Name: Andrew Nicol, Founder and CEO
Business: Element Brooklyn
Year founded: 2021
Based in: Brooklyn, United States
Solutions: smart order routing, Shopify Shipping, order management, fulfillment, inventory management
Element Brooklyn is an eco-friendly luxury products company created by founder and CEO Andrew Nicol out of a desire to help the environment.
Andrew, who comes from a family of scientists and has a background in corporate law, found that environmentally conscious options were limited at the high end of the soaps and candles market. Many brands package goods with excessive plastic and don’t offer refills, which means the customer pays for the same expensive, wasteful packaging each time they make a repeat purchase. So Andrew set out to provide an alternative.
What’s more, he noticed that although many brands use terms like “vegan,” “eco-friendly,” or “clean,” they are defined differently by different companies, withs no real standardization for what these claims mean.
To solve this problem, Element Brooklyn provides alternatives for its customers’ favorite luxury items that better serve the environment, providing refillable, cruelty-free products that use less plastic and packaging materials.
One of the bigger challenges Andrew faced in starting Element Brooklyn was figuring out how to ship a heavy liquid product in a way that would meet his goals of fast delivery, affordable shipping, and sustainability.
Thanks to Shopify and the launch of its smart order routing feature, Element Brooklyn found a better way to address these challenges, allowing the company to:
- Bring fulfillment closer to the end customer, reducing the carbon footprint on the environment with fewer delivery miles
- Reduce delivery time by an average of 1.2 days and use next-day shipping for 94% of orders
- Save $1.14 on average per order in shipping costs
- Improve the customer experience and reduce average shipping costs by eliminating split fulfillments
- Save employee time that was previously spent on manual fulfillment and order routing workflows
With inventory that consists mostly of heavy, fragile products filled with liquid, keeping shipping costs down while delivering items intact was a challenge. Element Brooklyn needed a cost-effective and sustainable method to get products to its customers.
To address this, the company opened its own fulfillment centers across the United States, with locations in New York, Florida, and Arizona. By fulfilling and shipping orders in house, Element Brooklyn is able to package orders more carefully, reducing the likelihood of damage during transit, while also bringing fulfillment closer to the customer in order to minimize impact on the environment.
“Shipping is by far our number one expense—it’s more than the cost of the product and more than the cost of labor,” says Andrew. “Whether the business was going to be successful really kind of depended on whether we were going to be able to get these items to our customer affordably and without any damage happening.”
Shipping is by far our number one expense—it’s more than the cost of the product and more than the cost of labor.
Using Shopify’s previous delivery settings, the company could specify that West Coast orders be fulfilled from the Arizona warehouse, and East Coast orders from the Brooklyn warehouse. However, if the Arizona warehouse was out of stock for a specific order item, the customer would be prevented from checking out, which was a problem. In many cases, the Element Brooklyn team would override this issue with some manual workarounds, but it was a tedious, imperfect process.
To streamline shipping and fulfillment processes, as well as lower costs, Element Brooklyn turned to Shopify’s smart order routing. This feature automatically routes orders to the best fulfillment location based on a series of rules set and ranked by the merchant. Merchants can prioritize these rules based on different criteria, like staying within the destination market of the customer, shipping from the closest location to the customer, minimizing split fulfillments, or prioritizing certain locations. As an order comes through, Shopify automatically checks which fulfillment locations have that inventory available, applying the order routing logic set to determine which location that order gets sent to.
In Element Brooklyn’s case, order routing parameters are set up for US-based orders, whereas Canada-based orders use shipping profiles to ship exclusively from the Brooklyn warehouse.
For US orders, Element Brooklyn set its order routing logic to:
With this order routing logic in place, Element Brooklyn no longer needs to worry about items being out of stock when a customer checks out. Orders are now automatically assigned to the best possible location where those inventory items are available, as well as the location closest to the customer’s delivery address.
“Before using smart order routing in Shopify, getting to the point where we could deliver orders quickly within one day required a lot of messing around with the system’s configuration and manually changing the way orders were being handled,” says Andrew. “Now we can deliver over 94% of our orders in one business day.”
Now we can deliver over 94% of our orders in one business day.
In addition to order routing, Element Brooklyn uses Shopify to manage and track inventory, giving it an accurate and reliable view of product quantities across locations.
For shipping, Element Brooklyn chose industry-leading rates with Shopify Shipping. This allows the company to buy and print labels directly from the admin, further streamlining and centralizing the fulfillment process.
Using Shopify as its centralized platform, Element Brooklyn has also been able to simplify its internal workflows, making it faster and more affordable to train new employees. “I love Shopify Shipping and the built-in inventory management features because I don’t have to train our employees to use any third-party tools,” says Andrew. “I can train someone how to use Shopify in 30 minutes. They can intuitively just do it all through the one platform.”
With help from Shopify’s smart order routing, inventory management, and Shopify Shipping, Element Brooklyn is saving money. “Being able to ship from a location that’s closer to the customer saves us $1.14 on shipping, on average, per order, which is substantial. It’s a huge cost savings for us,” says Andrew.
Being able to ship from a location that’s closer to the customer saves us $1.14 on shipping on average per order.
What's more, Shopify has contributed to an average reduction of 1.2 days in delivery time, while also eliminating the need for split fulfillments on nearly all orders. “This provides the additional benefit of getting customers their order faster than ever,” says Andrew. “All of the evidence in ecommerce shows that speedy delivery helps improve customer retention.”
Thanks to efficiencies provided by Shopify, Element Brooklyn is operating more affordably. This has helped the business to scale, driving a 20% month-on-month growth rate for the past 12 months.
As Element Brooklyn looks ahead, the company will be announcing multiple upcoming partnerships with refilleries, allowing customers to bring their own containers or packaging to the store to purchase its eco-friendly refill products. The company is proud of its continuous growth and the positive impact it is making on the environment.