For those that aren't familiar, I do all of my own website work. In fact, most things about DOR are done in-house, 90% of them by me. That ranges from the usual CNC cutting, welding, powder coating, and packaging, to office work like printing labels, answering emails, answering phone calls, ordering supplies, and keeping installation guides up to date, as some examples. Then I also do all of the website work for both the store and the forum, which involves some maintenance and troubleshooting from time to time. Our local network of computers are also completely setup and maintained by me, ranging from simple desktop machines to more complex CAD and CAM-dedicated systems for the CNC machines. I also take care of all of our reports/paperwork and general running of the business. My brother, Clint, does about half of the welding here, which is a huge help. In the summer, Jana answers phones and helps in the shop when she is able. I mention all of this so you have a clearer understanding of how much work actually goes on in our shop. Many companies outsource quite a bit of those tasks, either by having other shops cut their parts out, possibly having them welded elsewhere, and I'm only aware of a couple of companies who powder coat their own products. You typically see the website and local computer work being outsourced as well as the accounting and reporting. So why do you care and why am I saying all of this? I believe that by doing things myself, I am able to save money - I'm sure you subscribe to the same philosophy, which is why you work on your own truck in the first place. By saving money in DOR's overhead costs (the price of doing business), I'm able to pass those savings onto you - our customers. This segways into my next statement about why I built the new online store in the first place.
The new online store is a very sophisticated piece of software that does things our old store could never do. Previously, we used Paypal to handle all payments. While simple and somewhat effective, it was a burden for customers that did not have Paypal accounts, and it was a burden for me as a business owner. I won't bore you with the details of how Paypal is not really setup for businesses that sell a lot of items, especially high-ticket items, so we'll just say there have been some major headaches. However, without completely redoing the DOR website (including the forum), I was stuck with Paypal.
Then I found our new software, which is called 3dCart. There are other programs that do the same thing, but I liked the features offered by 3dCart the most. Things like automatic order updates, tracking info being emailed automatically, the ability to add a lot of products quickly and in a consistent format, and the ability to accept credit/debit cards without the use of Paypal... these are all things that were big priorities for me, because I knew they were important to our customers. In the custom parts world, it's rare that an order ships the same day it's placed. So I know how important it is for you to have the communication to know where your order stands, and how much longer it will take. You want to know when it ships and when it will be at your house or business. And you want to be able to place an order quickly without jumping back and forth to Paypal and then wondering if the payment went through or not. These are all issues that are now corrected. I'm able to go in and send automatic order updates very quickly, and I do this at least once a day. If you don't sign up for email updates, you can always just log back in to your account on here and see what the latest info is. Here are our order statuses and what they mean:
1) New - Your order was placed and payment was received, waiting for review by me
2) Processing - I've reviewed your order and have put your name up on the order board in the shop
3) Parts Ordered - This is for orders that go to other companies, such as Road Rhino, Borgeson, Pure Performance, and Synergy (others will be added later). This means the order was submitted and will be drop shipped from that company.
4) Welding - Your order has been cut out and is now waiting to be welded. This can take several days or more depending on how much we have pending.
5) Powder Coating - Your order has been welded and is now waiting to be powder coated. This is one of the most time-consuming parts of the business and typically takes a week or more.
6) Packaging - The parts are powder coated and are now ready to be packaged. Packaging is such a big deal for us that this has it's own status. We go through great lengths to ensure that your parts arrive safely and with all hardware included.
7) Shipped - It's on the way! Tracking information will be included in this email.
Now that you know what the updates mean, I'll explain why this is such a big deal for me. Previously, I spent at least 3 or 4 hours per day answering emails about status updates only. That does not include any other emails, just the ones where customers were asking how much longer, if it shipped, etc. While I'm glad to answer emails, it's extremely time-consuming to reply to all of those one at a time. What I'm able to do now is simply click a few buttons and send an email to 40 people at once, instead of typing individual emails to each person. This time savings means that I'm able to spend more time working on other things, which ultimately helps get orders out even faster.
The next best thing about our new store is the checkout process. It's all on one page - you simply type in your billing info, shipping info (or click "Same" to copy the billing info over), put in your card info, and send the order. It's the easiest checkout system in the world. We still offer the ability to pay with Paypal for those who prefer that method, however there are some glitches with Paypal connecting to our store. I've looked into it and this is on Paypal's end, and has been an issue for 2 or 3 years now, and it doesn't seem like they want to fix it. So if you have trouble with Paypal, just send me an email and I can send you an invoice for the total - or you can get the Paypal debit card and use that to checkout with our regular checkout system.
Speaking of checkout, we now have actual shipping quotes available for all of the United States, Canada, as well as Sweden, Finland, and Norway! Our old site would only allow for "flat" shipping rates, so I had to estimate what it would cost. The problem is that some customers were paying a few bucks more than needed, and some were paying a few bucks less. Now the shipping rates are figured at the time of checkout and you are only paying what it actually costs to ship to you, using our UPS discount. International orders are all shipped USPS Priority Mail International and those rates are also quoted at the time of your order, automatically. This is a HUGE time savings for me, because I had to get those quotes manually and then send invoices through Paypal previously. Now our international customers, as well as our customers in Alaska and Hawaii, don't have to wait on me.
Finally, adding new products doesn't take days. I can add new parts to the site in about five minutes, in most cases. Previously, I had to add to an existing page or sometimes create a whole new HTML page, to add a new product. Then I would have to edit another page to add a link. It doesn't sound like much work, but it's very time consuming to do this everytime a new product is available. I used to do batch updates, where I would add a few products at a time, to make it worth the effort. Now I can add one product or twenty products and it's all the same process. Making changes to those products is also very easy. The software also keeps track of inventory, so if I have products in stock, it will not only tell you that (the lead time will say "In Stock"), but it will also let me know when my inventory is getting low so I can either reorder or start making more. So once again, time savings means more time to work on shipping orders - and better inventory management for accurate lead times.
One of the biggest benefits for me as a business owner is that all of my reports are done automatically and can be printed off with just a couple of clicks. No more spreadsheets and post it notes! The software tracks everything I need to know, so I spend less time doing paperwork. Do you see a theme here? :-)
This new site is not only a huge convenience for you, our customers, but it's also a huge convenience for me. When I'm able to spend less time in the office, that's more time in the shop, which gets products made faster, and that makes all of us happy. My big focus this year has been to decrease the lead times and hopefully have some big sellers in stock most of the time. So far, I've really dropped lead times on several key items. I think we'll have even more in stock very soon, depending on how busy the next two months are. I'm planning on being stocked up before tax season hits in late February, however we are really trying to have more items in stock for Christmas.
Dodge Off Road's business model is relatively simple - we want to make high quality parts at affordable prices, to maximize the value of your purchase. By keeping overhead low and by automating some of our processes, we are able to affordably offer the kind of parts that you typically pay a lot more for. The next step is to get them to you faster than ever before. With the website in place, now we will be moving towards inventory levels - I'd like to have track bars, steering kits, shackle flips, and control arms all in stock 95% of the time relatively soon.
Thanks for reading my first blog - I hope you found it helpful. Future blogs will be dedicated mostly to products and testing/trail rides, but I wanted to introduce the new site and explain why I made the change. The new site has been live for about a month now and it's been a huge success, so thank you for your support!