BirdRock Brands’ story is proof that there is no one path to becoming a thriving online retailer. Rather than building up the business through a prominent ecommerce marketplace or a direct-to-consumer site, BirdRock started out selling through brick-and-mortar mainstays Costco and Sam’s Club.
The first product that made it into those stores was a lap desk developed by BirdRock founder Adam Waxman. Waxman previously worked for a well-known products manufacturer and had experience working with major retailers when he decided to strike out on his own. After focusing on lap desks for a few years, he expanded relationships with third-party manufacturers to build other products for the home like seagrass baskets, laundry hampers and cleaning kits.
After finding traction in stores, the entrepreneur wanted to increase his company’s presence on those retailers’ sites, like Costco.com, and top online marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Wayfair. Sales on Amazon Marketplace started to take off in 2016, and BirdRock went from fulfilling dozens to hundreds of orders per day.
As BirdRock grew, so did its product selection. While it still focuses on home goods, today the business sells an eclectic mix of products including snow brushes for cars, furniture, closet organizers, Christmas decorations and beverage tubs.
“He sees holes in the marketplace, which I think is a talent, not a skill,” Mark Chuberka, NetSuite administrator at BirdRock, said of Waxman. “His predictions on what will work and what doesn’t have really branched out.”
To separate itself in crowded categories, BirdRock prioritizes quality and products that make meaningful improvements to existing options.
Inventory, Order Management Time-Consuming and Inefficient
As the business gained traction on Amazon, it expanded from its Austin, Texas roots to a larger warehouse on the West Coast. At that point, it started tracking inventory more carefully, but processes were hardly advanced – instead of eyeballing incoming shipments and updating numbers in a spreadsheet when products ran low as it did in the early days, BirdRock used packing lists and sales orders to manually update inventory levels.
Predictably, that led to problems. Data was often inaccurate because someone transposed numbers or added an extra zero. That left BirdRock accepting orders it didn’t have the inventory to fill and searching the warehouse for items that didn’t exist due to short shipments.
Order management was equally painful. An employee had to download orders from each online storefront, aggregate them and then upload them to external shipping systems before the warehouse could pick and ship items. Accounting followed a similar process: The controller pulled sales reports from each channel, then put them into a common format and uploaded them to QuickBooks. All reporting happened after the fact, so the team lacked a view of current financial performance.
These challenges magnified when BirdRock opened a second warehouse in Louisville and switched from Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) to Seller Fulfilled Prime, ensuring its products kept the prized Amazon Prime badge. This is an increasingly rare arrangement because sellers must meet strict performance standards and be capable of delivering orders in one or two days to remain in the program.
BirdRock has since become one of the biggest Seller Fulfilled Prime merchants on Amazon.
“There are metrics that Amazon and these other marketplaces use to measure your shipping performance, so we would have to manually monitor and aggregate data in order to meet the metrics,” said Kyle Murphy, the company’s second employee.
Murphy had little time to concentrate on sales and marketing, his true expertise, because he spent so much time making sure orders got out the door. This complex order and inventory flow made it difficult for critical employees to step away for even a few days. The team couldn’t ignore the glaring need for automation and standardized order-to-cash processes any longer.
Consolidating Every Process on One Platform
In its search for a system that would support best practices for inventory and accounting, BirdRock evaluated NetSuite, Xero and niche systems built for Amazon sellers. None matched the customizability, scalability and proven track record of NetSuite.
The single biggest benefit after replacing spreadsheets and QuickBooks with NetSuite was that all key information was finally in one place. Thanks to NetSuite Connectors(opens in new tab) for Amazon, Walmart and eBay, orders from all ecommerce channels now flow into a single system. Inventory information down to the item level across three warehouses is easy to find and always up to date.
“One core thing with three warehouses in particular is knowing what [inventory] you have where at any moment in time. It’s critical to calculating what you need to source or move,” controller John Vogt said. “So NetSuite gives us that capability. It’s no longer an erroneous, slow-to-update spreadsheet. It’s a real-time system.”
BirdRock has also simplified processes like procurement through automation. When employees initiate a purchase order, the system automatically pulls up a form with all the details that a specific vendor requires. Reports that consider the expected delivery dates of POs and outstanding sales orders alert the operations team to any important changes.
Chuberka created NetSuite roles for individual employees that show the specific data they need and dashboards with the metrics most relevant to them. For example, an operations employee may need inventory performance metrics, while an accountant may keep a close eye on cash flow and upcoming payables.
On the finance side, transactions from all channels flow into NetSuite, providing a reflection of the business’s standing at any given moment instead of a look into past performance. That has sped up the process of creating financial statements and reports and closing the books, Vogt said.
A few years after BirdRock started running on NetSuite, it consolidated its four branded ecommerce sites from three separate platforms into one SuiteCommerce(opens in new tab) site. The move eliminated more manual processes: Employees no longer need to update pricing and product information in four different places. This didn’t always happen previously because it took so much time, but it’s particularly important because Amazon penalizes vendors that sell items for a lower price elsewhere. The change also eliminated the need to download orders from each site and upload them to NetSuite.
Built With the Future in Mind
BirdRock continues to launch new home-related goods like closet organizers, dual laundry hampers and more kitchenware. The retailer has also seen success with pet products and wants to expand its offerings in that category.
Both its wholesale and ecommerce channels continue to grow, and the latter now accounts for about 60% of sales. BirdRock also plans to expand beyond the 10 marketplaces it currently sells on.
These ambitious plans no longer stir fear about how the company will handle more orders, more inventory and more sales channels. Revenue has quadrupled in the past five years, and standardizing administrative and operational processes in NetSuite has eased growing pains.
“The foundation that we’ve built over the past four years has been designed [so that] when we see an opportunity, we’re ready for it rather than, ‘Oh geez, how will we do that?’” said Chuberka. “And it’s positioned us very well as we come out of the pandemic.”
See how you can seamlessly connect NetSuite to your ecommerce, logistics and POS systems(opens in new tab).