Nov 11 2020

Being Holiday Ready – In Conversation With HealthyPlanet Canada

Shireesh Gupta

Marketing Specialist


We at Unbxd take Holiday Season seriously with an added dose of fun and fervor because we know how important this period is for our customers. The holiday season accounts for 18-20% of the revenue for online stores. With our AI-powered Commerce search, we ensure that each holiday season means more celebrations for our valued customers. 

Healthy Planet Canada is a valued customer using Unbxd's AI-powered site search to offer a relevant and contextual search for its shoppers. As a result, better product discovery translates to higher conversions because shoppers can find the products they came looking for in the first place. Because they had an incredible buying experience, they keep returning to these online retailers. 

Last week, we talked with Saif Shahid, Manager, eCommerce, and Omni-Channe with Healthy Planet Canada to have a peek-a-boo into what's cooking with Healthy Planet Canada for holiday readiness!

Lauren Cucina, Unbxd's dynamic Account Executive, dug into quite a few details to make the talk interesting and engaging for the audience. Here's a transcript of the conversation.

Lauren: Saif, why don't you start by telling us about yourself and Healthy Planet?

Saif: Hello, everyone, Thanks Lauren for having me. A little bit about myself and Healthy Planet. 

  • Healthy Planet is a Health Food chain based in Toronto, Canada. It was established 25 years ago and has retail stores in Canada and an eCommerce channel. 
  • I joined the company in 2006 and worked on developing the eCommerce platform from scratch. 
  • We started our eCommerce operation from the back of one of our stores and now grew to have a vast fulfillment center which we outgrew and recently acquired a property next door to expand our fulfillment center. 
  • So I have been through the pains of developing an eCommerce business from scratch to what we are today.

Lauren: Saif, let me start with my favorite pick of these days – how are you prepping up for the holiday season 2020?

Saif: 

See, we started seeing Black Friday-type effects beginning in March 2020 when COVID-19 cases started peaking here in Canada. People were stocking up on vitamins and supplements to boost their immune systems. The pressure of orders was so much on us, given that we had to ensure social distancing at our warehouse that we had to customize our website to limit daily orders. So once the order threshold was reached, we were not taking any more orders.

This year, we have seen such growth in e-commerce like never before. So this COVID-19 rush forced us to prepare for the peak holiday season from the beginning of the second quarter of this year. We are predicting three times more volume this holiday season than last year, so to cope with the volume, we are working on warehouse automation, which we plan to roll out soon.

A better CRM system with automation to handle customer queries better. With more orders, more customer inquiries come, increasing the server resource to ensure we can take the volumes.

Lauren: This sounds great! Saif, how are you ensuring that you can provide the best experience for your shoppers from when they land at your eCommerce store until they checkout?

Saif: 

  1. We carry close to 20,000 SKUs on our website; also, the products vary from household organic dish detergent to Organic and Natural Lipstick to Vitamins and supplements, so we must ensure that our visitors get a personalized experience on our website.
  2. Search is crucial in ensuring they get what they are looking for. On our website, we want our visitors to look for the products with the help of search instead of browsing through categories; that's why we made the search bar size big and prominent on our website. Also, we made sure after they landed on the search page, we had appropriate search filters to ensure that they could narrow down their search results.
  3. Also, having AI-based recommendations help you make a personalized connection with customers.

Lauren: How long before you start preparing for the Holiday season, and is there a checklist you maintain to ensure a seamless shopping experience for your shoppers?

Saif:

As mentioned, we started our preparation at the beginning of the 2nd quarter because of the COVID-19 rush, which forced us to scale up our operations; most of them are already done, it's just the fulfillment, a few more personalization like content personalization, a few holiday popups and CRM  aspect we are still working on to ensure that we can handle the volumes and the added customer queries with more books.

Lauren: Well, that seems like a plan. And how do you measure the success of your campaigns and the effort you have put into being holiday ready?

