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The Relationship Between eCommerce and Logistics with Casey Armstrong, CMO at ShipBob

Casey Armstrong 4:23

Yeah, I mean, I would loosely on the the couple of companies I did, I did run my own agencies a couple times. The beauty of agencies as you know is you get to work with so many different brands. You know, the pace of learning is also very high just like when your heads down on one specific company because you’re forced to just change context so quickly in regards to the types of customers you’re working with and the problems that you’re trying to solve. And you’re often working with, you know, either their CEO or co founder Or a co founder or maybe their marketing lead. And you’re trying to compete against, you know, the best of the best with with their competition. And again, you’re jumping around from one brand to another. And, but the problem with that, that I felt is I couldn’t get necessarily deep enough. And so that’s why I wanted to jump full time into certain brands. And so yeah, I also helped run a company called PaleoHacks which, which we sold. And then that was what led me to working at a company called called Watchmaster, we were luxury watched direct consumer brand over in Germany. And then that’s when I jumped over to BigCommerce.

Joshua Chin 5:38

That is amazing. Now, tell us a little bit more about your, your role at ShipBob? And what exactly do you do?

Casey Armstrong 5:49

What do I do. So I’m the CMO over at ShipBob. That includes all things marketing, as you’d expect, I also get to oversee the the partnership side of the business, which I really enjoy working with our technology partners, from, you know, the Googles, and the Facebook’s and the Walmarts of the world, to you know, the up and coming technology companies. You know, like I’d say, you know, gorgeous years ago, when they were pretty early on. And you know, they made such a huge name for themselves, it’s been so impressive to watch their journey to, you know, newer companies today like, like Alloy, which is really trying to be Zapier for ecommerce. And then just a lot of our agency partners, you know, whether they’re doing design and development, whether they’re doing marketing, and then also we partner with some some VC firms as well, to help make sure that we can, you know, provide just a solid solution for their, their portfolio across the board.

Joshua Chin 6:50

And now, a little bit more about ShipBob. We had a little bit of a chat, prior to this. But the role of ShipBob in the in the ecom, I guess industry is such that you enable or great brands to become even greater by basically removing all the headaches and the pains that come with logistics and fulfillment. And I know for a fact that that’s one of the key roadblocks that high growth brands face as they go through that scaling mode scaling face. And that happens to be ShipBob’s, I guess bread and butter. Tell me a little bit about how how does that happen in terms of the scaling face of an ecommerce brand, and how important a logistics partner is in that process.

Casey Armstrong 7:43

So something we hear very often, whether it’s an entrepreneur, that’s let’s just say at a couple 100,000 in revenue, or an entrepreneur, this doing a couple million in revenue is like they felt like they couldn’t truly scale or grow until they moved to us over at ShipBob. And the reason is, is because fulfillment, it’s such a time intensive practice. And so it’s either you the founder or the co founders or you’re going to be hiring people to do this, where no matter what every time you get an order, you need to find it, you need to pick it, you need to pack it, you need to do whatever else if there’s anything from like, a kitting or customization perspective. And then you need to get that to the carriers. And so you know, if you’re small, that’s probably you filling up your car and dropping it off. But if you’re larger, maybe you’re able to get the carriers to come by your office, which is probably a warehouse. But again, it’s very time intensive. And unless you have a very strong operations background, that’s probably not your differentiator as a brand. And so that’s where we want to come in where again, whether you’re just getting started started, or you’re doing, you know, 10s of millions in revenue, you can really get a global solution that can provide you with that fast and affordable shipping overnight.

Joshua Chin 9:01

What are some of the things that logistics partners wouldn’t tell ecommerce brands? But they should know about it?

Casey Armstrong 9:08

So something that I mean, we see all the time, I’ll think of something tactical? Because Because that’s actually a good question. Actually, let me rephrase that question quickly. And then I’ll answer your question is sure. Before you talk to your server before you start looking for fulfillment solutions, I think you should really outline what you’re looking for, like what do you need? And who are you as a business? And so for example, do you ship solely in the United States juice shipped solely in Singapore? Do you ship all over the world? What kind of partner do you actually need? And what types of items are you shipping? Are you shipping let’s say you know, an iPhone case which is light and so you’re able to utilize different types of shipping methods or are you shipping you know, kettlebells, which are extremely heavy weight. And you need to just think about, you know, your your operations very differently. And so again, I think it’s just thinking through your business a little bit more. And then you want to remind me of your question really quickly.

