A sampling of e-retailer and vendor announcements from the NRF show floor this week.
Sales have gone up by 250% since Pure Fix Cycles began using web-hosted software from vendor Lettuce to track inventory and connect it to the web site and accounting database. The retailer also launched a B2B e-commerce portal via Lettuce, which has enabled it to hold off on hiring another staffer.
Bicycle manufacturer and retailer Pure Fix Cycles has increased its sales by 250% since it began using web-based inventory management software from vendor Lettuce Inc., says co-founder and chief financial officer Michael Fishman. The technology has eliminated inefficient manual processes for keeping track of inventory and orders, and made that data accessible to all Pure Fix Cycles staffers, he says.
“It made everything more transparent and efficient,” Fishman says. “We’d had all these different segments that were all manual processes. Lettuce brought all that to the click of one button.”
Three years ago, Fishman on Fridays manually entered all the week’s invoices from Pure Fix Cycles’ Shopify e-commerce platform into the Intuit Inc. QuickBooks accounting software on his computer, he says. Then, because only he had access to that QuickBooks data, he’d also manually update a shared spreadsheet for the rest of the staff to be able to check inventory levels.
Despite his efforts, Fishman still ended up answering multiple e-mails each day from various staffers asking about the availability of items. The lack of current data was especially problematic for Pure Fix Cycles’ sales reps, he says. Without knowing how much inventory was in stock, it was hard to place bulk orders for specialty stores on the spot.
“The whole entire thing was manual,” Fishman says. “It was a lot of brainless busy work.”
In contrast, with Lettuce, any staffer can log into a web dashboard and instantly see the most up-to-date inventory levels for all the bikes, parts and accessories Pure Fix Cycles sells, Fishman says. As well as making the organization more efficient internally, that helped the sales reps to increase sales by 250% over the last year, he says. Not only do they have the most accurate information for placing orders, but they can pull up sales history reports via the Lettuce iPad app, which helps them to suggest re-orders, upsells or cross-sales on the spot, Fishman says. As a result, Pure Fix Cycles grew its sales staff from eight employees to about 23 spread across the United States and Canada, he says.
Setting up the Lettuce software was simple, Fishman says. “Lettuce is like the middleman, with QuickBooks on the left and Shopify on the right,” he says. He used a web connection provided by Lettuce to pull all Pure Fix Cycles’ products from QuickBooks into Lettuce. From there, Lettuce connects with an application programming interface, or API, to share that inventory information with the retailer’s Shopify e-commerce platform, which is also web-hosted. “Orders and inventory are constantly talking back and forth between those things,” Fishman says. That means that all the QuickBooks accounting data, the inventory levels displayed in Lettuce and the product availability on Shopify are always up to date. And the retailer can make the information available to customers: If an item is out of stock, the web site will display a message saying so to a customer
Additionally, after an order comes in through the site, Lettuce sends the information to UPS.com and automatically prints a shipping label, then transfers the tracking information back into Shopify, which triggers an automated confirmation e-mail to the customer, Fishman says. That has sped up significantly the time it takes for Pure Fix Cycles to process online orders, he says. Lettuce also comes with a pre-built connection to the retailer’s Stripe payments processing software that automatically enters payment records into QuickBooks when a customer completes a transaction, he adds.
Six months ago, Pure Fix Cycles also began using a new tool from Lettuce, a B2B portal for its reseller customers to place online orders via a Lettuce-hosted e-commerce site, Fishman says. As the retailer’s first foray into wholesale e-commerce, the site is proving highly effective—about 30% to 40% of all B2B orders now come in via the web, he says. Another positive side effect is that the retailer has been able to avoid hiring at least one extra customer service agent to take orders by phone or e-mail, he adds.
The B2B site, which is hosted at LettuceApps.com/PureFixCycles, requires resellers to create a log-in to see Pure Fix Cycles’ inventory. That allows the manufacturer to control what products and prices each wholesale account sees individually. For instance, clients who order more bikes than accessories might see different bulk pricing for bikes than ones who mainly buy accessories, Fishman says. Or, the retailer might display certain premium products to only certain customers, or push a particular category to clients in only some regions, for example.
“We didn’t have to hire someone, so I would definitely say that is worth it,” Fishman says. “I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Pure Fix Cycles pays $179 per month for the Lettuce inventory management software, which also includes the B2B e-commerce site, Fishman says. Lettuce also offers its inventory management software in $39 per month and $89 per month versions, which do not allow customized employee permissions for each log-in. With those versions, a client pays an additional $50 per month for the B2B portal. The most basic, $39 version includes phone and e-mail support, online order management, customer management, online invoicing and credit card processing, according to Lettuce.