When husband and wife, Chris Forbes & Julie Chen took a trip to China in 2016, they learned of bamboo harvesting for the first time. They saw a surplus of bamboo that they knew could be used as a sustainable source for toilet paper production - and that it would create 65% less carbon emissions than traditional suppliers.
From that moment, they were captivated by the benefits this would bring to the environment and what could be achieved if it was used widely across the globe.
Encouraged by the prospect of such a positive impact, the idea quickly grew into a business plan and with just £10,000 investment from friends and family, The Cheeky Panda was born. It now provides sustainable, hypoallergenic toilet paper and other tissue products made entirely from bamboo to thousands of customers every month.
Since starting in 2016, the business has seen huge growth, reporting revenue of over £2 million in 2019 - that’s a 200,000% increase in just three years. While growth is good for the business, the rapid expansion came with many challenges, especially when it came to the logistics of what happened after online customers had hit the ‘buy’ button.
The major issues stemmed from errors in the warehouse with picking and packing. Regular mispicks on either the quantity or the SKU led to time and money being lost on managing, communicating and redelivering the correct orders to customers.
Julie Chen, CEO & Co-Founder recalls, “We had some major operational headaches that were exhausting us. Not only did we stay awake at night thinking about what would happen if we kept disappointing customers, but the working hours spent managing customer service queries and fixing the problems were out of control. We wouldn’t have been able to continue like that as it just wasn’t sustainable.
“Running a business throws up daily challenges and big decisions, such as those about what marketplaces to invest in and how to approach retail events such as Black Friday.”
"Without being in full control of your stock levels and order processes, you’ll struggle - we had been working in ‘test and trial’ mode rather than having the confidence that we had full control over our stock and order management.”
Looking for more accuracy and reliability in order to provide customers with the service levels they expect, Julie reached out to Zendbox.
“After speaking with the team at Zendbox, I knew they approached fulfilment differently to other providers we had worked with, and they had processes and systems in place that relied on technology to ensure the right orders went out.”
Zendbox was selected due to its fully customisable offering that allowed The Cheeky Panda to integrate orders from its Shopify store alongside its marketplaces including Amazon, into one 24hr portal that showed accurate stock levels and order information in real-time. Not only this, but the intelligent technology that underpins the fulfilment processes at Zendbox keep pick accuracy to extremely high levels.
The Cheeky Panda underwent an efficient onboarding and now have the support they need to make their b2c customers happy.
1. The customer places an order and automation kicks in
The moment the customer has placed an order, whether that happens directly on cheekypanda.com, or via any marketplace, the order is pulled straight into Zendportal where it can be viewed and tracked. Zendbox has proprietary technology that enables full stock visibility, access to data and information 100% real- time, and the ability to make any edits live on the system. For The Cheeky Panda this means always knowing what is going on, and having live inventory level at the touch of a button, plus not having to worry about incorrect addresses resulting in undelivered items, as any bad addresses are automatically checked and flagged, and can be updated in the system before the order is processed.
2. The order is processed in the warehouse
Stock is sent from The Cheeky Panda to be stored at Zendbox’s highly secure UK warehouse. Using a triple scan process with barcoding, QR technology and auto-weigh transport belts, there is 99.99% pick and pack accuracy at Zendbox, with everything being reflected in the portal. TCP found this approach to be the most important part of solving their warehouse challenges.Once an order is received into the Zendportal, provided all the customer information is correct and the SKUs are in stock, the order is picked and packed in the next wave.
3. Delivered to the customer’s door
Zendbox works closely with shipping and courier partners to ensure the best service and rates, but what makes the difference for The Cheeky Panda is that this process is enhanced by technology. AI is used to determine the best courier for the order based on thousands of data points from hundreds of journeys. Taking into consideration location, speed, service and price, it will automatically select the best shipping supplier. Zendbox also enables notifications to be sent to customers by SMS alongside emails informing them of regular updates to their orders.
4. And beyond...
The driving urgency for The Cheeky Panda was its need for accuracy. Accuracy of stock levels, accuracy of picking orders, and accuracy in reporting. With Zendbox, they were able to access all of this and more which led to real, tangible results.
“Our experience with Zendbox has been to the high standards that I want my customers to experience from us, but what’s more is that they go further. As a certified B corp company, sustainability is a lifeforce to TCP and when we found that Zendbox supplied bespoke sustainable packaging that was plastic-free, it felt like the perfect match.”
One of the biggest benefits to Chris and Julie as business owners is the ability to not only trust a third-party to help them manage key operations, but to have access to the information they need, when they need it. If a query from a customer comes in, they can quickly access the answers they need, and they have the back-up of the Zendbox support team around the clock.
The new, hands off approach has revolutionised the way The Cheeky Panda operates. With automation simplifying the businesses processes and updating not only the website, but also the customer and stock levels automatically, there’s a failsafe that prevents overselling and prevents the customers from being disappointed.
“When you make a decision to move fulfilment provider, it’s not taken lightly because it could mean delays on some orders during the switch over, and an adjustment period to understand new systems but that didn’t happen with Zendbox; it was an easy onboarding experience and the implementation team was excellent."
"Since onboarding with Zendbox, everything has been delivered on time with razor sharp accuracy. We have not experienced any pick errors at all - the only problem that stops us selling more is running out of stock!“
"We’ve saved on operational costs because we spend less time managing and correcting errors, and costs such as delivery are now far more predictable."
Having dramatically changed the business by automating their eCommerce fulfilment with intelligent tools, the team at TCP can now rely on technology to deliver the service their customers expect.
Most importantly, this has allowed The Cheeky Panda to improve customer relationships and make sure that every experience they provide is a good one, resulting in a current 85% ‘excellent’ rating from reviews on Trustpilot.
All these benefits enabled more time to be spent in other areas of the business. A short time after partnering with Zendbox for fulfilment services, The Cheeky Panda was able to identify key areas that were holding them back. For example, Julie and her team now plan inventory distribution with the data they have, meaning their supply can now better meet demand.
Looking for future growth.
Based on its current success, The Cheeky Panda is projected to grow to £10 million in revenue in the next three to five years.
“Now we are in full control of how we service our customers thanks to Zendbox, we plan on helping more people benefit from bamboo harvesting and intend to have the biggest impact we can on our planet.
“Having toilet paper and other items delivered in bulk works better with the way we live in the modern world, and we’ve certainly reached new people through the rise in eCommerce brought on by the effects of COVID-19. We’re using this momentum, alongside our mission for a more sustainable world, to grow further this year and beyond."
Julie Chen | CEO & Co-founder, The Cheeky Panda