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E117: Andrew Norman

Why Perfecting The Shipping Process is Key to Creating Happy Customers and Maintaining a Good Reputation

Andrew Norman

Podcast Overview

We have all received a package from Amazon in an oversized brown box with far too much packaging, right? The only differentiating factor on the box is your name and address. This provides you with an opportunity to compete with one of the fastest delivery giants.  

Personalisation and premium experience is a must! Did you know that personalising your company’s shipping process and creating a premium experience with your packaging can grow your customer engagement by 50%?!

Andrew uses his long-time involvement in the shipping world to tell us what you are doing wrong with your shipping process and why it’s killing your business. 

eCom@One Presents:

Andrew Norman 

Andrew Norman has spent the majority of his career working with some of the largest shipping solutions in the world and has helped thousands of merchants across the world fulfil their shipping needs. 

In this podcast, Andrew talks about why having a high-quality and well-organised shipping process is so important, what you can do within your shipping service to compete with big brands such as Amazon and where companies are going wrong.

Andrew has years of experience within this industry and gives his professional insight on the topic. He shares what the actual repercussions are if you do it wrong and how to change that to create happy customers and high profits. Is £9.99 next-day delivery killing the planet? Tune in to find out. 

Now is the time to take your shipping and purchase experience to the next level to maintain a good reputation and create happy returning customers. 

Topics Covered:

1:45 – How Andrew got into the eCommerce world

3:40 – Why having a high-quality shipping process is so important

8:05 – Where you are going wrong with your shipping process

19:13 – What happens when it all goes wrong

25:30 – Andrews recommendation for post-purchase experience 

31:09 – How to perfect the art of returns 

35:02 – What can Merchants do to compete with Amazon’s shipping service

43:13 – Dealing with shipping gone wrong 

48:01 – Book recommendation 

48:45 – Find out more about Andrew 

Richard:
Hi there, I'm Richard Hill, the host of eCom@One. Welcome to episode 117. In this episode I speak with Andrew Norman, who spent the majority of his career working with some of the largest shipping solutions in the world, helping merchant streamline their order fulfillment. In this episode, we're told why the shipping experience is so important when selling products online. Things can go wrong when it comes to shipping and how can a company mitigate the damage from a bad delivery experience? Andrew's opinion on free next day delivery for a year if you pay $9.99 tactic, what successful companies are doing well and when it comes to shipping and so much more. If you enjoy this episode, hit the subscribe or follow button wherever you are listening to this podcast so you're always the first to know when a new episode is released. Now let's head over to this fantastic episode.

Richard:
This episode is brought to you by eComOne, eCommerce marketing agency. eComOne works purely with eCommerce stores scaling their Google shopping, SEO, Google search, and Facebook ads through a proven performance-driven approach. Go to eComOne.com/resources for a host of amazing resources to grow your paid and organic channels.

Richard:
Hi and welcome to another episode of eCom@One. Today's guest, Andrew Norman, general manager at ShipStation. How are you doing, Andrew?

Andrew Norman:
I'm good. Thanks for inviting me.

Richard:
No problem.

Andrew Norman:
Happy to be here.

Richard:
No problem at all. Absolute pleasure to have you on. Now we actually had our first power cut issue when Andrew was due on the podcast. Can you believe it? So here we are a couple of weeks later, finally managed to get you on. So thank you so much for agreeing to come on, Andrew.

Andrew Norman:
My pleasure.

Richard:
Talking all things shipping fulfillment in this episode. But I think before we get into the Q&A, it'd be good for you to give the guys a bit of background on how you got up into the eCommerce world.

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, good question. Like most people, kind of by accident. Actually a few friends of mine invested in the business which was helping merchants sell on multiple channels in multiple countries. So it was kind of a classic multichannel play based in the UK in 2011. So started with that business and then I started working very closely with Amazon and eBay and other web platform, Shopify back in the day when they were a lot smaller. So we were working with merchants of different sizes. Some of them were large like Superdry and Dixon's Car Phones, some of them were very, very small, which was great. I think it was inspiring and enlightening just how much complexity there is, let's say, on selling online, though an amazing opportunity and some real challenges. So I learned some very painful lessons with our merchants and retailers of how to sell on different channels in different countries and all of the shenanigans that goes with that. So that's kind of a plotted history.

Andrew Norman:
Then since then I took that business to the US, which is actually how I started working with ShipStation. They were a partner of ours and then I joined the ShipStation team in 2018. So like most businesses, they're all connected together, which is how we ended up here.

Richard:
Very much so. So been in the industry quite a while then, a bit like myself sort of thing. Yeah, seen it from different sides. Obviously you've done a lot out in the US and obviously UK. But you're based in the UK now. General manager at ShipStation. I think, obviously, there won't be a listener if there're in eCommerce that hasn't had something to do with shipping fulfillment, obviously. Even on the marketing side. Obviously if you can't get the products to the people, it doesn't matter what you're doing or you can't have a good experience shall we say, with the delivery and the fulfillment piece. Doesn't matter what marketing, what money you spend at and throw at acquisition, it's going to come back and maybe bite you if people aren't coming back. So what would you say, why is having a really good delivery fulfillment partner process within your eCom store, why is it so important?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, that's a good question. I would say we have this, we've been doing a few sessions over the years about is it a tick box or is it a differentiator, I guess? That's provocative question. I think historically it still is an operational cost and operational expense, we all know that. But I do believe delivery is an important part of the overall experience. As you've rightly said, you can spend a lot of money acquiring a customer, but if they have a terrible experience then the likelihood of them buying from you again is much lower. So I would say there is an opportunity to differentiate, if you can. If not provide a great experience. Because we know, I guess to your point, we know that shipping and returns, because obviously we sometimes just think about shipping being the outbound, but that whole delivery and return experience has a direct impact on your conversion rate, I guess, from a merchant perspective. Also the propensity for you to buy from that brand manufacturer retailer again.

Andrew Norman:
So your question is massive, which is great. So I think dependent on where you are in that journey. I guess, during COVID we've seen direct consumers, you've probably seen yourself, some of the listeners, direct to consumers has become a big thing. So I think a lot of brands and distributors I guess would try to figure out how they deliver all of a sudden because they've been historically rookies to delivery. So all the way to other people that have a very mature and evolved delivery and returns experience. So we would say it's critical to that overall experience. We see some very generic experiences and some very personalized and some very rich experiences.

Richard:
There is such a vast breadth there, isn't there? From simply you're ordering, you get no-comms and a box turns up, brown box and you open it and that's that. Or there's the other end of the scale where you're getting comms all the way along, whether that's text, email. Then obviously there's a lot more to this, I'm making it a very short version. But ultimately, I know from massive experience of my almost addiction for buying stuff which was a problem last year, but I've had a little work on myself this year. Literally I was like pulling the wheelie bin out at Christmas thinking, "Oh my God, what is all this stuff?"

Andrew Norman:
Stop buying stuff.

Richard:
I know genuinely. We've gone as a company, really company and personally big time, gone from literally. Obvious as a company we're buying a lot of stuffs for the teams and various people within the business and departments and myself and whatnot. The podcast alone, we've bought God knows what stuff to get everything moving. But some of those experiences through the year that I've had are through that scale completely.

Richard:
Some of the brands that really stand out for me obviously that do do it well, you know where you are with that delivery, when it's going to be arriving, the name of the driver and whatnot. But ultimately when you get that package, I think coffee has really stood out for me, a couple of the coffee brands have really stood out for me this last year. It's quite a low value product really. I've got a couple of subscriptions running, 12-13 pounds per company, which is not massive money. But subscription wise, one of them I probably signed up in that first week of lockdown, it's been running for what we are on now, lose track, 24 months are we in now, I think something like that?

Andrew Norman:
Pretty much, yeah.

Richard:
Yeah, pretty much. Should be probably 25, 26 before we go live. So 26 months later, that's about 300 pounds I've now spent with them. I've not spent 11 pound with them or 13 pound with them, I spent three and I'll probably end up spending a grand with them. That is very much about that experience for me. I think that experience of opening that coffee and the way it's packaged, the way it's branded, the way it's almost personalized, and maybe we could talk about that as well. Really, really, really has made me stick around. Obviously the coffee is damn good as well. You got to get that right. But obviously you working with a lot of merchants, a lot of different merchants, thousands of merchants. What are some of the things, I've talked about a few of the cool things maybe there, what are some of the things that you think and see that companies are getting wrong? Things that our listeners need to think, "God dammit we're doing that, we're doing that, we're doing that, or need to avoid that." What are some of the things that we should be looking at?

Andrew Norman:
It's a good question actually. But if I just come back to your previous point, which I think this is obviously the divisive, provocative thing, but regardless of how you feel about Amazon, coming back to your question, they've just proven that delivery is everything. I'm not saying the delivery experience ... Amazon have a predictable delivery experience. But my point is they turned it on its head. They've went from where, to your earlier question, delivery was just part of the process. Whereas now delivery has now become their main flywheel or their main enabler, because Prime is so predictable. So as I say, regardless of how you feel about Amazon, sickly some people listening to this that might not generate great reaction for them. But the point is you have to admire and respect to some degree the machine that they've built around Prime has single handedly raised a bar for everyone kind of in our market. That's the reality of the situation.

Richard:
Yeah, totally. It's just that convenience and really you just know. Reliability is absolutely, you know when you order when it's going to arrive and it does arrive then, doesn't it?

Andrew Norman:
So coming back to your second point then, which is great, I think in our world we kind of sit in the order stream, if that makes sense. So although we're kind of helping brands, manufacturers, and retailers fulfill products, just to keep it simple, we actually sit in the order flow if that makes sense. So we help our customers ingest their orders and then route their order to the right place. So the reason I'm going there is we still see people that don't have accurate inventory and stock. So the delivery experience starts after you and I put in our credit/debit card details and then click buy and then guess what? You get an email shortly after saying, "Sorry that items out of stock," or whatever. So I think it starts with that inventory and stock piece to be kind of transparent because I still buy, you probably still buy ... I bought some over Christmas and very large retailers that still don't have great inventory and stock systems.

