BMI Microsoft Dynamics NAV Blog

Kinder and Cheaper Robots Bring Automation To Distributors

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 25, 2017 2:20:59 PM

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Robots are all around us. They are delivering room service, vacuuming your floors, and even showing up for work to stock shelves. Restaurants are placing small monitors on tables so customers can re-order drinks and pay their bill. 

When you order a drink from McDonalds, workers place empty cups under drink dispensers and they automatically fill them up to the top while employees do other tasks. In the healthcare industry robots are operating with precision on human beings as physicians instruct them from another room.

You have probably heard about the electronic labor force at Amazon; There are thousands of robots in warehouses across the country. Robots made by Kiva Systems (Amazon bought the company for $775 million in 2012), are being used to better handle the avalanche of orders placed every second. The robots bring shelves of goods from storage and carry them straight to human workers to process.

I read that Amazon employees were complaining about walking 15 miles a day to retrieve goods for orders; they don’t have any problem with robots handling that part of their job. Also, with the introduction of delivery drones into the supply chain, (being tested now), a new level of customer service is possible.

As a small business owner, you may think robotics are too expensive for your organization. But times are changing, and there are inexpensive robots (as low as $20,000) called collaborative robots (cobots) that are working with employees instead of replacing them. These robots have a smaller footprint, are very mobile and are considerably kinder to humans. Armed with safety sensors that keep them from running into bodies, the little bots are able to perform a variety of tasks.

Unlike their ancestors, the giant industrial robots bolted to a single location who work assembly lines, these cobots roam free on warehouse floors. It is interesting that studies show that small businesses who use robots increase productivity, which in turn requires them to hire more humans to handle additional business and complete tasks that robots cannot handle.

For small businesses, keeping margins low is the path to profitability. There is no need to outsource work to foreign lands and cheaper labor if they can work more efficiently in their own warehouses. Delegating repetitive work to cobots on the night shift means when employees come to work in the morning, their work is ready to process.

Warehouse robots may be the least sexy members of the robot family, until you view the bottom line. The market research firm Tractica predicts that companies around the world will spend $22.4 billion on warehouse robots by 2021.

The old adage, make it cheaper, better or faster still stands. Leveraging technology to save costs and reduce errors is a wise path for any size business; however small businesses need to think of innovative ways to compete with big box distributors.

Please share in the comments below how you view robot technology and if it has a place in your small business.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems. www.bmiusa.com

Topics: Dynamics NAV, ecommerce

Five eCommerce Blunders that Online Distributors Can't Afford to Make

Posted by Craig Greitzer on Aug 17, 2017 5:05:52 PM

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In the course of my business, I have the opportunity to speak with many online distributors. I found that some of them suffer from common mistakes with their eCommerce platform - mistakes that can be fixed.

 eCommerce is the lifeblood of online distributors. If not attended to, these mistakes can turn off customers and drive them away from your business. I read that over half of online customers have experienced problems with their purchases within the past year.

 Here is a list of some common blunders and how to fix them:

 No. 1: Choosing an ecommerce platform without doing adequate research.

Something as important as connecting with your customers shouldn’t be relegated to the back burner. Just reading a list of functionality in a brochure is not enough to verify if the platform will work for your business. We all know that once you get your hands on the new software, suddenly your “assumptions” about how you thought the software would work may be a big wakeup call and give you a bad case of buyer’s remorse.  

Create a list of the functionality that your business requires like:

  • First-in-search product positioning
  • Credit card processing
  • Online order status
  • Online returns
  • Upsell and accessory options
  • Order history / Easy re-order
  • Integrations to back office accounting/ERP

Consider these questions:

  • Is the cart easy to use?
  • Can you get support when you need it?
  • Are there positive reviews for the product?

No 2: Ignoring Security Concerns

If you want customers to buy from you, don’t scare them away. Studies show that up to 25% of users will stop an online purchase because of security concerns.

Users need to know that their information is safe and protected. Smaller eCommerce sites overlook how important a trust indicator is for the success of online business. A digital certificate communicates to customers that your site is authentic and safe to use.

If you outsource to third party providers, make sure they provide strong security best practices, verified through industry certifications and that they secure their own data with https.

No. 3: Clunky Site Navigation

The quickest way to drive a customer to your competition is to make your site so difficult to navigate that they can’t find what they want quickly.

Make sure your search is optimized. A customer should be able to find the products they are looking for with minimal clicks.

Review your analytics and note where your customers are dropping off. Continually optimize your eCommerce site base on your findings.

No. 4: Eliminate Uncertainty

Since a customer can’t see and inspect their purchases before buying, you can ease their uncertainty in other ways. Failing to give accurate or helpful product descriptions leads a customer to order the wrong product, or they may just give up on ordering altogether.

Include as much information as possible in your description. Placing information such as materials, sizing, colors, and instructions for use, how to care for, will assist your customer in deciding if this is the right product for them. Many master distributors and manufacturers provide enhanced content. Your site should be capable of taking advantage of that advanced content.

If your customer gets all their questions answered, they will order from you. Another benefit: You will reduce returns and customer dissatisfaction for your eCommerce store.

 No. 5: Poor Checkout Design

Don’t ask for information beyond what is needed for the transaction as that will frustrate your customers. Your process should be easy and painless.

If you have multiple checkout pages, you are giving visitors more reasons to click out. I have heard it said, if it is harder to pay for the item then find the item, there is something wrong. Use one page that offers account creation/guest checkout, shipping, billing and credit card information.

What challenges do you have as an eCommerce distributor? Please comment below.

Business Management International (BMI) is dedicated to bringing business technology to independent distributors to help them compete. We’re not afraid to offer radically great customer service and proudly offer Microsoft Dynamics NAV to solve real world business problems. www.bmiusa.com.

 

Topics: Dynamics NAV, ecommerce

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