How to Cut Down the Costs of Your Ecommerce Business—& Still Grow It

John LeBaron

February 2, 2021

Running an ecommerce brand is not like running a lemonade stand—there’s a lot less lemonade involved, for one thing. Not only do you have to manufacture your product, you have to spend time and resources to distribute it, advertise it, sell it, and ship it. All those costs can add up quickly, until pretty soon, you’re saying goodbye to a good chunk of your profits because of marketplace complexity and logistics.

The goal is to be profitable long-term, and to that end, it’s good to take a look at the areas where you’re spending the most and see where there are opportunities to save.

Where do ecommerce costs come from?

There are a few big culprits that can suck away most of your spending if you don’t have a good strategy or partner. They are:

  • Advertising
  • Agency costs
  • Distribution and logistics
  • Personnel
  • International hires
  • Distributor margins

Advertising

Advertising is crucial for the growth and profitability of your brand. We don’t need to tell you this. What we also don’t need to tell you is that setting an advertising budget can be overwhelming. You have to consider your industry, your competition, your profit margins, and a myriad of other factors to determine the right amount to spend and when to spend it.

You can either attempt to do that on your own, or you can hire an outside agency or two and end up coughing up a few thousand dollars every month. Either way, without a good strategy and support, advertising can get spendy very quickly—especially when relying on outside agencies who are incentivized to have you increase ad spend.

Agency costs

Most brands, lacking the time, resources, and expertise to do everything on their own, will hire an agency to manage their brand instead (i.e. a design agency, marketing agency, ad agency). This is a very common strategy, one that makes sense for a lot of brands, but the reality is that it’s inefficient and cost prohibitive.

Paying for even just one agency can cost you several thousand dollars a month, and with most agencies, you’re looking at a contractual agreement of several months to several years. Add one or two or three more agencies into the mix, and overtime, you’re spending a generous chunk of change on somebody else’s business, who’s more incentivized to spend your money than to help you save.

Not only that, but managing one agency, let alone multiple, can quickly turn your ecommerce team of experts into a team of project managers and taskmasters without enough hours in the day to execute on their own jobs.

Distribution, logistics, & personnel

Where are you shipping your product from? Do you have the infrastructure and tools to manage everything? Do you have the means to get your products from Point A to Point B? How about staff? How many do you need to hire to handle, package, and ship your product? How many can you afford? These are all things you have to think about when assessing costs, and all of them add up.

International hires/agencies

Once you expand your business out of the domestic sphere and focus on growing internationally, you can expect—you guessed it—even greater costs. You’re having to pay for international agencies with boots on the ground, advertising, and platform fees just to start in addition to the agencies and resources you’re already paying for at home.

Margins

Without control of your brand online, your prices can and probably will be eroded by unauthorized sellers. This can damage the margins of your brick and mortar distributors as well as your online distributors so they’re unable to sell your products at a cost that’s worth it to them.

As a result, you’ll either need to take the hit and lower the wholesale cost of your products so distributors can afford to sell them, or those distributors may stop purchasing your product altogether. It’s bad for your brand and it’s bad for your wallet, and you’ll need to devote time and resources towards maintaining control of your brand in addition to everything else to avoid it.

How Pattern cuts your costs

Ultimately, doing business the same old way you always have, outsourcing your brand management to too many third-party players, and trying to do it all yourself are good ways to miss out on big growth opportunities and lose money. A solution to all of that is Pattern.

Pattern operates differently than any single agency your brand has worked with before. That’s because its model is radically different. At Pattern, we consolidate every resource you need, including data analysis, advertising and marketing, international expertise, control, and distribution, so you can cut out all those middle men, save time, and save money.

Profitability-minded, aligned incentives

Only 11% of Pattern’s revenue goes toward running our business. That means you’ll have far less costs with a Pattern partnership than you will with any one agency. Agencies and the brands they work with frequently have misaligned incentives. An agency might be incentivized to spend more because they’re being paid on commission, for example, or cut corners to spend your ad dollars on cheaper keywords that don’t drive incremental sales whatsoever.

At Pattern, your incentives are our incentives. Every brand manager you’ll work with is incentivized not to spend your money, but help you hit your goals and growth targets so you’re making money long-term. We also give you more flexibility than agencies do—most Pattern contracts only require a 60-day commitment.

