Expediting time to market with eCommerce software

As the old saying goes, "the early bird gets the worm." There are fewer industries in which that statement is more true than retail – it's not just important to have in-demand products, it's just as critical that merchants also get them in stock and ready to sell before competitors. This concept, called time to market (TTM), should be an important consideration of eCommerce operations, ranking up there with product management and order logistics.

Although many merchants believe TTM is an important factor in the success of a retail business, it seems to be a difficult aspect to nail. A survey from Amdocs, a customer service expert, found that while 70 percent of companies believe TTM is crucial, there has been little improvement over the past five years among businesses in terms of TTM implementation. In fact, some respondents even experienced a longer TTM, even though they understand the importance of getting products to consumers.

Merchants looking to improve TTM need to first understand the various ways this aspect can affect product selection from websites and then implement the right eCommerce software to help expedite this process.

1. The 'useful life' scenario

The useful life scenario is a TTM concept in which a product has a limited lifetime. As data specialist company Heiler notes, useful life is typically a concern in retail industries that deal with products that have a specific lifetime.

Time to market is critical for helping retailers capitalize on timely trends.

For example, a pair of shorts will only be in vogue in the summer, and the fashion might not even be relevant a year later. Other examples include technology (no one wants the iPhone 4 when the iPhone 5 hits) and regular publications (a newspaper or magazine that comes out one month will be less relevant the next).

Useful life products generally have a lifetime of fewer than 12 months. If retailers stock these items, it's critical that they make them available to customers as soon as possible or they risk losing sales. Think about it this way – if a product has a lifetime of three months and retailers don't have them available until 30 days after launch, they have effectively lost at least 33 percent of their sales or more if the goods were easily acquired from a competitor.

2. The 'market demand' scenario

Sometimes, a spike in product demand seems to happen for the most trivial of reasons. Particular toys get hot during the holiday shopping season, or if a celebrity is spotted wearing a new handbag, word travels fast and the sales hit merchants hard. The window for these sales is incredibly small, and if merchants can't respond to demand, they will miss out on these opportunities.

If merchants want to capitalize on these market demand spikes, they need to have a quick TTM. Using the holiday season as an example, merchants likely only have the time period between Black Friday and the end of December to sell those goods, and if it takes them weeks to get them in stock, they are missing out on sales each and every day they are unavailable.

How fast merchants get their products to market can make or break successful eCommerce operations. ECommerce software such as SalesWarp enables retailers to connect all the parties in their supply chain, from warehouse to webstore, and ensure processes are in place to accelerate time-to-market and increase sales.