PR Photos – A Client Case Study

About PR Photos

PR Photos is a leading independent photographic press agency. They supply high-quality photography to the world’s professional media companies on a daily basis. PR Photos has extensive experience covering major entertainment, sports, news, fashion, corporate, and feature events. A great mixture of top industry photographers and dedicated sales people make PR Photos a leader in the Celebrity Stock Photo industry. The company has database of over 2 million images, hundreds of photographers, and a state of the art digital delivery system.

PR Photos home

The Challenge

PR Photos needed a platform that would allow for numerous customizations specific to their business – providing celebrity photos for media use, with up to 2,000 images loaded each day and hundreds of photographers submitting reports and commission requests. After working with six previous vendors, the company was looking for a new platform that had all the necessary features to support their business as well as highly capable developers behind the software and ongoing support and service.

The Process

Due to the unique customizations required for their business, PR Photos was looking for a platform that had robust out-of-the box features and a nimble platform that could could meet those needs through supported customization.

After years of working with other platforms that didn’t offer all the tools they needed, PR Photos decided to make a change. As CEO and Co-Founder Scott Burkhead explains, “At the beginning upshot was slightly more expensive but had a much greater feature set than the others. In the end after speaking with [Upshot] and understanding that the other companies could not do what I wanted, I came to one conclusion: software is not really about the cost, it is about the support and ability of the developers behind the software.”

PR Photos footer

Support, Support, Support

Although customization was a primary concern when looking for a new ecommerce platform, strong talent and support behind the platform were also essential. Over the near decade and a half that PR Photos has relied on Upshot, the support and service have remained consistent. As Burkhead says, “As a long time user of the platform I can say I have NEVER experienced support, service and after sale care like Upshot has provided.” Upshot remains committed to supporting our clients long after installation and site launch, providing updates and new features on an ongoing basis – both customized solutions based on client request and ecommerce improvements that benefit all of our clients.

The Result

PR Photos has been using the Upshot platform for 14 years and remains continually satisfied. As Burkhead explains, “I have a partner that I can trust. I can trust that the job will get done and that it will be done well. If I need advice I will get reasonable and thoughtful advice. “ Since transitioning to the Upshot platform, PR Photos has published more than 35 million images, with an active database of more than 2 million photos. Upshot easily handles the complexities of their system and offers reliable tools for their group of independent photographers to provide material, report, and receive commission.

In their own words

“At first working with any company is a leap of faith. Wondering if they will care as much as you, or get it done is unknown. We have all been burned, and in business that means time and money. Upshot has exceeded my goals in every way.” – Scott Burkhead, CEO, PR Photos

Find out more about PR Photos at their website.

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Integrating Warehouse & Shipping Management

While it’s easy to see the benefits of an optimized and integrated ecommerce system for customer management, it’s equally – if less obviously – important to have that system integrate with the one managing your inventory and shipping operations. The best ecommerce systems allow you to track customer and merchandise information with one interface; integrate with supply chain and finance systems; quickly and consistently update product data for multiple channels or storefronts. Having an inventory system that syncs with all of these other mission-critical systems further optimizes your ecommerce system and makes your ecommerce company even more competitive.Like Clockwork

Optimize Service Delivery

Customers have found your site, been impressed by what youoffer, and made their purchase. Delivering exceptional service does not end with that transaction. With major brands offering ever-quicker delivery options, having an integrated inventory and warehouse system that continues to provide a superb and streamlined customer experience is essential. For some vendors, taking advantage of drop shipping may be the answer; for others, it may involve warehouse space in multiple locations. Whatever the solution, a system that integrates all your tools will make your company the most effective.

Warehouse Integration

Accurate Data for B2B/D2C Delivery

Syncing your inventory systems from warehouse to ecommerce to brick-and-mortar empowers your employees to accurately respond to customer queries and sell any and all available inventory. You don’t have to worry about overselling merchandise or having items languish on warehouse shelves. Without integration, information lags can result in inventory inconsistencies and prevent optimal merchandise dispersal.

Update Inventory Once

With an integrated system, you only have to update your data once. One upload and everyone across your system can quickly and reliably access precise stock levels. Better information makes it easier to sell the inventory on your shelves – wherever those shelves may be.Inventory Check

Optimize Shipping Time

With multiple warehouse locations, you can optimize shipping time to your customers. Based on their ship-to location, you can select from where in your system their merchandise should ship – a retail location in Chicago, a warehouse in San Diego, one in Philadelphia, a customer service center in Atlanta. Shipping merchandise from as close to your customer as possible is an easy and effective way to bring down shipping time and cost.

