Obsess over your customer’s experience. Think about every interaction your customer is going to have with your brand, and perfect every little detail. Consumers are so savvy today, so it’s worth the blood, sweat and tears to pour over everything.
Ask your customers when they want to receive their packages. By asking this question, you can use intelligence software to determine the most cost-effective method of getting your product into your customer’s hand at the time they expect. Businesses can save a ton of money this way. Not only that, you aren’t sacrificing customer experience — you’re getting them involved in your process and meeting their preferences.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Highly Successful E-Commerce Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luke Kupersmith, co-founder and CEO of Lojistic, an innovative transportation cost management company. Lojistic is a free platform that helps businesses monitor, manage and reduce shipping costs. Your Lojistic account analyzes your historical shipping data, identifies where costly shipping inefficiencies are occurring, and provides solutions for resolving those issues. Kupersmith has led Lojistic to be recognized multiple times on Inc. Magazine’s list of top 500 & 5000 fastest growing companies. No stranger to prestigious lists himself, Kupersmith has landed on various regional lists recognizing outstanding young entrepreneurs. Luke lives in Costa Mesa, CA with his 6-year-old son. He has traveled to more than forty countries around the world, most recently having visited the highlands of Scotland for a surf, skateboarding, swing (golf) and scotch adventure. He is passionate about helping others and has intentionally incorporated philanthropy into both his personal life and the Lojistic corporate culture.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Before starting Lojistic, I was working as a financial advisor. At the time, I decided to start a clothing company ‘on the side’ with a neighbor friend. After a bit, I quit my financial job to focus 100% on building and launching the clothing company. Our business model combined eCommerce dropship with a traditional brick-and-mortar retail presence. We weren’t making enough money from the clothing company, so we decided to start a second “temporary” business that was focused on logistics. The logistics company was really just a way to make ends meet so I could continue to put food in my belly as I built a billion-dollar clothing company. I juggled the clothing company and the logistics company, running both in parallel for about three years. Then, I just said “screw it” to the clothing company to focus on what was originally meant to be a side hustle. And here we are, nearly 16 years later.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
The original idea for founding Lojistic was definitely not an “aha” moment. It was simply a means for survival. There was, however, an “aha” moment about 11 years into our business — as it relates to the technology platform that we’ve built as an entirely different and distinctly unique way of supporting shippers. That, at the time, had not yet been done. The unique way of supporting shippers was to create a platform that is totally free that allows a shipper to connect their entire shipping history for the benefit of seeing what’s been going well, what’s not been going so well, and where there’s opportunity to improve and save money. We made that tool extremely powerful, totally free, and essentially zero barrier to entry because it doesn’t require any IT time or special skills and can function independently or alongside any technology that a company already has in place.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Thinking about the hard times when we first started out just begs the question: what part of running a business isn’t hard? There are challenges whether you’re at the startup phase or a decade and a half in! In my experience, the challenges are consistent, although varying. As a startup, one of the biggest and most difficult things is truly making something from nothing. You’re growing from nowhere. You’re taking an empty bank account and a concept and trying to do something from a fragile foundation. That’s our origin story and that’s for sure a tough thing. Throughout everything, I never thought about or considered giving up. Not once. And that’s not coming from some wannabe inspirational place. I guess it’s just because I truly and fully believe in the goals and objectives we’re pursuing as a company. Those goals and objectives over the past 16 years have changed drastically as we continue to evolve and grow. As an entrepreneur, it’s exciting to see this powerful and free platform that we’ve built get put to its intended use by so many different businesses. We empower businesses to look at their past to improve their future. Our main goal is vast. I want to see every UPS and FedEx shipper in the country, or in the world even, to use our platform. The ideas that we’ve built something that can help every parcel shipper out there is exciting. That hasn’t always been our goal, though. Our vision, goals and objectives have been reinvented and reset many times. Each one of those resets keeps me excited for the future and that excitement get me through the hard times. Just because there are hard parts or pieces, or maybe even full “seasons” of hardships (some more so than others), staying true to your goals and objectives in making your vision come to life is the motivator. I’ve always anticipated that this journey would be difficult. I certainly never expected anything about it to be easy! But with that said, if anyone has any tips or tricks on how to make running a business easy, I’m all ears!
