Do better tools help a business grow? | The eCommerce Makeover Ep 12
- While migrating the business from Magento 1 to BigCommerce, we've given Bulk Candy Store all the tools and functionality that they've been lacking with their previous site. Tools alone don't equal success. In future videos, we're gonna dive deeper into leveraging these tools and strategies to grow an eCommerce brand.
But now that he's had them for a few months, I wanna see what Ken has done with these tools on his own. Let's recap the project thus far, and then we'll hear from Ken on what he has and hasn't worked on. This is the "eCommerce Makeover." If you wanna know more about how we've helped this business, go to ecommercemakeover.com to download our playbook, including special offers on all the tools we've used.
And of course, don't forget to subscribe to be notified when we release new episodes. Bulk Candy Store is a small business with very limited resources. So, when Ken first came to me, he was frustrated with his current eCommerce setup.
- I wanted a little more freedom. I had to call a developer all the time. I couldn't do it in house. So, I picked up Magento, started to use it myself, and then got to the point where it became too complicated for me, so I eventually brought in a developer.
I didn't want a developer who's in here full time when I could get the same software someplace else hopefully, have plugins do it, and use the money for something else like inventory or marketing. A lot of these things are things that we talked about earlier, but we couldn't get done because we knew Magento was coming to the end of its life, and it's gonna require programming, then it's gonna have to change again. And I don't want to have to go through that again. - This is a problem a lot of small businesses find themselves in. Either their business needs change, or as with Ken's case, enough time passes where the eCommerce industry itself changes and they end up trapped in a technology stack that's not optimal for their business.
Ken had done his research. There was no way he wanted to go to another open-source platform. - I don't have an IT department and I don't wanna spend time developing things. I want something that's prebuilt and ready to go.
- After discussing his needs and understanding Bulk Candy Store's business, we decided that BigCommerce was the right fit for the project. It gave Ken the ease of use he's looking for, but it also has a focus on flexibility, and that can make it an easier transition when coming from an open-source platform. Now, I think Brent from BigCommerce explained it very well why BigCommerce was the best fit for Bulk Candy Store, and how this change is going to impact their business. - The historical model of open-source software was very expensive in the total cost of maintaining, hosting, bug-fixing, securing their software.
In contrast, a typical mid-market customer using the BigCommerce's SaaS will be paying less of their online sales in our service, which comes with all of that built in. That extra amount of financial resources can then be channeled into marketing and customer service, growing your business. I think just as importantly, the mind share. So, when you own and are responsible for all of your own software, the attention span, the panic you're in constantly about keeping your site up, keeping it safe and secure, it's overwhelming. And that really takes down companies from where they should be spending their time and attention on their website, which is in design, in customer experience, and in enhancements that bring in and convert more customers.
- Now that we have a platform chosen, it's really just the beginning. Ken's creativity has been held back by his current tech stack and lack of resources. He has a lot of ideas and new things that he wants to do with the site.
But before we get into new functionality, we need to make sure we fix the primary issues Bulk Candy Store has during this migration to BigCommerce. I'll let Ken tell you about the big problems that he wanted to solve. - Most of our issues revolve around either shipping or customer service. Everybody expected to ship in 10 minutes and they expect it there in two days, and we have to set that expectation right. We've been doing an okay job of it, but not a great job of it, and we're looking for ways to really let the customer know the minute they get the order, okay, this is when it's gonna ship, and this is when it's gonna get there. We want to be able to interact with our customers a little more, maybe personalize a little more, and so, we're not quite there yet.
- Bulk Candy Store's shipping problems were two distinct issues that required different solutions. First were shipping calculations. As it turned out, popcorn is a difficult thing to ship because it takes up a lot of space, and chocolate melts pretty easily in a FedEx truck.
These were simple issues to fix with ShipperHQ. - When the carrier goes to calculate the shipping cost, they're not gonna look at just the literal weight, they're gonna consider the weight and the dimensions in order to assign what they call a dimensional weight. So, while that popcorn might weigh just, say, 10 ounces, the carrier might say, but we're gonna calculate that as weighing three pounds of dimensional weight, and that's what we're gonna charge to ship that package. - There was no way that I knew of to be able to calculate what the actual shipping would be. All we could do was raise the weight of those bigger items and hope it got it right.