Drop-Shipping Integration

Reduce Liability, Reduce Footprint, Increase Options

Working with distribution partners is a great way to reduce inventory liability and warehouse footprint. They purchase and house the merchandise you offer to your customers and ship out when you upload a customer order to them. This is particularly cost-effective when moving large items – saving you the expense of shipping a heavy item twice or from finding the warehouse space for an oversized item. Moreover, if working with multiple distribution partners, an integrated inventory system lets you select the drop-shipper located closest to your customer, reducing ship time.

Omnichannel Delivery Integration

Another easy way to improve delivery time and customer satisfaction is to forge appropriate partnerships with brick-and-mortar retailers or distributors to provide omnichannel delivery. This may not be an appropriate avenue for all ecommerce retailers, but larger brands have tested the waters and customers have proved receptive. Further investigation may be warranted, depending on existing partnerships and business needs.

Delivering Package

Integrate End-to-End to Compete End-to-End

As we have outlined previously, an integrated ecommerce platform provides numerous opportunities to increase efficiency, improve business processes, and make your company more competitive. The same holds true when it comes to warehouse and inventory management. After taking the time to upgrade your customer or supply systems to make your business more competitive in the consumer marketplace, it is worthwhile to do the same to increase your advantage in inventory management and merchandise delivery.

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Integrating D2C with Your Existing B2B

Surveys indicate that brand loyalty and better merchandise options are already drawing customers directly to brand and manufacturer websites with the intent of making purchases directly. As Alex Becker points out, “consumers will buy from the channel that best suits their needs and interests—so it only makes sense to make it as easy as possible for consumers to purchase your products according to their preferences.”¹ With customer habits trending this direction, taking the step to integrate a direct-to-consumer ecommerce site into your existing B2B enterprise could be an important new revenue source for your company. B2B is already a complex process and if you have made updates to serve the ecommerce needs of your customers (as discussed here previously), you may be better prepare to add a D2C storefront than you realized.

Ergo Baby

There are certainly serious considerations to make when contemplating adding a D2C stream to your company; we have previously wrote about why and when a B2B organization might choose to go D2C – read more here. But once you have assessed those concerns – economic considerations, impact on existing partnerships, strength of competition, breadth of brand recognition – and determined D2C is right for your company, moving forward with a system capable of handling all your B2B and D2C needs can lead to great success.

Worthwhile Benefits

One Data Source

The biggest advantage to integrating your B2B and D2C systems is having a single, consistent source for all your data – customer, merchandise, and otherwise. You can easily adjust prices and merchandise levels, integrate with ERP systems and track shipping. Customers can log in and quickly find answers about order history and order status.

Opportunities to Grow in Two Directions – and Beyond

Adding a D2C storefront into an existing B2B ecommerce system affords you with the opportunity to grow in two directions at once – appealing to and attracting business from unique customer groups. Having your own avenue for reaching D2C customers may also offer the chance to expand sales to customers on a global scale. When offering only B2B sales, your reach can be limited by that of your existing wholesale partnerships. Offering your products directly gives you tools to grow internationally.

Cosabella Choose Region

Merchandising For and Learning From Your Customers

Lastly, cultivating a relationship with D2C customers lets you merchandise to them directly, gather data on their browsing and shopping habits, and tailor marketing plans with that information. You can better track the popularity of specific items, find out what customers buy together, and test out marketing schemes to best capitalize on customer habits.

Merchandising for D2C customers does require different skills than those necessary for B2B success. But if you take the time to understand D2C customers, work to foster a relationship, and take advantage of the marketing benefits a direct relationship provides, you will provide better service and improve sales.Cosabella Apparel

Plan for Challenges, Reap the Rewards

Challenges remain when integrating a D2C store into an existing B2B business, even if you’ve carefully considered what steps are needed. Be sure to also take the time to think about how to tell your brand story to D2C customers – it may be something different than what interests or appeals to your B2B clients. Understand those differences and tailor your messaging to meet the needs of those differing client streams. If you account for these challenges, develop plans to address them and remain prepared to respond to new ones as they arise, the rewards of seeking revenue from D2C streams as well as B2B will outweigh the risks.

