Lightning-50 Podcast

Lightning-50 E-commerce growth hacking

Hosted by Caroline Baldwin

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The ‘Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking’ Podcast

A new 15-minute bitesize show from Brightpearl, which drops weekly, reveals the strategic and technological factors behind the growth of highly successful online merchants.

Why Tune In?

To gain practical ‘Growth Hacking’ advice from leading online brands – all within the time it takes to brew a coffee.

Hosted by industry expert Caroline Baldwin, the podcast interviews retail luminaries, with each guest on the show being recognized as being from one of the fastest growing online businesses in the world, having made the cut for Brightpearl’s ‘Lightning 50,’ a definitive list of the fastest growing e-commerce companies across the globe.

In this season, episodes will welcome Fashion mogul Jade Holland Cooper, founder and owner of the Holland Cooper, a luxury tweed brand. The team from Biscuiteers will join for another episode to discuss the ‘growth hacks’ that have led to the bougie biscuit company’s astonishing growth over the past year.

Subscribe now and never miss an episode!

Caroline Baldwin is the host of the Lightning 50 Podcast, and will be helping unlock the secrets behind the growth of some of the world’s fastest growing online brands.  Caroline is a very well respected retail industry expert. Formerly editor of leading retail trade title ‘Essential Retail,’ she was also the host of uber popular e-commerce podcast the ‘Retail Ramble.’

Brightpearl is the team behind the Lightning 50 Podcast. Brightpearl’s Retail Operating System provides retail operating solutions for some of the world’s biggest retail brands, such as Puma, Lovepop and Shopify. Brightpearl works with thousands of retailers introducing software that puts orders, inventory, financials, POS (point of sale) and CRM (customer relationship management) in one place.

Episode 1

Jordan Major, Head of E-Commerce at Au Vodka, joins the inaugural Lightning 50 podcast to reveal the tactics behind this Welsh premium Vodka brand’s stonking 10,000% YOY growth!

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Endorsed by some of the world’s biggest celebs, multi-million pound growth, hundreds of thousands of loyal fans on social media…

For luxury drinks brand, Au Vodka, those are  just a handful of high points in an incredible commerce journey that’s recently culminated in the brand being crowned the UK’s fastest growing retail brand for 2021.

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

Swansea-based Au Vodka is a luxury vodka retailer, and the fastest-growing vodka brand in Europe. Founded by young entrepreneurs Charlie Morgan and Jackson Quinn aged only 19 and 22, in just five years the brand has grown phenomenally, from starting out on the shelves of a few Selfridges stores to becoming a buzzing online sensation worth £2.5M. The retailer stocks its vodka in premium stores such as Harvey Nichols, UK supermarkets including Tesco and online marketplaces such as Amazon, as well as its Shopify Plus website.

Primarily due to its huge social media following, the brand grew an immense 10,170% in 2019/20. For this podcast, we spoke to Jordan Major, Head of E-Commerce at Au Vodka.

Transcript highlights:

  •     “In the past three years we’ve seen exponential online growth, and social media is to credit for that. The gold bottle is quite iconic at this point – it’s Instagrammable and works well in the right influencer’s hands.”
  •     “We were turning over £29k in 2019, by the end of 2020, £2.5M. A massive factor in this is we react to trends and capitalize on them. We leverage social media marketing and paid ads to build relationships with our audience, rather than simply selling to them and letting them go.”
  •       “I was looking at other brands online and how they were marketing themselves. We wanted to replicate that extra level of service and the online perks – but for booze. There’s nothing special about buying from a supermarket, but when you buy from us online you get a unique experience.”
  •     “During Covid, people were spending more time on social. So we scrolled through TikTok to see what trends were happening and thought, why not feature influencers with a bottle? Everyone was on furlough, sitting at home with nothing to spend their money on, so why wouldn’t they treat themselves? We used the most appropriate influencers for our brand, like rappers, Love Island stars, even local celebs in Wales. We had a good idea of who to use and at what time.”
  • “Growing the e-commerce side involves challenges you don’t think of when you’re a small business – getting your products, marketing and warehouse sorted is something that only becomes an issue when you’re bigger. The sheer number of orders that need packing per day; that upscaling is a huge challenge.”
  • “A new bit of tech for us is our WMS [warehouse management system], so we can get insights about stock flow, when things are dispatched, etc. The tech allows us to pack 150/200 orders a day when we were doing 50 before – and like cavemen; with sheets of paper blowing around, manual orders and hands-on packing. Since we brought on a WMS, there’s been a massive increase in productivity.”
  • “I was ecstatic when I found out we’d won the Lightning 50 – especially considering the other great brands that were shortlisted. The rest of the company takes the e-commerce team more seriously now we have a couple of awards under our belt!
  • “One tip – trust the people in your team, whether that’s four or 40 people. I’d never be able to handle our e-commerce platform now without my staff. Rely on them to help you and let go of doing everything yourself.”
  • “We recently switched to Shopify Plus and we’ve seen huge benefits to that. Things you take for granted – like insights, customer reports, sales flows – again are things you don’t consider when small but when you’re bigger they become invaluable.”

