eCommerce Operations with Derek Richers of Spikeball – right product in the right place (episode 187)

Derek Riechers is the Director of Operations at Spikeball which means he’s in charge of making sure they never ever go out of stock! Spikeball are a business on a mission to turn roundnet into the next great American sport. Founded over 10 years ago, sales now hit $2.5m per month at peak – a staggering 56k plus units.

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About the business

Listen to learn how Derek got started in eCommerce.

Derek was employee number 9 at Spikeball. Before he joined the company, he was involved in inventory planning for a sports athletic company. At the time he joined Spikeball, the company was focused on growing their D2C channels and transitioning into the retail sector. Derek is an operations guy who deals with the nitty-gritty, everyday grind of the business. For any consumer product company, a good operations team and strategy is critical for success. He says that people only really notice operations if something goes wrong. If everything is in place, good operations aren’t visible at the surface.

About Spikeball

Based out of the US, Spikeball is now starting to branch out into several different markets and continues to grow at break-neck speed. Their main product is a round net game similar to volleyball. While possession changes and point accumulation is similar to volleyball, there is one major difference—Spikeball is played on top of a net rather than over it. The game is played 360 degrees with two players per team. The fast and fun nature of the sport is making Spikeball a popular leisure activity enjoyed by a wide variety of customers. Spikeball is actively developing different iterations of the game, including accessories that allow users to play at night and on the water. Originally run out of the founder’s basement, the game started as a direct-to-consumer product. Initial growth was slow and steady, but the company has had several key victories, including a spot on the popular program, Shark Tank.

eCommerce Platform

Spikeball uses Shopify to sell to both B2B and B2C customers. Currently, they have 24 employees who do almost everything in-house. From customer service to sales to operations, the lean team gets to keep ultimate control of the Spikeball brand and experience. While the manufacturing of the products is done by partners, the company runs its own warehouse for fulfillment.

Listen to learn about when to outsource pick pack and dispatch.

When it comes to deciding whether to keep a business segment in-house or to outsource, Derek says that crunching the numbers is key. The company makes decisions about partnering based first on costs and second on convenience. Luckily, he says, there have been a number of incentives for keeping most elements of the Spikeball machine in-house, which provides appreciable secondary benefits.

Keeping up with Demand

Spikeball has evolved a number of strategies to ensure they can keep up with demand. They rely on several different channels, from traditional retail to several Shopify stores and Amazon. The tool they use to manage it all is BrightPearl, which the company uses to keep track of everything from sales and purchase orders to inventory. Derek says it’s an essential component of managing multiple channels and has been an indispensable tool.

Listen to learn about balancing sales and operations.

A lot of people interested in growing their business look for ways to add additional sales channels. Part of Spikeball’s success has been their ability to cater equally across multiple channels and having an operations machine that consistently delivers a great product and customer experience. The key to making it work is spending time in the beginning thinking through all the details involved in adding a new channel. While it’s up to the Operations team to figure out how to make marketing ideas come to life and work seamlessly, the headache is far less painful if everyone has spent the time beforehand troubleshooting potential difficulties. Recording all the details of the sale from discovery to endpoint is the basis for establishing a successful channel. Understanding the ecosystem of a business means everyone will be able to make better decisions about channel integration.

When considering potential conflicts in regard to stock, B2B and B2C need to go hand in hand. Across every channel, the Spikeball team plans out projections on inventory, location, and logistics. The fine balance is ensuring that there is enough product for everyone without having to prioritize one customer over another. Communication is key, especially when it comes to promotions and Derek says that monthly S&OP (Sales and Operations Planning) and 90-day forecasts create good conversations between all the different segments of the business. Because it’s easy to get tunnel vision in the day to day, this unified front approach makes a world of difference for efficiency and risk reduction. Ultimately, within any supply chain, there are so many moving parts that it’s critical to check in with every department—from customer service to accounting.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Take advantage of user-generated content from customer community resources, including social media.

You can hear about all this on the podcast, for free – right now…

Tool Top Tip

  • BaseCamp for organization, messaging and file sharing without the overuse of email.
  • for creating effective communication across business segments.

Growth Top Tip

  • “Don’t be a Donkey” – Boil down what you already know to its ultimate truth and recognize that you can do anything and everything you want to.

Interview Links

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