Saif:

When you see your sales spikes and you get return customers, then you know you did the right thing, :) on a serious note, we use analytics and KPIs to measure our success. We also pay close attention to our Customer service team, hear our customer feedback, and attend to our customer feedback through reviews.

Lauren: In this entire scheme of things, how important is search for your business?

Saif:

It's very crucial for our business. As I mentioned, we have close to 20,000 products from various categories. Our customers need to find the exact products that they are looking for. On our website, the same products come in different potencies, so a good search filter is crucial.

LaurenGot you. Can you help other online stores know how you are leveraging Unbxd for your site search? And what benefits do you see out of this tech-enabling exercise?

Saif:

  1. Before getting UNBXD, we were using Magento Enterprise's out-of-the-box search solution, and we had many complaints regarding our search; customers couldn't find what they were looking for, etc. Then in 2015, I was in the USA at Magento conferences, and one of the speakers mentioned a European research institute called Baymard institute. They do research on top websites and come up with research papers on the best practices regarding the Home page, Category page, checkout, Usability,  UX, PDP page, search, etc. (By the way, Unbxd works seamlessly with eCommerce stores built on Magento platform)
  2. After returning from the trip, I acquired those research papers, started reading them and came up with the requirement for our search. Then I contacted different search partners, and UNBXD was able to match most of our needs, and we started our partnership in 2015. 
  3. Last year there was another search company based in Canada that was bothering me for a while, so we switched to that company, and trust me, our customer complaints skyrocketed, and within less than a month, we got Unbxd back again. 
  4. Now with the partnership with UNBXD, this search is one less thing that I have to be worried about. 
  5. I don't know about our audience, but I have to wear different hats in our company and manage various projects, so the fewer complex solutions I can get, the better it is for me.

LaurenIf you have to suggest 3 Top things to take care of this holiday season to your online peer stores, what would those be?

Saif:

  1. With more Holiday sales and customer complaints coming, ensure you have a good CRM to handle the issues with your customers. We faced this issue when COVID-19 hit us; we had to move our Customer service dept to work from home, lots of emails started chiming in, and it took us a long time to respond. So make sure you are ready to handle Customer service email volumesIn addition, you want to look at a CRM with automated features and productivity tools so that your customer service team can respond to the customers fast.
  2. Amazon sets the bar very high for customers; as soon as they place an order, they want the delivery on the same day. In holiday times and with COVID-19 in place with social distancing and all the rules, expect the shipping carrier to delay the deliveries, so have intelligent customer experience tools that will keep your customers informed about their package after it's out from your warehouse. 
  3. Lastly, I would say to have the option for scaling up fulfillment centers if needed, the type of surge we see in eCommerce; this holiday season might be very busy with the second wave of COVID-19 going on in so many places. Also, with Covid, it's hard to get workers at times. Look for warehouse automation to compensate for the lack of workers. Automation will save money in the long run as well.

LaurenLastly, I would like to ask you how do you see the future of retail, considering the organic surge happening for eCommerce and the sharp drift that the pandemic has caused this year?

Saif:

Due to COVID-19, the eCommerce business increased by more than 43% in the USA, and in Canada, it increased by 94.8%. No one was ready for it; we were not prepared for it. As soon as COVID-19 hit us in Canada, workers were scared to come to work, but we started getting orders like Black Friday. Shipping carriers were not prepared for it, and they had truck after truck lined up outside their facilities for days for the packages to be processed in their plants for shipment. As a famous quote goes, 'Amid every crisis lies excellent opportunity. In this new normal, companies that can scale up fast, meet the expectations of their customers, innovate, and position themselves in this new normal will thrive and grow.

You can also watch the recorded On-Demand Fireside chat between Lauren and Saif here: How Healthy Planet Canada ramped up search revenue for its eCommerce store built on the Magento platform?

Looking forward to being Holiday Ready? Request a demo here!


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