Online Order Fulfillment, Hot Off the Grill

eBiz Profile: Efficiency in filling orders is essential to online merchant Texas Irons, which uses Kurant's StoreSense platform.
No one can say that Mike Kastens is a typical online merchant. As the owner of Texas Irons, Kastens sells one the Internet's quirkiest products: personalized branding irons for backyard barbecuing. These custom made items allow a chef to emblazon their own initials on the medium rare hamburger they serve from the grill.

"Being in Texas, there's a tremendous amount of pride in outdoor grilling," he says. "It's lot like an artist being able to sign their painting."

As creative as he is in developing business ideas, Kastens focused on the technical essentials while shopping for an e-commerce platform. Namely, he sought a streamlined technical infrastructure with efficient order fulfillment being a key issue.

Ultimately, Texas Irons went with Kurant's StoreSense software, which appealed to him because of its back-end order fulfillment system. As he researched the package, "it seemed that their key focus was 'Let's make sure our customers can get the order out as quickly and painlessly as possible,'" he says.

What really sold him on StoreSense was its label-making tool. "I can print a FedEx label with the click of a button," he says, "and that automatically accesses FedEx's back-end."

Talking with QuickBooks
In addition to selling through its site, Texas Irons sells wholesale to large distributors like Target and Orvis. StoreSense's order fulfillment tools also expedite this process, Kastens says.

He enters each of these larger companies in his database. When he gets an order from one of these distributors, StoreSense automatically generates the distributor's discount, and sends an e-mail to the distributor with the tracking number.

His system's back end also helps Kastens measure the effectiveness of his advertising campaigns. If, for example, he runs an ad in Bon Appetit magazine, he can enter a corresponding code in StoreSense. "Then I can go into my back-end reports in Kurant and see how many times that code was used."

Kastens appreciates that StoreSense integrates with QuickBooks. This StoreSense accounting integration tool is called StoreSync. "With the click of a button, StoreSync and QuickBooks are talking to each other in the background," he says. Among other tasks, this helps with inventory control.

"There's no possible way we could have gotten though Christmas 2003 without this system in place," Kastens says.

Level Playing Field
Kastens built the site himself in conjunction with his in-house designers. He sat down with the manual and found the process to be straightforward and clear.

When Kastens first shopped for a solution, he considered a custom-built platform, but found them to be too inexpensive. "What we loved about Kurant is that it's basically an ASP model, we're paying monthly, and whenever they have upgrades, we get those upgrades."

"They've got bulletin boards where developers and users can make recommendations, and they actually listen to those comments," he says. "So in six months when they do an upgrade their R&D is working for me."

StoreSense, and e-commerce itself, is a major step forward in Kastens view. "The Internet has somewhat leveled the playing field for 'littler' guys who want to try something." connects customers with its merchandise using Atomz site search.

Vital Statistics
Name: Texas Irons
2003 Sales/revenues:N/A
Content management/storefront system:Kurant StoreSense
Database backend:MySQL
Visitor analytics system:Kurant StoreSense
Affiliate technology provider:Kurant StoreSense
Hosting provider:INETU
Number of employees:4
Number of tech staff: 1
Key strategies:• Ship directly from within shopping cart system
• Integrate with accounting software
• Adopt hosted solution for easy upgradeability

James Maguire is a contributor to His column appears every Friday.

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