¹ Alex Baker, “ Why Manufacturers Can No Longer Afford to Wait to Sell Direct to Consumer.”
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Optimizing Your B2B System

The volume of business-to-business orders occurring online continues to grow – even outpacing direct-to-consumer growth in 2014.¹ Research conducted by Forrester Consulting indicates B2B suppliers plan to expand ecommerce platforms in order to offer improved omnichannel experiences for customers in coming years. Survey respondents expressed a preference for B2B shopping experiences similar to to the D2C transactions they already engage in, with better search functionality, easy payment options, and other perks.²

Managing Merchandise

A B2B system can be as dynamic and engaging as a full-featured, responsive D2C system – for an optimized browsing and shopping experience – or barebones and straightforward – for quick and easy re-ordering. With enormous potential for growth ahead, now is the time to invest in a B2B platform that will provide the browsing, shopping, and ordering experiences your B2B customers want.

Tools for merchants, toolsfor customers

An effective omnichannel B2B system will offer tools for both merchants and their customers. For merchants – ways to easily assign and manage client groups, pricing controls, integration across channels for greater efficiency and quality of service, and managed user registration. For customers – an experience more akin to their D2C shopping experience, with access to order and reorder information, merchandising material, and customized and responsive designs for tablet and mobile browsing and ordering.On the Move

For merchants:

  • Multi-level assigned pricing allows you to create unique pricing structure groups to assign to a given set of customers. These groups can have their own structures, which allows you to reward high performers or create special status members.
  • Robust pricing controls let you set pricing across products and multiple storefronts, making it easy to keep pricing consistent, no matter how or to whom you are selling. These controls also permit you to set pricing as a percentage or based on a fixed price. By having one set of consistent controls, you can also bulk load prices from CSV files, making adjustments and updates easy and consistent.
  • Integration with ERP and customer systems with a full-featured B2B ecommerce platform allows you to better understand how well your company is doing, and how you might improve it. An ordering system in which all channels communicate with one another allows for more effective resource planning, improved fiscal transparency, opportunities for process improvements, and enhanced customer management and service.
  • Managed user registration provides you the opportunity to create or adjust profiles for sales representatives and other users. Sales reps can readily access information for and about customers, making it easy to complete sales and provide excellent service. As with D2C interfaces, customers can create their own profiles (with automatic approval or manual approval from you before ordering), which permit them to reorder for themselves, rather than having to wait until their sales rep visits, ensuring they get the product they need in the timeframe they need it – improving sales for both you and them.


For customers:

  • Order history and reorder information can be accessed quickly and easily for registered users. Merchants can offer useful reorder options – allowing customers to select individual items from previous orders or copy entire orders for easy reordering.
  • Sites with responsive designs let customers browse and order from preferred devices – as they would with D2C purchases. Mobile ecommerce continues to grow at dramatic rates and providing customers the opportunity to easily shop on a tablet or phone will help your company stay competitive.
  • The Upshot platform allows you to customize the design of your B2B experience in numerous ways – for your sales reps and for your customers. This flexibility lets you include the components most important for your customers – whether it’s a dynamic, responsive design that closely resembles a D2C environment, or a simple reorder form for customers who want to quickly and routinely request the same items over the web.
  • Posting merchandising information for your customers provides them valuable information to help them become and remain successful. This may include images for use on their websites or catalogs, details about upcoming trade events, previews of new inventory lines, or more. Including these details in an easily-accessible place on your B2B site will save your customers time and effort in getting your products up and ready for sale.

Omnichannel way forward – through integration

Forrester Consulting found that the two biggest barriers to implementation of an omnichannel B2B approach were difficulty in integrating back-office technology and difficulty in sharing customer data and analytics across company channels.³ As discussed previously, an effective, integrated supply chain offers numerous benefits – allowing you to better align business processes with the objectives of your company, find efficiencies, improve fiscal transparency, and provide accurate information to customers. Joining that with a streamlined inventory, order, and customer system will make your system more effective, more efficient, and more successful. Upshot offers all the tools to successfully integrate back-office technology, customer data, and analytics – as well as offer an exceptional B2B shopping experience for your customers.

¹ “B2B Sees Faster Online Sales Growth than B2C” by Daniela Forte, posted August 7, 2014.
² “B2B Suppliers are Investing in Ecommerce” by Tim Parry, posted November 21, 2014.
³ “B2B Suppliers are Investing in Ecommerce”
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Does ecommerce technology evolve through natural selection?

Does technology evolve through natural selection? Or are all successful products simply the result of conscious design, based on customer feedback and preference? Drawing from a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, an article in The Economist recently observed that evolution of technology may not always be deliberate – randomness may play a role as it does with biology.

