John Roman, Chief Marketing Officer and a Sales and Technology leader at BattlBox, jumped onto The eCom Ops podcast to share his insights on eCommerce operations and technical automation. Check out all other episodes of The eCom Opshere.
You can learn more about John Roman and BattlBox here:
BattlBox started in 2015, as a monthly subscription box consisting of outdoor survival gear that grew year by year. Recently, it launched the first episode of Southern Survival on Netflix, BatllBox’s first foray into media and television where the crew test out several products to ensure that they are helpful in dangerous survival situations. The by-product of this exponential growth meant them being featured on Forbes and Business Leader.
John talks about how getting into eCommerce was not “by design” as he and his co-founders had no previous experience related to eCommerce. He mentions an anecdote about how he, along with his 2 co-founders, came up with the idea after they saw one co-founder’s wife open a Birchbox with apparent excitement and this gave him the idea to create a subscription box for something not already present in the market. They came up with the concept of BattlBox. They then approached CrateJoy, which provided a platform for them to launch their product and a website.
John and his team initially started with CrateJoy and used that platform for two years, and BattlBox were their largest merchants. This platform gave them the push from betaB but to establish a more diverse marketplace and a one-time traditional eCommerce site, and to provide them with the opportunity to expand and experiment with new things, they started working on their platform. However, ShopifyPlus then reached out to them and gave them a wider area to work around with. BattlBox, along with its subsidiaries, Going Gear, Carnivore Club, and Grenade Soap, are on Shopify for eCommerce marketing.
John talks about a lesser margin in the marketplace around 2-3% and further, you have to give them 15% off the top to platforms like Amazon for peak visibility and marketing. So if any business has a very major margin, that’d be a suitable option for them, but otherwise, it’s not worth it. John mentions how it’s essential to focus on your own store as it will bring in more customers, help you build a clientele base, and will give more profitability with lesser investment.
He talks about how it sometimes becomes tricky to market their boxes because of specific tools that are targetted for use in camping and hiking. Still, the marketing algorithm sees that as a weapon and labels it as potentially dangerous.
John mentions how their fulfilment, warehousing, and all other operations, everything is done in house. They have 13,000 square feet warehouses, one owned by BattlBox where all the operations staff is, the crew for picking, assembly, packing, and all the operations related to the tech side so that whatever is coded, the end product is the same. The other one is just getting leased and is a recent buy which is to be used as an inventory that can be accessed when the need.
He talks about building his foundation on pillars that constitute factors at work held at the highest level of importance, and the customer experience and service are at the top. There are a few steps to ensure that such as once a customer signs in, they get welcome messages, personalized emails, and manual outreaches from the customer service department of the firm. There is also a members-only group on Facebook for active subscribers, and they get a fast lane to interacting with John and his co-founders for any problem or ratings so to stay connected. It is vital to merge the fulfilment of commitments regarding time and quality with building a well-knit community.
John says that most of the work like assembly, packing, and labelling that goes on in the warehouse is “old-school” and done manually by part-time college students, but there is technical automation to a degree. The order receiving, shipments, and customer rating etcetera are all managed online.
John talks about how they are only shipping in the US and Canada and still total up to around 28000 boxes per month but hope towards launching it all over Europe and Australia soon. He mentions how it’s essential to measure success when you are expanding. He then keeps your focus towards establishing a strong clientele base there and an actual storage facility there to keep your operations going and keep shipping costs low. The pandemic did cause disruptions in the supply line, but they have been managing it well because of tech automation and inventories.