SuperSpeed Golf's Harley Abrams joins Lucas Walker and Pitstop to tell you how keep your shipping costs on par.
An often solitary game, played in the wide open spaces of spacious fields and breezy pastures, the popularity fo golf exploded over the past year and a half as Covid-19 brought nearly every other sport to a sudden halt, forcing many to delay games and restrict players. With at most four participants per group, spread out over hundreds of square feet at a time, golf is the perfect sport for the infectious-aware, and consumer buying habits have proven this. With traditional sporting-goods stores closed or heavily limited in how many customers could enter for so long, those same consumers have shifted away from relying on local brick & mortar stores and familiar retail brands, and towards buying directly from the distributer, skipping the middleman altogether to get what they want at a better price.
This presents those wholesale distributers with a new set of problems, as suddenly their shipping costs for direct to customer sales have more than doubled, and consumers are beginning to expect a higher quality of engagement, both from the brand and in their deliverable products and packaging. Harley Abrams, Operations manager at SuperSpeed Golf knows these problems all too well, and shares with Pitstop some of his essential answers and easy fixes for shipping direct to your consumer.
- Partner up to solve problems: SuperSpeed Golf's flagship product, weighted training clubs, are roughly the same length as a typical golf club, which all share a similar shipping struggle in that they're an irregular shape & size, and require special processing. That special processing often costs extra, adding to already substantial delivery costs. Try leveraging any relationships you have in the industry, such as cutting a deal with a company that has already-established delivery services and contracts, and make a deal to ship like-with-like to your mutual profit. Leveraging the increased combined volume can lead you to an even sweeter delivery deal from your choice of shipping companies, allowing both you and your partner to pay less for a higher grade of shipping service. You can also leverage this for packaging design companies, finding solutions for your similar products that otherwise don't fit traditional boxes or sealed packaging.
- Consider the unboxing experience: Customers demand more from their brands, and the packaging an item arrives in is not immune to this. Thanks to unboxing culture, consumers have expectations that the process of getting a product is itself gratifying, and the harder a company leans into it, the more engaged and excited your customers will be. Consider the careful presentation of Apple products, or the informative details included in some subscription boxes, or even making the box itself worth the order.
- Have a clear dialogue with your customers: Talk to you customers throughout the purchase and delivery process, with frequent updates, additional information, options for returns and feedback, and any delays in delivery. Simply offering proactive communication with your customers any errors or issues in filling an order can buy you more time if you are having packaging issues. This can also lead to additional purchases, which you can bundle to save on overall shipping costs while selling more product overall.
- Have a clear dialogue with your partners: In the case of returns, who is responsible for the various associated costs? Where does the package go? Have these questioned clearly answered and agreed upon with your partners to avoid any unnecessary friction and headaches in the future. Know your costs before you ever pay a single penny.
Up Your International Game
Harley Abrams of SuperSpeed Golf talks international expansion tips with Pitstop's Lucas Walker, and how to avoid any trouble along the way.
Going for that long drive into international markets can be a tricky shot for any growing e-commerce business, there are any number of hazards and unexpected obstacles along the way that you'll have to avoid or overcome. Harley Abrams, Operations manager at SuperSpeed Golf, has already played through to the greens beyond, and has some important pointers for you to pick up.
- Localize your user experience: An international customer already has the frustration of dealing with higher delivery costs and currency exchange rates, so don't unintentionally make shopping out-of-country any harder. Make sure the digital storefront they land on is already set for their nationality or region, with item prices and sizes already converted. A reliable and relaxing shopping experience will bring customers back every time.
- Have a clear SEO line of sight: It's hard enough to get attention in your own market, but you're fighting for space twice as hard in any foreign sectors. Make doubly sure your search lines are clear and direct to avoid inefficient cannibalization by other pages on your site, and know how customers in those regions and languages think about your brand and search for products. Adapt your SEO to the consumer's vernacular, not yours.
