E-Commerce · Retail

Scaling and order fulfillment?

Lucia Guh-Siesel CEO & Founder, Bandalou

March 30th, 2016

We launched our website a few weeks ago and we're getting killed with orders and order fulfillment.  Currently, we're manually tracking our orders on a spreadsheet in google docs.  But our sales are outpacing our ability to track and fulfill orders in a timely manner.  Because we hold very little inventory, we only order from the manufacturer once we have the sale.  The problem is volume.  We simply do not have enough manpower and hours in the day to track.

Does anyone have suggestions on a better way to do this?  I'm thinking we need something automated - software that can alert us when an order is languishing (i.e. someone dropped the ball and the item didn't ship from the manufacturer or didn't get logged in).  We may need to hire as well.

Because we're new to retail/ecommerce, I would appreciate all suggestions.  Any experts in FD on scaling B2C businesses?

Thanks - L.

Josh Litwin CEO Memento Press, Inc.

March 30th, 2016

Hi Lucia,

I've been through this cycle several times, as VP ops or COO.
Twice, we scaled from zero to 10K orders/day within 18 months.
Would be happy to spend a few minutes talking about your options.
I have a few refining questions that will help zero in on a fast-to-implement, low cost, real-world solution to what you're facing.

Josh Litwin

Rob G

March 30th, 2016

you could consider fulfillment by Amazon at least until you stop the hemorrhaging. 

Jim Hodson Digital Marketing Strategist & SEO Evangelist

March 30th, 2016

Hello Lucia,

Automating the order tracking could be something as simple as using Zapier (https://zapier.com/) for now to automatically update a Google Doc, trigger emails, database updates, etc.  But you'll likely need a robust suite of software to manage things like purchasing, order management, shipping, and more if things continue at the current pace.  But tracking is probably the least of your worries at this point.

I would be more concerned about  the fact that "[you] only order from the manufacturer once [you] have the sale."  This is a terrible order/shipment management process.  In today's world, people expect to receive their product with 2-3 days of ordering (I get things delivered several times per week).

The best approach that offers the highest margins is to inventory/warehouse the product yourself.  While this does come with  additional work (an additional risks like buying more product than you can sell), it's necessary to maximize margins and provide customers with a great experience.

The other option is to find one or more "reliable" drop shippers (or Amazon) to fulfill orders on your behalf.  I hesitate to mention Amazon as they are ANY B2C ecommerce site's worst enemy. 

Tanya Wright Crystal Burset on ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and creator of HAIRiette of HARLEM hairiette.com

March 30th, 2016

I am of the "if you can't  beat them, join them " mentality (re:Amazon). All great answers and a great problem to have! Curious, would you be willing to share what you're  doing that's  driving so much traffic to your site?

Mark Rosenberg Tax, securities and commercial litigation

March 30th, 2016

You may want to consider raising a small amount of capital in order to buy more inventory, particularly if you want to make sure that you can fulfill orders quickly and build trust with the customer. Many of my start up company clients get some small loans from friends and family, some of which may convert to equity at a later point. Let me know if I can help with this.

Lucia Guh-Siesel CEO & Founder, Bandalou

March 31st, 2016

Tanya, I think the traffic is coming from the fact that our website is unique.  We are helping parents save on high-end baby products through crowdsourcing -- banding parents together into small, intimate buying groups.  So my guess is word of mouth, and a couple of blogger mommies.  We launched just 10 weeks ago and we've been visited by 49 states and 107 countries.  Last night I was on our analytics and there was someone from Mauritius.  I was like, Mauritius?  Where is Mauritius??  And they came direct - in fact, 68% of our traffic is direct/organic.  So I have to assume it's word of mouth.

Bandalou is in its infancy, so it's early days.  But my advice for you is you have to do something unique, create a group of evangelist customers and they'll tell your friends.  Hope that helps!

Derick Smith Distributed Systems Entrepreneur

March 30th, 2016

Would have to know more about the platform you run on. There are many tools available that can accomplish a lot for a dropshipping business like Channeladvisor, but they are quite expensive.

Yassine Elkaryani Managing Partner at Mercy Tech Consulting

March 30th, 2016

Hi Lucia-

Seems that alerts would make your life a bit easier.

If you are willing to invest in automation, then you need a CRM or workflow software that embeds an API from UPS or Fedex (or whatever carrier you use). Your web developer can do that job.

If you do not want to spend a lot of money on that, then you can always set up alerts on UPS or Fedex for items that you ship. The notifications will be sent to you by email or text.

If you cannot do it manually, you shouldn't automate it.

Jason Agent Red Seeber

March 30th, 2016

This is a nice problem to have!

I'd suggest either rolling your own software or going with something like Shopify, which has a ton of excellent features and lots of 3rd party add-ons to support various aspects of your business. 

Our needs were so specialized that we built our own. If you need suggestions for developers, I would be happy to point to to some great ones.

Lucia Guh-Siesel CEO & Founder, Bandalou

March 30th, 2016

Great. What's a good time to talk? Best, L. Please excuse any typos.