But most of the time, we'd wind up overcharging customers. When we ship chocolate, we have to take very special precautions with it. And one of the things that we like to do is warn our customers and say, look, we're gonna ship this to you, we're gonna put ice packs on this, but if you don't order at least Second-Day Air, it's probably gonna melt.
That's because ice packs don't last any longer than two days. - Now, that we have shipping calculations solved, Ken still had issues with pull, packing, and shipping orders. To solve this issue, we decided to add ShipStation to handle fulfillment. - The biggest problem we have is that we don't verify the product as it's being shipped. So, what happens is someone pulls the product, someone else comes and they check the product, and then the packer goes ahead and packs it and ships it. Sometimes, they pack the wrong items.
That's a very expensive mistake because not only have we sent the product to someone and maybe we have to have it sent back at our expense, or maybe they get to keep it and we have to send them the correct product. - The answer to this problem is Scan-to-Verify If scanning becomes part of a merchant's workflow, they're able to scan the item before it goes into the box and gets out the door. - The other primary issue that Ken had mentioned was customer support. This is one of those areas where he knew he had a problem, but I don't think he realized how much opportunity there was for improvement. This is one of those areas where we could really gain some resources to invest elsewhere by leveraging Gorgias to automate basic task, and making it so much easier for the Bulk Candy Store team to manage the volume of support requests that they receive.
- I have one or two people who are doing other jobs that will sit and monitor that email. And if they have to answer, they will just pop an answer in. We've tried to build a couple of basic replies when they email and say, like, how fresh is the popcorn? Okay, here, here's a little stock response, 'cause 90% of that is just repetitive stuff like that. - 30% of all inbound support inquiries are related to order status.
We can deflect or automate a lot of those tickets that don't require a lot of support attention. With smaller teams, this is incredibly important. You have a limited amount of time during the day, and what you want to focus your time are on those inbound support inquiries that are related to the product where you can actually drive revenue through support. - The next area we addressed was not one that Ken came to us asking for.
It's not a glamorous, headline-grabbing marketing tool, but if you don't do it right, it'll hurt you much more than any other aspect of an eCommerce business, and that's taxes. Bulk Candy Store was growing and getting dangerously close to hitting sales tax thresholds in several states. However, this wasn't something that he was actively monitoring. So, to make sure this was addressed as they grow, we utilized Avalara to automate sales tax. - At present, we charge people Florida sales tax.
My mom, who does all our finances, has basically said, if she has to start doing that, she's leaving. - So, once you've automated with Avalara, and you've mapped your tax codes, it is more or less sit-it-and-forget-it. We're going to monitor and maintain all of the tax rates across the US in these taxing jurisdictions.
- Those improvements alone would've solved all the problems Ken came to us with. However, our goal with the project was to keep the budget in check and limit his ongoing overhead so that it could be invested in additional tools to fuel his creativity and help the business grow. We added five tools to Ken's arsenal to help fuel that growth. First, we upgraded Klevu for search and merchandising. - We're using Klevu at the moment. We're using their basic setup.
When we first put our search in, we started doing synonyms for certain things. So, we have, for example, something called Gems which are just like M&M's, but not M&M's. We would put a synonym in for that, but over the years, that's kind of stopped. And I believe if we were to actually put the time into that, we could probably significantly increase our search conversions. - So, we're powering the front end, so, the filtering grid as well as the product grid.
We're using the AI, the learning from search as well as, now, what takes place on category pages to automatically merchandise these category pages to help best generate sales. So, we're catching trends, we're catching all your shopper's behavior is taking place to optimize the product ranking for best conversions. - Next, we migrated Ken from MailChimp to Klaviyo to improve his email marketing capabilities. - We'd be willing to look at another solution if it offered some of the things that we are not doing now. For example, I really want more personalization in our emails. I want to be able to note that a customer's bought 17 of these in the last two years.
When I send an email to them, I want that email to say, hey, you bought this before, come buy it, now it's on sale. I want to capture your birthday and be able to send you something special. And I would like a little tighter connection between my website and the email program.
- Most people think email is something that consumers don't want, they don't need, they're not interested in. But actually the opposite's true. People rely on email to stay connected to the brands that they love and that they wanna support. Email also ends up being one of the biggest revenue drivers for most merchants.