Andrew Norman:
You buy and you're immediately pissed off because you're like, "Well I bought this for my kids and you're now telling me I'm not going to get that item in time for Christmas."

Richard:
Terrible experience.

Andrew Norman:
So I think personally it starts a little bit further upstream, if that makes sense, with your inventory and stock I think is critical. It's bread and butter for us as we know in this industry. But I still see people that don't have great inventory in stock, if you know what I mean. So they're selling product they don't have. Also the inverse, sometimes they have product in their warehouse that they don't know about and those items aren't for sales. So that whole working capital is a big opportunity . Then beyond that I would say give people options. It's interesting when you work in an industry because the answer is sort of change your hat interchangeably. How we think as a consumer, we're so disloyal if that's the right word, and so fickle, and so expectant that when you turn them back into business mode you think, "Oh my god, that's really difficult for a retailer to actually deal with a demand in consumer."

Andrew Norman:
But I think that's the point, we are now much more expectant and we want whenever, however we want. So providing choice and options to consumers, it sounds obvious but again we still see people that don't provide many choices or options. You have a royal mail which is great, nothing wrong with royal mail but you may want something else. So we've seen a lot around lockers and the kind of pickup points is now becoming a big thing.

Richard:
Yeah, you definitely see that more, don't you? Even on the small emerge. Yeah, everybody here across the industry.

Andrew Norman:
So choice would be my second point. Third is I guess what we call post purchase or post shipping, meaning tracking. So I guess it's like anything that's two sides of the picture, the consumers like, "Where's my order? What's happening? You've gone dark on me, I can't see what's happening." The inverse of that is the merchants getting crushed with phone calls and emails. "Where's my order? Where's my order? Where's my order?" Right?

Richard:
Yeah.

Andrew Norman:
So that's the obvious part then is how do you provide a great tracking experience? We do things like we provided branded tracking. So rather than sending the consumer to a generic landing page, we would send them to a branded tracking page for example, where you can extend your brand or you can put other complimentary products. You're trying to actually make that tracking and delivery experience part of your overall brand experience. That's something that we recommend and that we see too. Then obviously returns. So choice tracking, good tracking information, good details, good data, sorry, excuse me. Then returns. Returns is a big part of it. So depending on which category you're in, as you know very well yourself, some categories return rates are 30%, 40%, 50%.

Richard:
Yeah, apparel, fashion. Yeah.

Andrew Norman:
Exactly. So how do you provide that simple transparent process. So that would be kind of our perspective on that.

Richard:
Yeah, that's brilliant. I think that first one. So I'm assuming then that everything you've mentioned you do at ShipStation, maybe not the first one around stock levels and inventory, would that be right?

Andrew Norman:
We do a little bit of that. For smaller retailers they use our inventory stock, but oftentimes we would be working in conjunction with an ERP system, or some kind of core inventory stock system.

Richard:
I think that's one that, having ran the eCommerce stores myself for about 10 years and then the people that I know personally that run them obviously a lot. Because that's one that I think, those stock levels, it's one that is quite often missed. Especially when you talked about obviously making sure the stock is an obvious one so you're not selling something and then naturally having a bad experience like a Christmas, like you were saying with children not getting their toys, there's nothing worse. You are never going to buy from that firm again. You let down a family members, your wife's Christmas present or whatever it is you, that's it. Done. But that element of stock that you've got sitting around, products that you need to move that maybe certain products that have come via returns and you've got to resell them as a B grade or something. Typically there can be obviously tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds sitting in the returns department.

Andrew Norman:
Exactly right.

Richard:
Then just stock. That was very much my business unfortunately, an element of it. I had a PC component business for 10 years. Our returns department, it's a very technical product selling graphics cards, loading boards, memory and things. It was just nature of the game. But there was always circa, I would say, and this is going back, this is probably 12 years ago I sold that business. But it's probably about 70,000-100,000 in that department in our business at any one time. Well obviously that product's got to be either turned around sent back to manufacturer to be obviously credited or a replacement sent. But obviously nine times out of 10 there's nothing wrong with that product. It obviously depends in the industry I guess fashion most times there's nothing wrong with the product, it's the size problem. It's got to be recycled or it's got to be repacked, checked and then put back, whether that's a B stock or putting out as cheaper price. But 5,000 grand a year that's maybe just sitting dead.

Richard:
That could be the difference between profits and no profit at the end of the year for a smaller retailer potentially. So I think that is one that is really good from a commercial aspect. But yeah, brilliant. I think having those shipping options quite often you just don't see it. Do you? You talked about obviously having that royal mail and then all the way through to whether that's booking it into a, where it goes into a delivery, a building where you go and pick it up, that type of thing. I think that's more and more prevalent now, isn't it?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, I think what we're recommending is give ... Well there's two parts again to your point. One is providing choice for the consumer, but also providing yourself choice as the retailer. There are certain carriers that are, well certainly fulfillment options, excuse me, that are better for different products, different skews that you have. I think some of the things that we saw related to your point was during Brexit a lot of people just started putting inventory outside of the UK. They just started putting inventory into Holland and Belgium and using 3PLs to do it. So I think if you kind of zoom out, it's almost about really what is the right fulfillment option for that type of product in that type of market? That's probably the sort of macro decisions. Then the rest become details that hang off the back of that, what's the right carrier in that country? But there is that order. We're kind of more in the order orchestration, so where should that order go? What's the best way of getting it to the consumer I guess is kind of the things we're trying to help-

Richard:
Would it be right in thinking then that, you talk about some firms obviously moved their logistics maybe out if we're talking about UK as an example out the UK, to somewhere else in Europe. So certain products maybe it's more accepted that there's going to be a two, three day, five day, seven day. So therefore we may then house those or have those in fulfillment centers somewhere further afield, it's cheaper potentially. Would that be right?

Andrew Norman:
That's definitely part of it. But I think it's also about trying to get your product closer to the consumer. I think what we saw is retailers that have been really active in Europe, they realize they were just segment. I guess looking at their data, what are the items that were typically selling into those markets, then they were either duplicating or locating subsets of their inventory into those countries so they can actually sidestep all of the pain that they were going through of getting HS codes and ERE numbers and all that kind of friction that they had. So they were just sidestepping that and putting that product closer to the consumer where they knew there was demand for that product. That was the decisions that they were making. But we also help people do drop ship. So obviously to your earlier point, you want to sell in as many places as you can, really as many relevant channels as you can and therefore having virtual or drop ship stock or distributed inventory in different countries or sorry, different markets, excuse me, I think is what we're seeing more and more of.

Andrew Norman:
So we're kind of more about orchestrating and fulfillment of orders regardless of where they are and where they're going to some extent.

Richard:
Yeah, yeah. Now lots of great stuff there. I think a lot to be thinking about, guys listening in. Okay, so what would you say are some of the true costs to getting it wrong? Ultimately I could pull out all these really good experiences, but definitely I've ordered various things that have looked like they've been bounced around, as I'm sure we all have, they've been bounced around the back of a van or whatever it may be. I've brought a lot of garden products that have leaked everywhere and had no text messages or messages to say ... What would you say, what's the sort of bigger impact? Obviously one delivery is one delivery for that individual, but the bigger impact on that business, what are some of their ... Let's get our listeners thinking about the real potential severity of getting this wrong.

Andrew Norman:
These are going to be some kind of obvious answers, but the brand reputation stuff is the stuff that is quite scary. I mean social media is just turbocharged that the winners and losers in some ways in a situation, let's say, we see some people get thrown under the bus sort of relentlessly for something that happened. I think that's the obvious thing, that clearly there's very hard costs in terms of the cost of replacements, replenishment and all that stuff. Just in terms of fixed hard costs as it were. But that's sort more intangible. But particularly if we're a really, well for any business but an emerging brand or in a certain category where it's sacred almost. I think that brand's sort of reputation, that damage to what happens and the effect that has and the likelihood of that consumer or a cohort of consumer ever buying from you again I think is probably the biggest of elephant in the room.

Andrew Norman:
So breaking down your point, again, it's a fantastic question that has different things we often see. Maybe to turn the point on its head, our kind of current hypothesis is what's the fastest, safest, cheapest and greenest way of getting that order to the consumer? There probably are other criteria or criterion, but I think those are the kind of four, I guess we feel: fastest, safest, cheapest, greenest. So in a really exaggerated example, if you're selling iPhone cases or small accessories, maybe lower value, high volume, then obviously your choice of fulfillment or carrier might be different from, just looking at my Mac here. If you're selling Mac Books, your choice of fulfillment going to be very different. So I think your point is, most people listening in will have probably figured this out or however gut feel. I think there's options, there's options. Apply some logic, have some rules and try and segment that out for your inventory and the type of product you're selling and the consumers you're selling to.

Richard:
Quite a lot of common sense for the listeners there isn't it? If you're selling bespoke dining tables at four grand, it's not about price is it? It's about that white glove carrier partner that's going to make sure that ... One return for you is going to be a pain, or any returns are going to be a pain. Big margins potentially. Well big value, big moving things around thousands of pounds, you might book example that returns damages. That care, that personal service is absolutely key, isn't it? Whereas smaller items we can maybe have a bit more flex, we can build in a bit more expectation around returns maybe and things like that. But yeah, great stuff.

Andrew Norman:
So for example, a typical setup might be whichever country, and I'm conscious that listeners may be in different countries, so to anonymize it we would have a postal option, let's call it. So a royal mail or whatever postal in your country, you would have an economy service, you would have a premium service and then you would have an international service if that makes sense. That's kind of the typical setup, right? You'd have three stroke, four fulfillment options let's say. That's a very classic setup.

Richard:
Yeah, no that makes sense. So I'd imagine the list is now thinking, "Yeah we need to have a look at this, have a look at what options we've got, who we're working with now." Obviously working with you guys sort of opens up a lot of options because you've got relationship with the different carriers, is that right?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, that's right. So we kind of have two parts to our picture. One is kind of the order sizes. So the order side. So we connect into various different selling channels around the globe. So eCom platforms that you're familiar with, Adobe, Shopify, pretty much all of the eCom platforms. We also then connect into marketplaces. So all of the major marketplaces in North America and Europe and Asia now we're connecting to that. So our thing is about enabling you to sell in as many channels as you can. We don't help you push products up to those channels for merchandising and PLA and other things like that. But anytime we can ingest those orders from those selling channels and then orchestrate those orders to the right place. So carriers is then the other part of our picture, we work with #PLs. So we have a 3PL network already kind of pre-integrated or pre-wide into ShipStation and then obviously a bunch of carriers, as you can imagine. We have most of the major carriers in North America and Europe plugged into the platform.

