Get a Better Backend the Multichannel Way
Uncommon Goods tries to test a product before actually listing it in the catalog, to get an accurate reading on demand. Bolotsky also believes that customer expectations should be met "at the highest bar of any given channel; in other words, if you offer free shipping online, offer it for catalog orders also."
Musician's Friend, on the other hand, prefers to keep its customers happy, and loyal, in part by maintaining an in-stock position of between 94 percent and 95 percent on its 36,000 SKUs. White characterizes his company's customers as passionate, knowledgeable, particular, technically savvy and loyal. "They love their music," he says, "It's part of who they are, and we try not to lose sight of that."
In other words, hard work and attention to human detail are crucial elements that separate truly successful, customer-centric direct merchants from those with unhappy customers. The best-managed companies tend to focus on one practical step at a time and use the available technology to their maximum benefit, without ever losing sight of the need for clear and consistent communication within the business, with vendors and suppliers, and above all, with customers. Simple, but not easy.
Barbara Arnn is a freelance writer and editor based in Port Townsend, Wash.