Expertise at no added cost

Removing spendy middle men isn’t the only way Pattern helps you cut costs. We tackle your data analysis, marketing, SEO, brand control, packaging, and shipping, which means you don’t have to pay additional hires to cover every corner of your business, and you don’t need to worry that your profits are quietly being eaten away online. Then when you’re ready to take your brand international, we’ve got teams on the ground in every major market in the world to make the transition as seamless and cost-effective as possible.

In a Pattern partnership, we take care of the logistics. All you need to do is pay for advertising, and even then, we’ve got that boiled down to a science with rules-based software that helps you bring your ad spend down and make it as effective as possible so your conversion rates go up.

For more information on how Pattern can help you save, contact us using the form below.

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Slowing Inflation is Music to Consumers’ Ears
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Slowing Inflation is Music to Consumers’ Ears

**Instrument Pricing Changes Tune Amid Record Inflation** Compared to 2022, consumers should expect to pay more for musical instruments, but the rate of inflation shows signs of slowing. **The backstory:** America’s most popular musical instruments saw a notable price increase in 2022 compared to 2021, but the rate of inflation eased in Q4 ’22. **Why it matters:** Slowing inflation within this product category could indicate economic pressures like increased demand, rising labor costs, and supply chain disruptions are easing across the consumer landscape. **What we’re seeing:** The average cost of musical instruments increased 7.5% from 2021 – 2022; however, when analyzing individual increases year over year, some instruments saw price increases as high as 21%. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for Instruments — 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Bar Chart" id="datawrapper-chart-02Lwk" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/02Lwk/2/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="379" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * Trombones experienced a 21.73% increase compared to 2021 * Trumpets +20.08% * Flutes +18.6% * Recorders +16.13% * Saxophones +13.63% * Clarinets +10.55% * Drums +5.41% * Ukuleles +5.17% **However:** Inflation among these same instruments was significantly less in Q4 ’22 compared to Q4 ’21. In some cases, prices decreased from Q4 ’21 – Q4 ‘22: <iframe title="Price Change for Instruments — Q4 2022 vs. Q4 2021" aria-label="Bar Chart" id="datawrapper-chart-6X6GZ" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/6X6GZ/2/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="379" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * Trombones +11.23% * Flutes +10.41% * Saxophones +5.94% * Clarinets +5.59% * Trumpets +3.10% * Recorders +2.85% * Drums -2.59% * Ukuleles -8.46% **Moreover:** Certain instruments saw inflation reverse in 2022. On average, prices for melodicas, guitars, and violas saw their prices decrease by 4.41%, 3.19%, and 0.97%, respectively. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for Instruments — 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Bar Chart" id="datawrapper-chart-0Tefk" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/0Tefk/3/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="259" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> **Diving Deeper:** Inflation was more significant when comparing Q4 ’21 to Q4 ’20 than when comparing Q4 ’22 to Q4 ’21, indicating a slowing down of price increases for consumers. <iframe title="YOY Q4 Price Change for Instruments — 2020 – 2022" aria-label="Stacked Bars" id="datawrapper-chart-p6iqt" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/p6iqt/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="206" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * In Q4 ’21, average prices for all instruments were up 8.89% compared to Q4 ’20. * When comparing Q4 ’22 to Q4 ’21, the average price for all instruments only increased by 2.65%. **The takeaway:** While consumers should expect to pay higher prices for instruments this year, overall inflation impact within this product category appears to be slowing down. With National Ukulele Day coming up on February 2, now is a great time for ecommerce brands to take advantage of slowing economic worries and reach new consumers. * Want Pattern’s data science team to power your brand with consumer insights like these? Contact us to [request more information](https://pattern.com/contact-us/) today.

Slowing Inflation? What Musical Instrument Pricing Tells Us
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Slowing Inflation? What Musical Instrument Pricing Tells Us

It’s safe to say consumers and brands alike are eager for a change to the pattern of rising inflation, steadily increasing in many ecommerce categories . Pattern’s internal team’s data scientists analysis of instrument pricing shows a glimmer of hope that inflation may be slowing, which would be great news for brands selling online.

At Pattern, we’re interested in and monitoring trends and news related to pricing since price is a key factor in a brand’s profitability (as explained in the Ecommerce Equation). When brands are able to optimize their price, conversions, and traffic, they can optimize their profitability. And profitability leads to better allocation of resources, better brand control, and gives leaders the ability to expand their presence to new markets worldwide.

YoY Instrument Pricing Increased at a Slower Pace

When analyzing the pricing changes of instruments from 2021 to 2022, our teams found that prices increased, but at a slower rate than from 2020 to 2021.