- Be aware of regional practices and standards: While common enough in North America, minimum advertised pricing is outright illegal in some markets, while others may demand a more grounded and registered level of involvement or complicated tax laws, necessitating expensive and time consuming business permit applications and regional accountancy. Don't let yourself get caught off-guard or unawares, as the penalties can be devastating.
- Buy out your distribution partner: Occasionally you have to take a calculated risk and venture off the beaten path, like SuperSpeed Golf did. Buying out your distribution partner and bringing everything you need in-house, so that you have more direct control over your deliveries, logistics and packaging, is an option for the very few, but should not be missed out on. Being able to adapt the process to best suit your business and customers needs, and those alone, fosters a closer sense of engagement between you and your consumers, along with clearer communication, as your brand is present every step, assuring the highest quality service always.
Swing For The Green
SuperSpeed Golf's Harley Abrams tells Pitstop's Lucas Walker how blended distribution channels, and the unique economy of golf, allowed the brand to thrive under pressure during Covid-19.
As Operations Manager for SuperSpeed Golf, Harley Abrams knows that the main channels for consumers into golf, the two primary ways that players get the equipment they need to play the game, are direct to consumer sales, such as ordering clubs, bags or apparel straight from Ping or Titleist, and big box stores like Golf Town, who specialize in having every major brand names at brick and mortar locations, but generally make their profits on marking up the product offered.
Unique to golf though, explains Abrams, is a third avenue, what those in the industry call Green Grass stores, the pro shops, located on every golf course on Earth, big or small. The product in these stores can range from tailored sets and limited editions, to ziplock bags of lost balls sold by the pound, but they all sell at the very least a round of golf, often acting as the course's front office, which means any customer who enters that store is a reliable buyer, someone already putting down money on the sport. What's more, while Covid-19 shut down or heavily restricted how many customers could use big box stores, pro shops and golf courses maintained a low but steady number of customers on and off the course, thanks to the four-player nature of the sport. This allowed SuperSpeed Golf to continue selling and promoting to active customers, craving escape in the great outdoors.
Here's what the phenomenon of Green Grass stores can teach other e-commerce operators and business owners about blended distribution channels.
- Find your own patch of Green Grass. Getting in with the big box stores can take years of constant hustle and stress, and winning your way to partnering with a major direct to consumer brand more often than not means selling part if not all of your product to them, rights and all. You need somewhere safe that you can establish your brand and start making your presence known, without having to bend to the terms of a larger partner, where you can have a more personal engagement with your core customers. Not every product is going to have a communal spot like a pro shop, you may have to look for other universal touch points, like famous fans and users of your product, or annual events. Sales will be spotty at first, but above all you're selling your brand at this point, and buying exposure to a wider audience of interested buyers.
- Settle down and get comfortable. Don't spend your time trying to get the attention of the big box retailers you dream of someday seeing yourself in, they don't make decisions about which products to partner with based on how persistent they are. Establish your brand, first and foremost. Sales, and the potential profit others can make from your product, are what matters, so spend your time focussing on selling as much as you can through smaller Green Grass channels. Prove that your products are popular and your brand is capable first, the big box stores will eventually take notice and follow in their own time, often eager to make a deal.
- Invite your friends. Celebrate and share stories about your users and product, how people use your products, who uses them, and new ways people come up with using your product. Your consumers, all of your consumers not just the influencers and celebrities, are your product testers, so listen to them when they find errors, fixes, new uses and unexpected outcomes. Their ideas, freely offered, may be what takes your brand into the mass market, or finds a weakness that could have irrevocably broken it if left unaddressed. Positive buzz and word of mouth are still the most trusted ways to make a sale, no matter how advanced marketing technology becomes.
Find your own patch of Green Grass, set up shop wherever you can lay down roots, and let your brand and product become known to your customers by presence, convenience and word of mouth, and soon enough you won't have to worry about putting your neck on the line selling to big box retailers, they'll follow the customers back to you.
- Tags: amazon, apple, costs, covid 19, delivery, ecommerce, fedex, green grass, international, localization, localize, packaging, podcast, regional, sales, sales velocity, seo, shipping, shopify, spotify, superspeed golf, ups