Top takeaways

  • Au Vodka came in 1st place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50, and topped the regional rankings for Wales as well as in the Luxury sector.
  • That followed a 10,170% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20
  • The brand credits much of their growth to a smart social media and influencer marketing strategy, and uses tech tools Instagram and TikTok for this. They are the most followed vodka brand on TikTok, and the most followed British vodka brand on Instagram.
  • The e-commerce side makes up only 10% of the business, yet is primarily responsible for their huge growth.
  • The tech tools Au Vodka says is responsible for their supercharged growth: Instagram, TikTok, Shopify Plus, and its WMS.
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Episode 2

Jade Holland Cooper, CEO of Holland Cooper, joins Caroline on today’s podcast episode to discuss how the popular luxury lifestyle brand has achieved outstanding growth over the past year

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A long-time customer of Brightpearl, Holland Cooper is a luxury lifestyle brand that has positioned itself as quintessentially British. Best known for its British-made tweed, Holland Cooper sells products ranging from pet accessories to long-line puffer jackets. Founder Jade Holland Cooper launched the brand in 2008 and is the managing director, as well as overseeing the design team.

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

Holland Cooper is a British luxury lifestyle brand specializing in women’s fashion. Launched in 2008, the brand started out on the events circuit, promoting its statement tweed garments at top events such as Cheltenham Races. Since then it’s built huge popularity in the premium sector for its country-inspired ‘investment pieces’, and operates DTC via its Shopify Plus website, as well as wholesale to independent outlets such as Jules B and Millbry Hill. The brand grew 243% in 2019/20. For this podcast, we spoke to Founder & CEO, Jade Holland Cooper.

Transcript highlights:

  •   “British tailoring is at the heart of the business and why I started in the first place. I noticed women tend to buy a luxury key piece but everything else high street – so I wanted our products to be at a price point that meant they could wear everything by us – for walking the dog, riding, skiing, a night out. Our staple garments aren’t intended for a season or trend but much longer.”
  •     “In the beginning we were all about the events circuit. It was before social media kicked off, so nothing like now when the website and online has become a central tool and asset to our business. The website is our shop window and the gateway to global sales.”
  •     “Our huge growth during lockdown was due to a number of factors. One thing was I started to personally engage with our customers through Instagram, and they started to really connect with our brand and who we are. I became more open about what was happening with us rather than maintaining a polished, ‘closed book’ front. I now respond to every single customer message, even if it’s 400 a day.”
  • “In growth you will always face challenges – Covid was an enormous challenge operationally, logistically, from a stock perspective – and we had to manage that as a team. It’s how you learn from those bumps in the road and get better and stronger for the following year. We have great people on our team with real expertise, it’s a collaborative effort – and you have to be able to trust them so you can move forward.”
  • “My main advice is when your business is growing, don’t be afraid to change up your systems. Every year you’re almost a different business, so your requirements will be different. Something we’ve been good at is picking systems that will grow with us, and Brightpearl has been great for that. When you’re multichannel there’s a challenge to find a system that fits with everything, but for five or six years it’s been a great connector for us and I think it will continue to be.”
  • “We’re also using great tech for B2B like JOOR [a wholesale management platform], because wholesale has grown dramatically for us. There are further things we’re putting in place for other parts of the business, like more advanced warehouse systems, sample development and sample trackers.”
  • “As you get bigger, all departments need streamlining systems. You need transparency, connectivity and communication across all of your departments so the business flows seamlessly.”
  • “We’re striving to be bigger and better every year and getting the Lightning 50 recognition along the way is fantastic. Our consumers love the brand, we’re extending into overseas markets and it’s an incredibly exciting place for us to be in.”

Top takeaways

  • Holland Cooper ranked 22nd place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50.
  • That followed a 243% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20
  • The tech they say was instrumental in their growth was Brightpearl, the Shopify Plus website, and taking a more personal approach on Instagram.
  • The business is using JOOR as well as more sophisticated warehouse software in future to bolster its growing wholesale market.
  • Jade claims being open with customers and responding personally to every message during Covid caused a huge boost in engagement with the brand.
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Episode 3

Lauren Juster, Sales and Marketing Director at Biscuiteer Baking Company, joins Caroline to share some of the secrets behind the brand’s astonishing 197% year-on-year growth.

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A proud Brightpearl customer, the online handmade biscuit company has seen fantastic growth over the past few years. Founded in 2007, Biscuiteers’ handmade products are currently stocked in John Lewis, Selfridges, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and The Conran Shop.