Row of violins

From fitheles to violins

The study looks at how the shape of violins changed over roughly eight centuries, from the tenth century “fitheles” to the violin whose modern form firmed up in the 18th century. The research team noticed that during a centuries-long transition, the holes on either side of the the bridge evolved from simple circles to the elegant shape known today. Their analysis determined that the sound-holes’ amplification properties rely not on size but on length; the modern design has twice the sonic power as the fithele. The gradual nature with which the changes occurred seems consistent with random variations in techniques employed by craftsmen over centuries, each making small adjustments, to produce different power. The workshops manufacturing instruments with preferred sonic output endured, seeing their designs replicated and improved upon.

Crucible of customer feedback

With how quickly ecommerce technology has changed in the last twenty years, is there any chance that random selection has played a role in determining which tools have endured and which, abandoned? Does this rapid pace of change allow for careful consideration, thoughtful analysis, or methodical improvements to the best tools? Or has the pace effectively weeded out weak and ineffective tools, as with natural selection?

Thoughtful shopper

Unlike the market for hand-crafted musical instruments, the essential tools for ecommerce have encountered rapidfire feedback from millions of users in a limited time, quickly illustrating to companies the tools that are favored and those, reviled. Customer expectations demand constant innovation, as ecommerce companies rapidly develop new tools as customers change their shopping habits. This kind of environment may preclude deliberate tweaks, tailoring tools carefully and with forethought. In the face of ceaseless, rapid change, companies may find it easier to scrap tools entirely and start from scratch, rather making incremental changes.

Moving too fast for methodical change

In addition to customer expectations, ecommerce companies themselves have emerged, evolved, merged, and disappeared with incredible speed over the last several decades. Whether these mergers or acquisitions stem from anything resembling natural selection is up for debate. As a correspondent for The Economist argued in 2009, the business landscape is more like an unruly garden that is constantly trimmed, weeded, and fertilized to suit specific needs. Established ecommerce companies merge for reasons that have nothing to do with the merit of the tools they provide. Those tools may survive or disappear based on business decisions that are wholly unrelated to their quality or utility.

What is the future of shopping?

One thing is for certain – whether random selection contributes to the evolution of ecommerce or not, it may not even take eight years (much less eight centuries) for ecommerce tools to change into something that bears as little resemblance to what we use now as the violin does to the fithele.

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Streamline Your Inventory, Order, and Customer Systems

To succeed in the fast-paced world of omni-channel commerce, it is essential that retailers pay attention to the demands and expectations of their customers. By integrating and streamlining your customer and order management systems, you can improve service response times, create better targeted messaging, and drive conversions from satisfied and returning customers.

Integrating customer management systems provides you with a central source of information, saving time for customer service representatives and others accessing the system, and money from having to purchase multiple programs to oversee your system.

A streamlined system provides:

  • comprehensive order management information for customer service purposes
  • serves as a supermaster for inventory – allowing for easier omni-channel fulfillment
  • a single source for customer data for analysis

Order Management & Customer Service

Research indicates that customers prefer a quality response to service inquiries over a quick one. By storing customer and order information in one place, your customer service representatives can quickly access all the data needed to provide both accurate and quick responses to customer inquiries:

  • order date and information
  • backorder or pre-order status
  • tracking information
  • customer purchase history and returns
  • inventory levels

Customer SErviceAn integrated order/customer management system also allows you to adjust orders based on customer requests – add items, update quantities, process cancellations and re-orders, create recurring orders. Moreover, you can provide customized shipping solutions to meet customer demands – split orders, drop shipping, expedited, delayed shipments, ship-to-store. The most adaptable integrated systems offer tools for customers to make adjustments themselves (within a limited time-frame), empowering customers to meet their own service needs.

Inventory Management & Omni-Channel Delivery

Having a supermaster for inventory that functions as a trusted source of inventory data across your company ensures consistent and accurate information about stock availability for everyone using your platform. Rather than have distinct systems that oversee warehouse, retail, or supply chains, respectively, a single, enterprise view of inventory allows near-real-time reporting of stock levels.

Image: Forrester Research

Image: Forrester Research

Real-time inventory reporting also ensures that customers can purchase – or pre-order – available merchandise, regardless of where it may be located within your system. Integrated inventory management empowers sales associates to complete transactions based on actual inventory in your system, rather than just what may be listed in a POS or retail merchandising system which might not account for warehouse stock or incoming items. As customers increasingly shop across channels, it is important that retailers have accurate inventory information at each touchpoint to ensure the browsing customer follows through and completes the sale.

