At Violet we have a front row seat to the challenges of trying to sell products and services online. One of the most common challenges we encounter is what we call manual re-ordering.
Pay no attention to the re-orders behind the curtain
Imagine the following scenario: An online shopper visits a personal stylist site (also known as a personal shopper site) to get a new outfit. They see an ensemble they like, and better yet, can purchase all the pieces right on the site with a single unified checkout. They place an order, and over the next few weeks receive the six or seven items they ordered in the mail. Instead of visiting dozens of sites or stores to put together the outfit themselves, they visit one, and come away with an entire look, not just random articles of clothing. They’d love to shop like this more often.
At first, this scenario seems like a great customer experience, one worth replicating as the site scales. But behind this seamless frontend is a backend logjam. After receiving the order for the outfit, the personal stylist site(or what we would call the channel) resorts to manual re-ordering, in which they must literally duplicate every shopper’s purchase on the backend.
This means that once a shopper has placed an order with a channel, that channel then copies that order information and manually re-enters the transaction with the merchant. The channel accepts payment from the shopper, and then makes that payment again directly to each merchant. In our scenario above, the channel must do this several times for a single order because every item in the cart comes from a different brand. This is inefficient, costly, and threatens to stunt any channel's long-term growth.
Contextually rich, infrastructurally poor
Inefficient as it may be, manually re-ordering is one of the most common practices we run into when talking with customers at Violet. Channels can see that shoppers increasingly value purchasing in contextually rich experiences, but lack the technical infrastructure to support them. As a result, to provide a rich and seamless online shopping experience, channels end up resorting to a slew of inefficient and unscalable workarounds to make manual re-ordering happen:
1. Data scraping: To get the product info for each item, the personal stylist site scrapes or crawls the internet every 30 days for the latest product information (they likely use a vendor to do this on their behalf). But by relying on scraped data this means they’re often presenting inaccurate or outdated data on inventory, sometimes advertising goods that are completely out of stock.
2. Unsynced carts: The personal stylist site doesn’t have accurate shipping or tax information (which comes from a combination of the merchant, the shopper’s location, and the items purchased), so every item a shopper adds to their cart results in another mystery percentage added to their total transaction. More than likely, the channel eats this cost and just provides free shipping.
3. Inelastic headcount: When you’re relying on humans to manually reenter orders, you can’t swell and contract your team on a real time basis to meet the demand of a given day. Online transactions can sometimes fluctuate significantly on a minute by minute basis, and relying on people to manually replicate those orders with merchants freezes a channel’s ability to be responsive to the ebb and flow of demand.
4. Merchant of record: Because the personal stylist site takes funds directly from the shopper, they are now the merchant of record, which brings along with it a host of legal and financial implications.
5. Point of contact fumbling in the dark: They also end up being the point of contact for the post-purchase journey, and have to coordinate shipping/tracking information, as well as any returns or exchanges that need to take place.
In short, a beautiful frontend shopper experience isn’t worth much if the backend can’t deliver on functionality. While one positive shopper's experience may seem like a win at first, in the long run everyone loses something with manual re-orders. Shoppers have clunky experiences as often as they have good ones, as things like out-of-stocks, package tracking, returns become logistically complicated. Merchants get no information about their shoppers–their interests, what else they’re buying, demographics, etc.–and aren’t able to ensure a satisfying post-purchase experience. And channels take on a huge infrastructure burden that, even in the best of circumstances, leaves them with a high overhead and inability to scale.
A better way to buy at the edge
Manual re-ordering makes it clear that to have a successful online checkout experience, you actually have to pay attention to the entire online purchase infrastructure, not just the frontend experience. At Violet, we break an online purchase down into four distinct moments:
1. Product presentation: Does the product detail page (PDP) have the right information (assortment, inventory, media, description, etc)? I.e., is it accurate and up to date?
2. Cart: When a product is added to the cart, can you take the shopper and product location into account to do appropriate tax estimation, present shipping options, etc.? And, even more challenging: can you do this for a cart that contains items from multiple merchants?
3. Checkout/order: When a customer checks out, have you collected and relayed accurate shipping & billing addresses, email, payment information, and the newly-created order number?
4. Post-order experience: How do you handle returns, refunds, exchanges, as well as communicating order tracking and confirmation to the shopper?
Violet’s API solves for all of these moments by connecting the channel’s app directly with the merchant’s ecommerce system, so that there’s functionally no difference between a purchase made through a channel and a purchase made through the merchant’s own site or storefront.
We replace all the inefficient processes like data scraping, manual re-ordering, and inelastic headcount with a single unified integration that creates seamless transactions at every step of the purchase:
1. Presentation: Violet’s API pulls and syncs the product detail information in real time, so what the shopper sees are the exact same inventory options as they would see if they were on the merchant’s website.
2. Cart: With Violet, dynamic carts are updated with the merchant's and shopper's information so shipping & tax charges listed at checkout are accurate. Those values can also be parsed across carts that include multiple merchants.
3. Checkout/ order: Violet automates the order writeback so all the information a channel collects goes directly to the merchant’s backend system. No manual re-ordering, no charging a shopper purchase on a channel’s company credit card, no wasted headcount manually copying and pasting shipping or payment info. It’s all transferred securely, directly, and instantaneously.
4. Post-order experience: Because that order writeback is instantaneous, the entire post-order experience is now handled directly between merchant and shopper, so all order confirmations, tracking information, shipping status, and refunds and exchanges are communicated directly. Violet can even help facilitate much cleaner payout options so each party gets the share they’ve earned from the transaction, without extra overhead or invoicing.
With a single API, Violet transforms an expensive, error- and latency-ridden process with automated and seamless integration, so channels can focus on providing world-class online experiences instead of stand-in order fulfillment or call-center services.
One API, zero headaches
Now imagine you’re that personal stylist site: by replacing manual orders with Violet’s API, you instantly improve your customer experience and drastically lighten your overhead:
Instead of scraping merchant websites for product information…
Violet’s API directly feeds the latest product detail pages to shoppers, so their orders are always based on real-time availability.
Instead of calculating shipping and tax after checkout and/or covering the cost…
Those charges are kept up to date and synced as the shopper adds items to their cart. No surprise charges for them, no additional or last-minute calculations for you.
Instead of manually re-entering the order on a merchant’s site…
Nothing. Nothing additional is required of the personal stylist site once the shopper has checked out.
Instead of scrambling to keep up with fluctuations in online purchases…
Again, you do nothing. Violet’s API flexes to meet demand with automated processes. Your people have better uses of their time than manually copying SKU #s into another merchant’s site all day.
Instead of becoming the merchant of record…
You’re not responsible. The merchants can receive the order from the shopper exactly as if it had been placed directly on their site.
Instead of being the point of contact for all returns, exchanges, and package tracking…
You guessed it: there’s nothing further for you to do. With Violet’s API, you simply establish the integration, list the products, and leave order fulfillment to the professionals.
In this scenario everybody wins:
- The customer has an easy, seamless experience, and jumps right back into browsing the personal stylists site upon completing their purchase.
- The personal stylist site now has an audience that not only enjoys browsing their suggestions, but thinks of them as a preferable and more engaging online shopping experience.
- The merchants just gained an additional channel through which they can reach niche, relevant shoppers, and have information on those shoppers that helps them better target their outreach and omnichannel sales more broadly.
With Violet’s API, no channel should ever have to go through the headache of manual orders ever again. No more wasted hours, frustrated customers, or overtaxed staff. Just seamless, effortless commerce at the edge.