How to Deliver an Amazon Experience to Your Greenhouse Customers

Plants ready for delivery

Amazon’s same-day delivery service has forced everyone else to be able to deliver product just as quickly. A TMS software system is critical to making this happen. Photo courtesy of InMotion Global Inc.

The most successful growers have one thing in common; they chase perfection. Jeff Bezos, the demanding CEO and founder of Amazon, is the poster child for chasing perfection and placing a never-ending focus on the customer. I think we can all agree that he’s done a pretty good job.

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Fortunately for you, Mr. Bezos has paved the way for new technologies that now allow you, the entrepreneurial grower, to also provide an Amazon-like experience, but without the costs or the headaches of reinventing an entire industry.

The Amazon Experience Is About How You Deliver

What Amazon realized is that while low price was important to its model, the delivery experience was perhaps just as vital. Think about it — low prices with delivery in three weeks just doesn’t cut it. But, low prices and delivery today, keeps the customer from ever leaving.

That’s why Amazon went from three- or four- day delivery promises just five years ago — but now it can deliver the same day you order in most cities at no charge to the customer. This is a revolutionary change. It has forced everyone not wanting to get crushed by Amazon to mimic its every move when it comes to the logistics of product delivery.

How Does Amazon Do It?

Amazon can set the bar so high because it leverages logistics software, known commonly in the logistics world as TMS software (Transportation Management System).

TMS systems allow you to organize every aspect of your logistics, shipping, and delivery operations. From the moment the order is approved up to the final customer delivery (with order tracking), the TMS software handles everything. A TMS will provide order management and route and load optimization to minimize miles driven and driver stops. It manages any claims and overages or shortages, tracks drivers, handles all delivery paperwork, processes driver payments and carrier settlement, and provides important statistics on your ever-changing third-party carrier rates and other logistics costs.

Moreover, most growers don’t just use a TMS for outbound delivery to customers, they also use their TMS for inbound loads from suppliers, or loads from other growers if you need to buy product elsewhere to fill an order.

Size Doesn’t Matter; There’s a TMS System for You

Only 10 years ago, TMS systems were prohibitively costly for most growers, and they required dedicated IT staff to install and manage. Today, thanks to the web, there are free TMS software systems available that you can use (just Google free TMS Software), or low-cost TMS systems that you pay for via an inexpensive monthly subscription.

The best TMS software will give you an insight into your shipping operations that was once only available to the very largest growers. It’s nice being able to break down the numbers to find your lowest cost carriers or most efficient drivers (as well as the opposite — the worst carriers and drivers — that may be giving you a bad name).

There’s a flavor of TMS software for everyone, from multi-million-dollar systems to perfectly good systems that won’t cost you a single penny to try out.

At the end of the day, customers expect more from you today than ever before. So, if you provide the Amazon experience, they’ll come back to you again and again — just like we keep going back to Jeff’s little online retail store.

Whether we love Amazon (as customers) or hate them (as business owners), we can thank Jeff for setting the bar higher for us all. After all, sometimes it takes a nudge or two for us to be willing to embrace new powerful technologies, like TMS software, that are now available to us.

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Avatar for kyplantpro kyplantpro says:

TMS software is only part of the solution! Folks the handwriting is now on the wall. One day soon, Amazon will be in the Local Garden Center Business! IGC’s need to get on board with Local Ecommerce NOW! BEFORE Amazon gets there! Think about it, The IGC’s already have lost major business to the Big Box stores. Why? Because the consumer is so busy, they don’t want to have to make multiple trips (to the grocery store, the hardware store, and the garden center for example) Enter the Box store. Now the consumer can go to just one store (Menards for example) and purchase all of those items in one place, with one trip. But now the box stores and all bricks and mortar companies are having trouble competing with a new competitor…AMAZON! Why? The consumer now doesn’t have to make a trip… just a click! Consider this. Many of the items in an IGC do not ship well. Customers have trouble getting these items home undamaged. Just getting these items home can be an issue (having to borrow or ask a neighbor or family member to take their pickup truck to the IGC to pick up their purchase.) What if instead, they could go on-line or to the IGC and decide what they want and then go home and place the order and the order shows up in 24 hours? The IGC can increase the size of their average order size as customer order sizes now are not defined by how big a vehicle or how big a shopping cart they push to get their purchases home. This will drive the rest of the industry to pick up their pace of supplying Garden Retailers. The fact of the matter is Ecommerce (specifically Local Ecommerce- where an IGC only needs one local store location but can ship over a 3 to 5 county area.) is a way to increase sales and reduce costs. It is far cheaper to have one main store that ships over a wide area than it is to open multiple locations and pay for extra inventory, staffing and real estate (or leasing costs). TMS software and modern Cloud Based Accounting Packages like Open Pro will be more important than ever in the future.
We use Open Pro ( http://www.openpro.com ) as our accounting software. It is open source (comes with the source code) and is about 1/3 the price of some of its major software competitors. It is a SaaS (Software as a Service) and includes MRP (Manufacturer’s Resource Planning), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), Warehouse Distribution and Full Accounting. Including: Job Costing, Payroll, Time Keeping (including IOS and android app) POS (Point of Sale) (soon to be released Mobile POS, Fixed Assets, General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Sales Order, Inventory, Purchase Order, Bank Reconciliation, Ecommerce, Document Imaging and Workflow management and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) (soon to be released Mobile CRM App).
Our Business is in Louisville, KY. But as I am writing this today, I am on vacation in Orlando, Fl. Yet I am using our Accounting system in my Time Share Resort condo now! (working vacation LOL!). Open Pro runs in a web browser, so you can use your favorite flavor of computer. And you can have multiple tabs in your web browser open running different modules of Open Pro simultaneously. Open Pro is written in PHP (the language of the internet) and uses a SQL backend database just like your website. Because of this, it is really easy to pass data from your web site or other web-based apps to Open Pro modules like CRM. For example, we have a “Get a Quote” link on our web site. When a customer submits their quote request, the request and customer data show up as a new lead automatically in CRM! We also get Leads from Home Adviser for our Landscape Division and those leads show up automatically in our CRM system. Customer Appointments made in our CRM system automatically show up in our G-Suite Google Calendar. IT systems are more important than ever. New major competition is entering our industry (and have already entered our industry – The Big Box stores) and are already using this technology. To compete our industry needs to get on board with these technologies! We hope to be implementing Local Ecommerce (with same day delivery free in (24 hours of the order) in a year or so for our Garden Center Division) It is far cheaper to have one Garden Center and service a much wider area using Ecommerce. We plan to finance our free shipping by sending trained Horticulturalists rather than delivery drivers. We want our drivers to look for sales opportunities at our customer’s house when we make the delivery. The next day when the customer receives an email from our CRM system thanking them for their order we would say “While we were making your delivery we noticed “_ _ _” (with pictures) If you would like a quote please respond to this email. This identifies potential problems (and sales opportunities) before the customer or the competition has a clue (if we close one out of ten of those sales opportunities, we have financed our delivery.) We use CRM as loyalty tool to keep our customer’s loyal to our brand. How? CRM systems have a feature called triggers. Let’s look at an example. Evergreens especially arborvitaes have a pest that feeds on them in the May and June time frame-bag worms. The bag worms hatch out around the 10th of May here in Louisville. They are little green worms that are well camouflaged with the foliage of the Arborvitae’s. Consumers frequently are not even aware that they have a problem until the see the top defoliated out of one of the Arbs and the bag worms are building their cocoons in Late June. (by then it is to late to spray). With CRM we can draft an email that has pictures and/or videos of what the bag worms will look like when they hatch out and show customers’ how to scout for them. We can include links to our ecommerce site to purchase the insecticide we recommend spraying the bag worms with and a link to our Landscape Maintenance division if the customer would prefer us to eradicate the worms for them. We would schedule this email (trigger) to be sent out on May 5th the week before the bagworms hatch out. On May 5th CRM would then go out and search the purchase history of all our customers (in Point of Sale) and if they purchased a plant that was susceptible to infestation (one plant or multiple plants) that customer would receive only one email notification. Successful Landscaping is about performing necessary maintenance in a TIMELY window. Many customers are so busy they may forget to check their plants or may not even know to check them. Pretty soon customers’ will begin to realize that if they purchase their products from the competition, they won’t receive our notifications and they will not be as successful in maintaining their yard. And they will begin to think twice about making those purchases from someone else. Check out our web site for more information- http://www.prestongreenhouse.com