Customer Data Analysis

Having a single source for all customer data makes it easy to analyze data to identify trends and make informed marketing decisions. It allows you to:

  • offer effective promotional targeting
  • retarget and convert abandoned shopping carts
  • better understand customer browsing behavior
  • test real-time promotional offers

The better you understand your customer habits, the more effective and competitive you can be. Integrating your customer data and order systems make it easier and more cost-effective to analyze the information you already have and make the most of it going forward.

Shopper on phone

The Upshot Commerce platform offers all the tools you need to effectively integrate your customer data, order management, and inventory systems. Streamline your inventory, provide essential details for your support team, and ensure that your customers get the information they need as soon as they think to ask for it.

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Creating an Effective Supply Chain

Implementing an effective and efficient supply chain can pose significant challenges for retailers. In making predictions for 2015, IDC stressed the influence of an “accelerating transition to the 3rd Platform for innovation and growth, built on the technology pillars of mobile computing, cloud services, big data and analytics, and social networking.” Having an integrated system that allows your company to act on data derived from these pillars will help set you apart from competitors and allow you to respond to customer needs adeptly.


A successful supply chain synchronizes three important components across a company – business objectives, business processes and technology solutions. Ensuring consistency across these areas will help you understand how well your company is doing, identify areas for improvement and implement practices to make your company more successful.

Business Objectives

An effective, integrated ecommerce platform allows you to better align your business processes with the objectives of your company. Improved alignment may allow you to:

  • streamline your supply chain
  • expand into fast-growing markets in China and EMEA
  • improve your omnichannel presence
  • improve fiscal transparency within your company

Adaptable platforms like Upshot Commerce allow users to create purchase orders, handle receivables, and execute accounting tasks all from within the same system.

Integrated platforms also allow for collaboration with partners and suppliers – a useful tool in the globalizing economy. Suppliers in southeast Asia are rapidly recognizing the importance of integrated software systems to improve their own efficiency and responsiveness. Taking advantage of innovation trends and communicating with partners as they improve their systems will help you become more agile and effective in meeting the demands of your customers.

Global Partners

The quality of your supply chain -and how well the integrated system performs – can determine the competitiveness of your company. Better streamlining of systems means a more effective system and more resources to invest in developing new ideas or expanding on your existing system.

Business Processes

Integrated systems allow you to capitalize on the data produced by your supply chain to find efficiencies. When you have end-to-end information with an integrated platform like Upshot, you can identify and implement improvements as needed. IDC predicts important growth in analytics in 2015, with greater focus on analysis of rich media and how it contributes to big data projects. Integrated reporting allows you to query your system and look at specific areas where use of media on your site is effective, and where room for growth exists.

Check Reports

Adaptable ecommerce platforms like Upshot allow you to transition to a new system at the pace that works for your company.

  • Ready for a complete end-to-end system overhaul? Upshot can do that, providing technology and tools for your company to respond to changes in ecommerce.
  • Need to update your platform incrementally? Upshot can do that, with a customizable platform that can integrate everything from supplier relationships to purchase orders, warehouse management to inventory control, customer management to order processing.

Effective implementation of an integrated supply chain management system – at a pace appropriate for your company – will ensure you get the most out of your platform.

Technology Solutions

In the digital shopping age, customers expect immediate and accurate information about merchandise. In order to provide those updates, information about your products needs to be consistent and readily accessible from one end of your system to another. A shortage of leather from a supplier, or a piece of broken machinery at a factory, may delay delivery times unexpectedly – your system needs to alert you of these issues as soon as they arise.

Whether sharing data across the office or across the globe, the easiest way to ensure consistent and accurate information across all areas of your company is by adopting a cloud-based ecommerce platform like Upshot that allows you to integrate the various segments of your system seamlessly. Such systems offer agile data management with end-to-end visibility, allowing for better forecasting, better supply planning, and better customer support.

Technology Solutions

An integrated supply chain system allows you to:

  • plan for and mitigate disruptions
  • capitalize on growth opportunities
  • accelerate productivity
  • provide optimal service to your customers

Optimizing your supply chain takes work, but the benefits – including greater efficiency, fiscal transparency, cost savings, and customer satisfaction – can prove worthwhile. By synchronizing mission critical data into your ecommerce platform, you can ensure that your supply data stays current and that everyone who needs access – to respond to customer inquiries, to make forecasting decisions, to identify and implement improvements – has access to accurate and current information.

