For every great idea in ecommerce, there’s at least one obstacle in the way of making it successful. More often, there are multiple challenges that teams face when bringing their vision to life.
This week, Zmags’ CEO Imad Mouline was joined by Sven Tarantik (VP of Digital, eCommerce & Brand) to discuss the biggest hurdles faced by his company, Nassau Candy, during its’ digital transformation. The webinar quantified some of the resource constraints that hold teams back, as well as the impact on revenue and productivity if you’re able to overcome them. Read on for highlights of the conversation.
Meeting High Customer Expectations in Ecommerce
Whether you work in ecommerce or not, you likely know that consumers have increasingly high expectations. Same day delivery, immediate availability, impeccable and friendly service. Pandemic era supply chain issues may have lessened some of the demands for quick gratification, but high expectations nevertheless persist around online experiences and communication.
In fact, a report from Emplifi found that 86% of consumers would leave a brand after as few as two poor experiences and 61% of consumers will pay at least 5% more if they know they’ll get a good customer experience. There’s no denying the revenue implications of meeting, or exceeding, customer expectations.
One of the most common expectations, especially for online shopping experiences, is a personalized interaction. McKinsey & Co found that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% of people get frustrated when that doesn’t happen.
To meet customer expectations in ecommerce, online stores need to offer many, if not all, of the following:
Ease of Navigation
Exceptional Site Performance (Speed)
Complete and Current Content
Self-Serve Help (Style and Fit Guides)
On-Demand Help (Chatbots and Live Support)
Social Proof & Reviews
Product Comparison tools
Resource Challenges Ecommerce Teams Face
There are four key resource challenges that are most commonly faced by ecommerce leaders. Truthfully, they’re likely challenged by more than one, if not all of them, at any given time. They are:
Insufficient, missing, or difficult to use technology
Too few people to get the needed work done
Too little time to execute top quality work
Budget limitations that might prevent them from solving for any of the above
Zmags recently commissioned an independent research study to examine more deeply the feelings ecommerce leaders in IT and Marketing hold about their tech stacks and their resource constraints, notably a lack of developer bandwidth. Based on responses from more than 300 ecommerce, retail, and consumer goods professionals across the US and UK, the 2023 Survey Report “Composable Commerce: Progress, Challenges & Possibilities” revealed that 81% of ecommerce leaders feel constrained by a lack of development resources – and that it limits what they’re able to accomplish with their ecommerce storefront.
Interestingly, this rang true for both IT and Marketing respondents, with roughly half of both groups seeing the constraint as either very or extremely significant.
Sven Tarantik, the Vice President of Digital, eCommerce & Brand for Nassau Candy, is quite familiar with both high customer expectations and the common challenges faced when trying to meet them. Nassau Candy is one of the largest US wholesale manufacturers of specialty and private label confections, supplying many of the national retailers and independent stores across the country. Despite selling to businesses, Sven knows all too well that his ecommerce website is used by people – and that the content and functionality his team provides is critical to maintaining strong customer relationships and selling more product.
The company’s ecommerce site was built initially to provide relief to the sales team as the business scaled. Returning buyers visited the site to place orders, which allowed the sales team to focus on winning new accounts. As such, the site didn’t offer much content (which was seen as a distraction). Rather, 98% of site visitors immediately went to the search bar to locate the specific product(s) they had bought previously, replenishing their stock.
It sounds counterintuitive to disrupt that path to purchase by trying to catch the buyer’s eye with something new. You’d think you’re risking your conversion rate if they can’t quickly place the order for what they came in to buy. But in reality, Nassau Candy soon saw larger baskets on average as well as more time spent on the site (which in turn led to the discovery of new products).
A Series of Hurdles to Overcome
So, was it technology, bandwidth, or budget challenges that stood in Nassau Candy’s way? “It’s actually all of the above,” revealed Sven. “I’m sure that resonates with a lot of people.”
Sven further compares the initial website build to a Lego project. Many years previously, the Nassau Candy web dev team put together a 5,000 piece “Lego Castle” that looked very much like the picture on the box, but was built with some deviations from the instruction manual. The end result was a fully functional site that served its purpose, but was not easy to modify. “Moving a window from the left side of the house to the right side of the house – that takes an act of Congress and a lot of time and resources.” As part of his Digital Transformation strategy, the website had to allow the team to be nimble and act quickly.
But the internal development team at Nassau Candy was small, and a shared resource for the entire organization. They couldn’t be available to Sven’s team all the time and had other projects to manage and prioritize. That meant that on top of the technical rigidity of the site, there weren’t sufficient people hours available to override that challenge.
As for budget, Sven agrees that it’s always a factor. But it’s less about the dollars and cents, and more about justifying the investment in something through a quantifiable ROI. And that ROI doesn’t necessarily mean revenue (though that’s always nice). It’s important to take a holistic view of the business and what’s gained or achieved through certain financial investments.
Steps to Getting Started on Digital Transformation
Sven’s approach to tackling a huge digital transformation project is a phased one. “Everything that we do on my team is phased out in a crawl, walk, run, approach. I'm a firm believer that boiling the ocean never works. And you know we're okay to fail as long as we get up, and we figure out how to move forward."
The Crawl stage for Nassau Candy included launching a digital catalogue. For nearly 100 years in business, the company had produced seasonal printed catalogues to promote holiday specialties alongside its standard stock. Over time the catalogue had gotten smaller as businesses moved their browsing online, but the sales team still used the printed catalogues regularly and found them useful. The middle ground was to create a digital version of the catalogue, allowing the team to leverage it with customers, but reducing the workload and printing costs that the marketing team faced to create it.
Sven shares, “I thought there must be a solution provider out there that can help us. I found [Zmags], and I got introduced to the Creator platform initially and the capabilities that were there, and I thought – wow, we haven't even implemented this for the core function that I'm asking for, which is, I just want to be able to create a shoppable catalog. And here I am thinking, with all of these additional features that frankly, we're starting to check off a bunch of items that I had in my walk phase. Obviously anything that would allow me the opportunity to sort of leapfrog something on my plan was exciting.”
While integrating a new technology to empower the Nassau Candy marketing team to control the ecommerce site content on their own still relied on a small project from the strapped web dev team, Sven describes it as a “front-loading of a little bit of activity with our developers to make the integration complete." He continues, “When we compared it to offsetting what it would cost to build out some of these other things in the walk or run phase of our plan, it made that decision pretty simple for us.”
Productivity Gains that Make it All Worthwhile
Nassau Candy’s in-house creative team (covering photography and design) is critical to maintaining the high brand standards. Much like the development team, they were juggling dozens of projects and competing priorities. Sven explains, “When I realized some of the efficiencies in using the platform, and frankly, the stark decrease that it was going to have on the efforts and the amount of time it took for projects to go live, it made sense.”
He continues, “My team felt more empowered, and our customers obviously noticed. Everything led to an increase in sales and net net, everybody's happy.” The overall productivity increase is clear. “There were pieces of content that we have right now on our live site that pre-Zmags would have taken weeks to build and implement. And there's one in particular that now we can update in less than five minutes. And that's amazing because that that allows us to go from a web page or a home page that's had content sitting on there, for in some cases a month or two months, and now you will see something new on NassauCandy.com every single day."
And the best part? Every new thing you see on their site looks delicious.