Richard:
Got it pretty well covered then, to say the least.

Andrew Norman:
Well because you need choice. I mean coming onto your earlier point. It's interesting we'd have this conversation internally, it's almost like a long tail but the long tail's really important because you'd be surprised how many random places and random technology platforms people use to operate the business on. So we've kind of invested in that long tail. If you look on our website on shipstation.com, you'll see there's a very long list of integrations. But we know that over the years that has served our merchants well because it allows them to experiment. It also allows them to migrate, if they do move platforms or they move carriers, it doesn't matter because we already have the covered. So it gives them flexibility.

Richard:
So the ability to almost that click of a button, literally. We've realized that a particular carrier maybe is having more of a challenge in a certain area, I know that's probably quite rare but it can happen Christmas time, maybe. Oh blimey there is news that royal mail is struggling. Well okay we'll implement and introduce other options very, very quickly with your solutions sort of thing.

Andrew Norman:
And on the eCommerce side, people do migrate platforms. So they might migrate from eCom platform A to B or they might move to ERP platform. So we're kind of looking at that whole order flow into all of the carriers.

Richard:
Brilliant. So I think something we did touch on briefly, but I think I'm really keen to go in there a bit heavier because it's something we're talking about a lot more and a lot of other episodes is something that's sort of really front and center within our agencies. This sort of post-purchase experience and the sort of things that we can do. We know that companies on the marketing side, we're spending a lot of money on acquisition. So we've now got that order, we've bought that customer in one way or another, we've paid to acquire that customer and obviously making sure they have a really, really good post-purchase experience. What are some of your recommendations that you've seen of people doing it really well in terms of that post-purchase experience?

Andrew Norman:
So the first part's, it's a little bit of repetition, but the first part is obviously to provide choice. That's the first thing in the front end. Because you want to provide people choices. Then those choices then kind of cascade through, if that makes sense. So if you are using for UK listeners a DPD, or a carrier that has really good technology to keep the consumer up-to-date all the way through that journey allows them different options to do different things that say then, that's not a plug for DPD. But just use that as example. So those are the kind of things. So it's all about tracking, it's all about information. It's all about giving the consumer chances to do stuff, they're not in or they need to reroute it, they need to reschedule it. Collection is a big thing as well.

Andrew Norman:
We have, some of our merchants for example use drop off. Some of them have services collected. So I guess my point is to provide, not only the merchant options, but then to provide the consumer options. So that's the first thing. Tracking information, delivery options I guess as they often call it. Where do you want it delivered? Do you want it rooted to another location? Do you want to deliver it to a neighbor? Obviously the consumer wants it, but also the merchant and the carrier doesn't want to have to go and deliver it four times or try and deliver it four times. So everybody wins hopefully. That's the-

Richard:
One I like is, I don't know if you ... Well correct me if I'm wrong or tell me how it works, but I know on certain carriers that you get the ping and you can see where the driver is on the map. So if I'm about to do a podcast at home, which is 80% of my podcast, it's like Okay he's going to have to leave it because I can't go to the door or I might go to the door and do an edit obviously. But I think that's really handy. Really, really handy. It's a real ... Oh yeah, brilliant. Right? Rather than this, it's going to be delivered tomorrow before 1:00 AM, sorry, 1:00 PM.

Andrew Norman:
All day delivery. A lot of them are, yeah, you're just getting them all day.

Richard:
Or next day when you get that, "You're seven stops away, an estimated time is ..." Then they tighten that window and you've got maybe a 15 minute window. More and more carriers doing that or is it just specific ones doing that?

Andrew Norman:
There's definitely much more investment in technology as you probably seen during COVID, again to listeners where whichever country you're in, the whole online sort of exploded. So I think some carriers have fared better than others. Some of them I think have, they've all been exploding, I guess to kind of break your question down. Some of them have invested heavily in technology and some of them have spent capital on building distribution centers and hiring drivers. So some of them have some great technology which definitely gives the consumer options. Some of them have probably spend a lot of their capital on just scaling out, adding more DCs, distribution centers excuse me, and hiring thousands of drivers. But there's more and more options. Touching on the thing you and I talked about earlier on, there's also the whole sort of locker.

Andrew Norman:
It's not just about delivery to the door now. That's the sort of default, let's say, but in different countries we started working with merchants in France now and what we call Kudo pickup drop off, it's mainstream. It's actually socially frowned upon to have deliveries delivered to your office, for example. So if you're working long hours then having stuff delivered-

Richard:
I'll have to tell my team that

Andrew Norman:
So having lockers not only to drop off your parcel or your return, but also then to be able to go to a location and pick up your item is definitely something that is definitely emerging.

Richard:
On the rise. It's not something I've done but I have to admit it's not many places I've ordered from recently that haven't got that option. Literally we ordered something the other day, something for work and I was like, "Oh okay." It wasn't something I chose. But that option is more and more prevalent, isn't it? I think that will be convenience, isn't it? Ultimately if you don't want to have to stay in all day.

Andrew Norman:
Particularly in big cities around the world where you have high of density of population. If you are in and out of train stations or underground stations, let's say, having a locker right there just makes sense, right? It's a no brainer.

Richard:
Yeah, yeah. Brilliant. So lots of things to think about there. I think on that ultimately they've placed an order and there's those touch points, isn't there? There's those touch points ultimately until that thing is delivered. Whatever it may be from your three pound screen protector to your 30 grand hot tub, that probably extreme. But we have clients that sell 30 grand hot tubs, I think 37,000 is there. Top of the line. Ultimately a lot of different variants there in price and different types of products and touch points along the way. So ultimately the product's been delivered, the carrier has done their bit to that point. But then I guess we've got that element of returns, getting that bit right as well. What would you say on that? How key is that for that experience piece as well?

Andrew Norman:
I think it's that kind of ... It sounds a bit of a weird answer. It's that kind of philosophical, emotional decision to make as a business that returns ... Rightly they've been a cost and a sort of necessary part of the process. But there is, like anything in any industry there are kind of new frontiers or battlegrounds. Returns I think is one of those because some people do it really well. My kids is maybe a bad example, they're teenage kids. But we also have friends that ... So what happens is that my teenagers are boys. But let's say friends that have teenage girls, they're scrolling right down to the return policy before they actually buy. The returns thing is front and center of the purchase process. So that's probably the most obvious answer to your question is returns is front and center of whether people buy and if they're going to buy from you again.

Andrew Norman:
Therefore that's the emotional decision to make is, "Okay, we're going to sort of resource this and make that experience as great as possible because we know it will help us convert and we know it'll have an impact or correlation on how much repeat purchase we get from those." So that's the first step I think. Then there's some good technology out there, whether that's us or other people, there is some specialist or returns platforms out there that really help you automate this. You can do simple things like have a returns portal, you can either use ours or you can have white label versions or whatever. The consumer can go on, select the order, select the item they want to return, you can then verify whether the item is available for return and then just generate the label.

Richard:
I think actually a lot of power brands even send you the return label in the pack, don't they? So if it doesn't fit, almost make it too easy. It's a line, isn't it? But you can see how that's going to encourage people to buy more, probably buy more variance of the product, which in turn is going to definitely create more returns but also in return it is going to create more loyal customers that are going to buy more over longer periods. Especially in apparel. It's a bit of a double edge sword unfortunately, you want to have the best returns policy, you're going to sell more stuff in apparel without a doubt. But ultimately you're going to have to seriously toll up and pay for the returns teams, software, etc., etc. Everything that needs to go with it. So got to be done.

Andrew Norman:
Yeah. International returns is a bit more complex because then you have to make decisions about, do I want to repatriate that product. You'd have to consolidate that product and bring it back in pallets rather than single items. There's also some partners of ours that are helping people sort of resell or dispose of that item in that country, more sort of resell it. So if it's a return, to your point, everyone that you were talking about your tech business, there's some that, let's say it's a fashion item, they might sell it as a graded item or whatever and then actually sell it in that local market rather than bring it back to the UK for example. Because the environmental impact is obviously quite big, selling pallets of product back and forth around the planet is not great. So there's a lot more movement to reselling or disposing, disposing is the wrong word, but making a decision in country rather than returning that to the origin.

Richard:
Somewhere else for it to go rather than come back to you potentially, more local, cutting down transport costs and just that sort of sustainability piece. Yeah. So Amazon, I think that's the ... You can't not talk about delivery and Amazon. I don't know if that's true but I think that's, obviously a lot of people very much drawn to that, we touched on it right at the beginning, very much drawn to that just ease and reliability. But what would you say merchants can do to really try and compete? I know you've said quite a few bits around that already, but is there anything ultimately it's just too down easy, isn't it? Just to go clickity click, or not even that now. It's find the product, well been that for years. Find the product, one click. You even know the name of the local driver that's going to bring it the next morning. You know it's going to be absolutely bang on in terms of it's going to arrive when they say it will. So independent merchants that will be listening to this podcast, what can they do to compete with that?

Andrew Norman:
That's a fantastic question. I think what's really interesting when you peel back the layers on Amazon, so that this is all public domain so I'm not sort sharing something that isn't out there. But obviously there's different things you can do with Amazon. They have this and what's called FBA fulfilled by Amazon models. So just like AWS, they've now used some of their assets or you can now rent some of their warehousing space if you want to do that for your fast moving items on Amazon. So my point is that I guess what we see is there's almost that decision to make of, do you want to make fulfillment a core competence of yours? There are for example, 3PLs that do things really well on merchant's behalf. So I guess that's the first decision point is do you want to fulfill yourself?

