Fulfillment House Location – A Case for Michigan

Who knows your business best? You do. That’s why you’re in the know with every step your enterprise makes. If it involves design, development, budgeting, consumer outreach or anything in between, it begins and ends with you. If your business happens to run an ecommerce operation, it’s not a matter of if in-house fulfillment becomes a full-time job, but when. Whether your business has arrived at that point or not, finding a partner to manage fulfillment is crucial.

There are many qualities which can make one fulfillment center more appealing than another: FDA certifications, a climate controlled environment or even something as simple as sheer size. These specific features can add to the total package of a fulfillment operation, but there is still one factor that a business looking to cover a nation-wide market needs to address—location.

The map below illustrates population density across America within the current decade. It shouldn’t take long to notice that there is a remarkable drop in population about halfway between coasts.

(Image courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau)

With logistics in mind, it also shouldn’t take long to conclude that an ideal fulfillment center should be based halfway between this population divide and the east coast. However, the issue of latitude now comes in to play.

For an ideal fulfillment center location, does it make sense to try and split this map in half again, this time from north to south? As we will soon argue no. Reference again the map below.

The point is to now illustrate that on a linear scale, fulfillment houses located within the northern half of this map closely intersect more densely populated regions. Even though shipping doesn’t work on an exactly linear scale, being within such close proximity gives a definite advantage to fulfillment centers located at or near the top line. This leads us to argue that perhaps the ideal location to quickly and easily reach some of the largest consumer markets, those being Chicago, Metro Detroit, Central Ohio, New York and the lower New England states, is in fact, Michigan.

Centralized fulfillment location = closer proximity to customers

Closer proximity to consumers = faster shipping and better rates. It’s that simple.

You may be asking if our argument is biased. Well, maybe. However, we consistently hear from our clients that the location of our operation directly impacts how quickly their customers receive a product.  Regardless, it doesn’t change the fact that Michigan is centrally located to many of the largest consumer markets in North America.

To roundup this post, all we ask is for you to see how our line of fulfillment services can best benefit your business, regardless of where your markets may lie.

Copywriting- Three Quick Tips Towards Developing Best Practices

In last week’s post, we discusses a logical approach towards your product photography. This visual representation of your merchandise is perhaps the driving force in moving visitors from product category pages to product detail pages. In order to get these visitors to become customers, though, you might need more than just solid photography. Applying basic copywriting practices can help paint the full picture of not only your merchandise, but also your brand. Utilize any or all of the following tips to help you get started.

Start With the Title

The first thing your customer notices while navigating a product category page (PCP) are hero images. The next thing? Product titles. Because this is your store and these are your products, you know almost everything about them. Assuming the same for your visitors is unwise. Take a look at the image below, which shows two versions of the same product as it would appear on a PCP. (This product is featured on one of Datapak’s client’s ecommerce store- The Pure Michigan Store.)

Both versions essentially do their job, which is to tell a visitor that they are in fact looking at a cutting board. However, including one or two additional details in the title, such as materials, color or brand can help a product appear less static and ultimately as something more than just an image on a website. Bonus tip: This practice can help with your site’s SEO value.

Appeal to Senses

A featured image will let a visitor see what your product looks like, but what can your description do? Noting dimensions and weight will automatically let your visitor imagine themselves holding it in their hands or seeing it in their home. Mentioning materials, construction or special ingredients will appeal to their sense of touch, smell and taste. When a visitor is able to do more than just see a product, you’re one step closer towards making a sale.

Appeal to Action

While giving your visitor the ability to virtually examine your product will help in conversion, painting a picture on how to interact with it will help that much more.

If you’re selling a board game, don’t just say that they can have fun while playing it, describe to them a rowdy evening with friends and family. If you’re selling headphones, don’t just say that they sound good, let the visitor know that they will unveil new, subtle nuances to songs they’ve heard many times before.

We’re not asking for you to discover your inner author, but taking a few extra moments to develop stronger copywriting will only help your online store.

Developing Standards for your Product Photography

When it comes to product photography, it doesn’t matter if you use a cell phone, a 10 year old Canon Rebel (yes, we have one of those) or the newest professional level DSLR. You could manage to take the most detailed photo possible, but, if it doesn’t fit the standards of your online store, then your efforts are mostly lost causes. One of the most important of these standards refers to the background of all product photography on your online store.

The good news is that if you have access to photo editing software such as Photoshop, then implementing this standard can become second nature. Follow along with the steps below and feel free to leave any questions or comments.

This process will use Photoshop, which is our choice for photo editing software. Currently, you can subscribe to use Photoshop via Adobe’s Creative Cloud service for $20/ month. We truly feel this cost to be 100% worthwhile. Even novice users can utilize Photoshop to get the most of their product photography. This example will be using a product featured on one our client’s e-commerce stores. The end goal is to completely remove the current background and replace it with solid white.

 

As you can notice, the background of our photo does not have a consistent color or tone. Let’s get that taken care of.