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are going great, but like I said before, there’s an endless stream of problems and challenges to overcome. Right now, the number of clients we have is growing, the amount of revenue we derive from our clients is growing, the reach and rapport we have within our industry is growing. And as it relates to our platform, the features and functions are evolving and growing more robust. It’s been fulfilling on a personal and professional level for me, and for the rest of the Lojistic team. Having built something that is useful to others and that’s being adopted into the operations of many, many businesses is cool. It’s a trend we want to see continue and accelerated into the future. Just because things are great, that doesn’t mean it’s easy, or there aren’t complications to solve, though. We have an incredible team of people that we’ve been fortunate to put together that values the same resilience that I do. We have an amazing product, and we have a decade and a half of history and rapport with existing clients and in our general market. Right now, we’re pursuing the uncharted, massive goal to get everyone and anyone who ships parcel with UPS or FedEx to use our platform. So, in our current state, we’re a really solid, stable company that’s pursuing an exciting vision. And that’s a fun place to be.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I think it’s pretty funny to have started an “accidental” business that I had no experience or knowledge of 16 years ago. When founding this logistics company, I had absolutely zero shipping or carrier, operations, or transportation experience. I laugh just thinking about how absurd it sounds to say aloud. I had no knowledge of logistics whatsoever. Yet, I was someone who was part of founding a logistics company. Now, I find myself as the CEO of said logistics company. Maybe that’s not the funniest thing, but there’s certainly some irony to it. My takeaway from my experience is to have a plan for your life but to also be willing and ready to embrace whatever opposition to that plan that comes along the way. When your life or career deviates from your previous plans or intentions, embrace it and go for it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think we have an incredible product and a unique voice and brand in our market. We produce great results for our clients. But the thing that really makes us stand out is the relationships I see formed, both within our team and between our team and clients. It’s awesome how many stories make their way back to me about how much our clients appreciate the individuals on our team, and further, the communication they have with the Lojistic crew. All the time I hear how, yes, there are a ton of companies out there who can help reduce shipping costs in some way, but what makes us really unique is how the individuals on our team prioritize the relationships we have with our clients. We place a really high value on who we bring on board, so to see that paying dividends with our client relationships is cool. I think that’s the polish on the boot that really makes us shine. One story in particular is about a large synthetics/lubricants formulator and distributor customer of Lojistic. They’ve been with us for over a decade and have evolved with Lojistic as a company. They’ve been leveraging and utilizing the information that we provide through our platform to better run and optimize their shipping operations. They’ve also used all of our professional services too. So, between our platform and services, we’ve saved them millions and millions of dollars. We’ve really helped them change their business, and we’ve built a fantastic relationship over the years in doing so. There’s an endless stream of relationships we’ve built over the years, though. That type of relationship-building is really what makes us stand out.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I think whether you’re a business owner or an employee, we all run our own degrees of risk in terms of “burn out.” And, at least for me, the only way to avoid burn out is balance. You need to find balance in your life. But balance means something different for everyone. One of the things that has helped me in managing burn out is finding balance in my routine. I’m very intentional about the time in my life I allocate to work and to travel and to my son and to my friends and to alone time and to time spent in the mountains and time spent surfing…etc. Everyone’s balance looks different. Burn out happens when you give too much of your time to any one thing without there being some sort of balance. That can be true not just in business, but in all parts of life.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are literally hundreds of people or more who have helped shape me as a human. Starting with my parents, siblings, friends, colleagues and others. There isn’t one particular person in my life that I’d necessarily categorize as my mentor. There are so many people, to varying degrees, who I credit in helping me get to where I am today. That statement is true of the relationships I have with the people who are still in my life and also true of some of the people who may have been in my life for a season, and now they’re not. Sometimes the things we lose and the hard times we endure help sharpen us and catapult us to success more so than the obvious “winning” moments. Jared, my business partner, is a prime example of person who has made a huge difference. We’ve been building this thing together for 16 years. It’s not always easy to have a business partner, but it’s much more difficult to NOT have a business partner. When you make a good match or when you find that complementary person who can work through the tough times and accelerate the good, it’s priceless. And for sure, Jared and I have worked through many tough times within various lifecycles of the company and through interpersonal conflict. Through everything we’ve gone through together, our personal and professional relationship is stronger today than it has ever been in the past. That’s a powerful testament to him. I’m certainly not the only reason we’re at where we’re at as a company. Lojistic is the sum of many parts, yet Jared is a huge reason why I’m where I am.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this 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 eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
I’ll come at this one from a shipping perspective. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen so many businesses incur unnecessary shipping costs, as their shipping volumes have risen and the carriers have implemented a number of surcharges and eliminated service guarantees. A really big unnecessary cost in the midst of COVID, and in the world of parcel delivery in general, is that UPS and FedEx aren’t guaranteeing their services. If you’re shipping a package to your customer, and you pay for a service that guarantees next-day delivery, yet, if it takes three days for the package to be delivered, you’d be paying a premium for a service that you didn’t receive. There’s no recourse for the carriers if their money-back offer isn’t in play. Without the guaranteed deliveries, it’s important to manage and monitor your service level selection — and to have the software in place to support the execution of your shipping.