Andrew Norman:
Yes, no? If yes, then there's technology like us and others that really help you optimize that delivery experience. If you don't then that's cool too. There are some fantastic third party logistics, pick, pack dispatch, pick, pack, ship partners that are out there, which is another option. So I think that would be my advice first off is do you want to fulfill yourself? Yes or no? Then if you say yes and you want to do it yourself, then some of the stuff we talked about earlier, first of all make sure your inventory stock is working and you're able to actually get the product out the door. Then, as I say, there's platforms like ours, there's other players in our space.

Andrew Norman:
Give your consumer choice, first and foremost give them choice of carriers, let them select if possible. If not, and you are selecting on behalf of your consumer, then give yourself and them some choices of shipping and delivery experiences. Then trying, to your point, to follow that journey through and really almost walking the shoes of the consumer and kind of understand what their experience looks like. We do a lot of mystery shopping to try and understand some of the points you may do on even things like the packaging you touched on is brilliant because what's that overall delivery experience from beginning to end? So we do quite a lot of that. We buy from merchants and retailers just to, we just want to see what cool stuff is out there and what the experience looks like when it arrives. How much experience do you get in the shipping? What's the reveal or the unveiling process feel like when you open your items? So I think there's a whole bunch of things you can do to look at that.

Richard:
I think the unveil, that experience is obviously very dependent potentially on the type of product. Saying about your sons, I've got two teenage sons as well and we're, I say we're, they are, but I'm helping them a little bit. They're on with it at the moment, going to be launching their own eCom store in the next few months. We had conversation yesterday about personalized packaging where, because it's quite, the products that they're going to be selling are very personal product and something sort of fashion personal, I'm not going to say what it is. But at this stage I'm sure I'll probably do an episode with them in a few months time on their journey. But ultimately what we've been looking at is looking at personalized packaging. So the actual packaging is personalized, the name of the person on the order.

Andrew Norman:
Very cool.

Richard:
So the package will have their name and it will have something to do with, potentially what we're looking at is as you buy more products through their company or through their store, you'll enable and unlock different loyalty levels within the loyalty program. So within the packaging, let's say, "Congratulations, you now on tier two, two more purchases will mean that you'll go up to the gold standard, which means you'll get this and access to this and it'll unlock new products as they're available to our platinum members or whatever." But that's within the packaging. Obviously we can do it in different ways with email, with the order slips and various logins and members areas and things like that. But obviously that's not something you can do on Amazon, not that I'm aware of. So I think obviously in terms of that experience I think is a big win for that.

Richard:
So those products that are very much, like the coffee for example that I've had, I don't think that Amazon at the moment could do it like that. You'd just get a brown box or get my coffee, I think it was good and I probably would've canceled my subscription four months ago. It's like an event every month this coffee arrives, it's like, "Oh yeah great." I open it up and I take a little bit of a, it's not that long but a minute just having a good look at it. "Oh yeah." So of makes my day when it arrives. So I think that element from that sort of going up against some of the big brands, that's not something that Amazon I think can do. So yeah, brilliant. Lots of stuff there to be thinking about guys.

Andrew Norman:
Predictability I guess is one part of it. Something we didn't really touch on is even just, to listeners, is even just the sort of picking and shipping process. I mean it sounds kind of obvious, but you still see the kind of wrong item being sent, which just is really frustrating. So even that, just accuracy of make sure you set up your spare room, your garage, your warehouse in a good way where you are ... Because the odd odds are if you're growing fast, it may not be you that's picking the item, right? So you're using seasonal workers. So the way you set up your warehouse, the way you set up your pick, pack, dispatch, pick, pack, ship process to make sure. Ultimately coming back to your fundamental pointers, you need to get the right products out the door based on the order. We still see stuff that the way their warehouse is set up is a bit random. So you have people picking the wrong stuff and the wrong items going-

Richard:
I think that's that interesting transition, isn't it? Because people will very much resonate with the fact that I would imagine a lot of our listeners that are ecom owners they're there to pack boxes. I've packed boxes, I've packed tens of thousands of boxes back in the day. I've unloaded containers by the, I've unloaded probably 200 containers over the years, many years ago. But ultimately it usually starts in a back bedroom. "Do you know what? I might just put a few bits on eBay and see how it goes." Fast forward five years and they're doing 10 million pounds a year, they've got 20,000 square feet, they've got 15,000 skews or whatever it may be. You might not be packing then. But ultimately that transition from one to another, you might have packed back in the day and still may the odd time, maybe on an odd crazy Friday when you've got to get out the door, you might jump downstairs, depends on the business.

Richard:
But ultimately throughout those different levels of scaling your business, whether it's you doing it or so you having 100 people in your warehouse is making sure that obviously ultimately that the potential for mistakes, potential for error is just minimized at every step. Because I think ultimately angry customers, if you want to call them that, which it is. Everyone expects things to be right more than ever now. People are just so impatient now, me included. You ordered it at nine o'clock last night, it's got to be here by like 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock tomorrow. It's not the best experience. But ultimately we are going to get the odd thing wrong. That's human nature. What would you say about that? The odd order's going to go, obviously nearly swore then, we haven't sworn all the way through this episode, so I'll try and keep it PG. Something's going to go wrong. What would you say about mitigating and dealing with, I guess mitigating we've talked about, but dealing with that challenge of, "It's gone wrong, what we're going to do about it?" How important is that?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, it's interesting though, I know we're bouncing around a little bit here. But if we just go back a step. One of the things we talk about is, it sounds really obvious, but people oftentimes some of our merchants don't barcode their products right. So you're kind of running the risk of just ... So for example, one of the features we have is this scan to verify. So you scan the order and you scan the product and it verifies it's the right item. Again, it sounds really obvious, but if you don't barcode your product, then you're at the lowest common denominator of that person going to the right place knowing where it is and picking it out. So there are, I want to say simple things, but there are business process changes you can make to really make your business as resilient and as organized and efficient as you can.

Andrew Norman:
So bar coding is just, I know that's kind of related to some of your earlier points, but that's definitely one of the things we would really encourage people to do, organize their warehouse, barcode all of their inventory as quickly as they can so that they can ground their organisation.

Richard:
Error potential.

Andrew Norman:
Does, for sure. So the second part then is dealing with what happens. I mean it's interesting again, when certain retailers are just brilliant, there's no questions, you know you have to return the item. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. They just say keep it, which to your earlier point can be very expensive. If you are making errors and you are sending the wrong product, then you just again lost a bunch of money, right? Because you sent the wrong product out in the first place. But if it goes wrong, it goes missing then in reality you know you've got to do the right thing wherever possible. I think it's, as you alluded to, stuff happens, right? It's just how you deal with it.

Richard:
Yeah. And you can deal with it in a way that can potentially, you can create an advocate of the brand potentially, if you're absolutely over ... "Keep the product, we'll send you another one and we'll send you this and we'll send you that and we'll give you this." Because obviously it's going to happen that infrequently in theory. But obviously you just don't want that bad brand sort of piece where they're just, "Oh what did you think of this?" "No delivery was terrible." They're going to tell 100 people or whatever that's going to ripple out. Where if they're saying, "They had a bit of a problem, but they were unbelievable. I spoke to this lady called Lucy in sales, or sorry, in customer support. Unbelievable. I think she literally drove it to my house."

Richard:
I've heard story, I have heard that of people there was a problem with the order so they literally, I think the owner who was the owner, remember that was about a year and a half ago, the owner jumped in his car and took them a replacement. I mean I'd been like, "What?" Imagine if it was a big brand that somebody rocks up and delivers it that is the owner founder of that brand. I mean that's going to be quite rare in a large organization. But how amazing would that be? Deliver them the whole range for nothing or something.

Andrew Norman:
I'm very conscious of, for some people listening, it is again, a little bit of a knife edge, because there is an element of fraud. There is an element of delivery fraud. There are people claiming they didn't get X, Y, Z and they did. So it is difficult. I think that's the elephant in the room is you want to do the right thing, the customer most of the time is always right. But sometimes they aren't. I think that's a really, really difficult knife edge for people, particularly during COVID. I mean don't know what it's like for you but our carriers where I live in London, they're just dropping them on the doorstep, they're ringing the bell, but they're not hanging around to make sure that you've actually come to the door and picked up the item. So we're seeing all kinds of stuff about people having stuff taken off that doorstep. So that is the downside of it where people have done a great job delivering and they've delivered on their promise and either something happens or the consumer is sort of effectively defrauding them, right? So that's the difficult part of it.

Richard:
Yeah, it's going to be an element of that, isn't it? Okay, Andrew, it has been an absolute pleasure. I think there's been so many takeaways there. I know we've bounced around a few times and then around again, I think that there's some cracking, cracking takeaway. So I think, guys, I would suggest you rewind this, literally rewind and just make sure you're having a look at all these elements. A lot of different elements there that I think, or I know that just some simple additions to maybe your delivery process offering. Just going back to that stock item, just having the correct stock and that sounds so simple. But absolutely we run a lot of ads obviously for companies and if the stock is wrong and we're advertising stock, it's not in stock you're wasting money on the ads and then you've got a bad customer. It's like a double loss in effect. But obviously from a carrier perspective there's so many takeaways there. Now I like to end every episode Andrew, with a book recommendation. Do you have a book that you recommend to our listeners?

Andrew Norman:
Oh man. It's kind of ironic actually because we're halfway through a book called Working Backwards, which is actually based on the Amazon principle.

Richard:
Okay.

Andrew Norman:
I can't give you the whole skinny on it or the whole ... Because I'm still halfway through it, but it is an interesting book. It basically sort of unravels, in the positive sense of that word, the process and the philosophy that Amazon adopted when they were scaling out in different countries. So that's something we're starting to use in our business.

Richard:
That sounds brilliant, That sounds absolutely spot on for our listeners. Scale's probably the key. Yeah, absolutely. Well for the guys that want to find out more about you, Andrew, more about ShipStation, what's the best way to do that?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, wherever country you're in go to shipstation.com. As I say, we run a slightly different model. There's no commitment, there's no contract, it's month to month so you can come and go. Obviously we don't want you go, but we'd love you to come.

Richard:
Yeah.

Andrew Norman:
So yeah, just hit our webpage, shipstation.com and one of our team would be delighted.