 

Go ahead and locate the Quick Selection Tool, as indicated by the red arrow, or press on your keyboard. The location of your Quick Selection Tool may vary, or it may not even be on your toolbar. If such is the case, then navigate to Edit -> Toolbar to configure your toolbar however you like.

 

Set the tool’s diameter appropriate to your photo (highlighted below with an orange circle) and simply click and drag over your product . You will see a dotted line (referred to as marching ants) attach to certain elements of your photo- most usually edges or instances of sharp contrast in colors, levels of brightness or patterns.

You can continue to click and drag your marching ants until you have fully captured your product. If your marching ants have expanded beyond where you want them, then simply hold ALT (PC) or Command (Mac) and click/drag to push your marching ant border inward.

 

Next, click the Select and Mask option (highlighted below in orange). This will open a sub-menu which allows for you to smooth and feather (soften) edges, or shift edges inward/outward.

Note: The green circle in the upper right of the second photo below highlights a drop down menu which allows for previewing your image over a handful of backgrounds. This example uses a solid white.

 

After you have edited your selection, click OK (located at the bottom of the sub-menu) to be brought back to your previous screen. Your marching ants will now be positioned to reflect any edits you have made.

Press Control/ Command C, then Control/ Command V to copy and paste your selection onto a new layer. Hide your original layer by clicking the eyeball next to it (red circle), and proceed with any further editing of your photo: cropping, rotating, spot color correction or superimposing.

 

Navigate to File -> Export -> Save for Web (Legacy). This will allow you to resize your image to a smaller file size suited for web use. Save as a JPEG (this will give you a white background) to your desired location, and that’s it. Below is our final image.

 

Additional Tip: Implement a size or ratio standard for which all of your product images are saved. This step will go far in ensuring your store to not have any inconsistencies in the overall presentation of your products.

How to Get the Most Out of Your E-Commerce Store

For any individual or business that has just launched their first online store, a congratulations is in order. You just took the first step towards exposing your brand to a potentially global audience.

The first look at the backend of your store, with tabs for inventory, customer information and analytics may look daunting, especially if there’s nothing there yet. The truth for any new user is that it will look daunting. So, with 15+ years of experience with e-commerce platforms, Datapak would like to share a few tips to help you get the most out of your new store.

Documentation is Your Friend

For some, the following advice will be obvious. For others, it may become a force of habit. Wherever you may fall, the documentation available for your platform can help with obvious answers to simple problems, or tips for digesting complex backend data. This guidance will be presented as either a formally authored document by the platform themselves, or as a straightforward, forum style question/ answer discussion.

Take note of dates for whichever documentation you reference. While some articles or discussions will immediately tell you if the topic is outdated or refers to a previous build (while usually linking you to more relevant info), not all of them do.

Visual Editing: Get a Logo Up There

If you decide to preview what your store looks like, you’ll probably feel underwhelmed. What you’ll see is a general blueprint of whichever theme you chose, and it’s probably filled with empty grey and white boxes. If this happens to bother you—don’t worry, it’s normal. Your store will only look better from here on out.

All prebuilt platforms will have a type of visual composer. These will allow for you to make edits to your store’s look and feel without having to do any bit of coding. The name of this visual composition tool will vary depending on which platform you’re using, but they will all share similar functions. All you need to do is navigate to whichever theme you have preinstalled and locate the “Customize/ Edit Theme” option. This will bring up a new window or tab with your store occupying about two thirds of your screen. The remaining space will house an editing menu.

This menu will show all of the individual elements that make up your store, such as a header banner image, product grid or a gallery slider image. The way this menu is organized will directly mirror the layout of whichever page you are currently editing. This is illustrated in the example image below.

If you do find yourself feeling underwhelmed with how barren your storefront may look, then the simple task of adding your business’s logo to your header may help ease your worries. Most visual editors allow for this by following a course of action similar to that below.

Here’s another tip:

Take note of the icon highlighted in the lower left-hand corner of the first image. (Other platforms will generally have this functionality located towards the bottom your screen). Clicking on this icon will let you preview your store as if it were on a mobile device. This is important because although you are likely developing your store on a desktop, a majority of your site’s visitors will be seeing your site on mobile. Switching between desktop and mobile view will show if any of your store’s elements fail to render properly. Adjusting these errors in advance can prevent visitors from becoming annoyed with inconsistencies on your site.

Note: These example images feature the Shopify platform. You can read more about Shopify here in part two of our “Which E-Commerce Platform Should I Choose?” posts.

Consistency

Once you’re ready to start populating your store with content, take a preventative measure and check that all similar “items” (products, banner images/ sliders, icons etc.) are the same resolution or ratio. Doing so will ensure consistency across all of your web pages. Simply put, this can prevent your storefront from looking unorganized and unprofessional.

In addition to image size, the background on which your products are presented plays a big part in the overall appearance of your store. At the very least, define a standard background that will be used for all product photography. A common way to approach your product presentation can be accomplished on any standard photo editing software. This simply requires you to crop your product out of your original photo and paste it onto a blank, white background.

Check back next week for a tutorial on developing and implementing a standard background for your product photograph.

EMAIL US CALL US