Joshua Chin 10:14

Yeah. So So what are some of the things that? Well, logistics partners, don’t tell Ilan brands, things that they should know about?

Casey Armstrong 10:26

I think one of the biggest is like, hidden fees. Like I see that all the time, where people will, they’ll still try to, you know, they’ll, they’ll be, you know, enamored with, with our technology, the levels of transparency, they’ll get in their business, the footprint we have around the world, you know, what they hear from other merchants, but when when we talk about pricing, you know, they’ll they’ll point to what they’re hearing from others. And we see this all the time, where it’s almost like this bait and switch with with other companies, where once you actually dig into it, or once you start working with them, you start getting tagged with all these fees. And it’s I think that’s something to think about, which is to really understand what you’re going to be paying for. And so that that’s one item is to really understand what the contract states. Another thing that we see often, which I’m actually surprised that this is still a practice, Amazon does this, but Amazon, you know, as Amazon, they can kind of do whatever they want. Oh, yeah, we see, we see certain fulfillment providers, they’ll charge more during during q4 and use it. And they won’t necessarily charge more on the fulfillment side, but they’ll charge more on the storage side. And that’s, again, that’s when you need them more than ever, that’s when some companies make between 30 to 50% of the revenue within that three month sprint, if not just November and December. Again, I find that pretty mind blowing that the companies are still doing that, but it’s just some some stuff like that. And then I’d say the last item, again, it really may be centered around peak season. And I know it’s only put away and it’s towards the end of May, which means that companies are actually probably starting to plan for peak, I know that we started planning for peak, basically, the day that it ended. Is, is just just blackout dates and times of operation again, like you need to and you need your partners to be with you when it’s most difficult. And when it’s really your true money making season. And so you know, we’ve seen three piles that will just, they won’t receive inventory for like, an entire month before peak season starts. That’s when you need them the most. And so again, I would just identify like what’s most important for you as a brand and just really dig into like, the nitty gritty of how they operate as a business.

Joshua Chin 12:47

And I guess that means asking more questions from the get go. And the sad thing is that finding a good partner, and this is a cautionary tale. The back in I think it was 2018 were when Shopify and the whole ecommerce space was kind of beginning to pick up and and really take off. We had a client in the DTC space. They scaled their business, effectively 10x their business in a single month. And it’s not going from 20k to 200k in a single month, it’s going from 200k to over 2 million in revenue per month.

Casey Armstrong 13:31

Can you share the category?

Joshua Chin 13:33

They were in the toys category. So nothing too. Nothing super heavy or, or hard to manufacture. But unfortunately, because of the I guess, lack of preparation and lack of that know how, and obviously with a poor selection of partners on the logistics front, their manufacturing and logistics partner. Partners just couldn’t handle the load and effectively crumbled under the weight. And they have to shut down the business due to customer complaints, delayed delays and shipping problems with the products. It was a mess. And it’s such a shame.

Casey Armstrong 14:19

And in this all happened when their volume spiked. You’re saying?

Joshua Chin 14:23

As the volume was spiking? Exactly. So that what you were just sharing, it just reminds me so much about, I guess to some degree predatory practices in the in the logistics space. And it’s just so like when you talk about shipbob what I think about is data, transparency, and reliability as a partner. And that’s just so difficult to find, especially when you were shopping around for partners, where everyone claims to be the best at what they do. So I guess –