Richard:
It's very, very simple or small commitment to try your service.

Andrew Norman:
Exactly right.

Richard:
And I've met a lot of your team over the years, to be fair, at different trade shows. Maybe not the last year or so because we haven't been at many, but prior to that. I have to say some of the guys I've met at your place have been very, very, very uber knowledgeable, uber professionals. I've been very, very impressed with the brand and I hear a lot of very, very good things about the brand. We're not using you personally, but when my kids sort out what they're doing exactly with their new eCom store, I think we'll be coming knocking in a few weeks time. But yeah, thank you for being a guest and I look forward to speaking to you again.

Andrew Norman:
Pleasure. Thanks for your time today. Appreciate it.

Richard:
Thank you. Bye.

Richard:
Thank you for listening to the eCom@One eCommerce podcast. If you enjoyed today's show, please hit subscribe and don't forget to sign up to our eCommerce newsletter and leave us a review on iTunes. This podcast has been brought to you by our team here at eComOne, the e-Commerce Marketing Agency.

Richard:
Hi there, I'm Richard Hill, the host of eCom@One. Welcome to episode 117. In this episode I speak with Andrew Norman, who spent the majority of his career working with some of the largest shipping solutions in the world, helping merchant streamline their order fulfillment. In this episode, we're told why the shipping experience is so important when selling products online. Things can go wrong when it comes to shipping and how can a company mitigate the damage from a bad delivery experience? Andrew's opinion on free next day delivery for a year if you pay $9.99 tactic, what successful companies are doing well and when it comes to shipping and so much more. If you enjoy this episode, hit the subscribe or follow button wherever you are listening to this podcast so you're always the first to know when a new episode is released. Now let's head over to this fantastic episode.

Richard:
This episode is brought to you by eComOne, eCommerce marketing agency. eComOne works purely with eCommerce stores scaling their Google shopping, SEO, Google search, and Facebook ads through a proven performance-driven approach. Go to eComOne.com/resources for a host of amazing resources to grow your paid and organic channels.

Richard:
Hi and welcome to another episode of eCom@One. Today's guest, Andrew Norman, general manager at ShipStation. How are you doing, Andrew?

Andrew Norman:
I'm good. Thanks for inviting me.

Richard:
No problem.

Andrew Norman:
Happy to be here.

Richard:
No problem at all. Absolute pleasure to have you on. Now we actually had our first power cut issue when Andrew was due on the podcast. Can you believe it? So here we are a couple of weeks later, finally managed to get you on. So thank you so much for agreeing to come on, Andrew.

Andrew Norman:
My pleasure.

Richard:
Talking all things shipping fulfillment in this episode. But I think before we get into the Q&A, it'd be good for you to give the guys a bit of background on how you got up into the eCommerce world.

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, good question. Like most people, kind of by accident. Actually a few friends of mine invested in the business which was helping merchants sell on multiple channels in multiple countries. So it was kind of a classic multichannel play based in the UK in 2011. So started with that business and then I started working very closely with Amazon and eBay and other web platform, Shopify back in the day when they were a lot smaller. So we were working with merchants of different sizes. Some of them were large like Superdry and Dixon's Car Phones, some of them were very, very small, which was great. I think it was inspiring and enlightening just how much complexity there is, let's say, on selling online, though an amazing opportunity and some real challenges. So I learned some very painful lessons with our merchants and retailers of how to sell on different channels in different countries and all of the shenanigans that goes with that. So that's kind of a plotted history.

Andrew Norman:
Then since then I took that business to the US, which is actually how I started working with ShipStation. They were a partner of ours and then I joined the ShipStation team in 2018. So like most businesses, they're all connected together, which is how we ended up here.

Richard:
Very much so. So been in the industry quite a while then, a bit like myself sort of thing. Yeah, seen it from different sides. Obviously you've done a lot out in the US and obviously UK. But you're based in the UK now. General manager at ShipStation. I think, obviously, there won't be a listener if there're in eCommerce that hasn't had something to do with shipping fulfillment, obviously. Even on the marketing side. Obviously if you can't get the products to the people, it doesn't matter what you're doing or you can't have a good experience shall we say, with the delivery and the fulfillment piece. Doesn't matter what marketing, what money you spend at and throw at acquisition, it's going to come back and maybe bite you if people aren't coming back. So what would you say, why is having a really good delivery fulfillment partner process within your eCom store, why is it so important?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, that's a good question. I would say we have this, we've been doing a few sessions over the years about is it a tick box or is it a differentiator, I guess? That's provocative question. I think historically it still is an operational cost and operational expense, we all know that. But I do believe delivery is an important part of the overall experience. As you've rightly said, you can spend a lot of money acquiring a customer, but if they have a terrible experience then the likelihood of them buying from you again is much lower. So I would say there is an opportunity to differentiate, if you can. If not provide a great experience. Because we know, I guess to your point, we know that shipping and returns, because obviously we sometimes just think about shipping being the outbound, but that whole delivery and return experience has a direct impact on your conversion rate, I guess, from a merchant perspective. Also the propensity for you to buy from that brand manufacturer retailer again.

Andrew Norman:
So your question is massive, which is great. So I think dependent on where you are in that journey. I guess, during COVID we've seen direct consumers, you've probably seen yourself, some of the listeners, direct to consumers has become a big thing. So I think a lot of brands and distributors I guess would try to figure out how they deliver all of a sudden because they've been historically rookies to delivery. So all the way to other people that have a very mature and evolved delivery and returns experience. So we would say it's critical to that overall experience. We see some very generic experiences and some very personalized and some very rich experiences.

Richard:
There is such a vast breadth there, isn't there? From simply you're ordering, you get no-comms and a box turns up, brown box and you open it and that's that. Or there's the other end of the scale where you're getting comms all the way along, whether that's text, email. Then obviously there's a lot more to this, I'm making it a very short version. But ultimately, I know from massive experience of my almost addiction for buying stuff which was a problem last year, but I've had a little work on myself this year. Literally I was like pulling the wheelie bin out at Christmas thinking, "Oh my God, what is all this stuff?"

Andrew Norman:
Stop buying stuff.

Richard:
I know genuinely. We've gone as a company, really company and personally big time, gone from literally. Obvious as a company we're buying a lot of stuffs for the teams and various people within the business and departments and myself and whatnot. The podcast alone, we've bought God knows what stuff to get everything moving. But some of those experiences through the year that I've had are through that scale completely.

Richard:
Some of the brands that really stand out for me obviously that do do it well, you know where you are with that delivery, when it's going to be arriving, the name of the driver and whatnot. But ultimately when you get that package, I think coffee has really stood out for me, a couple of the coffee brands have really stood out for me this last year. It's quite a low value product really. I've got a couple of subscriptions running, 12-13 pounds per company, which is not massive money. But subscription wise, one of them I probably signed up in that first week of lockdown, it's been running for what we are on now, lose track, 24 months are we in now, I think something like that?

Andrew Norman:
Pretty much, yeah.

Richard:
Yeah, pretty much. Should be probably 25, 26 before we go live. So 26 months later, that's about 300 pounds I've now spent with them. I've not spent 11 pound with them or 13 pound with them, I spent three and I'll probably end up spending a grand with them. That is very much about that experience for me. I think that experience of opening that coffee and the way it's packaged, the way it's branded, the way it's almost personalized, and maybe we could talk about that as well. Really, really, really has made me stick around. Obviously the coffee is damn good as well. You got to get that right. But obviously you working with a lot of merchants, a lot of different merchants, thousands of merchants. What are some of the things, I've talked about a few of the cool things maybe there, what are some of the things that you think and see that companies are getting wrong? Things that our listeners need to think, "God dammit we're doing that, we're doing that, we're doing that, or need to avoid that." What are some of the things that we should be looking at?

Andrew Norman:
It's a good question actually. But if I just come back to your previous point, which I think this is obviously the divisive, provocative thing, but regardless of how you feel about Amazon, coming back to your question, they've just proven that delivery is everything. I'm not saying the delivery experience ... Amazon have a predictable delivery experience. But my point is they turned it on its head. They've went from where, to your earlier question, delivery was just part of the process. Whereas now delivery has now become their main flywheel or their main enabler, because Prime is so predictable. So as I say, regardless of how you feel about Amazon, sickly some people listening to this that might not generate great reaction for them. But the point is you have to admire and respect to some degree the machine that they've built around Prime has single handedly raised a bar for everyone kind of in our market. That's the reality of the situation.

Richard:
Yeah, totally. It's just that convenience and really you just know. Reliability is absolutely, you know when you order when it's going to arrive and it does arrive then, doesn't it?

Andrew Norman:
So coming back to your second point then, which is great, I think in our world we kind of sit in the order stream, if that makes sense. So although we're kind of helping brands, manufacturers, and retailers fulfill products, just to keep it simple, we actually sit in the order flow if that makes sense. So we help our customers ingest their orders and then route their order to the right place. So the reason I'm going there is we still see people that don't have accurate inventory and stock. So the delivery experience starts after you and I put in our credit/debit card details and then click buy and then guess what? You get an email shortly after saying, "Sorry that items out of stock," or whatever. So I think it starts with that inventory and stock piece to be kind of transparent because I still buy, you probably still buy ... I bought some over Christmas and very large retailers that still don't have great inventory and stock systems.

Andrew Norman:
You buy and you're immediately pissed off because you're like, "Well I bought this for my kids and you're now telling me I'm not going to get that item in time for Christmas."

Richard:
Terrible experience.

Andrew Norman:
So I think personally it starts a little bit further upstream, if that makes sense, with your inventory and stock I think is critical. It's bread and butter for us as we know in this industry. But I still see people that don't have great inventory in stock, if you know what I mean. So they're selling product they don't have. Also the inverse, sometimes they have product in their warehouse that they don't know about and those items aren't for sales. So that whole working capital is a big opportunity . Then beyond that I would say give people options. It's interesting when you work in an industry because the answer is sort of change your hat interchangeably. How we think as a consumer, we're so disloyal if that's the right word, and so fickle, and so expectant that when you turn them back into business mode you think, "Oh my god, that's really difficult for a retailer to actually deal with a demand in consumer."