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

Biscuiteers Baking Company is an online handmade biscuit company in the toys and gifts sector. Founded in 2007, Biscuiteers’ luxury products are currently stocked in John Lewis, Selfridges, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason. The company has also collaborated on bespoke biscuits for the likes of Mulberry, Boden and Burberry. IT recently saw a £1.25m raise on Crowdcube. For this podcast, we spoke to Lauren Juster, the brand’s Sales and Marketing Director.

Transcript highlights:

  • “We’ve always thought of ourselves as an ‘online first business,’ that’s how we started. Although our bricks-and-mortar stores have helped us expand the brand, Google is the high street of the world, and it gives you the ability to scale. E-commerce is at the heart of our business and it’s where we see our future growth.”
  • “Our USP is that we do iced biscuits – they have to be done by hand. That was challenging operationally when things exploded during the pandemic but, once we got our heads around it, it was a blessing… We were able to be totally agile, able to respond to the trends and demands of the pandemic. We watched the trends and responded to them. We launched a gym bunny collection, ‘date night in’ and DIY kits at various points through the pandemic.”
  • “One of the challenges for us has been getting all our data in one place. Having various spreadsheets along with multiple apps and tools wasn’t working for us. It was creating lots of inefficiencies – we were spending time looking for stats to inform decisions we wanted to make quickly. Linking up systems [via Brightpearl] has been fantastic – it’s so important for scaling.”
  • “We knew we couldn’t handle another Christmas like the crazy one we had in 2020 without a centralized system in place. We made a conscious decision to find a partner to work with to centralize all our operations. We implemented Brightpearl in just three months. The key was doing it during our down period in the summer months.”
  • “We’re toying with the idea of developing an app – so many of our competitors have an app and see success with it. However, apps can be expensive and high risk – we’re exploring a PWA (Progressive Web App), so we can dip our toe into the app world. We already have loyal customers – the app will help us push that forward.”
  • “My tips would be to stay true to your business mission and values – going off piste to chase growth won’t give longevity or a brand that customers can connect to. Also, watch the trends in what people are buying. Social media has been a key listening tool for us – you don’t have to go far for customers to give their input. Talking to your customers is a great way to be sure you are creating something people actually want to buy. 
  • “It’s super exciting to rank on the Brightpearl Lightning 50 – having the recognition off the back of such a challenging year feels extra special. The Lightning 50 is chock full of exciting brands so to be in their company is the cherry on top – we’re really chuffed.”

Top takeaways

  • Biscuiteers ranked in 32nd place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50 
  • That followed a 197% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20
  • The tech that’s driven their growth includes: social media, Facebook Workplace, Ometria (a data analytics platform), Brightpearl
  • The pandemic turbocharged growth (previously steady at 30%) but the business has managed to maintain similar growth in months since.  
  • Implementing Brightpearl has been a key factor in the brand’s success, bringing together every part of the business into one centralized Retail Operating System (ROS)
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Episode 4

Moynul Islam, DTC lead at adult sweet brand Candy Kittens, is today’s guest on the Lightning 50 podcast and shares the journey the company has been on over the past year, including its 608% YOY growth and being named the ‘fastest growing online company in London’.

Candy Kittens

Since the start in 2012, Candy Kittens – the brainchild of Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing – has been on an incredible growth journey. Candy Kittens makes sweets for grown-ups – with big flavour, honest ingredients and beautiful packaging – and the brand’s products are  now stocked in major high street stores across the world, including Walmart and Waitrose, alongside its booming online presence.

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

Founded by Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing, Candy Kittens is a 100% vegan confectionery retailer. Aimed at the millennial market as ‘vegan sweets for grown-ups’, the company launched in 2012 and has since become the fastest-growing confectionary brand in the UK, and stocks in every major grocery store as well as wholesalers, independents and online. The retailer grew 608% in 2019/20. For this podcast, we spoke to DTC Lead at Candy Kittens, Moynul Hazari.

Transcript highlights:

  • “At Candy Kittens, what sets us apart is not just great tasting sweets but having a positive impact on the environment. Sustainability is key for us – we avoid animal gelatin and palm oil, we’re a carbon neutral business, and our pouches are recyclable.” 
  • “Our brand has grown organically quite a bit – but when we recognized the potential of online we were lucky that we got investment backing from our MD and the board. The investment went into marketing, customer acquisition, D2C and digital – and also on partnering with some really great agencies that we might not have been able to work with before. It means we have the exact right people with specialist knowledge, and that really helps us to grow.”
  • “Another thing that sets us apart is we don’t market our sweets to kids; it’s very much a gourmet treat for adults. Our biggest base is 18-35 year old females. As far as online, we’ve also focused on our product mix. You can just pick up the sweets in-store, but on our website you can make items up as gifts for a birthday or Christmas, so it has that bit extra.” 
  • “Having great foundations in place before scaling was absolutely key for us. You really don’t want to be in a position where you’re spending money to drive traffic, then find out you have an issue with supply chain, product, an integration issue, or inefficient customer service. You might get sales in the short term but will suffer longer term with your returning customer rate, so getting the foundations right is essential.”
  • “We did a lot of testing and trialling. There’s nothing wrong with failing, but as we always say, ‘Test fast and fail fast’.”
  • “We focus 90-95% of our marketing budget on Facebook Ads, and the rest on Google Ads and Pinterest. That comes with its own challenges. The recent IOS update was a big challenge for online businesses; we now have to be more cautious and change our strategy for the long-term to focus on that first set of customer data. But challenges help us to think outside the box, as it’s about how we can pivot and spend our money more efficiently – maybe in different technology or in email marketing, for example.” 
  • “It’s so important to know how various tech and software can transform your business, and have an understanding of how each software complements each other in exactly the right tech stack. We use Shopify, which I personally swear by – and technology that supports Shopify is essential. We invested in Klaviyo last year which completely changed our email marketing metrics and generated revenue. We use Recharge for subscriptions, Gorgias for customer service, and Yotpo for loyalty programmes and referrals. A really important one is 3PL for your warehouse. Having streamlining in place to manage your stock and orders is absolutely vital.” 
  • “Attribution tools are more important now than ever before. We want to use tech to map the customer journey in more detail, so we can then optimize our site and create more personalized marketing. Beyond that, a great tip is to build a community online. SMS marketing has made a comeback, too.” 
  • “Making the Lightning 50 is a massive achievement. You can really get lost in the operations of e-commerce and it’s great to see our hard work pay off by being recognized in this way. It’s huge for us.” 

 

Top takeaways

  • Candy Kittens ranked 4th place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50.
  • That followed a 608% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20
  • The tech that was instrumental for the brand’s growth was Shopify, Facebook Ads and Google Ads, and 3PL for its warehouse
  • Sustainability is a huge USP for Candy Kittens, as well as positioning their product as ‘sweets for grown-ups’ to their primarily millennial audience
  • Other tech the retailer uses includes Klaviyo for email marketing, Recharge for subscriptions, Gorgias for customer service, and Yotpo for loyalty programmes and referrals
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Episode 5

Mark Tweed is Brand Director at nightwear brand Cyberjammies and recently appeared on the UK’s Apprentice and one of Lord Sugar’s expert advisers. Today, he joins Caroline on the podcast to discuss the ‘dream technology’ which has fueled the firm’s 372% YOY Growth.

Cyberjammies Podcast

Online nightwear brand Cyberjammies is a long-time Brightpearl customer which primarily reaches customers directly via its successful webstore but also via leading retailers including John Lewis, Next and Very. In the past year the company has seen its revenues triple and it was crowned ‘the fastest growing fashion brand in Britain.’

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

Cyberjammies is a UK-based nightwear and loungewear retailer. Founded in the early 2000s as an e-commerce only brand, Cyberjammies now sells its high-quality, ethically-made garments in stores such as John Lewis, Next and Very, as well as via their successful Shopify Plus webstore and two sister websites. After a steady 50% growth period YOY, the retailer grew an immense 372% in 2019/20. For this podcast, we spoke to Mark Tweed, Brand Director at Cyberjammies.

Transcript highlights:

  • “Cyberjammies is over 20 years old and that whole time we’ve been dedicated and fixated on making great nightwear – at first for ladies but now for the whole family – using sustainable fabrics and ethical manufacturing wherever we can. Quality is what we pride ourselves on.”
  • “In the pandemic we were fortunate in that while many other retailers were having a tough time, our growth rate was astronomical as everyone’s work wardrobe became pyjamas and loungewear.”
  • “For any brand to grow significantly, automation is absolutely critical – when you go from hundreds to thousands of orders, you want as little interaction with those orders as possible. In that respect, Brightpearl has been instrumental for the growth of our business. Ten years ago our business was very spreadsheet-based, which was slow, painful and inefficient – ever since we’ve had Brightpearl and those processes are now automated, it’s allowed us to get on with what we’re good at.”
  • Brightpearl is the hub of our business – it links everything together. We’ve got two websites as well as Cyberjammies (both have seen similar growth as they’re also nightwear focused) – and we’re also synced with other retailers such as John Lewis and Next.” 
  • “We’ve migrated to a 3PL warehouse which has staff conducting scan in/scan-out processes – this made our lives a lot easier. We moved warehouses right before Covid, so it was a stressful period, but the warehouse very quickly received our stock and we were trading as normal within a couple of days. This had a huge impact on the business, both during Covid and through to now.”
  •  “Aside from automation, talk to your customers and constantly talk to them, in a way that they find appealing. Offer them small items like a scrunchie that goes with their new robe or a new pattern of a pyjama set they’ve already bought. Always offer more. We spend a good amount of money on Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads and we’re looking into TikTok – it’s not something I use myself! But from a business view, it’s something we need to stay on top of.”
  • “Getting so high [top 10] in the Lightning 50 is such great recognition. We’ve added it to the bottom of our email signatures, that’s how important it is to us – we want people to see it and hear about it. It’s something we can use to celebrate our team; a point of external recognition, so we really appreciate it.”

