As you know, email spam is a constant problem for anyone doing business online. Symantec’s current figures show over 14 billion spam messages per day, and the problem continues to get worse. For you, that means that there is an ever-increasing likelihood that critical messages like order acknowledgments or registration confirmations might not make it to you or your customer.
Since most of our company stores, distributor websites and supplier sites send out transactional email (messages related to an e-commerce transaction of some sort), we’re constantly on the lookout for email deliverability issues. Recently, we began the process of upgrading our email services to ensure that every single message gets through to its intended recipients. This includes tools that provide much better insight into what happens to messages once they get sent out. Put simply, we now have the ability to not just track emails all the way to their recipients, but also to find out where they run into problems along the way.
We expect that these improvements will result in far fewer problems with email delivery. But nothing is perfect, so we’d also like to offer some tips for troubleshooting email problems. These apply to both you and your customers, so feel free to pass them along!
1. Check your spam folder
Sure, this is the oldest tip in the book, but you’d be surprised how often people forget it! All sorts of strange factors can trigger spam flags on legitimate messages, from specific types of language to the excessive use of exclamation points. A sender that normally makes it into your inbox shouldn’t usually be flagged because of this, but it happens periodically.
Most email clients have a clearly visible “Spam” or “Junk” folder, so if your sender’s message wound up in there, it’s important to both move the message to your inbox and make sure that you click any “Not Spam” or “Not Junk” buttons that your email client displays on the message. That will help ensure (though nothing is foolproof) that the sender doesn’t get sent into spam purgatory again.
2. Check other automated folders
Many email clients now try to organize your messages for you to help you sort through the mass of email and determine what to look at first. Google’s Gmail now groups messages into four tabs: Inbox, Social, Promotions and Updates. Other emails clients now offer similar automated rules to put lower-priority messages in secondary tabs or folders, or allow you to designate “VIP” senders for special treatment.
These are all wonderful features, but they can often lead to confusion when a sender that normally gets placed into one bucket somehow winds up in a different one. Before you hit the panic button, make sure you check all your automated tabs and/or folders to make sure something didn’t trigger the message being sent to the wrong place. You still received it, just not where you were expecting
3. “Whitelist” the sender
Whitelisting is the process of telling your email client or email host that a given sender (or domain) is authorized to send you email. Think of it like making a guest list for your party and handing it to a doorman. The doorman (in this case, your email client or your email service provider) asks the sender if they are on the guest list; if they are, they’re allowed in, no matter how ugly their outfit or how cheap the bottle of wine they brought with them.
Whitelisting can be done in a variety of ways, but it’s most reliable when it’s done by your email provider. Check with them to see what options they offer; many email providers have a web interface for handling things like whitelisting and forwarding.
Tried all these and still having email issues? Give us a shout!
While many company stores are open to the public, some clients require a more limited form of access. They may not want the general public viewing the store at all, or they may only want specific people to be able to place orders or see certain products. Your storeBlox CS Company Store includes a variety of methods for controlling access to the store itself, as well as the products within it. For access to the store as a whole, there are four different possibilities:
- Public Access: This is a normal, publicly available store with no restrictions on access
- Public Access – Registration not required to place orders: A variation on the above, this allows users to order products and check out without even creating an account (also known as Guest Checkout). This can be useful if you get mostly one-off orders.
- Closed Access: A visitor cannot access the store at all without a user name and password. This is a locked down site, with all user access managed by you or the client, by creating user accounts for authorized users.
- Limited Access: This is like Closed Access but allows for registration of visitors who have an Invitation Code. In general, this is going to be the preferred method of handling password-protected company stores, because it allows new visitors with an invitation code to register and gain access immediately. Unless you need airtight control (and don’t mind managing every single user in the store), Limited Access will be your best bet for a restricted store.
One other method of controlling overall access to a store is restricting by email domain. This can be in addition to other restrictions, or it can be on its own. If you restrict by email domain, a visitor cannot create an account without using the correct email domain, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. This is often a reasonably foolproof method for making sure that only the employees of your client’s company can register at the site and place orders (assuming you don’t have Guest Checkout enabled).
Finally, as we discuss in detail separately Building Mini Stores using Group Features, Groups are a fantastic way to restrict which products any given user in a store can view. Why would you want to restrict product visibility in a store?
- Private Categories: If your client has a public store but has a few items that are only available to employees, Group-based category restriction handles showing those restricted products to employees only.
- Department-specific products: Some companies have products geared toward specific divisions or groups within the company – for instance, the marketing department might be able to order sell sheets and signage, while the rest of the company can only order apparel and hard goods.
- Multiple locations: Sometimes different locations need different product mixes, but you don’t want to manage multiple stores and your customer doesn’t want to pay for them. Group-based access can create virtual “mini-stores” for each location.
Group-based access to categories handles all these scenarios easily; just assign a category to the appropriate groups, and storeBlox CS handles who gets to see what. For more detail on Group management, check out our Company Stores 101 post here Building Mini Stores using Group Features!
Some company stores don’t carry any inventory; everything is custom-ordered and drop-shipped to the customer. But most company stores have at least some inventory, and many are a hybrid: inventory for fast-moving, high-volume items; drop shipment for everything else, like items that require a custom logo or a name drop. By combining inventory and drop ship items, you can cover all the items your client might need.
Inventory in your storeBlox CS company store is easy to enter and maintain yourself, but it’s also robust enough to handle just about anything you want to throw at it. Here are the basics:
Product Settings: At the most basic level, a product that you carry in inventory needs to be set up to Track Inventory. When a product is set up to track inventory, the available inventory can be displayed on the product page of your company store, and the inventory will decrease as orders are placed. In addition, you can set a Warning Level so that you’ll receive an email whenever that product reaches a certain level, so you can re-order it. Finally, you can specify whether or not a product can be Back Ordered if it’s out of stock. If this box isn’t checked a customer cannot complete an order for an item that exceeds current inventory.
Managing Inventory: Once you’ve set up inventoried products, you need to enter the actual amount you have on hand. storeBlox CS gives you a handy, one-screen tool for entering all your inventory information at once:
Just as importantly, the Manage Inventory screen is where you handle ongoing inventory adjustments. Ongoing adjustments occur when an inventory action occurs outside of a normal purchase transaction in the online store. For instance, someone might call in an order, or someone from the marketing department might be able to pull items directly from inventory. Your customer might also occasionally just decide to drop a product entirely and destroy them or give them away. Manage Inventory handles all of this.
Reporting on Inventory: Most programs with inventory typically involve an agreement with your client. They may take ownership of the inventory or they may want you to own it, in which case they (hopefully!) agree to order a certain amount from you. In either case, you need detailed reporting to make sure everything lines up.
Two storeBlox CS reports can handle most of your needs here: the Inventory Report, which provides a full transaction history of every inventory action in a store in a specified date range; and the Inventory Valuation Report, which gives you and your customer a detailed snapshot of the total value of all the items currently held in inventory. Even if you don’t think you need this report now, it’s good to get acquainted with it, because sooner or later the bean counters (yours or your customer’s) are going to come along asking for details on the monetary value of what’s stashed in that warehouse.
For more advanced programs, ask us about inventory integration, where we can set up your store to talk directly with your warehouse or accounting package, automatically!