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In every market, there will be gaps for those who see them. This is true of any industry, as entrepreneurial minds will often find opportunities for new business ventures where there’s budding demand and little to no supply.
Those on the frontlines of their industries often see these gaps first. Ecommerce merchants like Chad Rubin will encounter issues and irritations that demand a new approach—often taking it upon themselves to create alternatives.
This is what led Chad to create the inventory and order management company Skubana. As someone who has founded and sold several ecommerce companies and solutions, we knew Chad would have a wealth of experience to share with us.
We discussed the founding of Skubana, learning from mistakes, and understanding your audience.
Identifying & addressing pain points
Can you tell us a bit more about Skubana and how you help ecommerce merchants?
Chad Rubin: Skubana is an operations platform for brands and allows them to do order management, inventory management, and advanced orderability metrics. If Shopify is everything above the earth, we’re everything underground to power the brands to manage, run and automate their business.
What made you decide to co-found Skubana? What were the pain points you were trying to alleviate?
Chad Rubin: So many! Skubana was created to scratch my own itch when running my own ecommerce brand—Think Crucial. I couldn’t find software to handle my order volume. Order management and inventory management that were unified under one platform were impossible to find.
Ultimately, software didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Finding the truth was difficult. Everyone claims to do all these things but they can’t execute. I got fed up—so I co-founded Skubana.
Self-reflection & improvement
Chad’s desire to address customer and user pain points should sound familiar to many ecommerce merchants. However, the means to do so aren’t simple—it requires plenty of experience and know-how to successfully resolve common and uncommon problems alike.
Throughout this experience, there will naturally be many lessons learned. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re established in your career, it’s always worth learning.
This is why we asked Chad for some insights into what he feels like every merchant should know—offering some useful points that anyone can benefit from.
If you could go back to when you started in ecommerce and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be? Is that advice different from what you’d give to someone just starting out in the industry today?
Because the strategy of going DTC is just table stakes, you must have further criteria required to enable you to be better—focus on markets where the incumbent is slow with no relationship to their end-user.Chad Rubin, Co-Founder & Director, Skubana
Chad Rubin: With my ecommerce business, Think Crucial, focusing on innovative products was something I probably should’ve done sooner. Having a thesis around who we want to be as an ecommerce brand—going direct to the consumer was not efficient.
I would give the same advice to someone starting today. Because the strategy of going DTC is just table stakes, you must have further criteria required to enable you to be better, such as being highly differentiated or a smart product, a subscription product. Focus on markets where the incumbent is slow with no relationship to their end-user.
What is one mistake that you see a lot of ecommerce brands making? On the flip side, what’s one best practice you wish more brands were doing?
Chad Rubin: The mistake I see is that brands are not innovating. They’re just buying products off the shelf and making better marketing. I wish brands were focusing on lifetime value—differentiation from a product perspective, not just a marketing perspective. Truly trying to disrupt something rather than just trying to cut out the middleman.
How to future-proof against issues like COVID-19
The worldwide pandemic has affected different industries and merchants in different ways, yet there’s one universal change COVID-19 has brought—the need to adapt. As smaller merchants rushed to establish an online presence, larger merchants began to focus their attention more and more on digital channels.
Understanding how to adapt in this fashion has forced veterans like Chad to work various strategies with his companies and clients. This is one of the reasons he’s begun to look towards the future and reflect on how to future-proof marketing strategies.
We pursue this train of thought and ask Chad about sustainability, working with different branding, and the questions merchants need to continue to ask themselves.
These past few years have been particularly difficult on logistics industries. How did this affect you at Skubana? What were some of the effects on brands you served?
Chad Rubin: Since there was a shift from offline retail to online, Skubana squarely focused on the online segment and supported brands through the transition. On an incredibly difficult pandemic backdrop, Skubanas software truly shined during this time and helped our brands shine given our feature set. For example, Skubanas customers have been able to use our agile software to adapt their operations and be nimble in an extraordinarily short time.
What would you advise merchants to do to future-proof their marketing strategies? Do you think it’s better to remain reactive and nimble for these kinds of changes?
Chad Rubin: How do you win if you’re doing what everyone else is doing? This matters because marketing tactics have short-shelf lives. You always have to be thinking critically about where your customers are spending their time. You need to be in front of them at that place and at the right time.
To future-proof, you have to always focus on sustainable strategies. You can’t just focus on Facebook or one platform. What creative ways can you get in front of your customers for a higher return on your marketing spend? These are the questions you need to ask yourself.
Chad’s vast experience handling multiple companies and clients provides some valuable insight to merchants, both new and established alike. One of the primary takeaways is to never stop questioning your own place within, and approach to, your market.
If you can remain self-critical, you can find yourselves more nimble when adapting to big changes. Naturally, no one wants to prepare for new challenges as large as COVID. Only the most cautious, or pessimistic minds will predict problems of that magnitude on the horizon. However, remaining adaptable can help you avoid pain points as they come—whether they’re large or small.