In fact, 15 to 30% of all revenue over the course of a year typically comes from email. - We really wanted to do everything we could to grow Ken's email list, and give him some creative options to merchandise products. To do that, we added Justuno to the site for popup management.
- I'd like to present the right offer, if you will, at the right time. If there's a product that we're focusing on or that we really want to sell, or it's new, it's exciting, it's innovative, and there's really no great way to alert them, hey, guess what? We have this product coming out now. - With popups, I think, a lot of the conversation before has been that it's a nuisance, and it's just because at times, it's not done quite right. We do wanna stick with best practices. We wanna make sure we're not burdening the visitor with too many popups in that visit, and that they're not seeing double popups in one page. From our perspective at Justuno, we like to target a few touch points that we see as that foundational approach to popups or messaging to really target that conversion rate, that that's a goal for you and at least get a baseline for what we can test later on.
- Candy and popcorn is a business that's just perfect for subscriptions. If we can get a subscription business off the ground for Bulk Candy Store, it'll provide stable, predictable revenue that can be invested in other areas. For this functionality, we added Recharge. - I think a subscription service is crucial for our business. I think the nature of our business is such that we should have been doing this years ago.
Candy, popcorn, those are things that people just want over and over again. It'd be nice if I could just say to them, hey, I'm gonna give you 10% off, you just keep buying it, and of course, they lock it in and keep going. - A business should be thinking about subscriptions if they have customers that come back time and time again to buy the same product. Offer those customers a subscribe-and-save on that product. They get the benefit of a discount, and the benefit of having that product that they love show up right when they need it. The merchant has the benefit of knowing exactly what's coming in the next period so they can forecast their inventories and buy appropriately for the coming period.
- Another huge advantage that Bulk Candy Store has is the loyalty and enthusiasm of their customer base. Ken really wanted to build out a loyalty program. We decided to leverage Stamped to build that out, but to also integrate reviews to try and drive more user-generated content. - We've never tried just a straight loyalty program before. We had talked about it about a year and a half ago when we started to look into it. But again, we were coming to end of life on the platform we were using.
And it didn't seem the right time to sit and put all that investment into it. I think that if people were able to add more interactive reviews, not just text, but they could add photos, videos, I think it would do a world of good for our business because they're fun products, they're candy, they're popcorn, they're things that you want to see people interacting with. - We can reward on all the things like buying, referring friends, but because it's tied into the review solution, we can also reward on that activity as well.
Leaving a review, uploading a video, uploading user-generated content for photos, all of that can help build a promoter of your brand and someone who comes back to the site and interacts with it all the time. - And that's a basic review of the project thus far. We gave Ken all of these tools and a couple of months to get his bearings, and understand how to leverage them. It's now time for us to start consulting with Ken on how to get the most out of the site that we've built. But before we do that, I wanna see what he's done thus far, what's working for him, what he's struggling with, and determine the areas that we need to focus on moving forward. So, hey, Ken, how's it going? - Going great, TJ, thanks.
How are you? - Doing well. You know, you came to us with these problems and we've given you all the tools to solve those problems. I wanna see how it's going thus far.
- It's going pretty well. Business is on the upswing, conversion rates are up, shipping rates are down, things are going well. We have happy customers. We're better able to communicate with them. So, overall, it's a really good start. I think there's a lot more to do, but it's a really great start so far.
- Well, let's go through the particular issues that you had talked about when we first started talking about this project, and I want to talk about each one of those in particular, just to make sure we have those solved or if are those issues that we still need to work on. The early results look good on ShipperHQ, but do we have dimensional shipping calculations solved? Or is that something we still need to work on? - Yeah, I'm happy to say we have dimensional weight figured out. I have customers who are very excited because they were ordering very large popcorn orders, as an example, and sending them to California, and the shipping is literally $200 cheaper. - So, when that shipping was $200 too expensive, people were actually buying that product? - Not everyone.
That was one particular customer who likes to buy a lot because she resells it. We had a lot of customers who were paying 5, 10, $20 more than they probably needed to. And happily, that is fixed now. We're getting more popcorn orders because of it. - The next item was melted products, melted chocolate. It's still cold outside.
