How Lucky Pet automated logistical and delivery processes
Adopting a new ecommerce platform and integrated services has paid dividends for the pet goods supplier.
Jeff Willis founded pet goods supplier Lucky Pet as an eBay-based business around six years ago. He started with a self-hosted Magento site using a free template, but subsequently engaged offshore developers to upgrade the site and connect it to eBay.
That was fine until the PayPal integration stopped working, so he switched to ecommerce platform Neto after also considering BigCommerce and Shopify.
Among Neto's advantages was the fact that “customer service is in my timezone,” Willis told Business IT.
Lucky Pet had added a physical shop to its online activities and more recently started a wholesale operation, so Neto's point-of-sale capability plus its ability to manage inventory across multiple channels were important considerations. The business hired its first employee a few months after the shop opened, and now employs eight people. And “we just got our first forklift,” Willis says.
Neto's Pick'n Pack order dispatch add-on has also proved very useful, according to Willis. When an order is passed to the packing team, Pick'n Pack provides the relevant bin numbers and they scan each item's barcode to confirm that it is the right one.
This will be especially important for maintaining accuracy when temporary staff are engaged to handle the pre-Christmas rush, he observed.
Pick'n Pack integrates with several major carriers (including the three Lucky Pet uses: Australia Post, Fastway, and StarTrack Express), and prints shipping labels and manifests.
The level of integration is “a huge time-saver,” says Willis. All his staff have to do is pick the carrier, or leave Neto to make the decisions. The rest – printing the labels, booking the collection, sending tracking information to the customer, and where necessary updating a marketplace such as eBay – all happens automatically.
Lucky Pet previously used the Temando shipping platform (which integrates with Neto), but Willis found it was more advantageous to have direct relationships with carriers. If you use an intermediary, you can either accept the price offered or go elsewhere; but a one-to-one relationship allows for negotiations.
These integrated warehouse management capabilities are a big deal for Lucky Pet. The business processes around 100 orders a day, and even three or four picking errors a week is a significant problem. Not only is the customer inconvenienced (with the consequent risk of negative reviews even if the matter is settled promptly), but staff time is expended fixing the problem, there are additional shipping costs, and the temporarily incorrect stock figures can mean other orders cannot be fulfilled on time.
Lucky Pet started using Pick'n Pack in its wholesale operations, and so far there has been zero errors. The retail side is adopting it shortly: “I think it's going to be fantastic,” says Willis. “As a small business, using this type of technology is going to be huge for us.”
The time taken to get warehouse staff up to speed is reduced from months to a couple of days, he said.
This type of technology is worth considering for as few as 20-30 orders per day, Willis suggests. “Sometimes people get a bit complacent when picking” even if they are the owners of the business, he observed self-deprecatingly. For example, if there are 3000 stock lines, it's very easy to pick a three-pack of a particular product because that's what most people buy, even though the actual order was for a six-pack. Barcode scanning can eliminate that problem.
One example is that Lucky Pet is able to send announcements about in-store specials only to those customers within reach of the shop. Another is that when Royal Canin pet food was in short supply, it could offer customers who regularly bought those products a $10 voucher to try a different brand to encourage them to keep shopping with Lucky Pet.
The ability to link Neto to Google Shopping has been “huge”, according to Willis. Not only is it easier to set up than other marketplaces, it attracts people who know what they want and thus provides a good return on Lucky Pet's investment.
Lucky Pet still sells through eBay, and more recently via Amazon. Neto is still polishing its Amazon integration, says Willis, who also points out there are still a few Amazon issues, such as the way it doesn't seem to understand that the same products may be sold in different packaging – and even under different brand names – in markets outside the US. “That's an Amazon thing,” he observes.
Asked for his advice for anyone moving into ecommerce for the first time, Willis recommended a low-end Neto plan. If you're only selling a few items a day, it's fine to use Australia Post's portal for dispatch, and to export products to eBay if required.
And if you are a bricks-and-mortar operation expanding into ecommerce, Neto's ability to manage shared inventory is valuable, and you can probably integrate your existing POS system with Neto, he says.
You don't need the more advanced facilities such as Pick'n Pack (and multi-carrier integration) while online sales volumes are low, but it is reassuring to know these capabilities are there when you grow into them, Willis suggests.
Having someone else (such as Neto) look after the technicalities such as keeping your site running and managing SSL certificate can actually save money compared with doing all the work yourself, he says.
But it's largely a matter of understanding your goals, Willis advises. If you intend to stay small and are satisfied with a simple ecommerce site, then anything other than self-hosting (where you operate the server and manage the software powering your site) is probably OK.
Next: How Mayde Tea streamlined its deliveries with new ecommerce and shipping solutions