You’ve probably resolved to work harder at those things that might be dragging your business – and your brand – down. It might be cost overruns, brand inconsistencies, or distribution and inventory woes that are keeping you up at night. You already know that the root of the problem is a distributed sales force, franchisees, or maybe a dealer network that’s spread across the country.
Under these circumstances, eventually, more time and money devoted to the problem won’t necessarily improve things. You’ve probably slowly lost control. Re-gaining control over the ordering process, a geographically dispersed network of dealers or offices, and your brand standards may now require not just working harder, but working smarter.
One of the best ways to take back that control is with an online company store. This is a centralized, electronic platform for all marketing materials that your staff or dealer network might need.
But what difference does it really make, to your operations, your time, your money, and the quality of your sleep at night? Here’s what we know to be the best advantages of introducing an online company store to your operations.
1. You’ll have better control of your brand
You’ve devoted heart and soul to creating and maintaining a consistent brand image. Your marketing materials tell your story in the way you want. You’ve established guidelines for anything you put your name on: size; colour; logo; addresses; or data sheets. And as you’ve grown, you no longer see everything that is ordered, produced in-house, shared at a trade show, or worn in the store. How could you? Your operations now extend across the country (or beyond!) because that’s where your customers are.
It’s a monumental task to coordinate across locations, branches, dealers, and partner groups. Unfortunately, with decentralized networks, mistakes in brand presentation and consistency are not uncommon. But your company logo is not where you want variety, regardless how spicy that might make life! Misuse or inconsistent use of your logo weakens your brand. Brand standards that are not controlled centrally, are subject to error and then open to interpretation.
The work to design your logo has already been done. The same is true for your corporate colours, apparel standards and print content. Your client-facing staff need not reinvent this wheel.
Online company stores puts control of what and when back into your hands. Changes to your brand images and standards will inevitably happen. With an online store, you control design, colour, size, text and more. And with centrally-controlled access to your materials, updates or changes become easier. Make the changes once, in one location. Notify staff of an update, and think no more about it! Taking back control of your brand puts everyone on the same page and makes your image consistent, your company and your brand identifiable.
2. Ordering promotional materials will be easier
Ideally, ordering branded products – let’s say corporate apparel – would happen quickly and efficiently. But the expense and hassle of putting new hires into your uniform might have started to produce more nightmares than you’d care to record.
You may have tried to take back control centrally, but if your ordering processes are slow, staff become discouraged. They find ‘work-arounds’, so now we’re back at brand control issues.
Online company stores allows staff to examine and select pre-approved materials using permission-based access. The rest happens behind the scenes, controlled by you. Your staff and partners can ship to multiple locations, often with no minimum order quantities because your online store opens up a buying network. Staff will no longer need to search for local suppliers, issue purchase orders, or appeal for approvals from head office.
An online company store serves as the “hub” for all orders – single or large scale – and can be coordinated across locations, and may even eliminate the need to keep inventory at all.
3. You’ll spend less
In the past, you might have noticed a trend towards rising costs, or worse still, unauthorized purchases. Failure to gain control of this will almost certainly allow it to grow. It’s almost a law of nature.
When it’s managed centrally, with permission-based access, online stores you take back the purse strings. With a single portal for ordering, reporting and paying for products, marketing managers can allocate promotional budgets to departments, branches or partners.
If your operation is small or you can’t handle inventory in any quantity, you may be ordering small volumes and paying top dollar. Then, given the investment you’ve made, you hang on to it all (just in case?) so now you’re stock-piling out-of-date materials which simply can’t be used any longer. Ordering in large volume can save you money on unit costs, but you might be paying for it in other ways, such as inventory costs.
Having a single control point for all branded merchandise permits volume orders, naturally reducing costs. The beauty of online company stores is that you can often order at the lowest published price, even for the smallest quantity. This is a huge advantage for clients who would otherwise have no buying clout on their own. There’s also the added benefit that an online store can be your ticket to some exclusive arrangements for high-quality brands.
4. You’ll have better information
“If you can measure it, you can manage it” is by now a fairly familiar management principle. The trick, unfortunately, is getting hold of the data and deciphering it.
You may already have had the pleasure of spending long nights trying to track costs or inventory details. Hunting and pecking your way through spreadsheets and line items from a distributed sales force can be soul-destroying.
Better, and more secure information makes this simpler all around. And that goes both ways. Your location managers will have better insight into what head office is doing and what’s being made available.
The bottom line
Many managers assume that expanding and promoting a growing business means that their job will, unavoidably, get harder. But when staff from multiple locations can ‘shop’ from an online corporate store, they’ll be using pre-approved marketing collateral, within a controlled budget through a single, electronically-controlled source.
Online company stores can offer your staff and partners the flexibility they want, while giving you the control you need.
We have a proven track record of over 700 online company stores managing over 21,000 orders monthly. Finally, time is money – and on-demand ordering can save you both.
Download this free eBook to learn how.