So, I know, you haven't necessarily seen these results firsthand, but do you have any concerns with melted chocolate? - So far, we're pretty good, what's helped a bit is the ability to show people when their order's gonna get there. We've set sort of limits, we don't ship meltables on certain days. So, what it really is is expectation management.
Yes, it's been cold and my team's gotten also a lot better at it. So, we've had no meltable issues this year so far, and I'm really happy with that. - So, the next issue you had was customer support.
Obviously, the site's been growing and you have limited resources on your team. And so, we made a very big change in how you handle support with Gorgias. Now, how has that been going? And are there any customer support issues that we need to address moving forward? - Thankfully, no.
Gorgias has been a really good solution for us. I have two people who sit here while they're doing their jobs. They come in in the morning, they answer all the immediate emails, and then while they're doing the rest of their jobs, they sit and they keep the chat on or the email.
And really, the big thing is they answer what they can right away and get it out, and what they can't, they can forward directly to me or to my purchasing manager or someone else. Our response times are much quicker now and they're much more accurate. Where we're going with Gorgias, and now is even better, we're starting to use more of the automation so that when someone sends in a message and says, where's my order, you don't need me or someone else to answer, it automatically does it for them. - Now, do you understand how to use those automations? Are you setting that up yourself? Or do we need to add that on the list of things that we're gonna be working on together? - We're working on setting it up. I'll let you know.
- Last time we spoke, we had ShipStation installed, you were kind of holding back because we had done a lot of different things, like, we added a lot to the team. Your fulfillment process was still basically the same. You were using a new software to do it, but you weren't scanning the items, you hadn't really built out a nice flow for your fulfillment. Has that changed? Are we still holding back? Or have we started really utilizing ShipStation? - Once again, very happy to say we've made a big change. We started using the scan to ship and verify. Every order that leaves now is being scanned.
And it's helped us clean up our data a bit too, because now what happens, she'll come to me and say, hey, this SKU didn't work on this item. So, we go figure out what's wrong with it. That's been a really solid change for us and one that I'm real happy with, because we're packing more efficiently now, spending a little more time packing than worrying about what we're packing, if that makes sense. We're actually able to cut down our shipping costs again.
So, now, I just did an analysis on shipping through ShipStation, and it's telling me I can actually drop my rates again to my customers. - You were already on Klevu, but you had a very basic plan. Merchandising was one of the big things that you really wanted to have the ability to do. So, are you finding that their AI is good enough and you don't really have to do a lot of manual merchandising? Or have you done anything interesting with it? - I look every couple of days at what the AI is doing, and I can go, yeah, that about makes sense for what people are buying, and I can see it's moving things up and down.
But in those cases where I know the AI is not gonna be ready yet or not be there yet, we do it manually and it works well. - Now, this is a problem you did not come to us to solve, but with a growing business, we wanted to make sure that this was addressed so that it doesn't become a bigger problem later in that sales tax. Obviously, we're early in the year right now, you've only had Avalara for a little while, but does it look like you're going to hit any thresholds there this year? - Not yet, we installed it, we've looked at it. They have a nice little chart that shows you where you are, and I'm not quite there yet, but it is a tremendous load off my mind that I can just look at the data from them and I know where I am. - Now, those were the primary problems you wanted to solve when we first started. But the fun piece was what we could add to the mix once those things were actually resolved.
So, we added loyalty, review, user-generated content, subscriptions, and we worked on giving you the tools to improve email marketing. Let's start with loyalty, like, do you have Stamped fully set up yet? Are there any results to share? - We are this close to having the loyalty portion set up. It's not that difficult, it's just a matter of choosing a model. Once we have the loyalty integrated with it, I want to develop a program to get people not only to give more reviews, but to give more potent reviews, let's say, more reviews with images and videos.
So, with the way that we're thinking of doing it is taking Stamped's strength and loyalty and putting it together with the reviews, and using those two as a tool to get much better reviews. And at the same time, we'll be working on our loyalty application. We're just really going through and figuring out what are the pieces that we want to give points for? From what we've done so far, it's relatively simple to go in and map it out into the loyalty program.
