ShipStation Talks Logistics and How the Holidays Can Impact Your Inventory
Another Friday Feedback has come and gone.
On November 9th, 2018 our own Andrew Maff sat down with Kevin Kline, Channel Account Manager of ShipStation to talk about what ShipStation does and how it can help you with shipping your products.
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Kevin Kline: Who I am, first and foremost, I'm Kevin Kline. I'm a channel account manager at ShipStation. I manage our partnerships with a variety of digital agencies across eCommerce. These are companies, if you don't know what a digital agency is, the Seller's Choice is one of them, one of our great partners, doing great work at eCommerce, can help you with just about anything you need.
For background on me, I worked in manufacturing, working in the music industry for about five or six years. I worked for Fender, I worked for a company called Core, doing a lot of stuff at eCommerce. I found that a lot of our eCommerce merchants, the biggest merchants that we had selling our products were using ShipStation. I was based in Austin the entire time, and ended up coming to ShipStation, because I was compelled by what was to me, at the time, a very cool product.
ShipStation in a nutshell, is a web based, SAS based shipping and automation application that integrates with 90 plus, it's actually trending more like 100 plus different marketplaces across eCommerce. These are places where orders are generated online, Amazon, eBay, that sort of thing, where we can pull in orders, in to a central dash board, where merchants can then do pick, pack, and ship, through a variety of carriers. These are all names you've probably seen, like planes at the airport, USPS, FEDEX, UPS, those guys.
The idea is, you bring in those orders, in to a dash board, you can do pick, pack, and ship, print postage right there, get it out in a timely manner, and have all that information seamlessly flow back in to wherever the order was generated. The customer's updated, and do that in the quickest and fastest way possible, to add scale.
The idea being that you can get out as many orders, as fast as you can, especially when eCommerce is growing like crazy. When you get a lot of orders in, you need to get them out in a timely manner, and ShipStation allows our merchants to do that.
Andrew Maff: Nice. That might have been the easiest way I've ever heard an ERP system explained, ever. It's a central thing, and it connects with everyone, it's great.
Kevin Kline: We don't see ourselves as a straight ERP, because we don't do a ton of financials, but certainly someone who needs to process orders and get the nuts and bolts of doing eCommerce like getting the box out the door, and making sure the customer's updated and has a tracking number, and stuff like that. That's really where our core competency lies.
Andrew Maff: You guys are like the kings of diversification, for the most part. It's like the second [crosstalk 00:02:45] you're ready to go off to another platform.
Kevin Kline: Yeah, our whole motto is that wherever they sell, however they ship, exceptionally, efficient. We really want to be wherever orders are generated, be it in an ERP, or an order management system, like a channel advisor, something like that, or an overall web store. Magento, Big Commerce, those kinds of companies. We just want to be there, and help people ship as efficiently as possible.
Andrew Maff: Nice. What is the order of how you see people move in to different market places? I'm guessing nine times out of 10, at least, nowadays, they're starting more or less either on their own site, or on Amazon. Then, they're moving in to other platforms, right?
Kevin Kline: Yeah. We see that a lot. It's really ease of getting in to it. It's real easy nowadays to get third party seller account on Amazon, and get a Seller Central account, and start either pulling in products from China, or reselling products from a manufacturer. You could be up and running in a day.
What we often see is that most people at ShipStation will connect a lot of different market places. They start to build competency in one, maybe it's Amazon, and then move in to eBay, or move in to, they've got their web store, they're selling niche things. By my background, in the music industry, a lot of people were selling on a platform called Reverb, which is a musical instrument reselling platform, which we have an integration with.
They start maxing out those channels, and then they have to figure out a way. "I've got all these orders, flowing from all these different channels. How do I manage that? How do I manage communication?" You can imagine, that if you had to log back in to a different web market place every time, and upload those tracking numbers in a manual way, that would be basically your life, at scale.
Andrew Maff: Right, so I actually started my career in the music industry, too. I'm very familiar. Are you talking about Reverb Nation?
Kevin Kline: Reverb Nation, but also, it's actually a platform for selling used musical instruments called Reverb.com, believe it or not.
Andrew Maff: Really?
Kevin Kline: Yeah, it's cool. It's basically the whole concept of, you can go and sell, my used Fender Stratocaster, for example. Maybe I sell two instruments a year, but it's just that, the whole idea that has fast, to get on more channels. As easy as they have made it now, to either resell products, or sell new products, they need stuff to be able to manage the nuts and bolts of shipping behind that.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. In terms of the integration from wherever a seller starts, to go in to another platform, what is the amount of time you typically see it takes a new seller to go in to a new platform?