Casey Armstrong 14:59

That scale thing is a true is a real problem. And we see that all the time when people are coming to us and, and, you know, they’re there was a banging down the door trying to see how quickly they can move over because because the example you gave, it’s not uncommon is people will have will, you know, they’ll be working, you know, so hard for years. And then they’ll have that quote unquote, overnight success. And then there, they get the step function jump in their growth. And their partners are not equipped to handle that. And so that’s one of the focus areas for us is just like, you know, if you’re posting your, you know, your web application on Amazon Web Services, or AWS, and all of a sudden, you know, you start trending on whatever product or Elon tweets about you, or whatever it may be, and everybody starts using you, you can just spin up additional instances and, and your, your scaling, you know, right then and there without having to make any infrastructure changes, we want the same thing to be for us to chip up where, and we see this with our customers as well, where they’ll all of a sudden get, you know, some TikTok video will go viral, or there’ll be featured on Good Morning America, or something like that. And, and all of a sudden, they go from shipping, you know, 100 orders a month to shipping 15,000 orders in like a single day. And so that’s where you’re taking advantage of, you know, this, this massive network like ours, and the ability to flex up and down because like, that’s more or less a blip on the radar for us to flex up. Whereas just like with your example, if you’re working with like a smaller fulfillment house that can completely kill their business. And I don’t know if I’d even say that they’re being predatory. I don’t have I don’t have the details. Maybe they were, but it could just be that they were not equipped to to 10x overnight.

Joshua Chin 16:43

How would you identify the right partners? from the get go? What kind of questions would you you ask?

Casey Armstrong 16:53

So I mean, we talked a little bit about before, and like thinking through, you know, what, like who you are as a business, but I would ask for who you know, one is understanding like the contract, what you will and won’t be paying for another is like the technology that you’re going to be utilizing? Does this does this sync with you, let’s say your ecommerce platform and or the the channels that you utilize most often for your sales? You really need to understand that, for example, if if you’re selling primarily b2b, and it’s in a bunch of small retailers, can they can they handle that from a technology perspective? Are you selling primarily through your Shopify website or big commerce website or WooCommerce? website? Can they handle that? And what does that look like? Again, another is, is just the footprint. So where do they ship out of? And then I would start getting into like, some of their, you know, their SLA is and expectations. And so what does that look like? Not just today, you know, being being in heading into like the summer months, but what does that really look like? And actually, maybe this is a better use of their time is really focusing on like, what are their SLA s and an expectations look like during the holiday season? Again, you need the most during peak? Yeah. And, you know, last year was weird, where the whole year was pretty much peak season, and then it I don’t know, double peak. But, you know, is really understanding what that looked like at that point.

Joshua Chin 18:21

So what it sounds like is that you would advocate for brands to start planning ahead for I guess the best case scenario, and what if, what if I tend x tomorrow? What if I get featured on Good Morning? Good morning, America? Can my partners handle that that skill, that volume? Or would they break? Where would it break first? What what are the biggest contributors to? Well, on the flip side, what are the biggest contributions to the success of an ecommerce brand? Now? I know that’s a super broad question. But I’m tapping into your experience in ShipBob looking, suing different customers, and also your experience with big commerce in the marketing space and as a whole. So say the question again, what is the biggest contributors to the success of an ecommerce brand? In 2021’s context?

Casey Armstrong 19:18

Yes, there. I mean, there are a lot of angles, we can go there, I’d say. Um, broadly speaking, it’s it’s kind of timing like, the Zeitgeist. And what’s happening at a macro level again, you need to execute like how you need to be building a community and truly building a brand. But it’s, I think, if you can time certain waves, for example, I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday who runs a pretty big agency down in Southern California and they’ve been incubating a few brands and you know, a handful RND the pet wellness space, and it’s really bringing You know, these human grade food to these two pets. And that’s just an example of this the space that is just just billowing up. I remember when I joined ShipBob even the first day there what we used to do for onboarding pre COVID. And hopefully we bring that back is you’d actually spend a few days in the fulfillment center, receiving items picking and packing, really understanding how, like what’s happening. And actually, I was at the fulfillment center yesterday also, like I love going in there, the energy is off the charts. But anyways, like my first job was receiving the receiving section. And you know, from from how we receive it, how we scan EPA, even like how we do count to make sure that the accuracies right, in the barcodes are correct, and everything like that. And it was dog CBD. And I’m like, What is this? Like? Is this really a thing? And, you know, I’m talking with the merchants success manager that was overseeing that account, who I met later that week. And, you know, she was like, Yes, like they, they do extremely well. And, you know, she was able to show me some of the volume that we that we do on their behalf. And it just blew my mind. I just love that as well as a marketer. And just as somebody who’s, you know, extremely curious and loves learning about new things is, there’s so many industries out there that you just don’t even think about are these niches within niches that are massive. And so it’s just you got to go and open minded. And, you know, I think just just start poking around, I mean, just even spend a couple, couple, just a little bit of time on on Reddit, and you see just these massive, you know, subreddit communities that are huge in these industries, you’d never expect. Again, the same thing happens in the ecommerce space.

