Fulfillment Special Report: iRobot Simplifies Web Fulfillment
Challenge: iRobot, maker of Roomba Robotic FloorVacs, wanted an online store for the 2003 holiday season, but without the complexity of integrating back-end operations among multiple vendors.
Solution: Use a single-source provider for Web site development, fulfillment and customer service.
Results: The site, irobotstore.com, was completed in 30 days, calls per order decreased, and iRobot saved the soft costs associated with vendor coordination.
While iRobot creates robotic products for a variety of uses, such as archaeological digs and landmine countermeasures, the company is best known for its patented floor-cleaning robot, Roomba.
Until last fall, the line of Roomba Robotic FloorVacs and accessories was sold primarily through stores, such as The Sharper Image and Brookstone, and via direct response television. But iRobot determined it could sweep up considerable sales during the 2003 holiday season with an e-commerce Web site. However, it was already September, and the site needed to be up and running pronto.
Knowing it had limited time to get an e-commerce operation developed and not wanting to hire additional in-house staff to manage multiple vendors, iRobot opted to outsource to a single-source provider, explains Josh Prenata, marketing analyst for iRobot.
Working with The Jay Group, a full-service fulfillment firm in Ronks, Pa., iRobot was able to limit its points of contact, reduce the challenges of integrating operating systems between vendors, and shorten its project turnaround time, says Prenata.
The Single-source Path
Using proprietary software, The Jay Group instituted an integrated order processing and fulfillment system for the iRobot e-commerce site. The system accepts and validates credit cards within seconds; allows for immediate order picking and same-day shipping; and provides inventory, shipping and sales reports that are updated in real time.
Beyond giving iRobot total visibility of the order-taking and fulfillment process, this set-up offers it the ability to leverage instant reporting—without having to coordinate data streams from several vendors. For example, says Doug Bushong, president of The Jay Group, iRobot uses the reports to get a fast read on which product/accessory bundles sell best to certain markets; it then uses this information to tailor its direct marketing efforts to maximize promotional dollars.
The consolidated operations also accommodate quick program changes. For example, iRobot can tweak Web promotions and accompanying source codes every hour if it wants without fear that order tracking and fulfillment will be compromised.
Although iRobot does not have a benchmark against which to measure its cost savings by using a single-source provider, it considers the move successful based on a 30-day turnaround time that enabled it to be “in the market for the Q4 rush … fulfilling tens of thousands of orders in less than four months,” says Prenata.
He adds that the company’s decrease in calls per order indicates strong customer satisfaction and has resulted in increased revenue. And the soft costs alone would have eaten into iRobot’s holiday revenue considerably.
Chris Nikoloff, vice president of sales and marketing, The Jay Group, also notes that because the order processing system can pull orders continuously, the fulfillment firm was able to cut iRobot’s product delivery time by 30 percent to 50 percent.