Andrew Norman:
But I think that's the point, we are now much more expectant and we want whenever, however we want. So providing choice and options to consumers, it sounds obvious but again we still see people that don't provide many choices or options. You have a royal mail which is great, nothing wrong with royal mail but you may want something else. So we've seen a lot around lockers and the kind of pickup points is now becoming a big thing.

Richard:
Yeah, you definitely see that more, don't you? Even on the small emerge. Yeah, everybody here across the industry.

Andrew Norman:
So choice would be my second point. Third is I guess what we call post purchase or post shipping, meaning tracking. So I guess it's like anything that's two sides of the picture, the consumers like, "Where's my order? What's happening? You've gone dark on me, I can't see what's happening." The inverse of that is the merchants getting crushed with phone calls and emails. "Where's my order? Where's my order? Where's my order?" Right?

Richard:
Yeah.

Andrew Norman:
So that's the obvious part then is how do you provide a great tracking experience? We do things like we provided branded tracking. So rather than sending the consumer to a generic landing page, we would send them to a branded tracking page for example, where you can extend your brand or you can put other complimentary products. You're trying to actually make that tracking and delivery experience part of your overall brand experience. That's something that we recommend and that we see too. Then obviously returns. So choice tracking, good tracking information, good details, good data, sorry, excuse me. Then returns. Returns is a big part of it. So depending on which category you're in, as you know very well yourself, some categories return rates are 30%, 40%, 50%.

Richard:
Yeah, apparel, fashion. Yeah.

Andrew Norman:
Exactly. So how do you provide that simple transparent process. So that would be kind of our perspective on that.

Richard:
Yeah, that's brilliant. I think that first one. So I'm assuming then that everything you've mentioned you do at ShipStation, maybe not the first one around stock levels and inventory, would that be right?

Andrew Norman:
We do a little bit of that. For smaller retailers they use our inventory stock, but oftentimes we would be working in conjunction with an ERP system, or some kind of core inventory stock system.

Richard:
I think that's one that, having ran the eCommerce stores myself for about 10 years and then the people that I know personally that run them obviously a lot. Because that's one that I think, those stock levels, it's one that is quite often missed. Especially when you talked about obviously making sure the stock is an obvious one so you're not selling something and then naturally having a bad experience like a Christmas, like you were saying with children not getting their toys, there's nothing worse. You are never going to buy from that firm again. You let down a family members, your wife's Christmas present or whatever it is you, that's it. Done. But that element of stock that you've got sitting around, products that you need to move that maybe certain products that have come via returns and you've got to resell them as a B grade or something. Typically there can be obviously tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds sitting in the returns department.

Andrew Norman:
Exactly right.

Richard:
Then just stock. That was very much my business unfortunately, an element of it. I had a PC component business for 10 years. Our returns department, it's a very technical product selling graphics cards, loading boards, memory and things. It was just nature of the game. But there was always circa, I would say, and this is going back, this is probably 12 years ago I sold that business. But it's probably about 70,000-100,000 in that department in our business at any one time. Well obviously that product's got to be either turned around sent back to manufacturer to be obviously credited or a replacement sent. But obviously nine times out of 10 there's nothing wrong with that product. It obviously depends in the industry I guess fashion most times there's nothing wrong with the product, it's the size problem. It's got to be recycled or it's got to be repacked, checked and then put back, whether that's a B stock or putting out as cheaper price. But 5,000 grand a year that's maybe just sitting dead.

Richard:
That could be the difference between profits and no profit at the end of the year for a smaller retailer potentially. So I think that is one that is really good from a commercial aspect. But yeah, brilliant. I think having those shipping options quite often you just don't see it. Do you? You talked about obviously having that royal mail and then all the way through to whether that's booking it into a, where it goes into a delivery, a building where you go and pick it up, that type of thing. I think that's more and more prevalent now, isn't it?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, I think what we're recommending is give ... Well there's two parts again to your point. One is providing choice for the consumer, but also providing yourself choice as the retailer. There are certain carriers that are, well certainly fulfillment options, excuse me, that are better for different products, different skews that you have. I think some of the things that we saw related to your point was during Brexit a lot of people just started putting inventory outside of the UK. They just started putting inventory into Holland and Belgium and using 3PLs to do it. So I think if you kind of zoom out, it's almost about really what is the right fulfillment option for that type of product in that type of market? That's probably the sort of macro decisions. Then the rest become details that hang off the back of that, what's the right carrier in that country? But there is that order. We're kind of more in the order orchestration, so where should that order go? What's the best way of getting it to the consumer I guess is kind of the things we're trying to help-

Richard:
Would it be right in thinking then that, you talk about some firms obviously moved their logistics maybe out if we're talking about UK as an example out the UK, to somewhere else in Europe. So certain products maybe it's more accepted that there's going to be a two, three day, five day, seven day. So therefore we may then house those or have those in fulfillment centers somewhere further afield, it's cheaper potentially. Would that be right?

Andrew Norman:
That's definitely part of it. But I think it's also about trying to get your product closer to the consumer. I think what we saw is retailers that have been really active in Europe, they realize they were just segment. I guess looking at their data, what are the items that were typically selling into those markets, then they were either duplicating or locating subsets of their inventory into those countries so they can actually sidestep all of the pain that they were going through of getting HS codes and ERE numbers and all that kind of friction that they had. So they were just sidestepping that and putting that product closer to the consumer where they knew there was demand for that product. That was the decisions that they were making. But we also help people do drop ship. So obviously to your earlier point, you want to sell in as many places as you can, really as many relevant channels as you can and therefore having virtual or drop ship stock or distributed inventory in different countries or sorry, different markets, excuse me, I think is what we're seeing more and more of.

Andrew Norman:
So we're kind of more about orchestrating and fulfillment of orders regardless of where they are and where they're going to some extent.

Richard:
Yeah, yeah. Now lots of great stuff there. I think a lot to be thinking about, guys listening in. Okay, so what would you say are some of the true costs to getting it wrong? Ultimately I could pull out all these really good experiences, but definitely I've ordered various things that have looked like they've been bounced around, as I'm sure we all have, they've been bounced around the back of a van or whatever it may be. I've brought a lot of garden products that have leaked everywhere and had no text messages or messages to say ... What would you say, what's the sort of bigger impact? Obviously one delivery is one delivery for that individual, but the bigger impact on that business, what are some of their ... Let's get our listeners thinking about the real potential severity of getting this wrong.

Andrew Norman:
These are going to be some kind of obvious answers, but the brand reputation stuff is the stuff that is quite scary. I mean social media is just turbocharged that the winners and losers in some ways in a situation, let's say, we see some people get thrown under the bus sort of relentlessly for something that happened. I think that's the obvious thing, that clearly there's very hard costs in terms of the cost of replacements, replenishment and all that stuff. Just in terms of fixed hard costs as it were. But that's sort more intangible. But particularly if we're a really, well for any business but an emerging brand or in a certain category where it's sacred almost. I think that brand's sort of reputation, that damage to what happens and the effect that has and the likelihood of that consumer or a cohort of consumer ever buying from you again I think is probably the biggest of elephant in the room.

Andrew Norman:
So breaking down your point, again, it's a fantastic question that has different things we often see. Maybe to turn the point on its head, our kind of current hypothesis is what's the fastest, safest, cheapest and greenest way of getting that order to the consumer? There probably are other criteria or criterion, but I think those are the kind of four, I guess we feel: fastest, safest, cheapest, greenest. So in a really exaggerated example, if you're selling iPhone cases or small accessories, maybe lower value, high volume, then obviously your choice of fulfillment or carrier might be different from, just looking at my Mac here. If you're selling Mac Books, your choice of fulfillment going to be very different. So I think your point is, most people listening in will have probably figured this out or however gut feel. I think there's options, there's options. Apply some logic, have some rules and try and segment that out for your inventory and the type of product you're selling and the consumers you're selling to.

Richard:
Quite a lot of common sense for the listeners there isn't it? If you're selling bespoke dining tables at four grand, it's not about price is it? It's about that white glove carrier partner that's going to make sure that ... One return for you is going to be a pain, or any returns are going to be a pain. Big margins potentially. Well big value, big moving things around thousands of pounds, you might book example that returns damages. That care, that personal service is absolutely key, isn't it? Whereas smaller items we can maybe have a bit more flex, we can build in a bit more expectation around returns maybe and things like that. But yeah, great stuff.

Andrew Norman:
So for example, a typical setup might be whichever country, and I'm conscious that listeners may be in different countries, so to anonymize it we would have a postal option, let's call it. So a royal mail or whatever postal in your country, you would have an economy service, you would have a premium service and then you would have an international service if that makes sense. That's kind of the typical setup, right? You'd have three stroke, four fulfillment options let's say. That's a very classic setup.

Richard:
Yeah, no that makes sense. So I'd imagine the list is now thinking, "Yeah we need to have a look at this, have a look at what options we've got, who we're working with now." Obviously working with you guys sort of opens up a lot of options because you've got relationship with the different carriers, is that right?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, that's right. So we kind of have two parts to our picture. One is kind of the order sizes. So the order side. So we connect into various different selling channels around the globe. So eCom platforms that you're familiar with, Adobe, Shopify, pretty much all of the eCom platforms. We also then connect into marketplaces. So all of the major marketplaces in North America and Europe and Asia now we're connecting to that. So our thing is about enabling you to sell in as many channels as you can. We don't help you push products up to those channels for merchandising and PLA and other things like that. But anytime we can ingest those orders from those selling channels and then orchestrate those orders to the right place. So carriers is then the other part of our picture, we work with #PLs. So we have a 3PL network already kind of pre-integrated or pre-wide into ShipStation and then obviously a bunch of carriers, as you can imagine. We have most of the major carriers in North America and Europe plugged into the platform.

Richard:
Got it pretty well covered then, to say the least.