Top takeaways

  • Cyberjammies ranked in 10th place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50
  • That followed a 372% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20
  • The tech that’s driven their growth includes warehouse 3PL, Facebook Ads, Instagram, Google Ads, Brightpearl
  • The pandemic turbocharged growth (previously steady at 50%) but thanks to Brightpearl and their new warehouse system, they could sustain the incredible spike in sales
  • Brightpearl is the ‘hub’ of Cyberjammies, bringing all marketplaces and channels together both online and offline. The brand is moving to Shopify Plus to gain key analysis into customer behavior and allow them to be more nuanced in their marketing efforts. 
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Episode 6

Wiltshire-based online furniture retailer, Furniturebox, saw a phenomenal 267% increase in revenue over the last year, becoming one of Britain's fastest-growing online homeware brands. But how did they do it?

Furniturebox Podcast

James Ewens, Head of E-Commerce at Furniturebox, joins the Podcast to talk through the key decisions that have played a huge role in the firm’s success over the past twelve months, including the systems and sales channels they’ve implemented for epic growth.

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

Furniturebox is an online furniture provider based in the South West of the UK, popular due to the speedy delivery of its high-quality, reasonably-priced furniture, as well as great customer service. After launching in 2016 the brand initially sold via online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, then additionally began selling through their own Magento 2 website from 2019. Shortly after this, the events of 2019/20 saw the retailer make 267% growth. For this podcast, we spoke to James Ewens, Head of E-Commerce at Furniturebox.

 “As we started out on marketplaces we had learnt a lot about the kind of product we should be selling when it came to operating through our own website. So we’d positioned ourselves very well – then Covid hit, which meant more people were interior decorating and furniture stores were closed, and we saw a huge spike in sales.”

Transcript highlights:

  • “We tend to describe ourselves as a tech company that sells furniture online – because everything we’ve done has been about using tech to further our growth. As this is different to a traditional furniture company who may have started out selling in showrooms, it’s likely this ‘tech first’ mindset has likely given us the edge over the competition.”
  • Brightpearl is the foundation of our tech stack and powers everything we do –  without it we’d have no order management system, no inventory management, no purchase order management – but we’ve also brought on a lot of other tech to bolster what Brightpearl does for us.”
  • “We use Inventory Planner for demand planning and stock forecasting, that’s been an enormous boom for us. During Covid, when demand was fluctuating manically – when stores were open, then closed, then open – Inventory Planner was our key tool. Without it we would have really struggled.”
  • “When we doubled the product range we realised we needed a smarter way to store product info, so we invested in Pimberly which has been another key partner. So Brightpearl, Inventory Planner and Pimberly are really the three tech tools that have made us a success story.”
  • Brightpearl has a very robust API so we can plug things into it really easily. The Pimberly connector was done in three weeks, and when you think about the number of products we have (it’s now up to 14,500 SKUs) that’s a real testament to how brilliantly it integrates.”
  • “The most exciting part of retail tech now is AR and VR; the ability to bring the experiential aspect of being in a store, into the home. A lot of the big retailers are already doing it, but how that eventually evolves in the shopping and browsing space is really exciting.”
  • “Tech is the answer – never be afraid to invest in tech. Your tech stack drives everything you do – efficiency gain, product launch gain, turnover gain. We’re in a world where tech is so important, so my top tip for growth is never be afraid to invest in it.”

Top takeaways

  • Furniturebox ranked in 16th place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50, and won ‘Fastest-Growing Business in the South West’
  • That followed a 267% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20
  • The tech that’s driven their growth includes Pimberly (a product info management platform), Brightpearl and Inventory Planner
  • Though Furniturebox had enough stock to meet demand when Covid hit, Brightpearl’s Inventory Planner enabled them to maintain inventory and service levels throughout. The brand credits their tech stack for getting them through periods of huge growth
  • Since pandemic growth period, Furniturebox has had the means to keep growing. The brand has built a dedicated e-commerce team, more than doubled their product range and opened a new office in Bristol. 
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Episode 7

Established back in the 1970s as a popular High Street electronics brand, Maplin has seen incredible growth over the past few years after switching its focus to e-commerce.

Podcast page – Maplintiny

Today, Ollie Marshall the firm’s MD, joins Caroline on the podcast to discuss the key drivers behind a whopping 495% YOY growth, which saw the brand rank 7th on the Lighting 50 list of Britain’s fastest growing online retailers.

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

Maplin is an online electronics specialist. The well-known brand was a mainstay on the British high street going back to 1976, but closed its physical stores in 2018 to relaunch as a fully online retailer. Today the brand sells everything electrical, from computing, television and audio equipment to entertainment systems and smart gadgets. The brand grew 495% in 2019/20. For this podcast, we spoke to Ollie Marshall, Managing Director at Maplin.