For example, many eCommerce retailers have some form of the question “What level of service do you want to purchase?” on their website. The days of asking this question are over. Instead, retailers should be asking “When do you want to receive your product?” Then, by using intelligence software, you as the shipper can select the right service to have the package delivered by that date at the least amount of cost.
It’s heartbreaking, truly, to see the extent that companies waste money on shipping. This existed pre-COVID, but it’s been drastically exaggerated during COVID. Companies throw money away by using an express or air service when a ground service or less expensive level of service would guarantee the same or lesser time in transit at a lesser cost. When this scenario is multiplied, the amount of lost revenue really adds up.
An overarching pain point that all online-based businesses grapple with is the exorbitant cost of shipping. It’s a big challenge to balance when to charge for shipping, or whether or not to charge for shipping. Do businesses offer free shipping and absorb those costs? How much does that affect their bottom line? Or, do you charge for shipping and potentially risk losing a sale to a competitor who offers shipping for free? Consumers are savvy. And nowadays, they expect shipping to be free and fast. So sometimes charging for shipping can be a major deterrent. That’s a trend that was here before COVID and continues to be a point of pain for many companies.
It’s not all bad news, though. There are a lot of resources and solutions that help businesses with things like fulfillment, rating, routing, auditing, costs…etc. It’s a matter of whether or not a business is taking advantage of the available resources.
Amazon, and even Walmart are 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 retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
I’ll point back to managing shipping costs as a big variable in all of this. People want good products at affordable prices. And on top of that, they want their products shipped fast and shipped for free. If you’re selling a product, or products, that are different, or better or prettier or whatever it is, that sets you apart, and you’ve figured out how to get it sold — great! But people want the thing they just bought now, and they don’t want to pay for shipping. So, to compete with the big guys or companies based in China is tough. Items shipped from China will take a bit longer, unless they’re using a local or US-based fulfillment company. Amazon gets your products to your house fast and often times, for free. The only way to combat, or compete, is to be obsessive with controlling your shipping costs. There are a lot of parts and pieces that go into the total cost of getting your product from point A to point Z. But because there’s so much that goes into shipping, there are a bunch of opportunities to shave off pennies and dollars for each package shipped. With those dollars saved, you can choose to not charge for shipping or upgrade the level of service you’re currently using, or you could choose to be more profitable. There’s a lot within your shipping operations that can help you compete with the big retailers. But the main point is to manage each and every variable that comprise your total shipping cost. And, if shippers need help, we’re certainly here to lend a helping hand.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
It’s a hard thing to generalize because there’s a million mistakes I’ve made, and every other entrepreneur makes along the way. In a broad, overarching sense, one of the big mistakes that founders make is anticipating that things will go smoothly. That anticipation can lead to unpreparedness, mostly in the emotional sense, for the inevitable bumps along the road. Not being able to adequately manage the emotions that come with the challenges that CEOs and founders experience and encounter can be tough to avoid. We all want things to go smoothly, so when they don’t, it can be a shock to the system. But, if you go into starting a starting a business with the anticipation that you’ll get your butt kicked at some point, you might just stand a chance of making it through that butt kicking.