Joshua Chin 21:39

Got a really good resource. I’m subscribed to trends and the hustle, the newsletter, incredible content, so amazingly curated content. And they have a great podcast as well, we turn like a couple of your newsletters into podcasts episodes as well. Just great content all around. And your your, I guess Reddit is a good, good source.

Casey Armstrong 22:05

And I don’t use it too often, I’m just trying to think of an example, you know, that has these, it’s just so easy to identify. Or I guess just to like, open your eyes to how big certain like niches are. And again, back to I said earlier, we’re just timing this guy. So it’s just not something you can necessarily plan for. But it you know, as like, let’s just say the importance of people’s pets grows massively, you know, it’s lifting up all the brands in the space because like the the macro demand is it’s skyrocketing, versus picking like an older industry or an industry that’s, that’s slowly dying. That’s tough, because then you’re just fighting this uphill battle every single day.

Joshua Chin 22:46

Makes sense, talking about that. And then also, I guess, that then turns into an execute, who can execute that the best or who can execute? Well, the future of ShipBob. In growing the business, what do you see the future ship up to be like in the ecom space.

Casey Armstrong 23:07

So I gave the example earlier on, you know, how we want to be as easy as is AWS, but on the fulfillment side. And for us, our mission is really to democratize fulfilment for brands of all sizes around the world. And we really mean that, again, sometimes we get in some, some pretty heated conversations, you know, throughout the org, or at the leadership level on them really important decisions. And at the end of the day, we think through like, does this support or detract from from our mission, and, and it’s really led to us, you know, making some some tough decisions in regards to just the level of effort that we pour into new things. And so I’ll give a handful of examples like International. I think people, you know, not that they necessarily really even care, but don’t realize the levels of complexity when you are running a fulfillment center, or fulfillment network. And there’s all these edge cases, and you’re dealing with all these different companies and all these different products and all these people. And then all sudden you go global, and maybe there’s different units of measurement, different carriers and different regulations. But that was a that’s something we knew that we had to open up. And so you know, we opened up multiple fulfillment centers internationally last year, which is in Canada and Ireland. We’ve opened up a fulfillment center this year in in the UK, actually right by Heathrow Airport in London, we’ll be opening up multiple more international fulfillment centers this year. And so in short, I’d say going global, you know that that’s a big focus for us. You know, you look at what’s happened in the payment space and then really knocking down a lot of barriers to to sell and transact. You look at what Shopify and big commerce and others have done with like, multiple So multi language multi currency. And that has to happen on the fulfillment side, and it does a huge, huge bet that we’re making and something that we, you know, place a lot of value in.

Joshua Chin 25:11

In and in the middle of the global pandemic, no less. How has it hasn’t shifted your strategy in any way. And in that expansion, obviously, you’re, we’re all riding the wave of growth and ecom space. But there has to be some kind of a challenge in setting up fufilment centers in the middle of a global lockdown.

Casey Armstrong 25:35

No question. These are, those are the days where I’m so thankful that I’m, you know, not running our logistics arm. So I give them I give them so much credit. And, you know, hats off to them, just their level of focus and ability to, you know, open up fulfillment centers globally. And in the US as well. I mean, we went from, we have four fulfillment centers at the end of 2019, we had 14 at the end of 2020. And we should end that this year with over 30, fulfillment centers.

Joshua Chin 26:05

Doubling it well, that’s, that’s real quick. Now, for, for, for a brand that’s just about to scale. And you’ve obviously worked with brands at different levels of of, of progress. What’s the what is what is the logistics look like for a brand at sub one mil revenue level, and past at one mil, and past the 10 mil are there key differences that you see or have observed?

