After starting out of a farmers market in New Hampshire in 1991, Stonewall Kitchen has grown to become an international specialty foods retailer with more than 450 products and a team of 500.
What it didn’t have, until recently, was an updated online presence.
“We had a pretty antiquated website,” says Janine Somers, director of marketing and direct-to-consumer sales for the company based in York, Maine. It lacked mobile capabilities and the company was unable to conduct in-depth data analytics.
What’s more, the previous site had been custom-built, which made it difficult to update. If a developer left, their replacement wouldn’t know how the site was built. “We had a really tough time maintaining it,” Somers says, “let alone updating it.”
When it came time to re-do the site, Stonewall Kitchen also decided to shift from a custom system to an out-of-the-box system hosted in the cloud to take advantage of the automatic updates a cloud system would provide.
Stonewall Kitchen’s search led the company to Commerce Cloud and Einstein Analytics from Salesforce.com, a provider of customer relationship management systems. Commerce Cloud enables retailers to connect with consumers online and via mobile sites, social media, ecommerce marketplaces and physical stores, says Rob Garf, vice president of industry strategy and insights with Salesforce.
“What we provide is a digital commerce platform,” he says.
Einstein Analytics, which officially launched in June of 2017, adds a layer of artificial intelligence to the analytics workflow. “It’s not just access to information, but predictive analytics,” Garf says. With it, companies can deliver more predictive, personalized customer experiences without having to employ an army of data scientists.
A collaborative effort
Stonewall Kitchen signed up for Einstein before it launched. “We included it in our contract because we knew it was going to be really important for our upcoming strategy,” Somers says. The build-out of the new site took between six and eight months; it launched in March 2016.
Because Salesforce has been cloud-based since its inception, it’s able to cost-effectively scale up and down, Garf says, so retailers of all sizes can leverage it. “It works for any consumer brand that wants to control the digital experience.”
Users can tap into Salesforce’s broad network of technology partners to assist in their implementations. Implementation times for ecommerce sites with Commerce Cloud are roughly one-third faster than with many competitors, Garf says, citing research conducted by Salesforce and Forrester.
Salesforce customers don’t have to build their own infrastructure and can leverage technology partners that have pre-built integrations. The system integrates with most major enterprise resource planning, inventory and point-of-sale systems.
The implementation effort at Stonewall Kitchen was a collaborative effort, Somers says. Although she didn’t assume responsibility for the direct-to-consumer channel until July of last year, she was involved in the design of the new site along with ecommerce and finance teams. The information systems group assisted with integrations to other systems, and the customer service group helped develop a new order processing tool.
Stonewall Kitchen was able to test several new features before they were more generally released. “Being part of those beta tests allowed us to get sort of a sneak peak,” Somers says. With the checkout process, “we really focus on trying to make that as easy as possible, looking for ways to reduce clicks and get the consumer through that process as quickly as possible,” she says. “The upgrade and navigation is literally night and day from our other website.”
Another leap forward was in mobile. Stonewall Kitchen didn’t have a mobile site prior to last March; for the twelve months ending March 31, 2017, mobile visits jumped from 500,000 to 766,000, an increase of 53 percent. The number of transactions nearly doubled, rising from 6,760 to 13,228, and the conversion rate rose from 1.35 percent to 1.73 percent.
The results from Einstein have been equally dramatic. An email sent to customers and prospects who hadn’t opened an email in more than six months led to a 9.7 percent click rate and a 4 percent conversion rate.
For the twelve months ending March 31, 2017, mobile visits jumped by 53 percent and the number of transactions nearly doubled.
“This is really excellent, given that the list is non-engaged,” Somers says. Year-to-date, the Einstein recommendations have resulted in $182,000 in attributable revenue. “It’s definitely influenced the selection and conversion of about 10 percent of our year-to-date product revenue generated,” she says.
Stonewall Kitchen has been running a promotion in which it shows a row of four products recommended by Einstein to online customers whose shopping carts are empty. Year-to-date, more than four of five customers who clicked on one of the products added it to their carts, Somers says; of those, 40 percent made a purchase.
To achieve these results, Stonewall Kitchen had to learn to trust the system. Previously, employees would look at a customer’s transaction history and assume, for instance, an individual who purchased pancake and waffle mix last month was a strong candidate for syrup this month. While that might be true, they learned to let Einstein take a closer look.
“One of the things that they really drilled into our minds and our heads was to let [Einstein] Predictive do its thing,” Somers says.
Many analytical systems work with shoppers already known to the retailer, Garf says — Einstein works with customers who are both known and unknown. “Especially with customers that are unknown, we collect information, search and browse and match against similar individuals to deliver the right content, product and price,” he says.
Einstein lets sales associates in physical stores use mobile devices to “change the dynamic from ‘check out’ to ‘check in’,” Garf says. At one retailer, once a customer enters the store, the associate extends a greeting and then asks for their name. By entering the name into the system, the associate can see the individual’s profile, shopping history, participation in the loyalty program and even the products in their shopping cart.
“Armed with that rich information, the store associate can offer personalized questions and recommendations,” Garf says. “It’s not just access to information, but predictive recommendations. And it’s not about displacing the store associates, but empowering them.”
At year-end 2016, Stonewall Kitchen’s direct-to-consumer business had jumped 23 percent from its 2016 performance; its website business alone had grown by nearly one-third.
Commerce Cloud incorporates A/B testing interfaces within the business manager interface, making it easy to measure performance. Along with the financial results, the fact that Stonewall Kitchen has access to and can analyze this data is exciting, Somers says.
“Now we can test and try new things.”
Karen Kroll is a business writer based in Minnetonka, Minn.