Main Takeaways:

  • Grant Van Kirk, the Head of Finance at ROKA, joins Brian and Phillip in this episode of Step by Step.
  • A single, all-encompassing tech solution is not always the best choice for your business and diversifying your tech stack can minimize integration demands.
  • How do you decide when it is time to add a piece of software to your tech stack?
  • Fulfillment expectations are higher than ever, but streamlining your operations can meet these demands and boost customer lifetime value.

The ROKA Story: A Quick Overview:

  • ROKA started in 2013 when two former Stanford swimmers entered a triathlon to get back into shape but were disappointed with the options of gear available to them.
  • They invented a wetsuit that didn't feel or perform like a traditional wetsuit and quickly became a staple in the triathlon community.
  • The brand has expanded beyond just being triathlon gear and is now available for a large spectrum of sports.
  • Triathalon gear is typically expensive so the average customer tends to be older and more affluent than other fitness consumers.

Some Background on Grant: The Journey So Far:

  • Grant started out as a tax CPA and after a while decided that he wanted more from his career.
  • He then went into the real estate industry in Dallas but had no company growth potential at his company, so he wanted to find somewhere that would allow him to grow and present him with more professional challenges.
  • His search eventually led him to find ROKA where he was attracted to the infinite professional runway that came with the young, growing brand.
  • Going beyond the responsibilities of a typical Head of Finance, Grant is additionally very involved with the operations side of ROKA.

An Evolving Position: Changing With the Times:

  • How are senior finance roles evolving in the realm of retail?
  • It is important to not only be an expert in what your position is but also to be knowledgeable about other positions within your company.
  • You won't be able to fully understand if your financials are correct unless you understand all of the systems that are supporting them.
  • From day one, Grant had to make sure that he was heavily involved in operations and logistics to make sure that the finances where correct and to be able to identify areas in which the company wasn't spending enough or could increase its expenditures.

Decoding the Attribution Model: From a Financial Perspective:

  • Different platforms will highlight different numbers to present brands with the most positive spin on attribution costs.
  • How do you translate different attribution data across disparate platforms?
  • Aggregating your data across platforms for comparison will allow you to correctly assess if a marketing tool is effective.
  • Once you have attracted customers to your site, the next steps are equally important to convert those visitors into customers.

Looking Under the Hood: Breaking Down ROKA's Tech Stack:

  • For its eCommerce platform, ROKA is currently running on Shopify Plus and pretty much everything that the consumer sees is also run through the platform.
  • To accommodate more features, ROKA is also using several custom modules such as a module that allows customers to design their own sunglasses.
  • After the purchase, all data is fed through ROKA's ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Brightpearl and from there is sent to one of three 3PLs (third party logistics) that ROKA divides its orders between.
  • For international orders, ROKA uses Shopify to provide local currency sales, but this can be a big headache because of how much manual effort is required to keep things updated.

Scaling With Growth: Selecting the Right ERP for Your Business:

  • ROKA started with Quickbooks for its initial ERP, quickly jumped to NetSuite, and finally settled on Brightpearl because it is a retail-specific ERP.
  • Brightpearl is the source of truth when it comes to data collection for ROKA.
  • ROKA has adopted the stance of not trying to have one package that does everything but rather relies on individual software options that are the best in their category for various operations.
  • Spending the time customizing an all-in-one solution can be better spent on other aspects of your business when separate software already performs at optimum levels with less customization.

Potential Challenges of a Diversified Tech Stack: Trials and Solutions:

  • One of the potential challenges of using several software solutions when building a tech stack is the inevitable task of integration.
  • ROKA has two rules when it comes to integration:
  • 1. Don't integrate if you do not have to.
  • 2. Your ERP has to be your source of truth.
  • After a customer makes a purchase, the information goes straight to the ERP for processing and that customer is also enrolled in the follow-up process.
  • ROKA uses about 10-15 pieces of software in its tech stack.
  • What are some best practices for automating your operations post-purchase?

Digging Deeper: Other Parts of the Tech Stack:

  • How do you know when to add a piece of software to your tech stack?
  • Due to customers being shocked about duty charges, ROKA had to implement a way to get cash upfront on purchases to not take a total loss when the package was not returned.
  • One of Shopify's pain points is managing exchanges and returns, so granting your customers the ease of returning products is a powerful way to boost customer lifetime value, which ROKA manages to do using Loop Returns.
  • Tools can not only serve the purpose they're built for but can also boost your customer acquisition by giving your consumers a positive experience.

Looking Ahead: Identifying Opportunites:

  • Grant highlights that there is an area for improvement in the software that ROKA's customer experience team has to use.
  • The nature of returns and customer experience are two parts of the same coin, so in contrast to the rest of their tech stack, the customer experience software could be consolidated.
  • Customer experience is a difficult job that presents unique challenges separate from the rest of the tech stack.
  • What are some ways that you could improve your tech stack to benefit your customer experience team?
  • Raised fulfillment expectations set by Amazon are making it more difficult to meet the demands of consumers.

Spreading Thing: So Many Channels, So Little Time:

  • There are different channels that consumers visit first when it comes to discovery, purchase, or entertainment, so how do you diversify your marketing strategies for such different platforms?
  • Most people go to Amazon first when it's time to shop so if you are not at the top of Amazon's search, it is going to be hard to get there.
  • You need to have a social presence and there is a lot of pressure to not just be on social, but have many more touchpoints for your brand.
  • Amazon intentionally makes it difficult to track customers, so it's hard to see what is actually your customer that is just purchasing through Amazon.

Brands Mentioned in this Episode:

As always: We want to hear what our listeners think! What are some ways that you can improve your tech stack by diversifying the tools that you are currently using?

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Retail Tech is moving fast, but Future Commerce is moving faster.