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Tools for Apparel Merchandising

With online apparel sales projected to hit more than $80 billion by 2018, it’s important that retailers take advantage of available merchandising tools to provide customers with the optimal online shopping experience. Because of the complexity inherent in apparel manufacture and merchandising, selling clothing and apparel online is not easy. Perhaps more than other types of retailers, apparel companies have had to develop new techniques to meet their needs for online marketing. To help meet the expectations of your customers, try incorporating the techniques below into your online merchandising strategy.

Flexible search terms and filters for searching and browsing

Customers use many different terms to search for a product – some of which may correspond to your database and some which may not. Make sure your search function can take these variations into account – you don’t want a prospective customer to look elsewhere because they searched “teal scoop-neck ¾-sleeve” but your system could only find a “blue-green round-neck elbow-length” shirt.

Additionally, for online apparel sales, filters are an essential tool to help your customer browse and select their desired merchandise. You want to replicate an online shopping experience similar to one that might occur in a brick-and-mortar store. If a customer has a general idea of what they want, but no specific item in mind, provide the necessary tools for coming to a purchase decision without too much effort.

Search with Filters


Dynamic Swatches

Show styling options on product detail pages with swatches that correspond to the available colors or patterns for a given item. Product images can change dynamically when the corresponding swatch is selected, allowing customers to confirm the desired styling for the item they wish to order. When you add new color options to your site, be sure that you have a swatch available to display – customers aren’t likely to buy a piece of clothing if they can’t see what it will look like beforehand. Even something as universal as “red” can have many different interpretations.

Dynamic SwatchesParent/Child product structure

Make sure customers only have to look one place to find a product – in all the sizes, colors, and patterns available. Customers are not likely to stick around if they have to navigate around your site for a slightly different version of an item they have already selected.

Sizing Charts

Create dynamic sizing charts that are easy to update and simple to custom design. If you have online storefronts in multiple countries, make sure the sizing charts correspond to the sizing conventions of each country. Customers are more likely to make an apparel purchase if they can make an accurate size selection based on information you provide.

Sizing Chart

Image and video options

Create an unlimited number of product images for each apparel item, and upload all sorts of rich media to show off each product on your site, including videos and interactive 360 images. Images showing products “in use” (whether submitted by other customers or created by your marketing team) may help customers select additional items to use in conjunction with the item they initially set out to purchase.

Outfit bundles

Offer full package outfits to your customers to take the guesswork out of style. Bundle systems allow you to easily pull items together under a single orderable product, and your inventory system can account for each individual item accordingly when ordered, keeping inventory accurate and streamlined.

You could go even more dynamic and offer a “mix and match” bundle option. Customers browse through suggested matching tops and bottoms and can select their preferred items in the size they would like and each to their cart. It allows customers to easily compare similar pieces and find a personalized look they love.

Mix and Match


Brick and mortar stores have lots of opportunities to create compelling sensory displays, for upselling and tying products together into outfits and themes. Many online apparel retailers have turned to lookbooks to offer a similar experience. A customer can browse the online catalogue for outfits they like, click the image to shop the look, and purchase all or part of the outfit. As with outfit bundles and mix-and-match browsing, lookbooks provide customers with a shopping experience more akin to in-store and encourage them to look for more than the single item that brought them to your page initially.


 The options for apparel merchandising may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t take much effort to put a little polish on product pages and turn browsers into customers, especially if your ecommerce platform provides the tools to easily execute the ideas above.

Are you an apparel marketer with questions about how to optimize the online shopping experience for your customers? Read recent posts about whether it’s time to take your brand online and how to convert abandoned shopping carts into sales if you already have an online storefront – and ask our CEO your questions about ecommerce for retailers, vendors, and brands.

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Reclaim Abandoned Shopping Carts

Consumers are leaving merchandise behind in virtual shopping carts in growing numbers. In December, Barilliance reported that over the 2014 Black Friday weekend, as many as 65% of online shoppers abandoned the contents of their carts. Business Insider estimates that over the course of last year nearly $4 billion in merchandise was abandoned in virtual carts – and that up to 63% of that figure may be recoverable. But how?

To address abandoned shopping carts, it’s useful to think of abandonment happening at one of three stages – before customers reach checkout, once customers reach checkout, and after they have left a cart behind. This allows you to target and affect customer behavior based on the stage at which they abandon their cart.

