Andrew runs Engineers Mate with 3 other directors, starting in 2011 the eCommerce business is relatively new, they have 2 branches; one in Dudley and one in Halford, they also have 2 trade counters as well as trading on multi-channel platforms such as eBay, Amazon and their own website. Starting with their first order on 28th August 2012 they planned for the business to be completely online on their website, but then delved into eBay and Amazon to expand their eCommerce dominance.
Some thoughts from the interview
“We started the business, the first order was the 14th of Janurary 2012. We originally set it to be completely online business operating 100% from our website. We then found out what the potential was with eBay and we quickly opened a shop and that grew from strength to strength. We decided to join Amazon in 2014.”
“The potential hasn’t really been reached for us in Amazon but we know the potential is there.”
“It works out to be about 12.5% on Amazon and with the PayPal fees on eBay you are looking around the same 12% to 13%.”
“The more you do sell and the more revenue that goes through PayPal there are different threshold hold, by £25,000 it drops a few points in fees and then again at £50,000.”
“It reflects about 60% to 70% the feedback (on eBay).”
“We have very good relationships with our suppliers which is crucial. EBay and Amazon we are very close to the buyer to make sure that the goods are shipped and delivered on time when the seller says that they are going to ship them. We have got 3 people in the warehouse that work and ship out up to 150 a day whether they are envelopes or actual parcels. We have deliveries every day from our suppliers. We hold quite a bit of stock but some of the stuff we buy in on demand.”
“We have the opportunity to drop ship with all our suppliers and the rates we get for shipping is very competitive and if it is over a certain value shipping is free as well.”
“At the moment I think the model suits with where we are and what we want to achieve.”
“Ideally I would like everything to come through our website as there are no fees and you are saving yourself 10%.”
“They are totally different eBay and Amazon, and they have got their pros and cons.”
“We have got another website in which we have all are tools on, and basically we have created a live feed from our supplier to have a 15-minute live stock feed into our website and what we are in the process of doing is through our web developers writing a programme to feed this live data into eBay and Amazon which will give the stock on to those 2 platforms so were are not trying to sell items that our out of stock. Amazon really do call you up if you try and sell things that are out of stock. They only want sellers to physically have the items when the customers buy them.”
“You can be a normal seller on Amazon, it works exactly the same as eBay, you put your listings on and you can sell something and ship it from your own warehouse but Amazon also do FBA, which is fulfilment by Amazon. We are looking to go this way with amazon rather shipping all ourselves.”
“You do end up paying a little more but I think for the for the service you are actually getting it is worth it.” (fba)
“I think in the beginning it is difficult to gage exactly what you are going to sell but in a couple of weeks to a month you will be able to see some selling trends. From that you will be able to work out exactly what you need to ship on a monthly basis so amazon actually have the stock. Once a month you do a shipment which lower you cost again. Also at Christmas time is obviously a very busy time for us with the products we sell, a lot of our suppliers close over the Christmas period, but going through FBA the products already at the warehouse ready to be shipped and you don’t have to worry about your supplier delivering when they are closed.”
“The back office is crucial to the success of online selling. If you take the fulfilment by Amazon out and you just concentrate out on the idea that you send out everything you sell from the warehouse or it is coming in from the supplier next day delivery to be shipped out again to the buyer, you need to have the right account system and stock management system because without this I can’t possibly see how you can operate especially if you are shipping out 100 to 150 items a day.”
“Because of the industry we are in we operate 24/7 anyway because even though the business was set up online to online based through our website we now have 300 account customers from the 2 branches we operate from. Through the website we had a phone call at half past one in the morning on a Tuesday night in the first year of trading from an Australian chap asking if we had the bearings in stock. My colleague who was on call that night said it is half past one in the morning can you call back in the morning. Half past 7 the next morning from the same Australian chap and he was actually calling from the ministry of defence and he ended up spending quite a significant amount of money and he has done since. It just shows the power of the internet that even when you are sleeping it is running 24/7.”
“Our record on a Monday, granted it was after a bank holiday we had around 450 orders online that all went out on that day.”
“The other website is emindustrialproducts.com. It actually works with a live feed from our suppliers so it doesn’t matter which product you pick there will be a green tick that says in stock or an orange question mark to say it is low stock.”
“They have our web developers, they developed our original websites and this one and we are actually in the process of merging the two websites together so there will be more of the live feed and it will be a lot easier for the customer.”
“Before I started this company I was a medical rep for 6 and a half years, something completely different to this.”
“There is obviously a lot of product knowledge involved in the items we sell and such a wide range as well. It was actually my colleague John that approached me, we play cricket together, he had been in this industry for 30 years and he has worked for all the big companies and he said I fancy doing it for myself what do you think. We sat down really, John, myself and my father Chris who is the third director, that is how it started.”
“You might have the best website in the world, but if nobody can find the website it’s not worth having one. That is why it is crucial to get the data right on your website and not copy it off another site as google is not too fond of that. You make it unique so you get yourself up the rank on google.”
“Having a website is like painting the Forth bridge. You have got to continually update and you have to continually work on it.”
“Don’t jump into it, find out how eBay and Amazon work, listings, shipping, stock levels, costs etc.”
Best Advice: “You have got to work hard basically, nothing will be handed to you on a plate and even now 3 and half years down the line we still work 80 to 90 hours a week and we will continue to until we get the business to level we want it to, because no one will do it for you.”
What do they offer?
Every engineer needs a mate to pass him the part or tool he needs to complete a job as quickly as possible. Their aim is to be that mate and to be on hand to supply you with the industrial components, mechanical parts and the services which you require for the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) of your production machinery.
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