Data cube

Our single database for fulfillment and the web is a competitive advantage.  But it cannot be all things to all people.  Power users have used Crystal reports, Sequel Reporting, or IBM Query tools.  These tools work well but sometimes transaction data needs to be summarized or pivoted.  To address this need we implemented a data cube.

A data cube is a repository of all transaction information pre-indexed and summarized for ease of reporting.  We use Microsoft SQL Server to build and hold the data cube.  This moves the power user query functions off the application transaction server onto it’s own server.  Current data cube users are using the latest version of Excel to extract data and build drill-down type reports.

 

Technical overview

Our single database that supports the entire fulfillment cycle is a competitive advantage.  But like the entire software industry, the Directions fulfillment system is specializing.  Directions still supports all the normal business functions.  But we know we cannot be the best in every area of fulfillment.  So we have partnered with other software vendors and service providers to let you use the specialists in every area.

We integrate with UPS, FedEx, and the USPS.  We integrate with major payment gateways.  We even have integration with an inventory carousel picking system.  And we see this trend accelerating.

Years ago we developed the web framework to support upsell and suggested items.  This same information was also used in the call center.  We developed basic query functions that allowed marketing to attach lists of suggested products to categories or other specific products.  The problem with this is the time required to keep the suggestions fresh.

Companies like MyBuys have developed specialized web behavior analysis engines to analyze user web activity to suggest additional items.  Other companies like SLI have developed expertise in site search.  These services require updates from the product, category, and orders database.  We have the web service framework to exchange that information.

Directions consumption of outside services extends to address verification, email marketing, shipping, custom reporting, and financial applications.

Customer selections and marketing

Customer selections for marketing – this is one campaign with 6 segments. 

Customer selections to build a campaign

Customer selections to build a campaign

 

Each segment allows choices on all customer history and attributes. 

Customer selectable details

Customer selectable details

 

Customers may also be selected by comparing their activity over time.  These are customers with decreasing sales over time. 

Customer comparisons

Customer comparisons

Suggested purchase orders – replenishment

For items that should always be in stock, Directions automates replenishment purchasing.

Starting from a list of vendor items, suggested purchase orders use your custom formulas at the vendor or item level to calculate suggested orders.  The example formulas below use sales history, vendor lead times, quantity on hand and backordered, and vendor minimums.

Suggested purchase orders

Suggested purchase orders

 

Inventory replenishment

Inventory replenishment

Operations dashboard

The Directions operations dashboards show an overview of daily operations in real time.

  • Orders by channel
  • Orders by call center associate
  • Orders printed, picked, packed, and shipped
  • Sales by category
  • eBay item status

Each of these dashboard metrics has underlying detail to quickly identify an operations issue.  For example, if orders are backing up at the packing area, you can view each packers’ productivity .  If sales in a promotional category are taking off, you can contact the vendor or issue work orders.

Orders by channel and user

Orders by channel and user

Orders by channel and user

 

Orders printed, picked, packed, and shipped

 

Orders printed, picked, packed, and shipped

Orders printed, picked, packed, and shipped

 

 

 

Sales by category

Sales by category

Sales by category

Responsive web site design

Responsive design is the current hottest topic in web design.  A responsive web site serves the the same pages to many device sizes from the same URL.  A completely responsive site is good for the “party trick” of opening the site on a desktop browser, and automatically resizing and positioning content as you make the browser window shrink to smart phone size.  Note that a completely responsive site is more expensive to build than a desktop site and a mobile site.

In reality, there are not many good, responsive, shopping sites.  Even the big guys like LL Bean and Target haven’t gone responsive.

We chose a more middle-of-the-road approach – let’s call it “hybrid responsive”.  The Directions web framework has built in logic to detect device size before presenting any page.  Every web framework consists of hundreds of programs that work together to present categories of items and allow customers to buy them.  The Directions framework choses between full-size browser session and various mobile devices – from tablets to smart phones.  This first decision determines the responsive full-size or mobile page presentation.  The full size pages are responsive to one range of device sizes, the mobile pages are responsive to another range of device sizes.

Apple Barn Mobile

Apple Barn Mobile

 

Apple Barn full site

Apple Barn full site

Abandoned Cart programs. Subtle, Simple and Effective

Want to increase order rates for your website by 2 – 3%?  Abandoned cart reminders are the answer.

We are starting with a simple system that will let you build a more complex program when you are comfortable with the process.  Directions is flexible and lets you start with a subtle email that reminds the customer  that he left items in the cart an hour after the cart was abandoned.  No response elicits a “thank you for browsing” email three days later.

As you see how the abandoned card emails are received by your customers, you can target market to them when an item they abandoned goes on sale.  Or after a couple of months of inactivity, you can send an email  coupon or free shipping offer.  The options are endless.

The idea is that you know your customers  best, and can tailor your abandoned cart program to fit their profile.  With an email scheduler, you can try out different options and see which work for your business.  The system works seamlessly with the rest of the Directions software—no intervention or monitoring required.  As the sales team develops and tests new scenarios, you will be able to see the results in the metrics which are generated by the system—-you’ll know what works right away.

Abandoned cart emails—another way to reach out to the customer’s that have shown  you what they are shopping for.  It’s a cost effective way to drive another 2-3% in sales.  And who couldn’t use that?

Directions integration with eBay

Hot topic around here is eBay store integration with our customer’s fulfillment system.   The problem was getting one-of-a-kind items into eBay auctions without having to set up, monitor, and complete each auction individually.

This client was all single items, some with high value, some with low.  They needed to move items that were not getting attention on their website.  eBay was the perfect solution, if they could make it seamless with the rest of their operation.

Our software solution, Directions, allows them to set categories and attributes in an item which start an auction at a specified time and a
specified date and run for a variable number of days.  If the item is sold at auction, or on a Buy it Now, it shows up with the regular flow of orders from the web.  Their eBay store works like any other eBay store, but seamlessly flows into the rest of their Directions software.

Are any of you having problems with your ebay store?  Call us.