First of all thanks for being a loyal UltraCart merchant for the past 8 years. You've provided a lot of insight for us on strategic development.
Cathy - It's been a collaborative partnership has benefitted us a great deal. UltraCart has been instrumental to our business growth.
1. I want to give our readers ideas of what it takes to not only make it to the top, but to stay there. Can you tell us where you started with UltraCart and where are you now?
We have benefitted from many UltraCart features and enhancements as we've grown. UltraCart has enabled us to stay on the leading edge both in basic operations processes and in market-competitive functionality.
An example of an enhancement that UltraCart brought to our operations processes was early on when we implemented UltraShip. Many of our orders have many parts - small and large - and occasionally we would get calls from customers that they did not receive a part. Since UltraShip allows us to scan items as they are packed, we are more confident that we have in fact packed the order properly. When our Customer Service staff receives calls, they are able to verify that the order was scanned and assure the customer that the part was included in the box, and invariably the part is found upon further inspection. This has saved us from needless and expensive re-shipping of items that were already shipped the first time.
In terms of features that have enhanced our competitiveness there are many examples that have kept us competitive in the market. One example is that UltraCart provided the functionality for our customers to write reviews about our products. We have some items now that have hundreds of reviews and we can tell that the information is useful to our customers. UltraCart has been very responsive in adopting features that our competitors may have happened to launch first on their websites, but which UltraCart has made even better for us to deploy.
Another example is that UltraCart allows us to display Top Sellers on catalog group lists. Customers find the Top Sellers lists to be very helpful as they are selecting a product.
2. You have multiple UltraCart accounts powering different sites and some very large sku counts, what do you use in UltraCart to help you manage such a large offering?
We use the item export and import to manage our items. We take full advantage of attributes and catalog group selectors to dynamically generate web content. In addition to using attributes to help us organize our web content, they are also used for business reporting to allow us to monitor sales trends for different segments of our offerings.
For inventory control for our 100k+ skus, I use the inventory planning report on a daily basis. We have a complicated procurement system that incorporates product we have in our warehouse, and products from JIT suppliers (which are set up as alternate DC's in UltraCart.) With the inventory planning report, I am able to project the requisite inventory levels which enable me to accurately purchase 10,000's of items daily from our suppliers. This works well for us and its second nature to me now in managing this part of our business.
On our website, we display whether items are in stock or not, both from our warehouse and our JIT suppliers, so customers don't waste their time if the item isn't available.
3. Can you talk a little bit about the work you're doing in Amazon marketplace and eBay?
We do Amazon, Amazon FBA and eBay. Orders for both Amazon and eBay flow into our UltraCart accounts. This makes it very straight-forward for our shippers in shipping the orders. And, it makes it easy for Customer Service to answer questions about orders since we make notes in Merchant Notes. Since we have multiple staff involved in shipping and Customer Service, we take full advantage of the additional information available about orders in UltraCart beyond what we have available in Amazon and eBay. It definitely makes sense for us, and it allows us to more efficiently answer customer questions.
4. You've tried both your own shipping and then outsourcing to a fulfillment center and eventually you chose to use UltraShip for your shipping platform. Can you tell us why you went in that direction?
Initially, one of our suppliers was fulfilling our orders but early on, we decided that we could offer better customer service if we were doing our own fulfillment. That's the point at which we started using UltraCart for order checkout and soon after that, we implemented UltraShip. Then, as we grew, we used more and more UltraCart functionality.
5. You use the catalog system. What do you think?
The UltraCart catalog system is incredibly powerful and we are becoming more and more sophisticated in our implementation of it. We get many compliments from our customers about our website and how things are organized, and that is directly as a result of the robustness of the catalog system. The catalog system has been fundamental to our success . . . and it is fun to experiment with!
6. So many merchants struggle to make it the first couple years, but you have been very successful since you first came to UltraCart. Can you give other UltraCart users some tips on what has helped increase your business through the years?
Most of it is just basic business sense. Live in reality not wishful thinking, and avoid cash flow problems. UltraCart reports help us monitor sales and inventory, so we have the information needed to prevent us from ordering too much and creating cash flow problems. We are dependent on the data we have available to us, and with UltraCart I feel confident that we have what we need. I would hate not having the ability to drill into the data as we can with UltraCart.
We also have found valuable information by using the UltraCart email system. We announce items before they are released and by monitoring preorders, we are in a better position to order appropriately for those new products.