The civilian drone segment is a large, new emerging field, and I-Drone happens to be a main driver in fulfilling this need in the market. I-Drone, a one-year-old enterprise based in Australia with offices in both Brisbane and Melbourne, sells drones online. A large segment of their customers are composed of hobby enthusiasts who fly their drones over the weekend in parks. Other than that, I-Drone also caters to commercial customers, and custom-build drones for organisations such as universities and production companies.
A lot of the drones from I-Drone are in the $1,500 mark, with custom-build, big ones made of over 20 components going up to $15,000, and they manage all that through TradeGecko. They need to keep track of stock levels, and allocate items for both internal building of drones and for I-Drone customers.
I-Drone also has a sister company, SWARM UAV, that offers professional photography and cinematography services from drones, heavily involved in filming events for dirt bikes, real estate companies, and advertising agencies.
“When we were looking for a solution for our stock management, it was really important that we pick the right one, because our retail manager is in Melbourne – he’s interacting with the customers here over the phone and online whereas the distribution, packing, and assembling is all done in Brisbane so they’re in separate locations. Everyone needs to be on the same page. The system we put in place has to be really smooth and let us track what’s happening as a team to avoid anything getting left behind,” says Ryan Hamlet, Project Manager at I-Drone.
“TradeGecko really helps our flow because we were getting bottlenecked before.”
I-Drone started off by having a WordPress ecommerce site using WooCommerce, and gradually implementing their backend support piece by piece as TradeGecko is integrated with WooCommerce. The final bit was syncing TradeGecko with Xero accounting software. Once it was done, their backend processes are tied together seamlessly.
“We’ve gotten to a point now where it’s very automated and smooth across these three platforms – it’s taking a lot of the manual work out of the picture.”
For example, some of the I-Drone products are just one item in a box – it’s really straightforward, but some of the drones have close to twenty different product SKUs that make up one product. So if one of those smaller components happens to be out of stock, it will automatically be updated through TradeGecko into WooCommerce, switching the product availability status from ‘Buy Now’ to ‘Pre-order’ on the website.
“And functions and features like that are really helpful to us, so we don’t oversell on a product. This way we’re never disappointing customers because we always understand exactly where we sit stock-wise.”
In addition, the guys at I-Drone are huge fans of the TradeGecko system user interface and how user friendly it is. “We can just drag and drop photos for each product, helping us tell our products apart because some of them can be fairly technical in name and it’s hard to tell one set of propellers from another set of propellers, so having the pictures there make a lot o difference.”
Furthermore, they feel that having an inventory management system that is web-based yet quick as a desktop product is another big bonus as they are always on the move. “Also, using the TradeGecko Mobile Catalog & Sales Ordering App on the iPad is amazing. We’ve set it up such that the retail manager has it on his phone, I’ve got it on my iPad Mini, and we use it as a mobile catalog. A lot of our products have similar names, so to be able to visually tell them apart is a strong point in the industry."
There are about five big online stores in Australia selling similar products, and competition is incredibly high between them. For instance, when a new product is launched, it comes down to who can get the most number of pre-orders and the number of units the suppliers allocate to each reseller.
Moreover, a key characteristic about the civilian drones market is that it is very fast moving, with new technologies coming up once every fortnight. So if something is delayed, the market could be in a (drastically) different position. Thus the last situation organisations would want to be in is to get stuck with old stock, or be behind time on new stock.
“So stock management and visibility are key for us; we have to know how many units we have in play and the amount of purchase orders at any point in time.”
I-Drone adopts an extremely customer focused stance with regards to their service. They speak to a lot of their customers via live chats or phone calls before they buy, which is a rare phenomenon for ecommerce businesses. Their customers have varying degrees of knowledge on drones, but most of them are looking for a consultative-selling approach that is right up I-Drone’s alley. Whereas a lot their competition don’t provide that kind of interaction.
The I-Drone guys really see value in building relationships with customers, and thus refrain from competing on a price line basis – a subpar long-term strategy as compared to the former.
“You need to keep your customers informed, both before and after they buy. We found that the more we communicate, the more we sell. So we try to talk to them on a daily basis – via live chats, newsletters, blog posts, etc.”
I-Drone also offers assessment and repair services in the event where customers crash their drones. Furthermore, they are in the midst of developing their own training flight school (coming later this year), for potential customers to learn how to fly drones before they get a drone or after they have made a purchase.
In the next five years, I-Drone is looking at opening a retail flagship store for their products, complete with a showroom offering unique, hands-on shopping experiences for customers to try drones out before they decide to get one. “TradeGecko will be a big part of the future of the business. The industry is only going to get bigger, and we grow as TradeGecko grows because it fits us so perfectly. It’s all very exciting.”