Andrew Norman:
Well because you need choice. I mean coming onto your earlier point. It's interesting we'd have this conversation internally, it's almost like a long tail but the long tail's really important because you'd be surprised how many random places and random technology platforms people use to operate the business on. So we've kind of invested in that long tail. If you look on our website on shipstation.com, you'll see there's a very long list of integrations. But we know that over the years that has served our merchants well because it allows them to experiment. It also allows them to migrate, if they do move platforms or they move carriers, it doesn't matter because we already have the covered. So it gives them flexibility.

Richard:
So the ability to almost that click of a button, literally. We've realized that a particular carrier maybe is having more of a challenge in a certain area, I know that's probably quite rare but it can happen Christmas time, maybe. Oh blimey there is news that royal mail is struggling. Well okay we'll implement and introduce other options very, very quickly with your solutions sort of thing.

Andrew Norman:
And on the eCommerce side, people do migrate platforms. So they might migrate from eCom platform A to B or they might move to ERP platform. So we're kind of looking at that whole order flow into all of the carriers.

Richard:
Brilliant. So I think something we did touch on briefly, but I think I'm really keen to go in there a bit heavier because it's something we're talking about a lot more and a lot of other episodes is something that's sort of really front and center within our agencies. This sort of post-purchase experience and the sort of things that we can do. We know that companies on the marketing side, we're spending a lot of money on acquisition. So we've now got that order, we've bought that customer in one way or another, we've paid to acquire that customer and obviously making sure they have a really, really good post-purchase experience. What are some of your recommendations that you've seen of people doing it really well in terms of that post-purchase experience?

Andrew Norman:
So the first part's, it's a little bit of repetition, but the first part is obviously to provide choice. That's the first thing in the front end. Because you want to provide people choices. Then those choices then kind of cascade through, if that makes sense. So if you are using for UK listeners a DPD, or a carrier that has really good technology to keep the consumer up-to-date all the way through that journey allows them different options to do different things that say then, that's not a plug for DPD. But just use that as example. So those are the kind of things. So it's all about tracking, it's all about information. It's all about giving the consumer chances to do stuff, they're not in or they need to reroute it, they need to reschedule it. Collection is a big thing as well.

Andrew Norman:
We have, some of our merchants for example use drop off. Some of them have services collected. So I guess my point is to provide, not only the merchant options, but then to provide the consumer options. So that's the first thing. Tracking information, delivery options I guess as they often call it. Where do you want it delivered? Do you want it rooted to another location? Do you want to deliver it to a neighbor? Obviously the consumer wants it, but also the merchant and the carrier doesn't want to have to go and deliver it four times or try and deliver it four times. So everybody wins hopefully. That's the-

Richard:
One I like is, I don't know if you ... Well correct me if I'm wrong or tell me how it works, but I know on certain carriers that you get the ping and you can see where the driver is on the map. So if I'm about to do a podcast at home, which is 80% of my podcast, it's like Okay he's going to have to leave it because I can't go to the door or I might go to the door and do an edit obviously. But I think that's really handy. Really, really handy. It's a real ... Oh yeah, brilliant. Right? Rather than this, it's going to be delivered tomorrow before 1:00 AM, sorry, 1:00 PM.

Andrew Norman:
All day delivery. A lot of them are, yeah, you're just getting them all day.

Richard:
Or next day when you get that, "You're seven stops away, an estimated time is ..." Then they tighten that window and you've got maybe a 15 minute window. More and more carriers doing that or is it just specific ones doing that?

Andrew Norman:
There's definitely much more investment in technology as you probably seen during COVID, again to listeners where whichever country you're in, the whole online sort of exploded. So I think some carriers have fared better than others. Some of them I think have, they've all been exploding, I guess to kind of break your question down. Some of them have invested heavily in technology and some of them have spent capital on building distribution centers and hiring drivers. So some of them have some great technology which definitely gives the consumer options. Some of them have probably spend a lot of their capital on just scaling out, adding more DCs, distribution centers excuse me, and hiring thousands of drivers. But there's more and more options. Touching on the thing you and I talked about earlier on, there's also the whole sort of locker.

Andrew Norman:
It's not just about delivery to the door now. That's the sort of default, let's say, but in different countries we started working with merchants in France now and what we call Kudo pickup drop off, it's mainstream. It's actually socially frowned upon to have deliveries delivered to your office, for example. So if you're working long hours then having stuff delivered-

Richard:
I'll have to tell my team that

Andrew Norman:
So having lockers not only to drop off your parcel or your return, but also then to be able to go to a location and pick up your item is definitely something that is definitely emerging.

Richard:
On the rise. It's not something I've done but I have to admit it's not many places I've ordered from recently that haven't got that option. Literally we ordered something the other day, something for work and I was like, "Oh okay." It wasn't something I chose. But that option is more and more prevalent, isn't it? I think that will be convenience, isn't it? Ultimately if you don't want to have to stay in all day.

Andrew Norman:
Particularly in big cities around the world where you have high of density of population. If you are in and out of train stations or underground stations, let's say, having a locker right there just makes sense, right? It's a no brainer.

Richard:
Yeah, yeah. Brilliant. So lots of things to think about there. I think on that ultimately they've placed an order and there's those touch points, isn't there? There's those touch points ultimately until that thing is delivered. Whatever it may be from your three pound screen protector to your 30 grand hot tub, that probably extreme. But we have clients that sell 30 grand hot tubs, I think 37,000 is there. Top of the line. Ultimately a lot of different variants there in price and different types of products and touch points along the way. So ultimately the product's been delivered, the carrier has done their bit to that point. But then I guess we've got that element of returns, getting that bit right as well. What would you say on that? How key is that for that experience piece as well?

Andrew Norman:
I think it's that kind of ... It sounds a bit of a weird answer. It's that kind of philosophical, emotional decision to make as a business that returns ... Rightly they've been a cost and a sort of necessary part of the process. But there is, like anything in any industry there are kind of new frontiers or battlegrounds. Returns I think is one of those because some people do it really well. My kids is maybe a bad example, they're teenage kids. But we also have friends that ... So what happens is that my teenagers are boys. But let's say friends that have teenage girls, they're scrolling right down to the return policy before they actually buy. The returns thing is front and center of the purchase process. So that's probably the most obvious answer to your question is returns is front and center of whether people buy and if they're going to buy from you again.

Andrew Norman:
Therefore that's the emotional decision to make is, "Okay, we're going to sort of resource this and make that experience as great as possible because we know it will help us convert and we know it'll have an impact or correlation on how much repeat purchase we get from those." So that's the first step I think. Then there's some good technology out there, whether that's us or other people, there is some specialist or returns platforms out there that really help you automate this. You can do simple things like have a returns portal, you can either use ours or you can have white label versions or whatever. The consumer can go on, select the order, select the item they want to return, you can then verify whether the item is available for return and then just generate the label.

Richard:
I think actually a lot of power brands even send you the return label in the pack, don't they? So if it doesn't fit, almost make it too easy. It's a line, isn't it? But you can see how that's going to encourage people to buy more, probably buy more variance of the product, which in turn is going to definitely create more returns but also in return it is going to create more loyal customers that are going to buy more over longer periods. Especially in apparel. It's a bit of a double edge sword unfortunately, you want to have the best returns policy, you're going to sell more stuff in apparel without a doubt. But ultimately you're going to have to seriously toll up and pay for the returns teams, software, etc., etc. Everything that needs to go with it. So got to be done.

Andrew Norman:
Yeah. International returns is a bit more complex because then you have to make decisions about, do I want to repatriate that product. You'd have to consolidate that product and bring it back in pallets rather than single items. There's also some partners of ours that are helping people sort of resell or dispose of that item in that country, more sort of resell it. So if it's a return, to your point, everyone that you were talking about your tech business, there's some that, let's say it's a fashion item, they might sell it as a graded item or whatever and then actually sell it in that local market rather than bring it back to the UK for example. Because the environmental impact is obviously quite big, selling pallets of product back and forth around the planet is not great. So there's a lot more movement to reselling or disposing, disposing is the wrong word, but making a decision in country rather than returning that to the origin.

Richard:
Somewhere else for it to go rather than come back to you potentially, more local, cutting down transport costs and just that sort of sustainability piece. Yeah. So Amazon, I think that's the ... You can't not talk about delivery and Amazon. I don't know if that's true but I think that's, obviously a lot of people very much drawn to that, we touched on it right at the beginning, very much drawn to that just ease and reliability. But what would you say merchants can do to really try and compete? I know you've said quite a few bits around that already, but is there anything ultimately it's just too down easy, isn't it? Just to go clickity click, or not even that now. It's find the product, well been that for years. Find the product, one click. You even know the name of the local driver that's going to bring it the next morning. You know it's going to be absolutely bang on in terms of it's going to arrive when they say it will. So independent merchants that will be listening to this podcast, what can they do to compete with that?

Andrew Norman:
That's a fantastic question. I think what's really interesting when you peel back the layers on Amazon, so that this is all public domain so I'm not sort sharing something that isn't out there. But obviously there's different things you can do with Amazon. They have this and what's called FBA fulfilled by Amazon models. So just like AWS, they've now used some of their assets or you can now rent some of their warehousing space if you want to do that for your fast moving items on Amazon. So my point is that I guess what we see is there's almost that decision to make of, do you want to make fulfillment a core competence of yours? There are for example, 3PLs that do things really well on merchant's behalf. So I guess that's the first decision point is do you want to fulfill yourself?

Andrew Norman:
Yes, no? If yes, then there's technology like us and others that really help you optimize that delivery experience. If you don't then that's cool too. There are some fantastic third party logistics, pick, pack dispatch, pick, pack, ship partners that are out there, which is another option. So I think that would be my advice first off is do you want to fulfill yourself? Yes or no? Then if you say yes and you want to do it yourself, then some of the stuff we talked about earlier, first of all make sure your inventory stock is working and you're able to actually get the product out the door. Then, as I say, there's platforms like ours, there's other players in our space.

Andrew Norman:
Give your consumer choice, first and foremost give them choice of carriers, let them select if possible. If not, and you are selecting on behalf of your consumer, then give yourself and them some choices of shipping and delivery experiences. Then trying, to your point, to follow that journey through and really almost walking the shoes of the consumer and kind of understand what their experience looks like. We do a lot of mystery shopping to try and understand some of the points you may do on even things like the packaging you touched on is brilliant because what's that overall delivery experience from beginning to end? So we do quite a lot of that. We buy from merchants and retailers just to, we just want to see what cool stuff is out there and what the experience looks like when it arrives. How much experience do you get in the shipping? What's the reveal or the unveiling process feel like when you open your items? So I think there's a whole bunch of things you can do to look at that.

