With a plan to sell a broad range of women’s underwear on their own website and across various international ecommerce marketplaces, UK-based BraForMe was born in the lockdown era.
This business model presents 3 challenges:
In the early stages, BraForMe managed the front-end listing side of their business with trusted partner ChannelAdvisor. The back-office? A heap of boxes in their front room. Classic start-up stuff that we love to see and works a treat to get things off the ground. Their version of ‘inventory management’ was taking a pen to a box, removing the item purchased by the customer, and scribbling on the piece of paper attached to the box the new ‘count’ of that item.
At just 100 orders a day, this was creating 8 hours of manual work for Jackson; printing off labels one by one, cutting them to size, finding the right items, and so on, with no way of automatically keeping inventory levels in sync across the various sales channels.
The storage unit where the business started to take off.
First pack station, manually cutting each label
Investing from day one:
Most businesses in this situation continue with these unscalable processes long into their first warehouse space and must transform their operation to integrate a WMS into the mix.
However, this experienced team had already seen Peoplevox WMS supporting success in another business. As soon as the time was right to move into their first warehouse, Peoplevox was their first call. This allowed them to build their operation from the ground up with best practice embedded and made sure the WMS was firing on all cylinders from day one.
Jackson surveying their second 'space', unaware of 20% stock unaccounted for!
In fact, it was before their official Go-Live that BraForMe first experienced the ‘Peoplevox effect’! Upon creating all their locations, scanning the products into the system and doing their first digital stock take, the team discovered they had 10-20% more stock than they were expecting. Talk about quick wins – they could list this stock immediately for sale.
Once up and running, the immediate productivity gains of scan-driven picking and packing were felt across the operation. Before it took the team all day to process 100 orders, but within the first week using Peoplevox that effort became more than manageable for just one operator.
The current warehouse space, with the first automated despatch bench set up
Continued growth and scale:
Over the first 12 month period, the business saw a growth of between 20 - 70% month over month, and order volumes steadily increased. Wishing to maintain a lean operation, BraForMe used the data from Peoplevox to understand exactly how many users they needed to hit their fulfillment targets each month, adding new pack benches and users when appropriate.:
‘As a small business that needs a tight handle on cashflow, one of the best things about Peoplevox is the way it allows us to scale as needed, one user at a time. We compare the information from the system and our revenue numbers to identify when the right time is to add more resource, be that a new printer, scanner or full-time member of staff.’
Fast-forward to the present day. BraForMe have between 3 and 4 thousand locations in a 1,700sq ft warehouse, with racking installed, bulk locations and a large pick face, divided up into the different types of products (hanging, boxed, padded, etc, to make sure things aren’t crushed). The team is lean, with only 4 full-time operatives picking and packing orders, but that doesn’t mean it’s not mighty. The company is still turning over half a million pounds per month out of this operation!
Racking now installed and more employees trained up
‘Our entire team are trained on the entire fulfillment cycle – from putaway, pick, pack and despatch. Everyone we’ve ever brought in has picked up the system straightaway. It’s simple and we’ve eliminated mistakes entirely: the system won’t let you move forward until you have the right things! These types of safeguards are critical and have protected us from so many potential problems. In our industry, products do all look the same – you could have 50 variants of the same item! - so having both the pick and pack process barcode-scan led is crucial for accuracy.’
Two more despatch benches set up alongside bag racks for order sorting
Unbeatable service levels on marketplaces:
As a reseller, with the majority of their sales coming on marketplaces such as Amazon, it’s not just the end customers BraForMe needs to keep happy. The marketplaces themselves have strict guidelines for time-to-fulfil, shipment tracking and other performance metrics. This means that if the warehouse isn't performing, marketplaces will actually ban you from selling on them, and close your account, leading to instant loss of sales potential and market reach.
However, thanks to the speed and accuracy of their Peoplevox-powered fulfillment operation, BraForMe actually surpass even the most exacting requirements from marketplaces:
‘We manage to impress Amazon with how fast we deliver orders. By getting things shipped ahead of the expected time, we find our products are getting featured more often in the Buy Box, which helps sales massively. Amazon actually reached out to us unprompted and invited us to move onto their Automated Shipping service, meaning the timelines for delivery listed against our products are much shorter, again, increasing conversion!’
Learning as they grow:
With a background in finance, Jackson Burton is always looking for ways to optimise the business with data and analytics. The reporting capabilities of Peoplevox help him do this in two major ways.
‘With Peoplevox, I can pull reports on stock that isn’t shifting, and use that intel to communicate with our listers to get it sold at discount. More than that, though, I can create data-informed size curves based on the inventory data and sales data out of PVX. I’m able to understand which styles are popular in which sizes, sometimes even by region, and only order from our suppliers exactly what we know we can sell. This feeds into our long-term purchasing strategy across the various brands. There’s no way we could do anything like this with our previous manual ways of working.’
Making full use of available space as they continue to scale up the business
Making decisions based on facts - not feelings - is a sure-fire way to scale up without risk and maintain that lean operating model the owners have championed throughout the past two years.
Here’s some more info about the Peoplevox integration with ChannelAdvisor, and if you want to speak with a fulfilment expert today, just fill out this form and tell us about your operation!