By Gray Anderson ’11
What a wild ride. It feels like yesterday I was sitting in my communication theory class in the spring of 2010 and crossing my fingers that I would still graduate in time after changing my major. At that point, I don’t think I’d ever bought anything online, let alone given any thought to how e-commerce would eventually be the backbone of my career. But, the next thing I know, it is November 2020 – peak holiday season in the middle of an e-commerce boom due to a pandemic – and I’m relocating a startup e-commerce fulfillment business called Nice Commerce from 4,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet in North Charleston.
Starting a company is never easy, but throw in a pandemic hellbent on disrupting supply chains and consumer behavior, and you’ve got yourself some unique learning curves. We have faced longer lead times, rising carrier costs, unavailable packaging and materials – the list goes on – not to mention labor shortages or the impact it has had on our brand partners.
Thankfully, we have a great team, and the right processes in place to adapt. We built out an entire department to get products “shelf ready” when manufacturers cut corners as a result of supply chain issues. It also allowed us to prep products faster for Amazon fulfillment. To combat rising carrier costs, we’ve been able to negotiate carrier rates and pass those discounts off to our clients – and, since many of our brands were forced to keep a larger inventory than normal due to the uncertainty of available materials, we added more storage capacity to our warehouse to meet our clientsʼ needs. We’re actively growing and hiring to make these services possible and more efficient, while maintaining our core service of customized picking, packing and shipping.
When I first started working with different brands and began vetting 3PL (third-party logistics or fulfillment) companies, most did not care that they were literally the last touch point before the product reached the customer. They viewed it as a service, not a partnership. I was looking for an offering that would help a digital business grow efficiently, connect with its customers and understand the importance of every order that was shipped. That’s never been more important than now, with online shopping exploding. My team and I are obsessed with the idea that we can do things differently – be a company that brands can lean into to grow.
Adaptability has always been important in the e-commerce world. Given all the world has gone through recently, I’d say it’s something that we all have had to get more comfortable with. Something I learned in that communication theory class all those years ago that has continued to propel me forward: If we are resistant to change, we are resistant to growth.