This article was co-authored by Natalie Callejo. Natalie is a marketing intern and will be a junior at Burlingame High School in California.
What is Social Selling?
Social selling is a sales tactic that allows companies to directly engage with their ideal customer on social media channels.
It’s reported that 81% of Instagram users are already using the platform to research products and services. By using social platforms as a sales channel, brands have an all-in-one platform to easily focus on the entire customer journey, from awareness to acquisition to loyalty. Brands can zero in on customer prospects and simultaneously build a rapport with their network. It’s modern relationship building.
There are clear benefits for customers using social media to buy products as well:
- Greater opportunity to feel a personal connection when communicating with the brand.
- Higher likelihood of engaging with merchandise when product pages are synonymous with personal content.
- Better sense of product useability and intrigue when consumers see products “in the wild” versus on a static product page.
How Fulfillment Works for Social Selling
When a customer is browsing through Instagram they might see a post or an ad with an item they want to buy. If the seller has a “buy now” button the customer can have a one-click experience to make a purchase within the social media platform, like Instagram or Facebook.
In order to collect the necessary order information (size, color, shipping address, and credit card information) all online stores have an eCommerce platform as the back-end of their shopping cart. There are so many options that sellers can choose from, but the most popular is Shopify—it has upwards of two million merchants using it at this point—because it has a multitude of simple plugins that allow sellers to customize their product pages and easily integrate with social media platforms.
“Technology has made it possible for sellers to list a select number of specific products that show up natively within the social media environment. It makes social selling much more effective when you can target the demographic you want and offer a frictionless buying experience. If you have 100 products in total, but you only want to list seasonal items, gender-specific styles, or certain colors, you can easily program that into your experience.”
By integrating their Shopify store with Instagram, sellers allow their customers a native shopping environment directly on Instagram. All the cart information is pulled forward into Instagram to give a more fluid experience for the customer.
“These integrations are simple to set up and they give sellers a lot of visibility. When an order comes in from Instagram a seller’s Shopify dashboard will update to reflect that an order was received and their payment information was verified. Shopify makes it easy for a seller to track sales volume and support customer service if issues arise.”
Once the customer’s order and payment information are collected the order information is sent to the fulfillment center. (This could be an internal fulfillment center or an outsourced one.) The fulfillment center needs very specific information to be able to process the order, this includes:
- SKU—a unique identifier that helps sort and organize all products that are housed in a warehouse.
- Delivery address—labels will be applied in the fulfillment process.
- Order information—Is it part of a kit or bundle? Does it need special packaging?
- Shipping information—The carrier they’ve chosen plus the shipping service selected—expedited, ground, etc.
The fulfillment process is comprised of multiple steps including:
- The SKU is determined by the WMS (warehouse management system).
- The product is taken off warehouse shelves, either picked mechanically by a robotic arm or manually by a warehouse staffer.
- The product is put into a box, taped up, and labeled. Automation can enable printing and applying accurate labels quickly to maximize speed and efficiency.
- The package is placed on a conveyor belt that branches into various areas depending on the carrier selected.
- The carriers come to collect the bins containing the packages.
- The boxes are then scanned so they are able to keep track of their location.
- Data is collected and shared with the seller and the buyer so that all parties are able to track the package in transit.
How to Maintain Order Accuracy and Quality Control
If wrong order is sent, the customer will be upset at the brand, not the fulfillment service. For this reason, it’s incredibly important that sellers choose a reliable fulfillment method. Often it’s most cost-effective to outsource fulfillment to a 3PL.
These days customers expect so much from a brand—ultimately they want their items at their doorstep ASAP. Finding a fulfillment provider who can deliver quality control, accuracy, and efficiency are paramount when it comes to satisfying the customer.
A 3PL’s ability to maintain speed, accuracy, and efficiency is only as good as the technology, process, and operations experience they have. A warehouse management system (WMS) is the “heartbeat” of an entire fulfillment operation. Through a WMS anyone can organize inventory, and easily track orders every step of the way.
If a 3PL has a quality department, it will be separate from the operations team. This distinction is crucial because it means there is a team specifically dedicated to inspecting orders and constantly improving warehouse procedures. If they find an issue they’ll report it and evaluate what needs to be improved. This systematically ensures a higher level of accuracy, which is ultimately beneficial for brands (fewer customer complaints equals increased brand loyalty).
How Sellers Can Keep Up With Consumers Demand
Regardless of the platform, eCommerce brands are constantly changing how they sell, where they sell, and how they package their products. There is a lot to coordinate when managing physical assets which makes adapting quickly difficult.
Not all fulfillment companies can keep up with the ever-changing dynamics of consumer behavior. It’s important that brands choose a 3PL that can support their needs, especially if that means they can adapt their fulfillment systems and processes to trends in customer behavior.
Flexibility is a crucial component in staying competitive. For example, Amazon does a tremendous amount of fulfillment, but for a brand, they are very rigid to work with. By design, Amazon is also unable to customize—each package comes in Amazon-branded material. Similarly, some 3PLs won’t be able to integrate with Shopify or social sales. A 3PL who specializes in customization will allow you as a seller to differentiate yourself, which gives you an edge in the market.
If you’re seeking fulfillment support, reach out to us for a quote. DCL Logistics has a proven track record of helping high-growth brands scale their order volume while maintaining quality and accuracy.