A super-soft yet elegant full-length dress for $29.99. A top-of-the-line juicer for $12.99. A universal car mount for your cell phone for $4.99. These are just a few of the deals you can find from Steals.com. Whether you want to check out the Steal of the Day or browse across categories, Steals.com posts new products every morning at 8 a.m. PDT, with rock-bottom deals available until supplies run out.
How did this exciting online shopping experience come to be? The journey began when Steals.com president and co-founder Jana Francis was pregnant with her third child. As a busy mom juggling a family and a demanding career, Jana had no time to get in the car and go shopping. Instead, she turned to the Web. Unfortunately, in those early days of e-commerce, the types of products she was looking for seemed underrepresented. Information was also limited. For example, a diaper bag may appear nice in the photo, but how big is it? How many pockets are on the inside? And what kind of bags are other moms recommending? “When I realized the type of online store I needed didn’t exist,” says Francis, “I decided to create it.” The result was the first of the Steal Network sites—Babysteals.com.
The birth of a business
Within a year of launching Babysteals, Francis and her partners rolled out a network of sites, including kid.steals.com, she.steals.com, and scrapbook.steals.com.
Today, all the sites can be reached through the Steals.com homepage. But the e-commerce space has changed drastically since its beginning—and the pressure from large-enterprise competitors is stiff. With a staff of just 63 people, competing on the global stage has proven challenging. And a collection of disparate IT systems, some of which were homegrown, was not making the situation any easier. “We needed an enterprise-level system that we could afford as we grow into an enterprise-level company,” says Francis.
Already familiar with the value of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, she could see that a cloud-based solution designed specifically for small businesses would be a perfect fit.
A solution for unique business models
One of the biggest selling points for embracing new technology was the desire for robust yet flexible reporting and analytics. “Each sale is tied directly to a product, a brand, and a seller,” says Francis. “It creates an interconnectedness that lets our account managers create the dashboards they need to track what is happening across a variety of metrics.”
Customer relationship management (CRM) was another key factor when choosing a software solution. “What makes Steals.com unique is our business model,” says Francis. “What makes it successful is the customer service.” But that must be maintained as the number of customers grows. Steals.com was using multiple solutions to track customer activity, from salesforce.com to Google Docs to spreadsheets.
Focus on sales and collaboration
Since integrating new technology, the company has also seen a huge time savings. Administrative tasks like account creation, payroll, security, and financials are taken care of—so developers and account managers can spend their time focusing on new ways to increase sales and work better with partners. Not only does this help drive innovation, it saves money.
Spreading the success
When Steals.com succeeds, so do its sellers. Steals.com is preparing to launch a new business-to-business site. The site will offer a variety of services from promotional support to feature placements, photography, shipping, and account management—all geared toward helping smaller sellers provide the kind of speed and service Steals.com customers expect. “We are truly excited about allowing sellers to grow their businesses on Steals.com,” notes Francis. “Not only does it mean more products for us, it means more people coming to them every day.”
With a cloud-based business solution at its core, Steals.com can continue to grow. “I’m most excited about being able to focus 100% on our transformation from a retailer to a marketplace,” says Francis. “We don’t have to be distracted with day-to-day operations or the past. We can keep our people and our energy focused on building for the future.”
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