With a combined desire to escape the ‘fast lane’ of California living and return to his home of Costa Rica, Roberto Jiménez, CEO and Founder of Unimart.com, and his wife, now business partner, Adriana, made the move to Central America. Life was good, but when the lack of infrastructure for online shopping in Costa Rica became a mutual niggle for the couple – the seed for their joint business venture, Unimart.com, was planted.
“There was no easy way to buy things online in Costa Rica,” Roberto explains. “Shipping was slow, returns were a headache… so we saw an opportunity to build something locally, similar to what we had in the US.”
Years later, following an incredible 350% boom since the pandemic, Roberto and Adriana are the heads of a multimillion dollar retail outfit. With a diverse catalog of products, a complex business model and big goals to expand across Central America and beyond, Unimart.com has made huge operational leaps thanks to a smartly curated tech stack combined with a sense of intrepid ambition.
ONE STORE, MANY MARKETS
Unimart.com launched in electronics sales, then quickly expanded to cover a full roster of categories. “We’re essentially a retail catalog – our inventory covers electronics, sporting goods, camping, home gadgets, cookware, shoes, fashion basics, perfumes, beauty products, home decor… so there’s a lot to process,” explains Roberto.
The online business is built on a complex, multichannel model – consisting of Shopify Plus-powered direct-to-consumer sales, a B2B arm for corporate customers, and a separate API stream supplying brand loyalty programs. From the start, Roberto was aware of Unimart.com’s complex setup.
“The complication is in the number of ways we populate our inventory and make sales, and the different rules for each system. Whatever we used to run the business needed to be truly integrated, able to connect everything together seamlessly. But our previous provider couldn’t do that, and it was a mess.”
At first Unimart.com used a traditional legacy ERP provider, to pull all of its multichannel processes into one place. Roberto soon experienced the fallout of disjointed data transfers and eventually felt that it wasn’t well-suited to Unimart.com’s business model.
“We used ShipHero for fulfilment and a separate accounting system. Placing purchase orders was a problem because we’d create them in one place, then accounts would be transferred to the ERP manually. Everything was disconnected and nothing matched at the end of each month. It was a terrible setup, it just didn’t work.
“Old school ERPs are good if you’re a huge enterprise and if you’re not a retail business – but we had complex rules to follow and it didn’t support them at all.”
In search of a better way, Roberto considered alternative legacy ERPs but found their all-in-one nature, as well as their clunky means of connectivity, meant they weren’t financially viable.
Eventually, following a recommendation from Shopify, he discovered the Brightpearl retail operating system.
“Other solutions we’d found wanted us to pay for third-parties in order to build connectors. We didn’t want that – not when Brightpearl could do it all.
“Brightpearl was Shopify-approved, and the Plug & Play integrations they offered were absolutely key. The ERP failed to sync with Shopify, sometimes every ten minutes – so it was essential that we had a robust enough system, like Brightpearl, that would maintain those connections between channels.”
Then came another proverbial spanner. The decision to use Brightpearl came at the start of 2020; just before the extreme sales surge of the pandemic. Like so many other retailers, Unimart.com’s existing systems struggled with the increased volume.
“Our existing setup allowed us to fulfil around 100 orders a day – but in the pandemic we blew up 350%,” Roberto recalls.
“Boxes were scattered all over the warehouse with our pickers fishing around for products – and our social channels were full of angry customers waiting months for their orders. We simply couldn’t handle the rush.
“By August, we had fully integrated both Brightpearl and our warehouse picker system, Peoplevox, and the impact was immediate. In one week, we’d cleared the backlog we’d accumulated in three to four months. We have the tech to thank for that, 100%.”
CLEARING THE ROUTES
After a successful, guided implementation with a Brightpearl consultant, Unimart.com’s systems were now fully connected into a real-time, central source of truth.
Brightpearl’s world-class library of Plug & Play integrations and deep API access meant it could connect to Shopify Plus, Peoplevox and Unimart.com’s other apps and channels swiftly and easily – giving Unimart.com the means to curate a custom tech stack as it continues to scale.
“In terms of our orders, the combination of Brightpearl and Peoplevox is tremendous,” says Roberto. “We can track our orders better and create more complex flows for orders that need different treatment.
“It’s been a game changer for our warehouse, as now we rarely have stockouts, and can fulfil much quicker as picking and packing is easier and everything is barcoded,” Roberto says.
Unimart.com’s manual systems have been transformed by Brightpearl’s Automation Engine, which streamlines and automates manual tasks in inventory, warehouse, orders, shipping and fulfilment so that key staff are freed up to direct time into growth and innovation. Not only has this meant Unimart.com can easily integrate their self-run shipping and logistics processes, Roberto estimates they’ve saved an incredible 70 hours a month on manual purchase orders.
“In Costa Rica, shipping is an issue, as we don’t have well developed shipping carriers, so we also run logistics and do shipping ourselves. Brightpearl’s automation has a huge role in that now.
“Making automation rules has also helped us send out promo items, allocate stock to the right place, invoice automatically, add notes and set delivery dates and rules.
“In terms of creating POs, just the fact that our staff aren’t doing that from scratch is so much time saved. We’re saving 70 hours a month, but that isn’t even doing it justice. There are plenty of other processes that are saving us time on top of that.”
With Brightpearl bringing all of Unimart.com’s complex sales streams into a central source of truth, and offering 360 degree, at-a-glance insights across the entire business, Roberto sees a clear route to scaling with previous blockers to growth now removed.
“Consolidating B2B, DTC and multiple sales models and channels into one space is tricky, and we absolutely benefit from having Brightpearl at the centre of it all. With extra sales channels, alongside our manual API and two Shopify stores, I couldn’t think of another way to do it. We simply couldn’t have done it before having Brightpearl,” he says.
“We struggled with over 100 daily orders on our old systems. Now we do around 500-600 orders per day really easily. With our current tech setup we can do way more than that – I think we could manage 10000 daily orders or more.
“So that’s where we’re looking to expand, as the tech stack allows us to do that now.”
SCALING UP AND OUT
Now that Unimart.com is supported by a time-saving, hyper-scalable foundation for all its operations, Roberto sees serving the Costa Rica market as just the beginning.
“We want to open up into different Central American countries. Altogether it’s a fair-sized market, but difficult to tackle as each country has its own intricacies.
“But from a technical perspective, scaling up like this is not going to be a huge deal. We’ll open up new shops that we’ll integrate with Brightpearl, connect to new warehouses and sync to that new country. There’s no need to start from scratch like before.
“That’s the thing with Brightpearl – it’s given us the confidence to do things that seemed impossible in the past. Now we take on projects we wouldn’t have previously considered, and develop opportunities based on what we know Brightpearl can do.
“Our biggest goal is to become a $100M dollar business – realistically we think we can achieve this, with our plans to access new markets, and with Brightpearl and our current tech stack working alongside us.”
To discover how Brightpearl can transform your retail business by removing the blockers to rapid growth, book a free demo today.
Growth since the pandemic
Cleared 4 month backlog in just 1 week
Saved every month in manual purchase ordering