This week we got a chance to sit down with one of the retailers using Endless Aisles’ Special Ordering Portal, Gregg Bernhardt. Gregg and his wife own a pet store in New Jersey called Bag of Bones Barkery, which has been serving loyal customers for more than ten years. We chatted about his store’s experience using the Special Ordering Portal, and what he thinks the keys to success are when using this powerful tool.
EA: Hi Gregg, thank you so much for meeting with us today to discuss your experience with Endless Aisles and share your success story.
Gregg: You’re welcome! I’m excited to be here.
EA: Let’s first start with the basics– what got you interested in Endless Aisles?
Gregg: We first heard about Endless Aisles through Phillips. Honestly, the idea got both my wife, Melissa and me very excited. It was great to hear that a small retailer like us could get the opportunity to use a powerful dropship tool.
Before Endless Aisles, it was almost impossible to ship large bags of food- they are heavy, expensive, and time-consuming to send to customers. We were extremely excited to have a new catalog that would allow us to quickly and easily get every customer request that came into the store, even if we were out of stock or didn’t carry the particular product.
EA: Our intentions were exactly that- to help retailers like yourself gain more sales opportunities online and through dropshipping. How was the onboarding process for you?
Gregg: Honestly, the onboarding process was quite an adventure! I say this because it was truly new for everyone- Phillips, Endless Aisles, and us. As with any new system, we knew that we couldn’t just jump in and expect everything to be perfect. That being said, the Endless Aisles team treated everything very professionally. All of our feedback was honored like we were a unique store, instead of just another one of their onboarders. They also gave us great explanations of each Endless Aisles products and their capabilities; the Special Ordering Portal and the Plugin for Shopify.
Once we took the time to think about which of the Endless Aisles product best suited us and put together our own “puzzle”, the onboarding process went really smoothly. The whole thing was actually a lot quicker than we expected and, in a month and a half, we were live and running.
EA: We noticed that you’ve been successful at shipping orders regularly. What do you think has set you up for success?
Gregg: Being successful with Special Ordering requires several key “ingredients”.
The first ingredient that you need is a quick and efficient platform- the Special Ordering Portal. I was particularly impressed by how simple and streamlined the ordering process becomes when you use it. It’s great to have access to such a powerful tool without any unnecessary or confusing features.
The second key to success is great staff training. We had to make sure that our team members were excited to operate this system. If we got our staff to be enthusiastic marketing the capability, we would have a special way of grabbing that customer and making the sale. When this happened, our customer service level went up several notches.
The third key is for you and the system to be reliable and consistent. Endless Aisles was great at quickly correcting any problems we did encounter, which allowed us to fulfill orders seamlessly in front of the customer.
EA: That’s a great analogy. Using these tools effectively can be a bit tricky and require several different factors. How have you let your customers know about your new Special Ordering capabilities?
Gregg: We have let our customers know by advertising on different social media channels, in-store, and through word of mouth.
EA: Were your customers drawn to your new capabilities? Did you have to persuade them in any way?
Gregg: We didn’t have a hard time getting people on board when we first released that we had this platform. Most customers were very excited to hear that their local shop now had capabilities that only large retailers once had. Even when customers that preferred in-store interactions to online delivery came in, we were able to tell them that we are there to ship their usual orders if they need us, and that home delivery is now always an option.
EA: Right- You always have to let your customers know that you are there for them, even if they have no interest in home delivery at the time. Have you been doing any online marketing?
Gregg: We post a lot of social media campaigns. Specifically, we host several called “Real Talk” where people are free to tell us what products they purchase elsewhere and what makes them hesitate to buy from our store. We then let people know about our new Special Ordering capabilities and the thousands of products we now have available for them to order. This gets people talking and the conversation started.
Additionally, when our followers share this content, it makes their friends and family from out of state want to buy from us. We’ve had several customers around the US connect with us about a certain brand or treat that was mentioned on social media. Post sharing also helps us to connect with old customers who moved from the area but still desired our homemade products and specialty brands.
Additionally, along with online advertising, we are planning on print advertising and have several flyers in store.
EA: Those campaigns are great. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot from them. What do you think about the smaller margins associated with Special Ordering compared to in-store sales? Does that ever stop you from ordering?
Gregg: A retailer once asked me about Endless Aisles and mentioned that the cost wasn’t worth it. I said that, yes, someone buying food in-store is definitely going to have a better margin. But that requires predicting the demand for an item, ordering it, inventorying it, pricing it, stocking it on the shelf, gathering the product with the customer and checking out. Once you have the portal and people know about it, you do get a smaller margin– but for 4 minutes of work, zero inventory risk, and a satisfied customer. Especially if you do any recurring orders, 4 minutes monthly for 40 customers makes the smaller margin very worth it.
EA: You mentioned that you have several customers that make recurring orders, monthly. How do you handle that?
Gregg: We have many people on recurring orders. This requires a lot of work on our end but is worth it for the increased customer experience and profit.
We set this up by talking to the POS system reps on our website. We asked if there was a way that people could sign up on our site for recurring shipments. Once we did this, we could collect customer’s shipping information along with their preferred products and delivery schedule. We then set up our calendar to alert us when these orders are due.
Right now we have more than 40 people on recurring orders, including those who have local delivery orders with us. It’s a lot of maintenance but means you have automatic orders every few weeks. It’s not glamorous, but there is little cost in terms of money or time to do it. Once you have this system set up, you would be amazed at the revenues you can make.
EA: That’s so impressive! Do you have any other piece of advice for new retailers considering Endless Aisles Special Ordering?
Gregg: Overall, it is important to keep in mind that nothing will just drop into your lap. You need to start slow. We live in a world where everyone, including the customer and retailer, is busy. That’s why it’s extremely important to be available as another convenient option in the customer’s life.
EA: Great advice. Thank you so much for speaking with us today- you have been so insightful and helpful.
Gregg: My pleasure!
To read about how a different retailer takes advantage of our e-commerce plugin, check out Choice Pet: Live With Endless Aisles.