Transcript highlights:

  • “At Maplin we sell everything from routers and gaming supplies, through to the weird and wonderful products we’re known for such as metal detectors, smoke machines and soldering irons.”
  • “We relaunched as an online only retailer in January 2019, so spent that year getting back on our feet, rebuilding the team, tech and supply chain. Then as lockdown kicked in, we worked very hard to keep wheels in motion – as people wanted working-from-home equipment to use during the day, straight through to music, games consoles and entertainment devices for their evenings. Though a lot of our growth was natural due to restarting the business, Covid’s effect just sat perfectly with our category of products.” 
  •  “When we relaunched as online only it meant we could reimagine what a supply chain was. We work heavily with a concept called dropshipping, so we don’t fulfil all of our orders but work closely with a number of suppliers who conduct service on our behalf, and that means we can be very agile. For us, operationally, our technology and systems have been a huge competitive advantage for us.”
  • We work with a Magento e-commerce website. For dropshipping and distribution, that’s in-house, built in C#. I think fraud is under appreciated as a lever of growth – the more you sell, the bigger chance of fraud – so we work with a company called Signifyd to protect us from that. We use Akeneo for product information and Swogo for automated bundling so we can increase those basket sales. There’s so many more, but those are the ones that effectively keep the whole machine running smoothly.” 
  • “I get a lot of inbound marketing from tech vendors, but I do think the best ones tend to rise to the top in terms of coverage and word of mouth. You just need a good feel for what your business actually needs. I also consider the culture of the business, their support, level of service – those are all big factors for me.”
  • “Cost of commodities is a huge challenge for us, such as shipping costs and shortages overseas. Container costs, for example, have gone through the roof – and will only go higher in 2023 when new legislation comes in around lowering emissions. To tackle this, we’re working with a company called Quiver which offers 3PL for more sustainable, diverse delivery options.”
  • “As you grow, things like returns become a massive problem. When you’re bigger in scale, you need a real process around it – a high volume ‘exit plan’ for these returns. ASOS is a great example of a company who has done this really well.”
  • “Partnerships are a fantastic way of growing your business. We’re about to partner with B&Q, and we already partner with fulfilment providers Gorillas and GoPuff. There are huge benefits to diversifying in this way.” 

Top takeaways

  • Maplin ranked 7th place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50 and topped the Electronics and Components sector.
  • That followed a 495% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20.
  • The tech instrumental to the brand’s growth was its in-house dropshipping functionality, its Magento website and anti-fraud e-commerce tool, Signifyd
  • Maplin heavily uses dropshipping to increase sales volume and geographical reach.  
  •  Relaunching as online only has given Maplin a competitive advantage, as the retailer has been able to reinvent its supply chain and use a roster of tech and software to keep the business moving.
  • The brand also uses Akeneo for product information management, Swogo for automated bundles and is working with Quiver to diversify its delivery options.
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Episode 8

Online hair supplies brand CoolBlades saw a huge sales spike as Brits rushed online to buy supplies for at-home haircuts during the various stages of lockdown, at the height of the pandemic.

Podcast – CoolBlades

Today, Rupert Hughes, E-Commerce Director, joins the podcast to talk through the shrewd moves the team made before the pandemic hit which allowed them to manage a near 200% spike in online sales while other competitors faltered.

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

CoolBlades is an online hair and beauty retailer specialising in salon-quality hair styling products. Founded in 2005 by a husband and wife team of former stylists, nearly 20 years later it’s now a leading online supplier of hairdressing products for top salons, beauticians and trade stores. Moreso since the pandemic, they sell direct-to-consumer. The retailer operates primarily via its website as well as through Amazon, and grew 191% in 2019/20 after salons closed during the pandemic. For this podcast, we spoke to Rupert Hughes, E-Commerce Director at CoolBlades.

Transcript highlights:

  •  “We were going at a steady rate, making sure we had capacity to grow nicely over the next five to ten years – then the pandemic hit. Because all the salons AND trade stores were closed, everyone came online straight to us. The equivalent of a year’s worth of stock was sold within 10 days. A few thousand combs – which would usually have lasted a year – sold in a week.” 
  • “One of the things we’ve learnt is the importance of thinking ahead and making sure you have capacity built into your systems. We were lucky in that we’d moved warehouses only a year before the pandemic, which was a bit of a risk and an extra cost for us – but if we hadn’t that capacity for stock, we wouldn’t have coped.
  • “Having capacity to think ahead also applies when it comes to software. We put Brightpearl in place in 2017 – our system before that was very slow and clunky to use, and simply wouldn’t have coped with the pandemic sales spike. Implementing Brightpearl was an investment, but it had features we could see real benefits of, and sure enough, when things took off overnight we were able to manage.”
  • “There’s a lot of customization you can do with the Brightpearl platform which automates day-to-day tasks such as invoicing, auto-fulfilment of orders, or ensuring particular shipping instructions with a particular courier. That functionality takes a lot of the boring tasks away from staff and allows them to concentrate on the parts of business where we really deliver value, like talking to customers, etc.”
  • “I initially came on board to do some SEO work for CoolBlades, so when the pandemic hit, the brand’s Google ranking was very strong – that was definitely a large contributing factor to our success during lockdown.”
  • On website sales v. marketplaces] “When we sell through the website we have more contact with customers, we want to make sure our traditional customers get great service and their questions answered – whereas marketplaces allow us to sell volumes of orders we wouldn’t have been able to achieve otherwise.” 
  • “When we introduced Brightpearl it gave us the ability to allow back-end systems to talk to the website in real-time, so we could fulfil orders more quickly, extend fulfilment promises to customers (Next Day delivery etc), and we could keep prices and inventory up to date. Prior to BP someone was having to do that manually every morning, which was a horrible task and it meant things got missed.” 
  • “You can clearly see the month we put BP in, sales went up – the only real reason for that is because high-selling products we weren’t constantly keeping in stock were now always in stock. It made a massive difference.”