Casey Armstrong 26:45

They can look very similar. But it’s say one of the biggest items that I noticed, is really where they sell. And so oftentimes, you know, let’s just say you’re in the sub 1 million range, or maybe even, you know, a couple million, you might just be selling through your website. So you’re selling directly, I’d say, you know, once you start getting past the several million mark, you start looking at different marketplaces. And so are you gonna sell on Walmart? Are you gonna sell on Amazon? Are you gonna start testing out something like Facebook shop? And so I’d say that’s where they start really getting into like that multi channel space. And then I don’t know if 10 million is the mark. And again, it depends on, you know, on each business, but then I’d say the next evolution after that is, is b2b or retail? And so you know, are you going to be selling? Are you going to try to sell at Target? Are you going to try to sell through target, let’s say, like, with their marketplace, and more of like, a b2b to c play? And so again, I think the natural evolution is directly through your website to selling multichannel, and then, you know, trying to find the the offline route as well.

Joshua Chin 27:57

Awesome. Now shifting to focus in composition a little bit to you. Um, what are some of the best advice, and the worst advice that you have heard?

Casey Armstrong 28:10

Um, the best, I don’t know, if I’ll give, like specific quotes or anything, but I think, you know, just finding people that are as equally like, driven and curious, as, as you are, I mean, I think curiosity is really the, the key to long term success, and that, you know, you’re never done learning. And I like to just really, regardless of the industry that I’m in, or what I’m working on is like, how can I How can I view this from every single angle, you know, from, from the angle of the actual brand and working very closely with the brand and trying to understand their, their businesses intimately to from the logistics side, what’s happening with a platform that’s happening with all the different technologies they use? And then, you know, the, the corollary of the opposite would just be guess where I’ve seen people maybe plateau or start their career, even if just temporarily, is when you’re working, you know, with a manager, or a company that just really wants to put you in a box. And have you do just follow these mundane steps and, and kind of like, just thwart that creativity, because you’re not really pushing yourself and learning. And so I think that that’s, you know, one of the things that people should always optimize for or over index on is like, how can I How can I continue to learn and that’s up to you like it’s it blows my mind, you know, when there’s just different things that I’m trying to understand better or learn like the amount of access to information we have today, from YouTube to different courses to blog posts like, you know, there’s no And it’s all And so much of it is free. And you can find good stuff and stuff. Again, you got to weed out like the bad. But there’s just so much good information or podcasts, like it just it just blows my mind like you won’t understand I don’t know, multifamily real estate in the United States, like, guess what, there’s some amazing podcasters and information out there that will teach you that and then get you into these early stage syndicates. So you can start putting a tiny bit of money to play, start learning, like what are the meccan? You know, what are the mechanics look like go through the motions to really understand the space where, you know, rewind, 1015 years ago, like that would have been nearly impossible, you’d have to go to the library and get a book or you’d find some pretty poorly written blog posts, but you wouldn’t be able to connect with people. That’s another thing also, that pre COVID says, like the beginning of 2020. This might sound kind of weird to cheesy, but like one of the things I wanted to do, by using Twitter was like, Alright, I’m going to start trying to maximize like, the direct messages or the DMS and Twitter. And so they are every week, I have to like dm somebody, you know, new just to, you know, connect with them. And, you know, how can I add value and vice versa, and just the types of people that you can connect with? And some people just ignore it, and that’s fine. Maybe they saw it, maybe they didn’t, but like, there are people that will say yes, and so it’s just the ability to to just connect with people around the world. It’s pretty fascinating.

Joshua Chin 31:24

Love that you mentioned podcasts, what do you favorite podcasts that you listen to regular or semi regular basis.

Casey Armstrong 31:33

So I’ve been traveling much, much less obviously, since the pandemic. And so my podcast intake has slowed some. And so I guess I view it as how I read books, at least most recently is I use it to kind of take my mind off of work some or explore other interests. And so I listen to a lot of sports podcasts like Bill Simmons and Ryan Russillo, and some others. But from like a business standpoint, the one that I listened to the most would be Patrick O’Shaughnessy, is Invest Like the Best, which actually got into his, from an interview that he did with Sam Hinkie, who was the GM of the 76ers, the Philadelphia 76ers, the basketball team, and just his application of like, really, math plus really thinking differently, and staying so true to you know, his thesis on like, how to build a team over time. And then from there, you know, just really went down the rabbit hole of a lot of his, his podcasts, and they’re, they’re, he’s a great interviewer. And there’s just, he has such fascinating people, you can learn, you can learn a lot there. And then some other ones that are pretty good as well, especially if you’re interested in the technology, or the investment space is Howard Lense’s podcast that he launched similar to you during COVID. And so he talks to some of like, the largest VCs or just just some, just some very interesting people. There’s one he does with Tren Griffin, who’s who’s, you know, longtime Microsoft employee, to say the least. And it’s just the stories that you hear from from these people. It’s, it’s pretty fascinating.

