Software, mobile development, SaaS, and other tech companies that hire remotely are a dime-a-dozen: companies like Stripe, Buffer, and Coffee Meets Bagel are just a handful of those that benefit from working with top developers all over the world.
Remote workers are penetrating virtually every industry, not just technology. A survey by Upwork found that 63% of companies now have remote workers, and 90% of those working remotely plan to continue doing so for the rest of their careers. Even e-commerce companies are shifting to a remote-friendly culture. While it may seem disjointed to design and produce a physical product with a distributed team, these e-commerce retailers, wholesalers, and brands are harnessing the benefits of remote work. Here’s how they do it.
Tortuga is a fully-remote company that sells travel backpacks, duffels, and other luggage accessories. Their founder, Fred Perrotta, knew that as a travel company, remote work would be a core part of their business model. As a result, the team has been fully-distributed from the start.
Tortuga uses the traditional productivity tools that many remote companies utilize, like Slack. The biggest challenge to working remotely comes when the design team needs to sample different materials and hardware. “Soft goods, like bags, need to be physically handled. What does the material feel like? What will the shape be? What size is the bag? These are all questions that can’t be answered remotely,” notes Perrotta.
To mitigate this challenge, the team relies on snail mail. The product manager gets a sample from the factory. She makes her notes on the sample, noting what’s working and what’s not. Then, she mails the sample to another member of the team. At any given time, there are samples traveling from China, to California, to the East Coast, and back again. “It slows down the process, but it’s one of the better ways to make it work,” says Perrotta. Tortuga has found that despite the mailing costs and time investment, it’s more efficient than paying for an office.
Linjer is a direct-to-consumer, remote-first company that specializes in fine leather goods – comparable to luxury brands – at one-third of the price. Their business model allows the company to capture overhead cost savings and undercut their high-priced competitors. As Linjer describes, “We sell directly to customers, cutting out the unnecessary costs and crazy markups that make luxury watches and bags extraordinarily expensive. We pass the savings on to you, so you get the same quality at a 1/3 or 1/4 of the typical cost.”
Originally, Linjer offered 100% telecommute roles with alternative schedules. This model gives them the ability to cover multiple time zones and troubleshoot customer service issues in real-time. Inventory management and customer service are two roles where remote work can give e-commerce brands a distinct competitive edge. Today, the company is based in Hong Kong with tanneries in Italy, factories in Turkey and China, and design partners in Switzerland. The company ships to consumers in 40 countries in North America, Europe, Oceania, Asia, and the Middle East.
We expect some consumer-oriented products to realize the benefits of a remote team. For companies like Tortuga, working virtually allows them to tap into their consumer’s mindset. Likewise, technology companies and SaaS companies gain access to developers and engineers who can work around the clock on any time zone. But, the e-commerce companies that take advantage of virtual workers aren’t always what you would expect.
Forbes noted in a recent article that, “a newer trend...is that healthcare organizations have hopped on the remote work bandwagon too and actively hire specialists for part-time and full-time remote roles.” Stryker is an established B2B company that sells medical devices to the medical technology industry. It’s an interesting case of a big, corporate-style entity that’s embraced remote work to continuously rank among the best workplaces in the US. Stryker has won dozens of awards including:
The company does have a headquarters in Michigan, as well as a number of offices worldwide. However, Stryker has embraced virtual work to expand the reach of its more than 30,000 global employees. The brand recruits healthcare professionals and sales associates for more than 30 years of sales growth.
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