service boasts the ability to handle two key and time-consuming elements of the whole process for retailers who need to get their products to customers.
“Firstly, the experienced Weengs full-time packing team are professionally trained to pack items and so know how to pack in a way that will get orders to customers safely, without damaging whatever is inside the box,” explains Ronzi.
“We pack hundreds of thousands of items each and every year, there’s almost nothing we haven’t packed before. This lowers the risk of damaged items reaching the consumer, which is a huge pain point for ecommerce retailers, who often have to absorb this cost. The financial consequence of reduced damages in transit results in lower costs as there’s no need to re-ship items and no need to pay for replacements.”
Secondly, the Weengs warehouse uses “the right box for the job”, which Ronzi says ensures minimum shipping costs for businesses.
“Shipping cost often corresponds to the size and weight of the box. We’ve got every permutation of box we need and where it matters most, so for fragile or international packaging, we use a machine that can print custom boxes as big or small as needed,” he says.
“It also means you don’t have to buy a bunch of different shaped and sized boxes without knowing what exactly you’ll end up using and when – the carrying cost of this stock is often underestimated. Custom packaging also has the added benefit of not having to store packing materials or have a packing space in your store or location, which can take up precious space that could be used in more efficient ways.”
Streamlining the process
So how does custom packaging actually boost the consumer opinions of a brand or retailer? Ronzi says the company is increasingly seeing a trend towards customers having higher expectations around the delivery experience, including packaging from ecommerce retailers.
“We streamline the whole process and create a great experience for customers because our mission is to increase
consumer confidence in buying from smaller retailers so they can continue to thrive.
“We know customers hate receiving an oversized box for small items or packaging that uses an unnecessary amount of materials,” he says, pointing out that customers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious on this front.
“A box of the right size, professionally packaged by our experts reaches the expectations customers have today. A positive experience of taking their purchases out the box and unwrapping them makes consumers feel good about their whole buying experience with that particular retailer and so they are keen to return to them again,” says Ronzi.
While all this sounds like a no-brainer for smaller businesses, aside from customer satisfaction, are there other business benefits? Ronzi believes so, especially when it comes to freeing up staff time.
“For most businesses, there’s no one who can take this part of their businesses on for them. Most businesses have to DIY the process, which is time-consuming and expensive. Often, they’ll either have to pack themselves or divert precious staff time to it, either of which is time-consuming and expensive. And then, have a raft of different carriers they need to use for different types of shipments,” he explains.
“We’re the only service in the UK for small businesses that will collect, pack and ship without needing a whole warehouse full of stock. For small businesses this is perfect, it means they can keep stock in store, meaning no duplication of stock or storage fees either of which is very expensive. Whilst at the same time, freeing up all of the time and effort that goes into fulfilment and allowing retail business owners to get back to what matters most in their company and their lives.”
Ronzi concludes: “With Weengs, you have small businesses providing a big business delivery experience. And because our partner retailers save so much time with our service, they can re-focus their efforts on growing and sustaining their business. A lot of our retailers are creatives and entrepreneur types. They know that the time spent on logistics is not time well spent for their success in a competitive space.”
Recouping the costs
With the best efforts possible put into the parcel delivery side of the business, even the most diligent of retailers will still encounter returns – whether that’s the increasing trend of serial returners (those that buy multiple products with the intention of returning most of them), or those that have simply brought the wrong product, or perhaps participated in a spot of drunken shopping and ended up with a surprise parcel on their doorstep two days later.
CBRE recently reported that 30% of online purchases were sent back last year, with ecommerce returns expected to rise 15% year-on-year. The sheer volume of returns can be overwhelming for many in the channel and cost the UK retailer sector billions a year.
“Returns are a cost of doing business, especially if you sell online or offer relaxed return policies to remain competitive. While independent retailers will likely have stricter return policies (shorter return windows, exchange or store credit only, for example), it doesn’t mean the strain of returns is any less time consuming or costly,” warns Ben Whitaker, EMEA director of B-Stock – an auction platform for returned, excess and other liquidation inventory.
“Typically, only 10% of returned items will end up going back on shelves. This is due to a few reasons: the product has been visibly used; it’s now obsolete; the retailer not wanting to offer a heavy discount and set unrealistic consumer expectations; the time/cost involved with inspecting and processing back on shelf.
“In many cases, obsolete stock will end up sitting in a back room, taking up space and viewed as a total loss. Eventually, the stock may be destroyed (which these days is socially unacceptable) or perhaps the retailer will find a jobber to take the stock for dramatically reduced prices,” he says.
Given extremely the tight margins retailers are facing and that return rates are bound to increase, Whitaker outlines the importance for independent retailers to think about an ongoing solution for their returns, one that allows for higher pricing and shifts the stock out of the backroom faster.
“B-Stock operates B-Stock Supply, a marketplace specifically for independent retailers, based in the EU to sell bulk quantities of their returned and excess stock directly to business buyers (who will then likely resell it in their own second-hand shop),” he explains. “The marketplace is auction-based, so you can list inventory across any category, condition, or lot size and have thousands of buyers bid for it (it’s like eBay, but for business-to-business transactions).”
Whitaker says the benefits of selling returned and excess stock on a platform like B-Stock Supply include higher prices, getting inventory out of your backroom faster, access to a built-in buyer base and a customer service boost.
“By setting up an online auction dynamic where buyers compete to buy your merchandise, pricing goes up. Increased competition drives velocity, creates a sense of urgency and excitement. Auctions also mean no offline negotiating, so you’ll be able to extract buyers’ highest willingness to pay and have real data on secondary market prices,” explains Whitaker, who warns retailers to avoid letting inventory pile up in the back of their warehouse.
“By listing it on an online auction platform like B-Stock Supply it allows for thousands of buyers to see and compete to buy your stock. You can move inventory as needed – regardless of volume, time of year, or product category.
“A service like B-Stock also offers a global base of buyers specifically interested in returned and excess stock across all categories, conditions, and quantities, giving retailers access to a built-in buyer network.”
Lastly, Whitaker notes that quality customer service increases repeat buyer rate and pricing. “With B-Stock Supply, you’ll have access to a customer service team that handles all buyer inquiries, payment collection, education, disputes, and other correspondence.”
So whether you’re looking to improve your delivery times, upgrade your packaging or claw back more money from returns, it’s clear that retailer services are ramping up their offerings specifically for independent businesses, enabling them to change the way they think about competing with the ecommerce giants.