Joshua Chin 33:09

I love that. What about books? Are you a big reader?

Casey Armstrong 33:14

I am, but it’s primarily primarily fiction. And so,

Joshua Chin 33:22

Oh, yes. No, that’s, that’s great. No, um, I have been a, I guess, to quote a friend of mine, a just in time reader, meaning if I’m facing a problem, I will devour like, 10, 20 different books, and to just in search for an answer. And fiction never really gave me that solution. So and I really thought of books as an avenue of enjoyment more than a kind of like a solution provider, if you will. So I’m curious. I’m personally curious about what are some of the books that you would recommend for someone like me?

Casey Armstrong 34:05

Because it depends on your, it depends on your interest. And so I find it very enjoyable, I actually find you can sometimes learn more through fiction than nonfiction just, you know, life imitates art, but and also just these writers the way that they think about things like from like a psychological perspective and a character development perspective. I feel like sometimes it’s maybe even more true to like, what you’ll read these books which are largely, I guess, the business examples might portray or you know, might tend to be rather true, but my mind just races too hard when I read nonfiction, especially at night, whereas fiction I feel like is my the easiest way for me to go to bed. So anyways, I guess it just depends on like, you know, what, what your interests are?

Joshua Chin 34:54

What are some titles that are easy to get into? Well, I personally enjoy biographies and autobiographies, Shoe Dog was a great one, I guess the furthest away from, or rather the closest to a story that I have read.

Casey Armstrong 35:12

I read Swish, which was written, I want to say in the early 90s. But it was about Phil Knight and Nike. And I’m blanking on the author, I believe is by two women. One of them was a she was like a longtime Nike employee. Anyways, I would check out Swish, it’s, I think they call it like the Unauthorized Biography of Nike. I know that there’s a lot of like the similar stories are told about but it was, it was really good. And I’m surprised it doesn’t get as much fanfare, especially if you know, Shoe Dog obviously blew up.

Joshua Chin 35:49

I’m just trying to look for the book right now.

Casey Armstrong 35:51

I think it’s hard to find. I don’t know, I probably bought like a used one on Amazon or something.

Joshua Chin 35:57

I’ll definitely check that out. Awesome. And for people who are listening, what is one advice that you give to the audience, Casey?

Casey Armstrong 36:09

Probably similar to before. And again, it’s maybe semi cliche, but just like, stay curious. Always, always be learning. You don’t have to always have like, a goal in mind, you know, scratch that itch and, and go after it. And you don’t know what can unfold again. It’s like, I wanted to see more of the world and travel and I didn’t know what was the outcome, or what the outcome was going to be, you know, there were really no goals in mind. And then, you know, I just, I just went and did it. And I think it really changed the trajectory of my life. And you know, where I am today, and the type of people that I get to hang out with, you know, brings me here today, we’re, we’re chatting from, you know, you know, two different sides of the world, where had I not taken that trip had I not completely changed the industry I was in, which was scary at the time, you know, especially as I was getting into my late 20s but, you know, just that don’t bet on yourself and stay curious.

Joshua Chin 37:04

I love that. Casey, thank you so much for being on the show. If you are interested in connecting with you and learning more about ShipBob where should you go to?

Casey Armstrong 37:12

Yeah, please come check us out. shipbob.com. If you have specific questions for me carmstrong@shipbob.com. You know, definitely happy to help.

Joshua Chin 37:20

Awesome, Casey, thank you so much.

Casey Armstrong 37:23

Thank you.

Intro 37:27

Thanks for listening to the eCommerce Profits Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click subscribe to get notified of future episodes.

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