The idea for BasketsGalore was first conceived back in 2001. The internet was still in its infancy back then so a printed catalogue was launched in 2002, and then we went online in 2003.
Many things have changed since 2003 across the company as a whole, so I thought I'd find out the Top 5 Improvements in each Department.
I'm going to begin with the Administration Department, as this is where I started back in 2006.
1. Order Management System
When the website first launched in 2003 it was on a Dreamweaver platform, with a bolted on shopping cart by Mals E-commerce. This was great as a start up business as it was free, but it did have limited functionality from an Admin perspective. As the platforms were separate it meant there were no customer accounts or back-end management system. We had to log into the shopping cart software to print out each order individually. Mals then developed Morders which was a piece of software that collated all your order information & was linked up to your email account so this helped us to manage orders.
In 2008 we the moved onto a Romancart checkout which had increased functionality for both the front and back-end, but unfortunately still no customer accounts. Some of the main improvements were the ability to style your own order form, colour coding by order status and the ability to store a billing address on your own PC. OsCommerce & CRE Loaded platforms quickly followed, with functionality improving all the time & CRE Loaded introducing Customer Accounts for the first time. In 2009 we moved to our current platform of Magento & even this has been upgraded to a new version several times.
2. Ability to Process Online Payments Automatically
With the bolted on shopping carts, anyone placing an order could securely enter their credit card details via our website. However payment was not automatically processed like it is now. Instead the card details would be stored in a secure server & we would need to log in to retrieve these. We could then type the card details into an offline payment terminal in the office & record the transaction in the Sales/Order book. Credit card details would then be deleted for security purposes. The problem with this was that customers were not informed straight away if their card had been declined & it was also a time consuming process every morning for the administrator.
In 2008/09 we gradually moved over to an online merchant account which allowed payments to be processed automatically as the customer entered the details securely on our website. This was another major time saver & customers knew straight away that their order had been successful.
3. Printed Courier Labels
In the beginning all courier labels had to be hand written. We had to include the recipient name address, phone number, parcel dimensions, description, service etc so it was very time consuming. We then had to produce a manual "End of Day" manifest. i.e hand write a list of all consignments being dispatched that day for the courier driver to check off when he collected them each afternoon.
|Hand written airway bill|
This was improved slightly after a few years (approx 2006/07) by the introduction of courier software which enabled you to type the address into the computer & it would then print a label off. Some of the information would be populated automatically - service, dimensions etc but it still took time typing all the address information in. The end of day manifest was also automatically generated by the software now which was a great help.
When we moved to a Magento Ecommerce platform in 2009 & received an upgraded shipping account, we took the biggest leap forward in that the back-end system could now generate a list of addresses which could be pulled into the courier software via a CSV file. This meant the end of hand typing addresses & was so much quicker, meaning we could process more orders in a day.
In 2011 we took the final step & installed an order management system which linked to both Magento and the courier software, allowing the address labels to be produced at the click of a button. No importing/exporting files was required. Fantastic!
4. Printed Gift Card Messages
The majority of our baskets are sent as gifts so each one is accompanied by a gift card message. When we first started out we had to hand write every message! Some people would write essays and so again this was a VERY time consuming process. We then moved onto pasting the message into a word document & printing it on a sticky label. We also tried printing the message directly onto the card, but this caused smudges & was quite fiddly. The final step was for the message to be printed directly onto a specially designed bit of order paper, along with all the other order information. Then the message can just be peeled off and stuck into a gift card to accompany the gift basket.
5. Tracking Your Order
In the early days the tracking code for each dispatch was recorded manually on the end of day manifest. We would then send an email to each customer including details of how they could track the delivery on the couriers website. If a customer phoned to check the status we would need to look up the physical order paperwork to get the tracking code.
The next step was when we moved to an OsCommerce/CRE Loaded platform, at they had the ability to email customers & so the tracking number was stored under their order number.
When we moved to Magento we only had to enter the order number, select the courier & type the tracking code in rather than type a full email as a default email would be automatically sent for you. As Magento allowed customer accounts, our customers could also log in on our website & click a link to automatically track their order.
The final step came when we introduced Linnworks order management system, as it would also pull the tracking code back out of the courier software. So now we just have to select the orders dispatched that day, click a button and the tracking codes are applied & emailed to our customers.
I'm sure there are many other areas in which we have improved in the Admin Department, but these were the ones which immediately came to mind. As you can see processing the orders was a very time intensive job, but over the years improvements in technology have allowed us to streamline the process and dispatch more orders on a daily basis. These improvements also costed money and so couldn't be implemented all at once when you are only a business start up & cash flow is limited. As we have grown we have been able to invest a little more into the technology and processes to improve our customers shopping experience & admin
I'm excited to see what comes along next. Perhaps one day computers will do it all & there will be no need for us!