The Internet expands service for companies large and small. Small is beautiful: Kitchen and Home sells high-end kitchen appliances and housewares exclusively online. Want to see your business featured in Compass? Tell us about it. Submit your storyAs online retailing flourishes, companies large and small are finding that the Internet can be a great way to build strong relationships with customers.
UPS is often a big part of making those ties even stronger. With Yahoo! Merchant Solutions, a UPS-ReadyTM e-commerce package, UPS helps companies of all sizes by providing shipping and web tools that streamline traditional shipping processes, leaving business owners free to give customers the attention they deserve.
Companies can benefit in different ways, depending on their size. The result, however, is the same: more time to spend on customers – and, consequently, more customers.
Larger companies have found that online tools like company blogs and virtual communities can help them become more accessible to customers and more responsive to customers’ needs.
Smaller companies have found that the Internet provides a terrific way for them to expand their reach, finding new customers far from home. These days, a first or second generation e-commerce site will most likely appear homemade and send the wrong impression but, with a well designed, efficient website, even the smallest startup can compete head-to-head with industry giants without losing that small-company touch.
When five schoolteachers founded Kazoo Toys of Denver, Colo. in 1980, the focus was on unique, creative toys – and personal, knowledgeable customer service. The plan worked. Kazoo grew to become one of the largest independent toy stores in the country, with an 11,000-square-foot retail store. In 1999, owner Diana Nelson thought it was time to make the Kazoo experience available to kids, parents and teachers around the country, so she decided to take the store online. "It was a very new avenue, and we didn't really know what we were doing," she says now. "But we launched [on the] Yahoo! platform, and that made all the difference."
"We've always been known for customer service at the store in Denver," says Nelson. "And we wanted to maintain that reputation online." For Nelson, that meant keeping online growth slow and steady. "We have over 60,000 unique items in our retail store," she says, "but we only put 5,000 of them on kazootoys.com."
Even so, things can get awfully hectic for her 30 employees, especially before the holidays. "There are UPS trucks coming and going all the time at Christmas," Nelson says. "And we've got staff answering phones 24/7."
With sales orders coming in constantly from literally all around the world, Kazoo Toys relies on Yahoo! Merchant Solutions plus UPS WorldShip® to keep orders organized and turnaround time short. "With other systems you have to download orders, manually e-mail customers and cut and paste addresses into your shipping system," Nelson says. "But all of our orders come in through Yahoo!, and UPS automatically handles the entire back end," she says. The combination has proved "a wonderful success" that frees up Kazoo's knowledgeable staff to help customers find just the right toy – and even call them to suggest alternatives if – rarely – an item is out of stock.
For David Balas, keeping the feel of a bricks-and-mortar store online was never an option. He started Kitchen and Home as an online-only business in 2000 and wouldn't have it any other way. Balas' business specializes in high-end kitchen equipment, small appliances and housewares. It's a classic case of a small company acting as if it were a huge one: With just 15 employees in its midtown Manhattan office and shipping center, the company's website, iKitchen.com has captured an estimated 6 percent of the online market in housewares and small electronics. "Orders come and go so quickly," Balas says. "Most days we ship 500 boxes, and it can go up to 2,000 a day at Christmas." But thanks to UPS and Yahoo! Merchant Solutions, he says, "We're able to do business in the busiest city in the world, seamlessly."
Hard work and good business sense are a big part of iKitchen.com's success. But Balas credits Yahoo! Merchant Solutions' online marketing programs with helping get the word out. And with UPS programs like UPS OnLine® Tools and UPS FreightSM, it doesn't matter if he's shipping a single saucepan or an entire palette of commercial toasters to a wholesale customer; he never has to worry about getting the goods out. "Yahoo! Merchant Solutions is very customizable, very flexible and completely integrated with UPS," says Balas. That means fewer headaches, fewer mix-ups and fewer delays. "The competition is fierce," he says. "We streamline as much as possible on our end, and then with UPS, once it's out the door we know it's as good as delivered."