- You’ll make it through this.
- Be creative.
- Be willing to make tough decisions.
- Focus on what is most important.
- Keep connecting with your customers.
Meet Alida Sholl:
Connect with Alida on LinkedIn.
- She is the director of operations at Rep Fitness. She is responsible for sales, customer service, account management and the entire tech stack. This covers pretty much all customer touchpoints, so this is a very important role for making happy customers at Rep Fitness.
- She has an incredibly diverse background: industrial engineering, process improvement and animal welfare. All of this has prepared her to take on the excitements and challenges of her current role.
Meet Rep Fitness:
- Rep Fitness is NOT like Gold’s Gym equipment (the latter might break if you use it, the former won’t).
- Rep Fitness focuses on the home/garage gyms. The goal is to make functional fitness accessible for all. While not at the top of the price point, the product they offer is very durable.
- Rep Fitness strives to have excellent customer service. They want happy customers. As such, they support the customer through the entire sales cycle, including set up after the purchase. It is admirable that they help customers find the right product instead of the most profitable product.
- Alida points out that equipping a home gym is never complete. Very true, indeed. Keeping your customers happy through this process will ensure they keep coming back.
- Rep Fitness was started by two brothers—they bought a container of barbell weight plates, and everything went from there.
Setting the stage.
Rep Fitness is high growth. They are used to new challenges (maybe even enjoy the adrenaline dump from growing fast—just a little bit?).
This episode will focus on adapting to challenges. Through this COVID-19 pandemic, many merchants have faced the challenge of less sales. Rep Fitness has had the opposite challenge—”too many” sales. As we look into this, you will see that the techniques for dealing with too many or too few sales are similar. It comes back to adapting and being willing to make really difficult decisions.
For most online retailers, Black Friday is the big day of the year. If a sales record is to be set, it’s going to be on Black Friday.
We as a team, are very scrappy and willing to just get in and make those quick decisions to keep us moving forward.Alida Sholl
Rep Fitness has blown their Black Friday sales records for days and days through the lockdowns associated with COVID-19.
Joseph wonders if this is like Black Friday on steroids (pun intended, possibly). Alida said its the “best steroids ever”.
Getting into the challenging weeds.
Rep Fitness has had to deal with unprecedented order volume. On the surface, this sounds like a dream—tons of orders coming in, all while lockdowns are forcing many other businesses into closure.
However, Rep Fitness has had to come to grips with how this affects them:
- 24-hour fast shipments—no longer possible.
- Order fulfillment process—completely rebuilt.
- Customer expectations—must be reset.
Rep Fitness’s fulfillment team takes pride in getting all orders shipped on the same day. They go home knowing that they got their orders out quickly—and the customer will be all the happier.
What are the goals we can set for today?Alida Sholl
Alida’s team had to focus in on the here and now. They adapted from long-term to the short-term. While this sounds counter-intuitive, you do what you have to do. When a tsunami hits, you don’t focus on long-term business goals. You focus on today.
If your business has lost the majority of its revenue, your adaptation is still the same. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Look at today. What can be cut? What can be promoted?
Customers have quickly adapted to realizing that delays are inevitable. They are giving extra slack to brands. For the record, Amazon themselves are facing major delays.
This is the time to refocus.
One of the silver linings for all companies through this pandemic is the ability to refocus. Too much revenue forces a refocus on what is important. A drop in revenue brings a refocus to what is important.
Alida used the example of how some projects have been accelerated.
They knew that they needed improvements to their fulfillment process. When this flood of orders washed through the website and into their warehouse, they had to focus on making this process extremely efficient. They began batching aspects of the fulfillment. They realized value that, previously, they hoped for at some point in the future.
Alida’s team was also able to double-down on communication. Remember that most of her team is working from home. This is in contrast to the pre-pandemic where everyone had to be at the Rep Fitness facility—all the time. They stepped up.
Resetting consumer expectations.
Rep Fitness has relied on putting their standards on the website. As people had questions, they could ask via email or phone. That sufficed pre-pandemic.
With the intense volume of incoming orders, they’ve had to focus on the customer service process.
They have added:
- popups to the checkout process.
- a note to the top of every page.
- a message to the home page.
These messages tell customers that shipping is experiencing delays. And responses to customer service inquiries won’t be immediate.
We … shut down voicemail.Alida Sholl
What?! No voicemail? Rep Fitness focused on the one channel that they could best handle—email. Phone calls tend to take more time (“hey, one more question”). In addition, this would represent challenges with people working from home (“woof, woof”, or the inevitable sounds of toddlers fighting).
They doubled down on the channel that they knew they could do well. Please note that this is not a permanent recommendation for all merchants forever in the future. In times of crisis, we must focus on what we can do best.
The result is that people are hearing back from Rep Fitness faster. Besides, email is a great way to communicate for at least 90% of their customer base.
Making that decision [focusing on email support] actually helped a majority of our customers get answers faster.Alida Sholl
This comes at a unique time for Rep as they are in the process of a migration to Magento 2. Do you put your budget toward beefing up a platform that you’ll be ditching in a couple of months (Magento 1)? That money is wasted. Rep decided that they had to focus on the customer experience, so they did make investments in their current platform.
Rep has always had a local delivery option. After all, that only makes sense considering they ship really heavy products. There are a lot of people that live in the Denver metro and are willing to drive a ways (I’ll bet that some people drove a long ways to pick up their gear).
They ended up streamlining the pick up process with texting and appointments. Now, you can place your order, configure an appointment, and Rep knows exactly when you will arrive.
But, the shutdown happened…
The worst nightmare for a merchant is to bring in $0 in orders. Most online merchants would still have at least some revenue, even if it’s not meeting expectations. But to turn it off?
That’s the tough decision Rep made.
Why? “It was no longer a great user experience on our site.” They couldn’t answer questions fast enough.
They took a break: for their customers and for their team.
A sign of a great company is that they are willing to sacrifice. Rep Fitness did.
The reset allows for resetting customer expectations. It allows their team to come back together after a slight breather.
The marketing continues.
Rep went through a shutdown. Many merchants are also doing this. How do you cope?
The short answer is: keep your customers engaged.
Highlight the things you can do with maybe the minimal amount of product you do have.Alida Sholl
Rep pivoted their marketing from product-focused to customer-focused. They were able to stay in front of their audience. They showcased people using a sandbag on the driveway. They highlighted how people made do with what they had in their house. They put human ingenuity on display.
If your revenue dries, up, KEEP IN FRONT OF YOUR CUSTOMERS (sorry for the all-caps, but this is really important). Don’t shut down the marketing efforts. Sure, you might take some over yourself instead of utilizing your marketing agency. But don’t stop.
Don’t let perfect get in the way of progress.Alida Sholl
Keep going. Focus on what’s important. You’ll make it through.