- We wanted to leverage loyalty to generate those reviews, the user-generated content. And that's not set up, but you do have the ability to take in the user-generated content already. And so, are we seeing that content roll in? What kind of quality is it? And what kind of impact is it having? - Not seeing a ton of it yet, I think people are still used to, a lot of, especially repeat customers, they're used to the old text. So, we haven't seen much come in in terms of video and images.
I would've liked to have seen that, and frankly, I'm surprised that it hasn't happened. That's why we're gonna start using our tools to really start pushing that. - Is this one of the areas we really need to focus on then? - I think... - Is this a very high priority thing? - Yes, I think it could have a significant impact. You know as well as I do, when I see a picture of a candy, I'm more likely to buy it than when someone says this tastes good. - Let's talk about out subscriptions.
Another thing that it was taking you a little while to get together, right? Like, the new functionality takes a while because you've gotta kind of get used of all the changes. But you had started creating your first subscription with Recharge. Tell me about it.
- So, we have several products that we have on subscription. They haven't launched, so, like the Amazon model. Those haven't done so well, but we did put up our first Popcorn of the Month Club, that is really starting to take off. We've got people coming in, and now every couple of days, we get an order on that.
It's starting to get reviews. That is building on itself and it's given us enough success that we're actually starting two or three more programs in the next two or three weeks. - Now, when I was there, I don't know, what was it, a month ago or so, you said you wanted to have a hundred Popcorn of the Month subscribers in about... was it four to six weeks? - Not quite there.
- Now, this is on you. We haven't started, we haven't done anything with it. So, this is on you. Where are we at with it? How many subscribers do we have? - Probably 20 or so. We're not quite there on 100. - And that's a good start though.
- Yeah, I'm okay with it. - You've done no real marketing other than your email list and the banner on your homepage, right? - Right, nothing yet beyond that. - Okay. - So, I'm okay with that. - What we wanna do is build out some flows around getting user-generated content from them.
Maybe we incentivize them to do that. And we're gonna build several flows. So, we have to be careful not to overstimulate them or over-email them. But let's find some different threads and make sure we're splitting them out so that we're not bombarding them with subscription offers, user-generated content offers, loyalty offers.
So, you have to be careful from that perspective, but we definitely want to be segmenting and kind of mining people who buy X for the subscription for that particular product. - For the easiest, Klaviyo is to use. Klaviyo is one of the ones that we wanna follow up with because that tool in particular had so many options and so much we can do with it, especially when we get someone comes along and thinks out of the box that we're thinking in. Their flow system is different from what we're used to before, and I think that really helps. So, that's the one that, I think, probably can have the biggest effect.
- So, you think email is the biggest, like, the highest priority thing that we need to put some effort into now? - Email and Klevu are probably the two that I think will have the greatest return. Email does a great return as it is, but if we can use it as a tool to drive people back in, then yes. And then Klevu because it's all about what they see when they get there. - You've got access to the platform, and then the analytics last year were accurate. So, what do the numbers look like? - We're on par as terms of revenue, but it's actually good news because our AOV is a little bit lower, and our conversion rate is double.
Remember, we were in about the .6, .8. We tend to be 1.2, 1.3. So, there's a couple of reasons, I think, that our AOV is not where it should be. I think one is shipping.
I now know I can drop shipping a little more. Two is we have a lot of cheaper products out there now. - The things that we really wanna focus on moving forward are trying to increase the average order value. We want to really look at Klevu and all of the things it has around merchandising, and trying to make sure we're leveraging those to the best of our ability.
And we want to put some work into Klaviyo and email marketing. - That would be great. - We've got our mission as to what we need to do next. I'll reach out after this call, set up a time next week to start having those conversations. For those that are watching at home, as we follow along, we really want to try to show the results a little more.
So, it may take a little while to produce this content. We wanna show it all in one video, so you can kind of see the entire process of what we go through, and then the results. Let's start trying to prioritize and start fixing those issues.
- Excellent. (upbeat music) - In future videos, we're gonna be working with Ken to leverage these tools to continue his growth. Be sure to subscribe to be notified when those videos release.
And of course, go to ecommercemakeover.com to download our playbook on everything we've done to help Bulk Candy Store, including special offers on all the tools we've used. Click here if you wanna watch this series from the beginning, and here's another video that YouTube thinks you'll like.