In this latest instalment of our eCommerce Influencer Series, we are thrilled to have the CMO and VP of Partnerships at ShipStation Robert Gilbreath, join us to discuss his thoughts on the current state of eCommerce.
ShipStation is one of the market leaders in the eCommerce world with their web-based software designed to make eCommerce retailers much more efficient at processing, fulfilling, and shipping their orders from all the most popular marketplaces and shopping carts utilising all the top carriers.
In this interview we find out more about Robert and ShipStation as well as get his expert insight into some of the most intriguing parts of eCommerce now and in the future.
So with that said let’s get straight into the chat with Robert.
Q: For anyone who doesn’t know you yet, who you are and how did you get started in the eCommerce industry?
I grew up with parents who ran their own small business. I saw them take advantage of new technologies to try to bring efficiency to their operations. So at a young age, I was exposed to and learned the importance of efficiency and utilizing the right tools to optimize business.
I kept thinking of ways to make business more efficient while saving time and money. Later, I became an early adopter of eBay and eCommerce. For a while, I dedicated my time to growing a personal online retail endeavor as well as being involved with the growth of several other online and traditional retailers.
Q: Looking back over the past three years, what do you think have been the biggest changes in eCommerce?
From a seller’s perspective, the biggest change is the transition from a focus on “customer satisfaction” to the “customer experience.” It used to be enough to have an online storefront and the ability to get orders delivered in less than a week. But this is definitely not the case anymore.
Everyday, new sellers are launching online stores. And every day brick-and-mortar retailers are expanding to eCommerce. Which means everyday, customers have more stores to choose from. And if one merchant is unable to meet a customer’s needs and also create a memorable experience, then that customer will just look for another merchant who can.
So now online retailers are constantly trying to find new ways to engage, attract, and retain customers. But they also need to know how to offer a standout customer experience without destroying their profits. Which is why so many sellers are starting to adopt different eCommerce solutions. The role of technology in online retail is expanding all the time. And the merchants who know how to take advantage of this technology are the ones who will be sticking around.
Q: How does ShipStation approach the current landscape of multi-channel eCommerce?
Shoppers expect a consistent experience every time they interact with a business, meaning the customer experience can’t vary by channel. Shoppers should always see the same inventory statuses, merchandise details, and product recommendations, regardless of which channel they’re using or device they’re on.
Having to login to several different platforms just to fulfill one order is not a sustainable practice. And if the types of software an employee has to login to change based on the channel, it’s even more time-consuming.
Online retailers need a single software where they can manage every aspect of selling and shipping on any channel — from entering product information to sending delivery confirmation emails.
They need an easy-to-use, intuitive platform that enables them to automate as much of the fulfillment process as possible. And they need a solution that helps them increase efficiency without sacrificing customer service.
That’s what ShipStation offers.
Q. We see a lot of talk about the rising customer expectations for delivery from eCommerce companies, how does ShipStation deal with these challenges?
As I mentioned earlier, there’s been a major paradigm shift. Customers are now more in control of online shopping transactions than sellers.
In the past three years, Amazon Prime membership has more than doubled. And what’s one of the biggest draws of Prime? Fast, free (or at least discounted) shipping. Because of Prime, the ability to choose from multiple shipping and delivery options has become especially important for shoppers. As a result, the ability to offer multiple shipping and delivery options is driving a lot of the technology decisions online sellers make.
This is why ShipStation connects to nearly 200 different eCommerce platforms, shopping carts, online marketplaces, and fulfillment providers. It’s why our platform integrates with over 30 different carriers across the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia.
It’s why ShipStation supports all major marketplaces, including Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Walmart.com. And it’s why we’re committed to regularly bringing on new partners and adding new selling platform integrations.
As an eCommerce software provider, we’re not only responsible for the experience of our users but the experience of our users’ customers, as well. And just like customers will more often shop with a store that meets their needs, online retailers will more often invest in a shipping solution that meets theirs.
Q: There is a lot of talk currently in eCommerce about the growth of Amazon do you believe they are largely friend or foe to small businesses?
Obviously, smaller retailers can’t offer everything Amazon can. But that doesn’t mean they should consider Amazon this unbeatable goliath that’s standing in the way of their success. If small retailers have the right mindset when it comes to Amazon and they utilize the right technology, Amazon can be a great way to grow their business.
Frankly, what it comes down to is whether or not a small business knows how to take advantage of what the Amazon Marketplace can provide. This includes Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and the ability to offer customers free shipping. Amazon gives small businesses exposure to a huge number of shoppers who may never have encountered that retailer otherwise. And most of those shoppers are ready to spend money now.
Q. What emerging technology do you see as the biggest game changer in eCommerce for retailers and customers?
Although augmented reality (AR) is still in its early stages of development, it will become the biggest game changer in eCommerce. AR technology allows online retailers to superimpose computer-generated images on a customer’s physical environment via a mobile device. Unlike virtual reality which completely replaces a customer’s regular environment, AR enhances a shopper’s view of the real world.
AR allows to interact with a “mockup” of their desired product. It expands the traditional click-and-buy process by giving shoppers the “try before you buy” experience for larger merchandise like furniture. AR is going to revolutionize eCommerce marketing as well as the online shopping experience.
Q. From your experience what is the one thing a business can do which will bring them the biggest rewards in the quickest fashion when selling online?
Branding. The online marketplace has become saturated with thousands of retailers. The issue is now standing out from the crowd, and building a strong brand is a great way for merchants to differentiate themselves.
Businesses who offer the best branding experience can develop a strong relationship with their customers. This includes sharing their brand story and what they value as a business. When a business is more transparent, it helps build credibility and make the brand more relatable.
This, in turn, can drive repeat purchases and customers’ brand loyalty. Taking every opportunity to showcase your brand name may require additional steps to your fulfillment process, but it will become a strong indicator of your dedication to the customer experience that will keep it relevant in the marketplace.
Q. Where can people find out more about you and what you do?
We want to thank Robert Gilbreath very much for taking the time to share his insights into eCommerce and ShipStation.