For some items it’s about price, but there are so many other facets to consider that are equally or more important. Focus on the quality of your products and interactions, increasing units per transaction based on localized inventory, accessibility of your items, and speed of pickup/delivery.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dominic Lozano.
Dominic Lozano is the General Manager of ShipWorks, the industry-leading shipping software for warehouses and other high-volume merchants. In his role, Dominic leads the execution of ShipWorks’ growth strategy, building out the organization to support it, while overseeing all operations.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Like many young kids, I grew up with lofty aspirations of becoming a rock legend. After studying jazz performance in college and realizing the inherent challenges of raising a family while making a living through music, I stumbled into a small startup business where I had the opportunity to experiment and make mistakes as we built the systems, processes, and teams needed to grow the business, become profitable, and even spinoff a secondary business. There I found a love for the curiosity, experimentation, problem-solving, and people development skills required to grow an organization.
As my skills have grown, so has my desire to actively seek opportunities that allow me to combine my technical operations and leadership development backgrounds to solve the obstacles needed for scaling up businesses and growing a team of leaders.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I was working at a technology business and, along with two others, had created a start-up within the business that was focused on identifying inefficiencies and implementing solutions, specifically within the support operations group. We’d been at it for about two years with relatively good success when a couple of things happened in quick succession: the company underwent a series of layoffs, our boss departed for another role, and a thirty-minute meeting was scheduled with the executive over our function to present our organization. As we began, it was pretty clear the question at hand was whether or not to disband our small group who had recently lost its leader. Our thirty-minute meeting turned into about two hours and we walked away with a commitment to grow our team and expand our reach across the entire operational function.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
After the decision was made to close the doors to a local start-up I was working for, another group decided to purchase the assets of the business to relaunch it and approached me to help them implement it. While I considered myself a jack of all trades, took way too much pride in my abilities, and had a blast setting up the operational systems and processes they needed for launch, I quickly found myself in the deep end with the website. Saying I had no idea what I was doing, no sense of design, and no business implementing a site was the understatement of the century! After many wasted hours and long days with extremely limited success, I finally had to call a spade a spade and admit I couldn’t complete the work on my own. Fortunately, in the end, I reached out for help and was able to get the project across the finish line.
I learned that I don’t have to be the expert at everything, have all the answers, or do everything myself. In fact, being that person can be one of the quickest ways to bottle-neck a growing organization. Pitch in where you can and ask for help early and often where you need it.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Always. With the tremendous fast-paced growth we’re seeing in e-commerce, ShipWorks is spending our time solving for the implications of that growth on scaling high-volume merchants, especially as it pertains to daily order throughput capacity and shipping cost management.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Surround yourself with great people, invest heavily in their development, empower them with true ownership, and be there to support them for whatever they need. Make it a priority to take care of yourself because if you don’t, you and those around you will suffer because of it. For me, that means eating mostly healthy, running, playing music, and spending time with my family.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
How much time do you have? There are far too many to count.
After studying Jazz in college and simultaneously working overnights at our local grocery store stocking shelves, I was fortunate to get a chance to work at a fledgling startup. As the second hire, I spent the better part of six years working for my former boss, Tom. Though I was young and inexperienced, Tom invested significant time developing me and teaching me the constructs of business. He often pulled me into his thought process, giving me transparent visibility into the key inputs and analysis he used in the strategic decision-making process. More importantly, Tom modeled a bold approach to leadership through his focus on team building, identification and development of individuals’ strengths, and willingness to have daring conversations.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m a firm believer that the greatest impact we can have is through the individual relationships and interactions we are fortunate to have each and every day. I love how Bob Chapman, CEO and Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller, frames it as a ripple effect, like a stone thrown into a pond. Through every interaction, we start a ripple that cascades out to all of the encounters that person will have, including their spouse, children, parents, close friends, and coworkers. Whether teaching, having difficult conversations, listening, giving of what we have, or just being there and present, that’s a tremendous responsibility. My goal is to create positive ripples out of every interaction. I hope I’m successful in doing so more often than not.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Many retail outlets are experimenting with ways to deliver a more expansive omnichannel experience that provides consumers a multitude of options for shopping, buying, and obtaining their merchandise while interweaving the online and retail experiences. Additionally, we’ve seen the utilization of retail locations as a warehouse and/or fulfillment center. Increasing the units purchased per transaction has become increasingly important during the pandemic, and a way retailers can and have done this is through things like incentivized discounts, dynamic bundling, customized recommendations that complement their current cart, etc. Plus, with more people shopping online, retailers have explored the expansion of last-mile delivery options, especially in ways that drive convenience for the buyer.
In your opinion, will retail stores or malls continue to exist? How would you articulate the role of physical retail spaces at a time when online commerce platforms like Amazon Prime or Instacart can deliver the same day or the next day?
Will they continue? Absolutely; especially those who adapt to a growing online world and focus on uniting their online and retail experiences. The surge in e-commerce has been significant, though it’s important to note that ~80% of US purchases still occur in-store. In part, this is because there are still a few parts of the purchase experience, especially for certain types of items, that people want to experience in person.
The so-called “Retail Apocalypse” has been going on for about a decade. While many retailers are struggling, some retailers, like Lululemon, Kroger, and Costco are quite profitable. Can you share a few lessons that other retailers can learn from the success of profitable retailers?
Ultimately, it’s about the value of the experience delivered to the consumer. This can be defined in different ways: convenience, quality, speed of access/accessibility, and product/problem specialization, to name a few. The retailers we see having great success understand their customers and target customers well, are continually learning from them over extended periods of time, have pivoted their businesses accordingly, and have maintained the agility to react based on newly emerging trends.
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise to retail companies and e-commerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
For retailers looking to find success in a competitive market, the focus should always be on understanding the customer and positioning your business to create seamless experiences, from the initial transaction through the returns process. Customers ultimately want outcomes and will show loyalty to retailers that can provide them with successful outcomes and high-quality service.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Understand your target consumer and focus on evolving your business to provide the experience they are looking for.
2. Leverage an omnichannel experience for your business. The more convenient you make it for a customer to choose their own experience, whether online, in-store or a combination, the stickier and more loyal they become.
3. Utilize your existing distribution network and data to position inventory where — or close to where — it is needed.
4. For some items it’s about price, but there are so many other facets to consider that are equally or more important. Focus on the quality of your products and interactions, increasing units per transaction based on localized inventory, accessibility of your items, and speed of pickup/delivery.
5. Returns — Online returns are still often too difficult and/or inconvenient. As a physical retail location, you have the ability to use your return process as a strength, enhancing the overall customer experience.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Be kind to at least one person every day, or better yet, everyone you encounter! Most of us get just a brief glimpse into someone’s life. We don’t know their collective experiences, scars, pain, or baggage. But we can be the start of a positive ripple for them. We can be someone who’s willing to be there with them, to sit with them, to listen and hear them, to encourage them, to teach them, to praise them, and to celebrate them.
How can our readers further follow your work?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!