If your goal is to grow an ecommerce store, you’ve got several options open to you, from branding your own products to affiliate marketing to dropshipping.
Dropshipping is an excellent choice for businesses that don’t hold or wish to warehouse their inventory themselves. Still, there’s a lot of work behind the scenes to set up a successful operation. You need a seamless solution that connects your website with your suppliers and, preferably, streamlines the various tasks that go with it. Of course, you also need to offer an excellent customer experience.
Tim Reilly is the Director of Commerce for Golf.com and Golf Magazine, an all-encompassing golf news and lifestyle brand. They cover tournaments, instructional content, the latest gear, and places to play golf. It’s fair to say they have a large following and considerable opportunities in ecommerce.
Tim chatted with us about their experiences setting up and growing their Golf Pro Shop. Dropshipping forms part of their strategy, and they’ve had great success with it, thanks to a streamlined setup. Here’s their story:
When Covid hit, the golf world was in turmoil. Everything shut down, and there was no tour news for Golf.com to cover. Tim says they’d always had long-term plans to introduce an ecommerce platform, and with the pandemic shutting things down, they finally had the time to launch the Golf Pro Shop.
One obstacle during their store setup was that Golf.com doesn’t warehouse its products. In a traditional ecommerce operation, store owners need somewhere to keep their inventory, from which they pick, pack, and ship orders. Without that capacity, they dived deeper into dropshipping, a strategy where vendors hold inventory and ship out orders, but the customer still completes the transaction on the retailer’s ecommerce site.
Golf.com had a particular preference for partnering with small businesses in the golf space. “I think Covid really hit home for us, where we wanted to help out small businesses,” Tim says. “A lot of these brands work with smaller inventories and smaller warehouses.”
The smaller brands also tended to have fewer resources available to manage the financial and communication side of things, making a solid software solution even more essential. It was one of those small vendors that introduced them to Mothership.
Tim says a company named Perfect Practice, manufacturers of at-home putting mats for golfers, first shared Mothership with them. Their product had experienced a tremendous increase in demand due to Covid, and they were looking for new partners to sell it. “Everyone was stuck inside doing nothing for those months, and weeks, and days on end. And that Perfect Practice mat exploded,” says Tim.
Perfect Practice was a terrific match because it was a brand that Golf.com wanted to stock. Tim and the team decided to check out the software they used for dropshipping - Mothership.
“We went through a free demo with Aaron, and we just thought it was perfect the moment we started talking,” says Tim. “Usually, when you take these free demos, there's always flaws that you spot right away when you're watching it there. And with the Mothership demo, I think we were all impressed that there were not many concerns by the end.”
The Golf.com team was particularly impressed with how Mothership took care of integrating their store with those of suppliers and, as a huge bonus for them, the invoicing side of transactions. Tim says they have a small financial team at Golf.com, and most of their vendors also have a small or no financial team. Having Mothership’s assistance with invoicing saved a lot of work for them and their vendors.
In terms of getting to know and using Mothership, Tim describes it as “very self-intuitive.” “Once you get your hands dirty once or twice, it pretty much takes care of itself,” he says. Mothership’s streamlined approach to features helped immensely; “I think a lot of apps get a little too overcomplicated, and with Mothership, it's pretty much what you need and no extras,” says Tim.
They quickly learned to work with the software and started seeking out new dropship partners to team up with on Mothership Connect. “What started as one [partner] now has over fifty, and we have plenty more conversations going on,” Tim says. “I see no reason why it would stop growing.”
The bottom line of any successful dropshipping strategy is that you need strong vendor partnerships. Underpinning those requires a robust system that makes the relationship as easy as possible for both parties.
“From a vendor standpoint, it allows you to make connections with other storefronts too,” Tim highlights. For vendors who are hesitant about spending money to use Mothership, he explains that it’s just one fee that allows them to hook up with as many other stores as they like.
Taking care of some key tasks required to run a dropshipping operation successfully is paramount. “The people I talk to don’t have a financial team. They have very minimal resources of their own in the fulfillment and operational side of things,” says Tim. “What this (Mothership) does is it makes it easier on all of us. Being able to mirror product listings. Being able to streamline shipping rates, and have one customer service unit.”
The bottom line for Golf.com is that Mothership has become an important part of a successful ecommerce operation. They’re meeting their sales goals and managing to deliver a great customer experience along the way.
“Customers, once they’re shopping on Golf.com, they don’t have to leave Golf.com. They’re not getting a million pop-ups,” Tim says. He notes that with affiliate links, it’s common to get multiple pop-ups before you can add anything to a cart. “Doing it this way allows the customer to stay in one place and not have all these disturbances that come elsewhere,” he says.
The Golf.com team has found the transition easy, allowing them to focus on marketing their store. They’re confident that their suggestions are listened to and that help is quickly available if needed. “The best thing about the Mothership team is they’re so responsive,” Tim says.
A final, key aspect of Golf.com’s journey has been its ability to grow ecommerce and complete necessary tasks without having to grow its team significantly.
“I think if you are in the small business side of things in ecommerce right now, it’s something you should absolutely explore,” says Tim. “It makes a team of one turn into a team of three very quickly. What that means is one person can do what was three people’s work - you don’t have to worry about the financial side, it helps alleviate some of the product listing side and some of the day-to-day operational side you might be dealing with,” he says. “That’s been the biggest benefit to us.”
“Mothership enhanced our small team to make it feel like we have a larger team. It alleviated a lot of work that would take me a couple of days to do, and now I can get it done in a couple of hours.”