Richard:
I think the unveil, that experience is obviously very dependent potentially on the type of product. Saying about your sons, I've got two teenage sons as well and we're, I say we're, they are, but I'm helping them a little bit. They're on with it at the moment, going to be launching their own eCom store in the next few months. We had conversation yesterday about personalized packaging where, because it's quite, the products that they're going to be selling are very personal product and something sort of fashion personal, I'm not going to say what it is. But at this stage I'm sure I'll probably do an episode with them in a few months time on their journey. But ultimately what we've been looking at is looking at personalized packaging. So the actual packaging is personalized, the name of the person on the order.

Andrew Norman:
Very cool.

Richard:
So the package will have their name and it will have something to do with, potentially what we're looking at is as you buy more products through their company or through their store, you'll enable and unlock different loyalty levels within the loyalty program. So within the packaging, let's say, "Congratulations, you now on tier two, two more purchases will mean that you'll go up to the gold standard, which means you'll get this and access to this and it'll unlock new products as they're available to our platinum members or whatever." But that's within the packaging. Obviously we can do it in different ways with email, with the order slips and various logins and members areas and things like that. But obviously that's not something you can do on Amazon, not that I'm aware of. So I think obviously in terms of that experience I think is a big win for that.

Richard:
So those products that are very much, like the coffee for example that I've had, I don't think that Amazon at the moment could do it like that. You'd just get a brown box or get my coffee, I think it was good and I probably would've canceled my subscription four months ago. It's like an event every month this coffee arrives, it's like, "Oh yeah great." I open it up and I take a little bit of a, it's not that long but a minute just having a good look at it. "Oh yeah." So of makes my day when it arrives. So I think that element from that sort of going up against some of the big brands, that's not something that Amazon I think can do. So yeah, brilliant. Lots of stuff there to be thinking about guys.

Andrew Norman:
Predictability I guess is one part of it. Something we didn't really touch on is even just, to listeners, is even just the sort of picking and shipping process. I mean it sounds kind of obvious, but you still see the kind of wrong item being sent, which just is really frustrating. So even that, just accuracy of make sure you set up your spare room, your garage, your warehouse in a good way where you are ... Because the odd odds are if you're growing fast, it may not be you that's picking the item, right? So you're using seasonal workers. So the way you set up your warehouse, the way you set up your pick, pack, dispatch, pick, pack, ship process to make sure. Ultimately coming back to your fundamental pointers, you need to get the right products out the door based on the order. We still see stuff that the way their warehouse is set up is a bit random. So you have people picking the wrong stuff and the wrong items going-

Richard:
I think that's that interesting transition, isn't it? Because people will very much resonate with the fact that I would imagine a lot of our listeners that are ecom owners they're there to pack boxes. I've packed boxes, I've packed tens of thousands of boxes back in the day. I've unloaded containers by the, I've unloaded probably 200 containers over the years, many years ago. But ultimately it usually starts in a back bedroom. "Do you know what? I might just put a few bits on eBay and see how it goes." Fast forward five years and they're doing 10 million pounds a year, they've got 20,000 square feet, they've got 15,000 skews or whatever it may be. You might not be packing then. But ultimately that transition from one to another, you might have packed back in the day and still may the odd time, maybe on an odd crazy Friday when you've got to get out the door, you might jump downstairs, depends on the business.

Richard:
But ultimately throughout those different levels of scaling your business, whether it's you doing it or so you having 100 people in your warehouse is making sure that obviously ultimately that the potential for mistakes, potential for error is just minimized at every step. Because I think ultimately angry customers, if you want to call them that, which it is. Everyone expects things to be right more than ever now. People are just so impatient now, me included. You ordered it at nine o'clock last night, it's got to be here by like 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock tomorrow. It's not the best experience. But ultimately we are going to get the odd thing wrong. That's human nature. What would you say about that? The odd order's going to go, obviously nearly swore then, we haven't sworn all the way through this episode, so I'll try and keep it PG. Something's going to go wrong. What would you say about mitigating and dealing with, I guess mitigating we've talked about, but dealing with that challenge of, "It's gone wrong, what we're going to do about it?" How important is that?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, it's interesting though, I know we're bouncing around a little bit here. But if we just go back a step. One of the things we talk about is, it sounds really obvious, but people oftentimes some of our merchants don't barcode their products right. So you're kind of running the risk of just ... So for example, one of the features we have is this scan to verify. So you scan the order and you scan the product and it verifies it's the right item. Again, it sounds really obvious, but if you don't barcode your product, then you're at the lowest common denominator of that person going to the right place knowing where it is and picking it out. So there are, I want to say simple things, but there are business process changes you can make to really make your business as resilient and as organized and efficient as you can.

Andrew Norman:
So bar coding is just, I know that's kind of related to some of your earlier points, but that's definitely one of the things we would really encourage people to do, organize their warehouse, barcode all of their inventory as quickly as they can so that they can ground their organisation.

Richard:
Error potential.

Andrew Norman:
Does, for sure. So the second part then is dealing with what happens. I mean it's interesting again, when certain retailers are just brilliant, there's no questions, you know you have to return the item. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. They just say keep it, which to your earlier point can be very expensive. If you are making errors and you are sending the wrong product, then you just again lost a bunch of money, right? Because you sent the wrong product out in the first place. But if it goes wrong, it goes missing then in reality you know you've got to do the right thing wherever possible. I think it's, as you alluded to, stuff happens, right? It's just how you deal with it.

Richard:
Yeah. And you can deal with it in a way that can potentially, you can create an advocate of the brand potentially, if you're absolutely over ... "Keep the product, we'll send you another one and we'll send you this and we'll send you that and we'll give you this." Because obviously it's going to happen that infrequently in theory. But obviously you just don't want that bad brand sort of piece where they're just, "Oh what did you think of this?" "No delivery was terrible." They're going to tell 100 people or whatever that's going to ripple out. Where if they're saying, "They had a bit of a problem, but they were unbelievable. I spoke to this lady called Lucy in sales, or sorry, in customer support. Unbelievable. I think she literally drove it to my house."

Richard:
I've heard story, I have heard that of people there was a problem with the order so they literally, I think the owner who was the owner, remember that was about a year and a half ago, the owner jumped in his car and took them a replacement. I mean I'd been like, "What?" Imagine if it was a big brand that somebody rocks up and delivers it that is the owner founder of that brand. I mean that's going to be quite rare in a large organization. But how amazing would that be? Deliver them the whole range for nothing or something.

Andrew Norman:
I'm very conscious of, for some people listening, it is again, a little bit of a knife edge, because there is an element of fraud. There is an element of delivery fraud. There are people claiming they didn't get X, Y, Z and they did. So it is difficult. I think that's the elephant in the room is you want to do the right thing, the customer most of the time is always right. But sometimes they aren't. I think that's a really, really difficult knife edge for people, particularly during COVID. I mean don't know what it's like for you but our carriers where I live in London, they're just dropping them on the doorstep, they're ringing the bell, but they're not hanging around to make sure that you've actually come to the door and picked up the item. So we're seeing all kinds of stuff about people having stuff taken off that doorstep. So that is the downside of it where people have done a great job delivering and they've delivered on their promise and either something happens or the consumer is sort of effectively defrauding them, right? So that's the difficult part of it.

Richard:
Yeah, it's going to be an element of that, isn't it? Okay, Andrew, it has been an absolute pleasure. I think there's been so many takeaways there. I know we've bounced around a few times and then around again, I think that there's some cracking, cracking takeaway. So I think, guys, I would suggest you rewind this, literally rewind and just make sure you're having a look at all these elements. A lot of different elements there that I think, or I know that just some simple additions to maybe your delivery process offering. Just going back to that stock item, just having the correct stock and that sounds so simple. But absolutely we run a lot of ads obviously for companies and if the stock is wrong and we're advertising stock, it's not in stock you're wasting money on the ads and then you've got a bad customer. It's like a double loss in effect. But obviously from a carrier perspective there's so many takeaways there. Now I like to end every episode Andrew, with a book recommendation. Do you have a book that you recommend to our listeners?

Andrew Norman:
Oh man. It's kind of ironic actually because we're halfway through a book called Working Backwards, which is actually based on the Amazon principle.

Richard:
Okay.

Andrew Norman:
I can't give you the whole skinny on it or the whole ... Because I'm still halfway through it, but it is an interesting book. It basically sort of unravels, in the positive sense of that word, the process and the philosophy that Amazon adopted when they were scaling out in different countries. So that's something we're starting to use in our business.

Richard:
That sounds brilliant, That sounds absolutely spot on for our listeners. Scale's probably the key. Yeah, absolutely. Well for the guys that want to find out more about you, Andrew, more about ShipStation, what's the best way to do that?

Andrew Norman:
Yeah, wherever country you're in go to shipstation.com. As I say, we run a slightly different model. There's no commitment, there's no contract, it's month to month so you can come and go. Obviously we don't want you go, but we'd love you to come.

Richard:
Yeah.

Andrew Norman:
So yeah, just hit our webpage, shipstation.com and one of our team would be delighted.

Richard:
It's very, very simple or small commitment to try your service.

Andrew Norman:
Exactly right.

Richard:
And I've met a lot of your team over the years, to be fair, at different trade shows. Maybe not the last year or so because we haven't been at many, but prior to that. I have to say some of the guys I've met at your place have been very, very, very uber knowledgeable, uber professionals. I've been very, very impressed with the brand and I hear a lot of very, very good things about the brand. We're not using you personally, but when my kids sort out what they're doing exactly with their new eCom store, I think we'll be coming knocking in a few weeks time. But yeah, thank you for being a guest and I look forward to speaking to you again.

Andrew Norman:
Pleasure. Thanks for your time today. Appreciate it.

Richard:
Thank you. Bye.

Richard:
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