Another year is behind us and again, we face an uncertain future as the world grapples with a shaky economy, rising prices, and the same production issues that have plagued big businesses the last few years.
However, the best way to deal with uncertainty is with a plan and an open mind. This past year we’ve talked to the leaders behind the big companies that are changing the digital landscape. They’ve shared the ways they have innovated to meet customer demands and the hard-fought lessons they learned along the way.
As the year comes to an end, we are going to share some parting wisdom from those leaders to serve as inspiration for the way forward.
Change can be difficult, particularly for companies that have enjoyed a successful strategy for decades. However, leaders need to look at every opportunity as a chance for innovation and improvement.
While some travel-related businesses were forced to close during the pandemic, Travel + Leisure Co. (formerly known as Wyndham Destinations) expanded its services.
“If you would have told me six years ago that we would buy a publishing brand, change our name and start new lines of business, I would have thought you’re dreaming,” Heena Patel, senior vice president of global rental operations at Travel + Leisure Co., said. “But that’s the power of our global portfolio and leadership. We are visionaries who want to be at the forefront of driving the change in international travel and leisure industry.”
Carter Shae, CUTS' Chief Financial Officer
Putting the customer experience first is something that has always driven the leaders behind CUTS Clothing, a fashion line tailor-made for people who want to be comfortable yet look professional.
With the rise of people working from home, demand for the brand grew. At that point, the company had managed to retain a 50% repeat customer rate. Also, seven to 10% of their customer base reported “bracketing” their purchase (buying multiple sizes at once to ensure a proper fit.)
CUTS had to figure out how to give customers a returns process that was quick, convenient, efficient, and affordable. They used Happy Returns, a PayPal company, to both customer and management satisfaction. In an effort to save costs, Carter Shae, CUTS’ chief financial officer, decided to try another returns partner.
"[Having a new returns partner] didn’t pan out,” Carter said. “Our feedback from customers was not good -- they were having a hard time exchanging and customers were voicing their frustrations. We were all-hands-on-deck to address customer inquiries."
“We switched back to Happy Returns,” he continued. “It was an easy decision based on all the data and our customer feedback.”
Rachid “Rush” Wehbi, CEO of Sell the Trend
Today, companies use artificial intelligence to guide their customers along their journey but one Canadian CEO dove deep into the data to change the dropshipping industry.
Dropshipping is when an online merchant sells items on behalf of suppliers, and then has the supplier ship the purchased goods directly to the consumer. Today, sellers need a data-driven, AI-powered toolkit to give them a competitive edge over big brands that also dabble as a marketplace
Rachid Wehbi, known as “Rush,” delivered just that when he started the Sell the Trend dropshipping platform. The data allows vendors to see what products are gaining traction, which items have seen a decrease in sales, and how many sellers are promoting the item on their sites.
“Dropshipping has been around for years but the biggest problem is, ‘What am I going to sell?’” Rush explained. “I started collecting data and creating a team to build a platform that shows you which products are most desirable and on the upswing for sales.”
Robert, a dropshipper on the platform, was able to find a hot-selling item and generate $36,000 in six weeks using Sell the Trend’s analytics and trend-spotting tools.
“Without that data, it’s all a shot in the dark,” he said.
Mark Van Vliet, vice-president of strategic initiatives at Book Depot
No matter how much experience the leadership at Book Depot had with e-commerce, the pandemic forced them to re-examine their business strategy and find a way forward.
They looked for gaps in the industry and found a partner that was able to drastically cut down delivery times in both the U.S. and Canada. They then looked at the backend of their digital infrastructure and saw an opportunity to clean up operational inefficiencies.
Book Depot is not only a book wholesaler but also acts as a publisher and a fulfillment center for other publishing houses. They also have a direct-to-consumer line of business and distribute books through prominent big-box stores and other major online retailers.
With such a varied business strategy, keeping an updated digital infrastructure and having a seamless payments process was critical, as was finding the right partners to help the company keep pace with its growth.
“PayPal provided us with a detailed analysis of our accounts and helped us find ways to streamline processes,” said Mark Van Vliet, vice president of strategic initiatives. “They saved us months of work.”
President Hironori Yamakawa, BE FORWARD CO., LTD.
The Japanese company might be known as a global leader in classic car exports but the president of BE FORWARD is leaping ahead with a plan that will take the business to new heights.
President Hironori Yamakawa said the company will continue to grow its online export business while expanding into burgeoning markets that deal in other products.
Yamakawa envisions air cargo planes and containers adorned with the BE FORWARD logo, delivering quality branded goods around the world.
“Since we are transporting large cars and parts around the world, we could potentially add different products within our services, including clothes and laptops, and maximize the potential of each shipping container,” said Yamakawa.
Jumping at fresh opportunities, embracing change, finding new ways to conduct business, and making the most out of today’s technology are lessons that will serve us well through challenging times in 2023. With that, I wish you a year full of inspiration and adventure, success, and splendor.
The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.
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