Kevin Kline: That's a good question. It varies. Certainly, they may come find us because we integrate with Amazon. I've seen customer's who, they start with Amazon, and within a year they're doing 10 or 15 different channels. I guess it depends on how ubiquitous their product is. If it's a very commodity style product, you can sell it everywhere. If it's musical instruments, you're not selling in as many channels.
I would say within a year we start seeing pretty big traction. It's amazing how, once you solve the shipping component, once you've figured out, "I've got this whole thing of logistics streamlined and automated. Now I can turn my attention to growing my business." The first way to do that online in a lot of ways, or the easiest way to do it, is to maximize your selling channels.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. [inaudible 00:06:34] company. We're always in the market for new tools, and stuff like that. We're always looking for new stuff. Every time I go shopping for a new tool, I end up finding one or two, or even more features that I'm like, "Wow. I can't believe this thing does that." Where, I didn't really read it on the site, and it's one of those, now that I'm playing with it, this is a cool feature, kind of thing. What is it that ShipStation has, that's one of those things, that people don't even realize you can do?
Kevin Kline: Yeah, I would say, let me give you a marketing answer. We've really tried to explore this concept of, how do you brand the shipping experience? We have this phrase around here called branded shipping. We see touch points in the fulfillment process, where a merchant can extend their brand. These could be, literally the label itself, on the box.
You can actually put your, the store logo on the label, on the FEDEX label or the UPS label. You can actually customize the packing slip, make that really cool extendable moment in the branded process. One of my favorite features with ShipStation, though, is probably our branded tracking page. The thing that really impressed me when I first saw this was, that whole concept of sending an email.
When you've ordered a product, the shipment notification email. I've gotten emails from top 50 brands out there in eCommerce, that have just been awful, black and white text, "Your thing has shipped," and I click on the tracking number, and it bounces me to FEDEX. It says, "Label created." Little frustrating, you don't know. It's like, "Nothing's really happened. Come back in a day and check."
What ShipStation does is, we can actually send the email on behalf of the marketplace. You can actually make that email pop. It looks good. You can click a link that will take you to a page that we host, where it's branded. All the merchants see is a map, where their package is on the map, the touch points, as it moves through the mail stream. "It went to this facility and was scanned," or whatever.
It's branded. It shows the merchant's brand. It shows what's in the box. It's got an image there. It doesn't say anything about FEDEX. It doesn't say anything about, "Here's this new stamp from us, at USPS." It's this isolated, or a little more isolated experience in the customer journey, that allows that merchant to extend their brand.
That's probably one of the coolest things. Most of the time when I show people that, they're wowed by that, because it's just an afterthought. It's like, "I sent an email, and I got the tracking number," but we see it as an opportunity to extend the brand. I thought it was a neat feature.
Andrew Maff: Yeah, it's cool you guys do that kind of stuff. We talk about that a lot here. It's marketing so everyone's talking about funnels. Everyone's funnel seems to end as soon as they purchase. They have your product at home now, and it's in shipping. All this extra stuff, that happens after the actual use of the product, that everyone seems to skip over.
There's so many opportunities. In fact, I think it was two weeks ago, the Instagram live video that we did, was with a company called The Company Box. It's basically those subscription boxes, where you can fully brand it, and make them all cool looking, and everything. It just doesn't make sense to me, these sellers out here that, they get the sale, and then that's it.
You get the life time of a customer, when you brand them, and you put them through a whole experience. That extra value that you guys can add, after they've purchased, is always what keeps them coming back, and keeps them talking.
Kevin Kline: Yeah, for us it's all about, how can you create those wow moments post purchase? The little details, they add up. One of the big ones that are out there, everybody talks about this, through the Amazonification of shipping. Everybody's expectation now is two day, which we can help you do, without losing your shirt and having to pay every service fee, two day.
They're doing it well. If you get an Amazon box at your door, it's got Amazon paper on it. The box is branded Amazon. They recognize that post purchase experience is an important feature. I think that, more merchants need to be thinking in that mindset. The thing I always say is, "The last good experience a customer has, that's the new standard."
If their new standard is that it gets it there in two days, and it's branded, and you've got these wow moments around fulfillment, then you need to be trying, to at least beat that, because that's what they're seeing with half of eCommerce right now.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. I like that. I never thought I would say anything like that. Perfect time of year to look at, A, what are you seeing so far in Q4, then B, what are you guys thinking are going to be trends in 2019, that sellers should be looking out for?
