Opportunities are limitless in ecommerce. But, of course, finding your roots and sustaining success as a seller is no easy feat.
In the last several months alone, 36% of Amazon sellers have gone inactive, folding under the harsh conditions of an already-competitive marketplace coupled with the impacts of COVID-19.
To bring a bit of inspiration, here are four businesses who went against the odds and built ecommerce businesses that are thriving, even under today’s extreme conditions. We interviewed each business in collaboration with our partners at ShipBob to bring tales of great success, inspiration—and practical tips. Check out our list below and learn from the sellers who’ve found ways to maximize the ROI of their venture into ecommerce.
McCombs Supply: Find Your Own Rhythm
McCombs Supply is not only a veteran in ecommerce. The third-generation, family-owned company has roots dating back to 1953, when its brick-and-mortar flagship store was opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Despite more than 18 years of selling online, McCombs still sees sizable YoY sales growth across its catalog of commercial and home appliance parts.
This year was no different. As retailers across the country shuttered their doors in the wake of COVID-19, McCombs saw an 11% growth in its online sales.
Vice President Ken McCombs III attributes this success to a multitude of things. Outside of carrying products that are crucial for at-home living, McCombs has a long-established system for forecasting demand; before the turn of the season—and before most sellers were scrambling to stock up on inventory—McCombs had already ordered a large amount of product, which entailed working outside the company’s normal purchase-order cycle and bumping lead times from 45 days to 90 days for certain SKUs.
McCombs also points to his team’s early investments in multichannel and “deep inventory” as factors of success. While a majority of marketplace sellers rely on Amazon for at least 60% of their annual revenue today, nearly 75% McCombs’ sales come from outside of Amazon through channels like its BigCommerce webstore, eBay and Walmart Marketplace.
His final word of wisdom: “You don’t want to just have what everyone else has, but also what everyone else doesn’t have...The deeper your inventory—that’s where the money is.”
Having a healthy mix of “A” products (items that you sell “all day long”) and “B” products ( products that sell less frequently, but are of high value to customers) can keep buyers coming back to your brand.
BAKblade: Build Your Brand
BAKblade is on a mission to instill “clean confidence” among men all across the country. Featured by media like Mashable, Discover and the Today Show, BAKblades ergonomic body groomer offers the perfect shave, whether you’re trying to reach areas on your back, chest or abs.
In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, the company saw demand fluctuate—and drop slightly—as buyers focused their attention on essential products. But as the country entered the “self grooming” phase of panic buying, the company’s existing brand presence helped to buoy sales and even drive sales higher than expected.
“We have noticed a 20% uptick over our predicted revenues between the U.S. and Canada,” said Matt Dryfhout, BAKblade’s Founder and CEO. “Having enough stock combined with a large online presence has allowed us to navigate these waters effectively.”
BAKblade has been building its brand aggressively throughout the years. When you visit its site, its branding leaves a strong impression and purposefully elicits a few good laughs.
“Whether you are mildly hairy as a chimp or a seriously hairy silverback gorilla, we've got your BAK,” reads its homepage, a tribute to the blue, bow-tied gorilla in its logo. This branding carries over into Amazon, where BAKblade’s storefront and listings feature enhanced brand content (EBC) that beautifully illustrates its novel technology.
BAKblade is one of the latest and greatest examples of a business that combines the power of an elegant D2C webstore with existing third-party marketplaces. Marketplaces allow them to reach a wide, established consumer base (and pick up more than 7,400 reviews and 5-star ratings along the way) to fuel brand recognition and drive returning traffic to its own site.
Behind the scenes, the company also leverages ShipBob, an industry-leading 3PL, to maintain fast shipping across all its multichannel orders. Whether a sale comes in from Amazon, eBay or their webstore, BAKblade is always able to deliver a positive customer experience that gives even more clout to its brand.
In Case You’re Interested: BAKblade is running a promotion where you can save 15% off your purchase. Just add BARGIN15 to your check and save!
Felina: Get Creative with Your Marketing
Whether in times of emergency or everyday life, Felina lets women indulge in a little TLC. Since the early 80s, Felina has been manufacturing high-quality, affordable intimate and lounge wear. The company owns multiple product lines and brands sold at Costco, Target and various other department stores.
Online, Felina has earned its reputation as a top 15 seller of leggings on Amazon. Ecommerce is the fastest growing part of their business, according to Head of Ecommerce Neil Popkin. And the company has adopted a startup-like approach to making their products known across multiple marketplaces.
But the COVID-19 outbreak did a number on the apparel industry at the start of 2020. For Felina, stay-at-home orders also meant the closure of its warehouse, causing fulfillment to come to a screeching halt. Despite this, the company found ways to keep orders coming in.
“[We asked] ourselves, ‘How do we take this time to be more strategic with our emails and release campaigns that people will engage with, even if an order isn’t going to ship right away?’” said Popkin.
Among the many ideas the team considered, the company tested strategies like a buy-one-get-one 50% off sale, and a 15% discount when a buyer donated a dollar to a charity. The team further experimented with a new loyalty program, incentivizing buyers to come back pre- or post-pandemic to redeem their points.
The reception was positive: Felina flipped the trajectory of its sales, driving more purchases and keeping complaints and order cancelations at bay, even though delivery times were delayed.
Today, Popkin also highlights the importance of proactive communication. Keeping customers in the know as they wait for their orders has helped to fortify the trust that they have in Felina. Moving forward, Popkin predicts that ecommerce will experience a big uptick across most industries. The tactics that his team explored and perfected while at home will help them remain successful in the months and years to come.
Cacee: Maintain a Growth Mindset
Cacee (pronounced like “cachet”) supplies everyone from the professional nail artist to the at-home user with high-quality nail lacquer and spa tools. With over 1,000 different color and art options, Cacee rarely fails to disappoint.
Even as more and more Americans were stuck indoors early 2020, Cacee’s sales skyrocketed. Between February and March, sales more than doubled—only to double again the following month. Cacee earned five times more sales in those three months alone, already blowing past projections.
Beyond having the right products, CEO Allen Doan explains that the team’s marketing campaigns were already set up to capture attention and direct buyers to its Shopify store while FBA was down (recall Amazon's refusal to accept non-essential inventory). While in normal times, Amazon accounts for more than half of Cacee’s sales, their storefront generated four to five times more sales than Amazon in recent months.
This is just one of many changes that the company is ready to embrace. From the start of their ecommerce journey, Cacee has invested in growth strategies to keep the company nimble and open to whatever gets thrown their way.
This has meant expanding to various sales channels, working with multiple suppliers, being experimental with their marketing and building up their tech stack. The latter speaks to their investment in Zentail, which seamlessly integrates with their ShipStation account. Using Zentail, the team can centrally manage listing, inventory, forecasting and other critical tasks—improving their efficiency even as they pursue more and more sales outlets.
“Success is part preparation, part luck,” said Doan. “Sudden surges in demand and having the right product is nothing short of luck. But, we wouldn't be able to meet these challenges without having the discipline to quickly pivot.”
“My advice would be to stick with the challenges in growing your business,” Doan added, “because luck will find you, and when it does, you have to be prepared to capture the opportunity.”
What Will Your Success Story Look Like?
You hear it said time and time again: there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to ecommerce. Even so, there are various tips and tricks that can be of help as you navigate your own path to success.
Keep in mind some of the takeaways from today’s stories:
- Focus on the breadth and depth of your inventory
- Look beyond one channel to grow sales
- Take advantage of brand-building opportunities
- Proactively engage your customers across channels
- Invest in a strong foundation, supported by tech and strategies to keep your business running efficiently