YOKO: Processing orders three times faster with automation
So how did it all get started, what’s the inspiration behind it?
“My husband Magnus and myself were both working full time when we suffered the loss of a family member and needed a distraction. We had wanted to do something for ourselves for a while and it felt like the right time to start our own business. We knew it had to be online and it needed to be something we were passionate about. I have a media background and am passionate about fashion and Magnus worked in Fashion/IT – so we decided to hone in on fashion, specifically clothing to be purchased by females. This led us to fashionable kids clothing. There weren’t many others doing it back then – we saw a gap in the market and decided to go for it.”
Today, Dominique runs the day to day operations with the support of casual staff when needed. Magnus assists behind the scenes with technology and infrastructure support.
What is your role and key responsibilities day to day?
I am across most areas of the business. I do all the buying, customer support (not direct customer service) but any customer service issues get escalated to me. I also manage the website projects, social media – basically all sales and marketing. Everything else is outsourced – we have some casual staff that do picking and packing and customer service. In the early days, Magnus set up systems where everything is automated, which although a big outlay at the time, has really paid off. It has allowed us to grow into them and now we really need them and we haven’t had to make any changes that would interrupt the business.
When you first embarked on your online retailing journey, what were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
We were fortunate as Magnus has a background in Finance and IT within the fashion industry, so he knew about the issues and risks and used systems to overcome them. Magnus ensured we had the technology already set up for when we scaled up. We utilised automation across all areas of the business to take advantage of efficiencies and reduce staff costs. For example, automated order imports and barcode scanning prevents human error, and email workflows enable orders to continually trickle through without quiet periods.
Were things ever so hard you wanted to give up? If yes, how did you push through?
“We went with a 3PL for around 6 months – it was a horrible experience! Orders were being sent out wrong then the replacement orders would be sent out wrong!”
Dom and Magnus even had a new baby during this challenging time and Dom was working all through the night from her hospital bed trying to sort things out.
“It’s so risky when you use third parties, some of them just don’t care – they do their shifts and go home. It’s not like when you own the business”.
Dom got through this challenging time with sheer bloody determination and now that she has the control back again, things are running smoothly once more. “Magnus is keen to try a 3PL company again but I am definitely not ready just yet!”
You have recently rebranded to Yoko or You Only Kid Once – tell me about that…what was the inspiration behind the new brand?
About a year in, we wanted to change the name as it felt like Baby Dino and our logo didn’t really reflect who we were. We didn’t want to be associated with just baby products any longer and as there’s also a Baby Dino in the UK that gets a lot of complaints, we didn’t want to be confused with them. We found a cool agency who resonated with who we were and we briefed them. We wanted something cool and confident and a little bit cheeky – and they came up with You Only Kid Once or YOKO for short!
What was life like before StarShipIT?
“There wasn’t really a time without StarShipIT. Baby Dino was actually one of StarShipIT’s beta users. We used it right pretty much right from the start as we recognised the value in automation.” Recommended by another user, Magnus worked with George Plummer, Founder of StarShipIT from the beginning, during the software’s beta phase, and has been with StarShipIT ever since. “We can’t imagine being without it. We have been using StarShipIT since the very beginning and it’s ingrained in our processes. When it very occasionally doesn’t work, we wonder “what shall we do?!”
What were the key factors in selecting a shipping technology solution?
Automation was the key factor for us – cutting out manual processes, removing human errors, not wasting time doing admin that could be automated. There’s not much margin in retail stores so we are prepared to do whatever we can to keep the costs down.
Do you ship internationally?
We used to offer free shipping with a minimum spend which was a point of difference at the time and we grew our customer base very quickly. But as shipping costs have increased, and other online retailers are now offering free shipping too, we are now focused on our local market. We can’t compete with shipping times internationally unless we open a warehouse overseas. International was around 30% of the business, but now it’s only around 5-10%.
What advice can you offer others looking at shipping internationally?
Shipping times and cost are always going to be a challenge with international shipping, the only way to compete with international stores is to create international warehouses. The actual process to ship internationally is quite straight forward, but there are big pricing differences between providers so make sure you research all options.
What benefits have you seen since implementing StarShipIT?
Without StarShipIT we would have to copy and paste every order which exposes us to potential issues around accuracy. StarShipIT is a big time saver fixing incorrect addresses. We estimate a saving of over 15 hours per week. The team is capable of processing around 60 orders per hour. Without StarShipIT, this would probably be reduced to less than 20. So effectively we can process 3 times the amount of orders in the same time, with an estimated time savings of over 15 hours per week!
What’s in the future for Yoko?
This is our first year offering children’s apparel up to 10 years. This was a big part of the reasoning behind our new brand name. With this change in offering, we’re now looking at lots of new brands to bring on board. We have Industry Kids coming into stock this month and at this stage we are the only online retailer with this brand which is really exciting for us and our customers.
Where would you like to see the company in the next year?
Rebranding was our big goal for this year which we have achieved. Our overarching goal is to be the kind of brand that people can’t imagine not being around. To become a household name is probably our main goal!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who would love to follow in your footsteps and start an online business?
Be prepared to lose cash! Treat it like a business, not a hobby so you have to expect to spend money on it. You need to be a bit of a risk taker.
StarShipIT is ingrained in our shipping processes, we’d be lost without it! The accuracy and efficiency it provides means we can process orders more than 3x faster than we would otherwise.
Keen to try StarShipIT for yourself? Sign up for a FREE 30 day trial and we will be in touch to help you get setup and shipping straight away!