Before Checkout

Make clear any unexpected costs. Unexpected costs are the most common reason a customer abandons a cart. Those costs may be anything – restocking fee, sales tax, shipping costs, etc. Make any additional costs clear from the outset. If you can, offer free shipping; in the age of free Amazon Prime 2-day shipping, additional shipping costs are often deal-breakers for consumers. The same goes for sales tax; consumers are still getting used to paying sales tax on online purchases and a few extra dollars may affect a sale. Shipping internationally? Have those landed costs (duties and taxes) listed upfront to avoid orders getting refused at the border for unexpected costs.

Zutano shopping cart

Automatically save customer carts. More and more shoppers are browsing and selecting items from mobile devices and later completing transactions later from a desktop device. Allowing customers to return to a saved cart will preserve the sale and provide a more accurate picture of abandoned carts in your system. Even better, use a platform like Upshot that can track customer actions without them “saving” the cart. Automatically saving carts allows customers to browse on their phone while commuting, make updates from a work device, and then complete their purchase once they get home home, all without having to “save”.

At Checkout

Simplify checkout. Signing up for an account takes time. The fewer steps there are between selecting items and clicking purchase, the more likely a consumer will complete the sale. Providing two options – “Log-In” and “Continue as guest” – allows all customers to quickly move to the purchase page. Encourage new customers to create an account through incentives after the purchase is complete – making it easier to track their future behavior.

Alternately, offer customers the option to sign in using an existing social media account. Not only will this streamline their order process, but it will provide you with a more comprehensive snapshot of their data.

ErgoBaby checkout

Additionally, if customers make recurring purchases (e.g. prescriptions, toiletries, paper products, etc.) offer some kind of “express checkout.” Having a one-click option will eliminate traditional abandonment points and secure the sale as soon as your customer thinks to make the purchase. For someone who has to make recurring purchases, the difference between an express check-out vendor and one where they have to select items and walk through the checkout process each time may be a deal-breaker.

Provide desired payment options. Again, keep the checkout process as smooth as possible; you don’t want a customer abandoning a cart because you don’t accept PayPal. By offering a couple of different  payment options, such as major credit cards and PayPal, you will ensure the customer can use a preferred method and won’t abandon the cart at the final screen. But remember the golden rule of checkout: less is more! While new payment methods such as Apple Pay or BitCoin may appeal to your specific customers, most retailers find that customers choose to pay via credit card or PayPal 99 percent of the time. Adding too many options at the payment stage clutters the page, making for a confusing user experience.

Checking out

Getting customers back to Checkout

In spite of your best efforts, some customers will still abandon carts before completing a purchase. This does not mean the sale is lost – it just requires a bit of retargeting finesse.

Develop a retargeting plan. The utility of retargeting emails for converting abandoned shopping carts into sales cannot be overstated. Data on conversions varies widely from one merchant to another, but the fact remains that retargeting emails work. Use available reporting tools to create a series of retargeting emails that fit the tone of your existing email marketing campaign. Then test to determine when to send them out after carts are abandoned. Ads that retarget a customer as they browse other sites are another essential tool to consider. Keeping your merchandise on their radar will improve the likelihood they will return to complete their purchase.

retargeting ad 2

Lastly, consult abandoned cart reports to develop an effective retargeting campaign. Depending on your merchandise, it might make sense to send retargeting emails within the hour after cart abandonment or perhaps not until 3 hours have passed. If you can afford it, offering one-time-use coupons help drive up conversion rates in those retargeting emails as well. Or perhaps retargeting ads will work best to draw your customers back to an abandoned cart. Use your reports to test and retest your retargeting campaign to attain the best results.

Now go reclaim those carts

The easiest way to limit shopping cart abandonment is to make it as effortless as possible for customers to complete their transactions – allowing them to buy from the devices and with the payment options they choose. To recover those carts that do get abandoned, take the extra effort to develop a proven retargeting campaign. Make the most of your abandoned cart reporting tools to capture as many sales as you can and help grow your business in the coming year.

1 Cart Abandonment Conversion Rates, 12/10/14,
2 Shopping Cart Abandonment: Online Retailers’ Biggest Headache Is Actually A Huge Opportunity, 12/16/14,
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Affiliates as an Extension of Your Sales Team

Whether your company is well-established with a solid customer base or just getting off the ground, an affiliate marketing program can be a useful tool for growing your numbers. When deployed effectively, affiliate marketing programs provide a valuable source for additional customers and revenue. Good affiliates work to spread your brand and enhance your image with your target audience. To achieve the best results, it’s important to put some thought and effort into establishing and managing your affiliate program – think of your affiliates as an extension of your sales team and the effort will pay off.