Top takeaways

  • CoolBlades ranked in 34th place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50.
  • That followed a 191% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20.
  • The tech that’s driven their growth includes: Brightpearl, Amazon FBA and their strong Google ranking (SEO investments).
  • The pandemic meant the retailer saw a huge shift in direct-to-consumer sales, when it was primarily a B2B supplier.
  • Brightpearl has allowed easy communication with Amazon FBA, which allows CoolBlades to make further-reaching sales in higher volumes with quicker fulfilment.
  • The brand has been able to invest their 2019/20 growth into the brand’s future, growing at a steady level with new direct-to-consumer visibility.
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Episode 9

The popular fitness brand Powerhoop sells weighted hula hoops, and the business was not going to be left out of the loop as it stormed into second place on last year’s Lightning 50 with a huge 2,900% YOY growth rate.

Powerhoop Podcast

Managing Director Karyn Seroussi, joins Caroline on the podcast today. She reveals some of the growth strategies which saw the brand avoid jumping through hoops and instead achieve astonishing growth – becoming the fastest growing sports and fitness brand in Britain this past year.

 

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

Powerhoop is a fitness provider that specializes in weighted hula hoops for exercise. When CEO Karyn Seroussi found a weighted hoop when visiting family in the US, it inspired her to develop a fitness program with top fitness trainers on her return to the UK. Since then, Powerhoop has become a multinational movement and lifestyle brand that not only sells weighted hoops via its Shopify-powered website, but runs an online streaming service for hula-hooping fitness classes. The brand grew an incredible 2,960% in 2019/20. For this podcast, we spoke to Founder & CEO at Powerhoop, Karyn Seroussi.

Transcript highlights:

  •  “We sell weighted hula hoops which are great for exercise – and provide a fitness program for using the hoops. We developed our own premium hoop with innovative features like adjustable weights, and we make them with non-toxic materials in the UK.” 
  •  “There was a lot of buzz around the hoop – but we weren’t really reaching much of the population other than gym goers who go to classes. So we hired a new e-commerce expert to the team who had a wealth of knowledge about digital marketing, and that really was one of the main contributors to our growth, as it meant he’d put fantastic infrastructure in place before the pandemic hit.” 
  • “The pandemic meant home fitness equipment was in high demand. We were excited that the concept was catching on and more people were buying them. The influencer network we’d built meant word was getting around that hooping is a great way to get in shape in your living room.”
  • “Influencer marketing has been important to our success, no question about it. We don’t pay lump sums to whoever is big at the time – we choose people who genuinely love our products. The influencers were our bread and butter because they posted referral codes, and the online hype meant our customers would get super excited about the hoops before even taking them out of the box. ”
  • “Longevity is important. You can sell a product and walk away and be done with it, but we wanted to keep the conversation going and not have the hoop workout get boring. So we had our top trainers develop recorded online classes and we set up our streaming platform, Powerhooptv.com. A streaming platform is great if you have value or expertise to offer. Basically, the streaming subscriptions feed into product sales, and product sales feed into subscriptions.”
  • “We started out with a custom built e-comm platform which we found very clunky, so we switched to Shopify which was much more user friendly. That really allowed everything to flow.”  
  •  “It’s definitely validating to be on the Lightning 50 – we’ve worked for several years to be the best in our field and it means so much to the team to be recognized.”

Top takeaways

  • Powerhoop ranked 2nd place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50 and topped the Sports, Leisure and Hobbies sector.
  • That followed a 2,960% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20
  • The tech the brand deems instrumental to growth was Shopify, its online influencer network and its online streaming channel.
  • Powerhoop uses its online fitness class streaming to boost longevity of the product and encourage word of mouth. 
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Episode 10

Proudly independent, this small team of self-proclaimed 80s and 90s nerds launched the uber popular retro t-shirt brand TruffleShuffle. The company has gained steam from doubling down on old-school obsessions that keep them creating the quirkiest, coolest exclusive T-Shirts which has seen them achieve 235% YOY growth.

