Australian online bookstore Booktopia will close a three-year project by September that will bring new automation technology to its distribution center, allowing it to ship more than 60,000 units per day.
Deputy CEO and CTO Wayne Baskin told an Insider webinar that the e-merchant is “always on the path to increasing the efficiency of our systems and technology in our fulfillment center.”
Baskin joined the company in 2008 as the first software engineer, and many of the systems he built, including the warehouse management system, are still in use.
However, what has occupied much of his time in recent years is the deployment of automation and related technologies in Booktopia’s distribution center.
“We’re on a new project path to launch a whole new automation in our distribution center, and all of this will go live in August / September,” said Baskin.
“This has been going on for about three years now… and it will allow us to ship up to 60,000 units per day from our distribution center.
“We’re always pushing the limits of those numbers, so I’m sure that will allow us to do 70,000 to 80,000 if we really need to.”
Baskin noted that the technology could have been put to good use during the COVID lockdown period, had it been prepared.
“It would have been great to have that to deal with the surge,” he said. “So we wouldn’t even have felt it. “
Booktopia’s sales volumes increased significantly in April; “To give you an idea, we [were] about 80 percent year-over-year increase [and] some weekends it exceeds 100% year on year. “
In terms of units, the company shipped 40,000 units per day.
For Baskin, the rise in volume was “always … very bittersweet” because it was the result of pain in other areas of the book industry.
“We were looking at this, ‘It’s about the demise of other bookstores,” he said.
To avoid getting overwhelmed, Booktopia pulled its usual advertising and only handled organic traffic to its website.
“Very early on we looked at our numbers and had to take the advertising out of it. So for a long time we didn’t need Google ads to maintain what we needed to keep our fulfillment center busy and full, and to make sure we could ship on time, ”Baskin said.
The company also hired additional customer service staff to cope with the influx of orders.
While he didn’t expect the volumes to last, especially with the reopening of physical retailers, Baskin was confident that at least some of the online shopping habits that Australians developed during the period would be maintained.
“I think online retail spending is going to increase,” he said. ” It must. People will definitely change their behavior.
For its part, Booktopia will make greater use of personalization, recommendations and anonymous retargeting through its site.
“We have personalization and recommendations all over the site [already]Said Baskin, noting that Booktopia uses Insider’s product recommendation engine technology.
“Right now it’s mostly on our product pages, but now we’re planning to roll it out on our landing pages and home pages – throughout the site, as we’ve seen a big increase in conversion of customers and expenses. per customer on these pages.
The e-merchant has also introduced push notifications to the site and has so far found the strategy to be successful.
“We first thought, ‘Shall we make an app,’ Hey, can we send you some notifications? And then if they said yes then we would give the hardest part, which was the actual browser saying “Do you want to allow or block?” ”
“But we found that it didn’t work as well for us as just allowing or hard blocking.
“Were [now] accumulating a significant number of people saying, “Yes, I want to be notified by Booktopia”, but we are at the very beginning of this journey. “
Baskin said Booktopia could send push notification prompts around specific events, such as Mother’s Day, or over items added to a cart.
“If it’s been a day or two, we send a push notification. Or maybe you watched this three days ago and the price has since dropped or it wasn’t in stock but now it is. “
“What I like about push is that you just have to have someone say, ‘Yes, send me notifications’ and then you can start notifying them.
“You might never know who they are, you might never know anything about them, but… I think in this COVID world where we get all these new people browsing our site, that’s what that’s going to allow us to take advantage of all these new customers in the future, because a lot of them I’m sure are going to be like, “No, don’t email me”.
Baskin said Booktopia has already seen “great results” on push cart abandonment notifications.
“We see a big engagement where people click on it and say, ‘Yeah, I forgot to buy this’ and come back.
” Much better [conversion rates] than [with] our cart abandonment email.