That was then

Affiliate marketing has developed alongside the ecommerce industry and in both instances the dramatic expansion has resulted in pretty serious growing pains. Early on, unscrupulous affiliate marketers adopted shady practices that seriously tarnished the industry’s reputation – installing adware on customer machines, which undermined consumer brand confidence; hijacking links from competing sources, which sometimes resulted in payments to multiple affiliates for one customer interaction; cannibalization of sales from existing customers, cutting into overall revenue, etc. In recent years, however, industry leaders have worked hard to improve popular perception of affiliate marketing – and to dramatically improve the industry’s effectiveness as a marketing tool. Now, many merchants see affiliate marketing as an essential component of their marketing plan.

This is now

Today, well-managed affiliate programs produce valuable results and there are lots of ways to get one started. Some companies employ organizations to manage the entire affiliate process – from finding affiliates, to disseminating information to affiliates, to paying appropriate commission. Others manage their own affiliate networks, handing information and payment directly. A handful of companies even work directly with affiliates and tackle all components of an affiliate program themselves (finding, informing, paying, etc.). For companies handling their own affiliate network or program, Upshot offers the Affiliate Extension to provide all the assistance you need to seamlessly integrate the process into your existing Upshot ecommerce system.


Make the most of it

No matter what type of affiliate program makes sense for your needs, here are some tips for making the most of it. These stem from the same idea: treat your affiliates like an extension of your sales team and they will produce desirable results. Your affiliates are out there representing your company, your brand – do what you can to make sure they are successful and it’ll pay back in a big way!

Communication is key

Don’t re-purpose messaging – It may be tempting to re-purpose customer messaging when talking to affiliates – you send out emails about sales anyway, right? – but that is a mistake. Your affiliates are a different audience with different questions and concerns and you should tailor your communications to reflect that. This doesn’t mean you have to send personalized notes to each of your affiliates! It means that your communication should impart the information that’s important to them – a monthly affiliate newsletter that highlights upcoming promotions or recent successes is great for achieving this.

Make information timely -Additionally, make sure your affiliates have key information on what they’re promoting in a timely manner. They should know about a sale before it pops up on your website so that they can get out and spread the word right away – driving customers to your site.

Keep it concise – You certainly don’t want to bombard affiliates with emails, but maintaining a consistent presence in their inboxes will keep you on their radar.  Keep your communications brief and topical and they may come value you as a useful and concise resource.

Take time to personalize

Make a connection – Periodic phone calls to touch base or taking time to meet at a trade event are also good opportunities to make a connection. The more that your affiliates feel like you have a stake in them, the more willing they’ll be to invest a little extra effort into promoting your company. As an extension of your sales team, they’re more than a figure on a monthly report and it’s important they feel that.

Set up incentives and goals – Providing incentives and setting goals are essential to successful sales teams – and there’s no reason not to utilize those tools with your affiliates! The Upshot Affiliate Extension allows for multi-level commission structures so you can easily reward your best affiliates. Tangible rewards strengthen bonds between your company and your affiliates and benchmarks can motivate people to exceed expectations.

Know their strengths – Knowing the strengths and interests of your affiliates will help you to target your affiliate strategy more effectively, reducing duplication of effort and improving the breadth of your audience.

Build Your Team

Good management, good oversight, good results

As affiliate marketing has evolved, companies have taken a close look at the size, scope, and effectiveness of their affiliate programs – and discovered serious shortcomings. Many problems stem from poor oversight, which contributed to the industry’s bad reputation early on and diminished return on investment. Fortunately, an experienced manager (working from within your company using the available Upshot extension, or through an affiliate management company) can dramaticallyimprove the performance of your affiliate program. The Upshot Affiliate Extension has all the reports necessary to efficiently and effectively manage your program.

Good management can:

  • eliminate channel overlap so you are only paying once for a customer interaction.
  • identify low-performing or fraudulent affiliates and resolve issues.
  • identify and capitalize on long-term trends in affiliate marketing strategy.
  • provide long-term oversight to maximize profitability of an affiliate program.

Consider whether affiliate marketing works for your company

Affiliate programs still provide challenges and might not be the right direction for every company. It may be hard to find the individual or company with the right experience and skills to oversee the program you need. And, as mentioned above, effective management is key. But for those of you who do incorporate an affiliate program into your marketing strategy – and think of them as an extension of your sales team – the potential to grow your audience, client base, and revenues are worth the effort. Upshot has the tools to help get you there.

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