Kevin Kline: For us, I'm seeing, a lot of people are now combining this whole concept of omnichannel. That's the big buzz word that's popping up in eCommerce. What I'm seeing, at least in the shipping world, is that, the merchants who are doing it well, are giving their customers more and more options around how to get their products.
More shipping options, being able to adjust the shipping options, knowing if I need something in a day, what's the extra cost? You should be able to see that, pre purchase, not post purchase. You should be able to see that at the cart. If I want to have the option of picking up from store, if I have a physical location, it's really this merging of the two channels, brick and mortar, and eCommerce.
For next year, I'm also seeing a lot of eCommerce getting in to that space. I think, as larger merchants are retreating from the big retail space. Everyone talks about this retail apocalypse. Stores are closing. I think, eCommerce merchants who are being really successful, have been successful, are now seeing a space where, "We could also have a physical store, where we could host inventory, and have people pick up locally."
The other big trend I'm seeing, and what I'll see, I think, in 2019, is this whole concept of how do we meet what Amazon is doing around same day? There are some great companies out there that are really pushing the whole same day angle. One of them is a company called Ship Bob, which is a partner of ours setting up fulfillment centers around these major metropolitan areas, where you can get your product same day.
You can offer your product same day, to merchants. You can meet Amazon. It's the whole concept of Amazonification of shipping. I think, merchants are just trying to figure out, not how do we meet it, because it's very hard to beat it. But, we've got to be there, we've got to be consistent, and offer the same services that the 800 pound gorilla is.
Just to put a bow on that, I'd say, the whole how do we meet Amazon, and how do we blend the idea of physical location and eCommerce? I think, that's really where it's headed.
Andrew Maff: Yeah, it's funny. We've been doing a similar approach through strictly just eCommerce, over the past year or so. We've actually gone more or less, down the channel approach, where we're actually taking sellers who have diversified. Obviously, let's say they've gone to you guys. They've gone to different platforms, so they're on Walmart, and eBay, and Jet, and Amazon, and all these things.
We've actually started to treat their website like their own, personalized market place. We're driving all the traffic through their website, like anyone else would, but we're actually adding, "Buy on Amazon, buy on Walmart, buy on Jet, buy on eBay." Let the consumer shop wherever they want. How many times does someone come on to your site and they go, "I really want this, but I also need new silverware, so I'm going to go to Amazon, and get that."
Then, they may on a competitor. At least, this way, you're sending them directly to your listing or wherever else they're purchasing. If its a localized place, it's like, "I can pick it up at Walmart. Why not go buy it on Walmart.com and then pick up in store?" You're actually treating all the Walmarts like your own, personalized location, if you have the ability to do that kind of stuff.
Kevin Kline: Yeah, exactly. I think, what that boils down to, is I think we're saying the same thing. We're just talking about options. It's just like, "Hey, I want every possible shipping option." That's how it relates to our world. That's what we preach, so we're always sounding like, "More options." Obviously, free shipping is great, but how do you do that without completely bleeding red?
Obviously, you're going to see conversion go up if free shipping is offered. I think, most consumers, it's well over half, that would say that shipping options are very important to them in the check out process. If you're not offering lots of options and lots of ways to do it, then you're not going to get the sale. Because, there's someone else that's going to be doing that same thing, and having the pick ups from store, having the same day options, knowing what their cost is, how fast it's going to get to them.
Not only that, when is it going to be delivered? All of those questions, all of those boxes are going to have to be checked, going in to next year, before customers make decisions to purchase anything.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. Kevin, really appreciate it. I don't want to take up more of your Friday.
Kevin Kline: No, I love this stuff. Geeking out on eCommerce is what we do.
Andrew Maff: Can you give me a nice, or maybe let everyone know where they can find you? Obviously, this will get put up on my YouTube and our blog, and all that fun stuff, so that the next time watches this, they can find anything they need about ShipStation.
Kevin Kline: Yeah, feel free. I would say your first point, to learn more about ShipStation, talk to the guys at Seller's Choice. They know our product really well. I would say, go to our partners, they can tell you a lot about it. Of course, you can always go to ShipStation.com, you can check us out.
30 day free trial. In terms of, if you want the best experience, I'd say, hit up Seller's Choice, and ask them, "What do I need to do, to get introduced to someone at ShipStation?" They can introduce you to me, and we can have a conversation.
Andrew Maff: Beautiful. Appreciate it. Love to be partnered with you guys. I'm sure I'll be talking to you a lot more.
Kevin Kline: Yeah. No problem, Man. Thank you.
Andrew Maff: We'll talk music next time. Thanks, appreciate it, enjoy your weekend.
Kevin Kline: You too, bye.