As a consultant for a "click-and-mortar" retail store in the DFW area, I was hired to analyze the challenges of their eCommerce and online marketing department and provide solutions. I leveraged SaaS applications, content, and workflow solutions to integrate customer needs with the company's goals. 

The majority of SBM's revenue came from in-store traffic, with the website acting as a catalog. However, they wanted to expand their current online reach, and therefore my expertise was sought to lay the foundation of online success. To date, the online store has seen a rise of 300% in sales revenue, 150% increase in web traffic and a 6x growth in conversion rate.

Case Study: Surplus Building Materials


STEP 1: Evaluate Current Systems and Solutions Against Current and Future Goals

OMS vs Current POS vs CRM

Our POS is not working for us. Is what we actually need an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) platform to help us manage distribution, inventory, accounts, supply chain, HR, etc? We weren't working with a large budget so this decision was easy: not yet. Meanwhile, I created workflows using simple software solutions that did not break the bank while we searched for a more user-friendly POS.

Final Solution: Make use of APIs and existing POS system while evaluating a POS system that would work for their needs.

eCommerce  Platform and APIs needed

Do we need to update the website and evaluate possible hosted platform switch? This was identified as an immediate goal due to several factors. Access to a design and build team, poor SEO, available plug-ins, and user-friendly back-end systems all factored into this decision.

Final Solution: We switched hosted platforms to BigCommerce in October 2015.

Marketing Channel Evaluation

Do I need a MAP (marketing automation program) to help me engage with my audience in a scalable way as we grow our opted-in contact base via landing page sign-up forms? This was a definite YES. We went with Klaviyo to develop our own email automation and database in-house rather than let an external team handle it.

Are there social and sales channels we are not using that fit our business model? Are there any not suited to our business that we continue to waste energy on now? We were not effectively leveraging Pinterest, a truly perfect social community for us. Houzz, a sales platform specific to home goods was identified and launched.

Final Solution: SBM now gets the bulk of their social traffic from Pinterest and Houzz has proven to be a slow but effective sales platform. New sales channel evaluations on eBay, Amazon, Wayfair, etc. are ongoing and very exciting.

STEP 2: Evaluate Current Policies and Find Working Solutions

Shipping and Returns

Should we roll shipping costs into operational costs and determine shipping to be FREE to increase online sales? What are the pros and cons to that model? This pain point was obvious in the funnel data: SBM didn't convert 98% of carts due to shipping costs. Safe to say it would have taken SBM to the next level in sales, however, much of their merchandise is extremely heavy and must ship LTL. The nuance here is tricky–you need to sell much more merchandise online in order to justify free shipping and you must make up some of the costs with larger margins (i.e. losing your competitive edge without nationwide bulk operations). 

Final Solution: We set up a robust LTL Freight real-time shipping rates engine on our eCommerce website with ShipperHQ. This eliminated the need to call for a shipping quote and increased the number of sales by 10%.

Customer Service and Current Reviews

How do we conduct ourselves when our customers experience frustration and how is that reflected in our online reviews? There was a big disconnect between how the management team perceived their handling of customer complaints and the story their online reviews and scores told. We had to move past this idea of "persecution" and focus on the very real issue of customers not feeling heard or properly informed and therefore taking to the review sites with anger. Will retailers sometimes be taken advantage of? Yes. How far you want it to hurt the future of your business is in your hands, however.

Final Solution: New policies for front-end sales and new rules for how to handle customer complaints were put into place. This resulted in an uptick of 1.75 stars across Google and Yelp review sites and an overall downturn in major customer complaints.

Loyalty Programs and Future Reviews

Do we have a way to recognize repeat customers and reward them and win their business for next time? Can we supply a homeowner with incentives to use our store for their next project, be it months or years from now? Can we capture reviews before they become online complaints? There was not anything in place to capture in-store customer data and use it to recapture buyer attention or promote public reviews. 

Final Solution: SBM partnered with SignPost and rolled out SMS and email-based promotions and review gathering services. This system also helps get solid reviews from previously unreachable brick and mortar customers and catch complaints at the very beginning of the issue.

How about you? What are your pain points? Where do need to calibrate your business to achieve your goals?

Do software interfaces fill you with dread, rather than happiness that you basically hired a robot to clone yourself for a few hundred a month? I speak your language and that robot's, too, and I'd be happy to introduce you. Have you explored email automation beyond just transactional? I can help brainstorm content that will bring all the customers to the yard so you can sort them out.

Many eCommerce platforms, email and lead generation marketing solutions, etc., pay for themselves in a few months. CRMs, OMS, and the like tend to pay you back in happier human capital, less frustration, and lower turnover.

I can set up customer winback, browse abandonment, and other nurture campaigns through a marketing automation platform like Hubspot, Klaviyo or Mail Chimp.

We can work to get content where it is needed on your site to reduce friction, aid and abet SEO efforts, and improve conversion.

Then you can knock out the other fifty to-do items on your list today.