In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Fundamentally and organizationally, all eCommerce brands need to figure out how to more effectively communicate and engage with their consumers and to create a memorable and valuable digital customer experience, since the face-to-face communication will never occur. How you communicate with and engage with a consumer face-to-face is totally different than in a digitally-driven marketplace. It’s going to be essential for eCommerce businesses to succeed through a completely digitally-driven marketplace/environment/reality by being intensely intentional about how they engage, attract, and interact with their customers. Equally as important is how a business maintains the loyalty of a customer that they’ll never see in person.
Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
When it comes to logistics, lojistic.com! For getting anonymous, continuous and valuable feedback from your team, Officevibe is a fantastic tool. When it comes to project and task management, managing and delegating various workflows, Asana is great. We use a ton of different software and tools within our various teams, like sales, accounting, development and marketing. There’s a ton of cool stuff that we’re using for marketing intelligence and automation. Lastly, and most importantly, the tool that I attribute the most success to is Tillamook Double Nutty Peanut Butter ice cream. It’s a real game changer.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
That’s a big question, but to generalize an answer, eCommerce businesses should figure out where the people who want or need what you’ve got to offer are. Then, figure out how to best capture their attention and keep their attention. You have to give the person who engages with your brand an unforgettable experience every step along the way. That begins with the first ad that they’re served to the final product, whatever that may be. Think about the experience that your customer has as they take that “journey” from introduction to purchase, and beyond. Make your decision weighted primarily toward the customer’s experience, not toward operations or how you’re going to get things done. Don’t sacrifice a cool or memorable or likable experience for your customer just to make your operations easier to manage. Focus on delivering a killer experience for your customer. That experience can be what you have on a webpage or their shopping cart on your site, or on a call with your customer support. Think about what it’s going to be like when the receive your product, and what the “unboxing” experience looks, feels, smells like. Obsess over every detail.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
This is much easier said than done, but in general, do what you say you’re going to, when you said you were going to do it and how you said it would get done. Do everything with a smile on your face — a big smile! That approach goes for everyone on your team that’s involved in the “conversion” equation in some way.
One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
This is a really tough one, and to be honest, I don’t have that figured out! How to escape the blackhole of negativity online is a really, really tough thing. I don’t know how to be online and remain completely unblemished from the “haters.” I’m not even sure if it’s possible. At the end of the day, my big thing is to approach any negative review with kindness. Cliché as it is, kill them with kindness. If that doesn’t work, at the end of the day you have to remind yourself that you can’t always make everyone happy, no matter how much you might try. It doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C, you can’t please everyone. If you did everything in your power to remedy someone’s anguish or dissatisfaction, and you’ve got nothing left in your bag of tricks, don’t get lost in the negativity.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Obsess over your customer’s experience
Think about every interaction your customer is going to have with your brand, and perfect every little detail. Consumers are so savvy today, so it’s worth the blood, sweat and tears to pour over everything.
- Obsess over every aspect of your shipping operations
There is so much that can happen between point A and point Z, so if you aren’t keeping a close eye on how you’re getting your products to your customers, you’re potentially missing out on big cost savings opportunities.
- Ask your customers when they want to receive their packages
By asking this question, you can use intelligence software to determine the most cost-effective method of getting your product into your customer’s hand at the time they expect. Businesses can save a ton of money this way. Not only that, you aren’t sacrificing customer experience — you’re getting them involved in your process and meeting their preferences.
- Be willing to deviate from your original plans
Things change all the time in business, especially the last several months during this pandemic. Be fluid and accept deviations from your original plans as they come. You might just come out stronger as a result.
- Expect to be challenged and anticipate changes
Challenges will happen they always do even when they’re least expected. Prepare yourself for the emotional toll they might take!
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. 🙂
If I wasn’t already devoted to making that movement a reality, then shame on me! I’ll apologize in advance for taking liberties with this question. I’ll reframe it, and instead ask myself what I am doing with the time and resources I have today to affect the most good and the biggest number of people. And that’s to be super intentional and conscious on a daily basis and a grand basis in the way I treat people. I’m going to do the most with what I have, and that’s every interaction with my employees, friends, people I meet throughout my life, to be a positive and happy human. I try to spread that feeling. There’s a lot of individuals in this big old world that need that type of positivity.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Some of the excerpts of my life and of my 6-year-old son are captured on my Instagram: @lukekupersmith
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!