The e-Commerce business expert we are proud to share the interview with today is Charles Palleschi, Founder of Spark Shipping who believes perfection is the enemy of profitability. Read on to learn his underpinned-with-experience view on what it takes to build a successful dropshipping system, what role APIs serve here, and what industry trends are about to come.
Charles, it has been 5 years since you founded Spark Shipping, one of Sparkwire Solutions products. When did you realize you would build an e-Commerce business? How did your online business career start?
When we started, Sparkwire Solutions was a software custom development company. Along the way we purchased and ran a small e-Commerce site. Very quickly we had the need to automate the connection between our site and our vendors. After trying the existing products on the market, we learned that they either could not support the breath of vendor integrations we needed or that they were simply very buggy.
Spark Shipping was built out of our own need and was quickly used by our consulting clients. We eventually made the decision to brand the product Spark Shipping, offer it to the public and end the consulting side of the business.
Would you mind telling us a bit about Spark Shipping? How does it help busy merchants run their businesses? What challenges did you face at the very beginning? Are there any such businesses often have to deal with?
What Spark Shipping does is to automate the communications between e-Commerce sites and vendors (warehouses, distributors, manufacturers, etc). The communications that are automated are: getting inventory quantities from vendors, sending orders to vendors and getting tracking/shipment data back from vendors. Spark Shipping sits between the shopping cart and vendors to get the data back and forth between them.
One of the largest challenges is the variety of protocols and formats used by vendors. It took a lot of effort to support all the various formats of email, FTP, CSV, XML, Web services, EDI, etc. We made the decision very early on to support as many formats/vendors as possible and we strive to support 99% of formats out there.
E-Commerce business sector is a competitive climate. How would you define the key factors of Spark Shipping success? What is the major advantage of your system over your competitors?
Spark Shipping is capable of integrations that our competitors simply can not do. We’re able to complete more complex integrations than anyone else. Competitors saying they can connect you to your vendors is one thing but actually making it happen is truly our key differentiator.
What does integration with shopping carts and marketplaces mean for an e-Commerce business? Can such a business do without any? What is the role of APIs here?
Sure, anyone can get started submitting orders manually to your vendors but once you find your target market you’re going to want to scale up order volume. When that happens it’s simply not worth your time to send each order manually. In fact, doing so will slow down the growth of your business.
This is where choosing vendors that have APIs and the ways orders, inventory, etc. can be automated is key to a store’s success.
How do you think the needs of merchants will change in a few years? Are there any new trends to come, to your mind? How do you envision the future of e-Commerce?
I predict as more people get into the industry working with 1 or 2 large distributors will become less profitable. More store owners will have to search to find niche vendors. Instead of getting inventory from 1 or 2 big players the store owners will be working with more and more smaller vendors.
This is where automation and getting the inventory, orders, fulfillment process running smoothly will become even more critical.
What advice or inspiration words would you give to those at the beginning of their business path?
The best words of advice I can get someone who is just getting into e-Commerce is get your first order today, don’t wait, start today.
There’s so many reasons to wait, “the site design is not complete”, “We need to add more products”, “We need to get the accounting process in place”, etc. The list goes on and on but just getting out there, making your first sale and fulfilling the first order is a huge learning experience. Do not even wait to get your inventory and fulfillment process automated, this can all be done along the way.
The single best piece of advice I can ever give is do not wait. Perfection is the enemy of profitability - start selling today!
We want to thank Charles for taking some time out his busy schedule to answer the questions and wish him and Spark Shipping long years of good luck and prosperity.