TruffleShufflePodcast

Today, Pat Wood, the Managing Director of the business, joins the podcast to talk through the factors behind the brand’s outstanding success, from expanded product offerings and customer service innovations to its own bespoke technology platform.

Show Notes +

About our podcast

Brightpearl’s Lightning 50 E-Commerce Growth Hacking podcast, hosted by Caroline Baldwin, is a bitesize 15-minute podcast that gets under the hood of highly successful e-commerce brands to discover the key technologies they are using to power growth.

About our guest

Truffle Shuffle is a retro 80s and 90s apparel retailer based in South West UK. When Founder, Pat Wood wore a Dukes of Hazzard t-shirt into a local Bristol nightclub in 2004, he received so many compliments that he tried selling a couple on eBay. 15 years later, Truffle Shuffle has maintained its cult status as a one-stop-shop for all things nerdy-retro. Selling DTC via its website and operating on a bespoke, self-built e-comms platform, the brand grew 235% in 2019/20. For this podcast, we spoke to the MD of Truffle Shuffle, Pat Wood.

Transcript highlights:

  • “We’re a non-stop nostalgia shop. I’m an 80s nerd, one who was daring enough to buy a t-shirt from an American website in 2004 – and that daring nerd thing is core to our business. Our adage is that all the products are made for fans and by fans, and we get their input on new products whenever we can.” 
  • “Growth has never been a huge driver for us at Truffle Shuffle – then 2-3 years ago we thought it was time to ramp up to a larger level. Our one driver was to increase our product mix, bring on some higher priced apparel like dresses, hoodies and accessories and increase the average basket spend for core customers – who used to be in their twenties but are now in their thirties with more disposable income.”
  • “We had achieved double digit growth leading up to the pandemic – then all the shops shut and our growth reached triple digits. We were prepared for gentle expansion but it ended up extremely steep, but we were able to keep stock coming in thanks to our proficient buying team who worked tirelessly to keep up with demand.” 
  • “We’ve always created our own bespoke tech – a leftover from starting in 2004 when e-comm platforms weren’t a thing. The landscape has changed since then, and as a startup today I wouldn’t go down that route as there’s plenty of great solutions out there. We could install Brightpearl and Shopify for example, and probably be in this same position – but our legacy platform has been built and customized over 18 years so works well for us.”
  • “Our original team has been with us for over 15 years, and we’ve got a great staff retention record. That nurturing of staff and a great team culture really makes us what we are.”
  • “The strategy we’ve been working on is being more bespoke and finding our niche again. It’s a crowded market with few barriers to entry in e-commerce, so you need to have your product and service absolutely nailed.”
  • “Realistically you’re not going to get anywhere close to sustainable growth if you can’t serve your customers in the way you expect to be served. When we started, two weeks’ delivery was fast – now two days is considered slow. Similarly, if you don’t answer your customers’ emails, they’re no longer your customers. There’s a huge amount of things to get right in this landscape and so you need to get that foundation down before you consider growth.”
  • “We always look at new tech and whether it’ll work for us; Klarna is a great example – it bulldozed the entire retail landscape and I can’t think of many retailers now that aren’t Klarna merchants. We’re also looking to integrate WhatsApp for customer service.”
  • “In 2004 we were growing 200-300% every year for the first few years, but we’d long forgotten those levels of growth. To be back on the scene and have the Lightning 50 to shout about is an absolutely wonderful achievement – and a great indicator for us that our team does a fantastic job, year in, year out.” 

 

Top takeaways

  • Truffle Shuffle ranked 25th place on the Brightpearl Lightning 50.
  • That followed a 235% YOY revenue increase in 2019/20
  • The tech instrumental in the brand’s growth was its customized, bespoke platform of 18 years.
  • As a company that started before e-comm platforms in 2004, the brand believes using key tech tools such as Shopify and Brightpearl is the best route for any merchants looking at growing a business today. 
  • The landscape has changed – quick delivery is expected, rapid response times essential. Without getting the foundation right for excellent service, Truffle Shuffle says growth is impossible.
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Episode 11

Bonus Episode! Sara Arthrell is the CMO at Brightpearl, and she’s joining this special bumper episode of the Podcast to share the insights from the Brightpearl Lightning 50 league table that you can all use to fast track the growth in your e-commerce store.

Podcast – Sara Arthrell

Lightning 50 is Brightpearl’s list of top eCommerce brands both in the US and the UK, ranked according to revenue growth in the last twelve months. Winners from last year include brands like Holland & Cooper, Candy Kittens, and Biscuiteers.

Last year’s winners from the UK earned more than 340,000,000 and the average growth for online retailers was at 518%.

Today, Sara joins the podcast to share the tools these high growth brands are using to support and drive  scale. Tune in to hear the tech secrets online firms are using to fuel success and drive growth rates of 500% growth within a year.

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