How Automation Helped a Solar-Power Equipment Installer Start a Hugely Successful E-Commerce Business
In the span of a decade, Frank Molina went from doing boots-on-the-ground work installing solar-power equipment parts to owning one of the biggest solar-power brands in the ecommerce space: Stellavolta.
Frank began installing solar-power equipment parts (solar panels and related equipment) in 2008. Back then, he was barely doing any retail at all, let alone selling in the ecommerce space.
“The retail part of our business was very tiny. In fact, we were only selling stuff at events when we started out. We would go to events, and we’d have to take some product with us and hope people would buy it there.”
By 2012, Frank had gone from installing solar-power equipment in residential spaces to installing it in large commercial spaces. He realized that he could scale his business even more by exploring other distribution models, so he started prioritizing getting his business into the ecommerce space.
Once he started doing online retail, his business was never the same.
“Now we are only retail distributors of solar-power system components, so that’s how our business has changed [since 2008]. I would say that was a pretty big change.”
By focusing on online distribution, Frank was able to transform his installation business into an ecommerce giant. However, that transformation didn’t happen overnight.
Once his company started prioritizing ecommerce, Frank began doing research on how to automate different aspects of the business. One of the main aspects he was concerned about was how to monitor and update the selling prices of all the items his business was selling. This became increasingly difficult as his business grew from selling a few items to a few hundred items.
“We had a few hundred listings at that point, so monitoring the prices for every product was a very, very time-consuming process. We were just calculating prices with a calculator, paper, and pencil — we were calculating what price would be our minimum and then we would enter that. Then we’d have to constantly go into the marketplaces and change pricing, and it was a very time-consuming process.”
Frank realized that he would never be able to scale his business if this process continued.
“When you’re spending so much time [changing prices], it restricts your growth because instead of doing other things, you’re going into a marketplace and you’re changing the prices.”
Frank knew he wanted to expand his business, so he did an online search for “how to update prices automatically” and came across the term repricer — a tool that will automatically change your prices based on a variety of conditions that you set. He compared various repricers and decided to try the free trial of Informed, which he has now been using for the past six years.
When looking at how his business has grown since he first started using Informed, Frank cites the automated price changes that Informed provides as one of the key factors in the tremendous growth of his business.
“By Informed changing our prices on Amazon, it saved us a tremendous amount of time. That time enabled our business to grow into the thousands of listings that we have today because we could free our time to do other stuff. It would not be possible for us to price the several thousand listings that we have today without a repricer and have the same kind of growth that we’re experiencing.”
Frank operates under the philosophy that time is money, which is why he has looked to automate different areas of his business. Although he has to pay a monthly fee for automation tools, he considers the time he’s saving by doing so to be worth the investment.
“I’m so back-logged and I have so little time. We have to automate as much of our operations as possible, so that we can focus on customer service, being competitive, and growth. Informed is instrumental in helping us achieve these goals and it also helps us keep our costs down. Not just money costs, but time costs.”
In addition to saving time, Frank also knows that tools like Informed save money in the long-run.
“[Without Informed], we’d have to pay a person [to change prices] manually. That would increase our costs and consequently reduce our growth.”
Informed offers a variety of algorithmic repricing strategies, such as a Get the Buy Box algorithm that strategically adjusts prices until you win the Buy Box, but Frank likes to build his own custom strategies for his listings using the Build Your Own strategy option. For sellers like Frank who are interested in building a fully customized repricing strategy, Informed provides the tools to do so.
“I’ve just been really happy with how the Build Your Own strategy offerings that Informed provides have been working, and you all can see our growth over the last six years since we joined Informed, so you know it’s working.”
Other than the Build Your Own strategy option, Frank’s favorite thing about Informed is how easy it is to use. Running a business and trying to set up new tools can be overwhelming, so user-friendliness is a priority for Frank.
“I like that it’s very easy to click on listings. I really like that we can open multiple tabs, that makes it really easy to work with because some times I’ll split screens and I’ll work on multiple products simultaneously. The Listings page within Informed is just really, really great. It’s comfortable, it’s easy to use, and it’s easy to work in. That’s definitely what I love the most.”
Six years after he first tried the free trial, Informed is still one of Frank’s favorite tools to help him run his business.
“Informed is one of our essential tools. We’re in [Informed] every single day. That’s how much a part of our business it is.”
Thanks to automating his business with tools like Informed, Frank has recently been able to break into a new ecommerce space: private label.
“We just started getting our feet wet with private label products in the camping and outdoor gear category.”
As a result of focusing on growth and using tools like Informed, Frank has been able to go from climbing onto rooftops installing solar panels, to having thousands of SKUs in the solar-power equipment space, has expanded into additional categories, and will have greater flexibility to capitalize on new opportunities in the future.
Want to save time, make more money, and grow your business? Try Informed for free for 14 days.