As shown below, the year over year Q4 changes show quite a lower rate of increase.

Inflation Improvements Raise Profitability

Because inflation impacts online shopping behaviors, lower inflation can lead to better overall profitability for brands. This idea, of course, is nuanced, but Pattern’s Ecommerce Equation can help illustrate the general principle.

When inflation rises, consumers change their spending habits. Shoppers spend more time researching products, forego premium, higher-priced brands, and buy more in bulk. Brands tend to see a loss of loyalty as they’re forced to raise prices.

Price is a key variable in the Ecommerce Equation: price x conversion x traffic = profitability. As inflation lowers, brands can expect better performance in all of these areas—more traffic as spending habits return to normal, higher conversion from returning customers, and price that better fits consumer demand. As inflation lowers and these variables stabilize, brands will see profitability increase.

Raise Your Profitability with Pattern

As an ecommerce accelerator, Pattern is obsessed with gathering data that helps our brand partners succeed. We’ve created best-in-class technology, models, and analytics to understand changes on the horizon and inform our decisions. With an incredible team of data obsessed Pattern employees, we see what makes the difference in truly great ecommerce performance and apply those learnings for brand partners. 

Ready to improve your profitability? Contact us here.

Inflation hits LEGO, but lighter than you’d suspect
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Inflation hits LEGO, but lighter than you’d suspect

**Some sets get more expensive, while others become cheaper** In June 2022, LEGO announced it would be increasing the prices of their sets. Ever since, consumers anticipated their favorite plastic construction toy prices to increase [by as much as 25%](https://9to5toys.com/2022/06/02/lego-officially-confirms-price-increases-coming-to-most-sets-later-this-fall/). **Why it matters:** Consumers are feeling the sting of inflation in all areas of their lives, from groceries and gas to entertainment. With LEGO Day right around the corner (January 28th), fans may wonder whether it’s a good time to purchase a set. **What we’re seeing:** While inflation continues to ravage the economy, consumers are seeing a small reprieve when it comes to the pricing of LEGO sets. Despite the anticipated 25% price increase, average prices among the top LEGO sets only increased by 4.7% year over year when comparing Q4 2022 to Q4 2021. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for All LEGO Sets – 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Interactive line chart" id="datawrapper-chart-3gn9L" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/3gn9L/3/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="393" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> * During this same period, annual prices for some of the most popular LEGO sets were up as much as 23%. <iframe title="U.S. Price Change for LEGO Sets – Q4 22 vs. Q4 21" aria-label="Split Bars" id="datawrapper-chart-vh7B2" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/vh7B2/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="708" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> **Yes, but:** Prices of other popular sets were down by as much as -12% during this same period. Depending on the kit, consumers might actually find some popular LEGO sets have gotten less expensive since 2021: * LEGO Star Wars Imperial Probe Droid was down -6% in Q4 2022 vs. Q4 2021 * LEGO Creator Tuk Tuk was down -7% * LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Millennium Falcon was down -10% * LEGO Ideas Tree House Business Kit was down -12% **However:** Even for the sets that experienced a price decrease, the decrease was less significant in Q4 2022 as set prices increased across the board following the June 2022 announcement. <iframe title="YOY Price Change for Individual LEGO Sets – 2022 vs. 2021" aria-label="Interactive line chart" id="datawrapper-chart-KjSXz" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/KjSXz/1/" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" style="width: 0; min-width: 100% !important; border: none;" height="400" data-external="1"></iframe><script type="text/javascript">!function(){"use strict";window.addEventListener("message",(function(e){if(void 0!==e.data["datawrapper-height"]){var t=document.querySelectorAll("iframe");for(var a in e.data["datawrapper-height"])for(var r=0;r<t.length;r++){if(t[r].contentWindow===e.source)t[r].style.height=e.data["datawrapper-height"][a]+"px"}}}))}(); </script> **The takeaway:** While prices didn’t increase as much as consumers anticipated, inflation still had an effect on the cost of LEGO sets. As ecommerce brands prepare for increased demand ahead of LEGO Day, they could increase customer interest in all sets by promoting the sets that have seen a price decrease. * Pattern’s data science team analyzes consumer demand on Amazon to understand how economic forces impact pricing and shopping behavior. If you’re interested in using insights like these to propel your ecommerce strategy forward, [contact our team today. ](https://pattern.com/contact-us/)