Help me establish a small online retail business.
May 19, 2004 6:06 PM   Subscribe

SmallBizFilter! A pal of mine has asked me to help him build out a small shipping-and-fulfillment center serving an online store he started recently. Things are going well, but my part of the work will be most challenging. Advice? Recommendations? [the interior features the more.]

We're starting out with a couple of Wintel boxes. I'll need to spec the inventory-and-shipping software. He is committed to warehousing a significant portion of his wares (doing a drop-ship style inventory and shipping approach shaves his margin too close).

We will be using a third party accounting service at least to begin with.

I believe my crucial tasks will be

1. getting the inventory/shipping/accounting system selected and implemented
2. designing workflows to keep screwups to a minimum and to provide remediation when there's a shipping problem
3. establishing an effective semi-automated telephone system to handle customer concerns

What small-biz inventory/shipping/accounting systems are folks using? What do you recommend?

Are there planning and best-practices resources for dealing with the workflow issues?

What phone-tree systems might be appropriate here?

The initial number of employees is two, him and me. Orders are between 50 and 100 day at the moment and appear to be growing - but he doesn't have a good tracking mechanism to develop projections yet.

Thanks for your opinions!
posted by mwhybark to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sadly I haven't the time to give a full reply to your points, but I wanted to recommend you take a look at Asterisk, an open source telephone and data system which some of my clients are using..
posted by wackybrit at 6:29 PM on May 19, 2004

Roughly a year ago, I had just finished work on the Web store/credit card authentication/merchant account integration system for my then-employer, and was then charged with the task of finding a shipping/inventory tracking system that could work with the existing setup.

Having trudged through many a site and many an exhausting sales pitch, my final recommendation was one of the CPS systems from HarveySoft. While it didn't integrate directly with the software we were using, it offered optional plug-ins that could exchange data in configurable format via e-mail, work with Fed Ex, UPS, and USPS, and provide automated tracking e-mails to customers, along with all its core functionality. CPS is surprisingly affordable for being so comprehensive.

Unfortunately, the day the management was to purchase said system, they "decided to hold off", choosing rather to enter data from the same e-mail four times into four separate systems, as they had been doing since time began. As such, I can't personally vouch for its excellence, but it was my recommendation at the time.
posted by Danelope at 8:53 PM on May 19, 2004 [1 favorite]

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