Be Holiday Ready

Being Holiday Ready – In conversation with HealthyPlanet Canada

We at Unbxd take Holiday Season quite seriously with the 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 the 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 one such valued customer who uses Unbxd’s AI-powered site search to offer a relevant and contextual search for its shoppers. Better product discovery translates to higher conversions because shoppers are able to find the products they came looking for in the first place and because they had an awesome buying experience, they keep coming back to these online retailers. 

Last week, we got into a conversation with Saif Shahed, Manager, eCommerce and Omni-Channe with Healthy Planet Canada to have a peek-a-boo into what’s cooking with Healthy Planet Canada for the holiday readiness!

Lauren Cuchna, 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 as well. 
  • I joined the company in 2006 and worked on developing the eCommerce platform from the scratch. 
  • We started our eCommerce operation from the back of one of our stores and now grew to have a huge 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 for us we started seeing Black Friday type effects starting from March 2020 when COVID-19 cases started peaking here in Canada. People were stocking up on vitamins and supplements to boost their immune system. The pressure of orders was so much on us also giving the fact that we have to ensure social distancing at our warehouse that we had to customize our website to limit orders per day. So once the threshold of the order was reaching we were not taking any more orders.

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

A better CRM system with automation to handle customer queries better as with more orders more customer inquiries come and to increase the server resource to ensure we can handle the volumes.

Lauren: This sounds great! Saif, how are you ensuring that you are able to provide the best experience for your shoppers from the time they land on your eCommerce store till 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 its very crucial for us to ensure that our visitors get a personalized experience on our website.
  2. Search is very crucial in making sure that they get what they are looking for. On our website we want our visitors to go about looking for the products with the help of search instead of browsing through categories, that’s why we made the size of the search bar big and prominent on our website. Also, we made sure after they land on the search page we have appropriate search filters to ensure that they can narrow down their search results.
  3. Also having AI-based recommendations also 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 2nd quarter because of COVID-19 rush which forced us to scale up our operations, most of them are already done, it’s just the fulfillment, few more personalization like content personalization, 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 volumes.

Lauren: Well, that seems like a plan. And how do you go about measuring 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 different KPI’s to measure our success. We also pay close attention to our Customer service team, hear our customer feedback and also hear our customer feedback through reviews.

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

Saif:

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

Lauren: Got you. Can you help other online stores know how are you 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 out-of-the-box search solution and we had lots of complaints regarding our search, customers can’t find what they are looking for etc. Then in 2015, I was in the USA in Magento conferences and one of the speakers mentioned a research institute in Europe 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 coming back from the trip I acquired those research papers and started reading them and came up with our requirement for our search. Then I contacted different search partners and UNBXD was able to match most of our requirements and we started our partnership in 2015. 
  3. Last year there was another search company based in Canada who 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 which 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 different projects, so the less problematic solutions I can get the better it is for me.

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

Saif:

  1. With more Holiday sales the more customer complaints come, make sure 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 volumes. 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 set the bar very high for customers, As soon as they place the order they want the delivery 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 which we are seeing in eCommerce, this holiday season it 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 automation in your warehouse to make up for the lack of workers. Automation will save money in the long run as well.

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

Saif:

Due to COVID-19, the eCommerce business increased more than 43% in the USA and in Canada it increased overall by 94.8%. No one was ready for it, we were not ready for it. As soon as the 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 trucks after trucks lined up outside their facilities for days in order for the packages to be processed in their plants for shipment. As a famous quote goes, ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity’. In this new normal the companies who can scale up fast, meet the expectations of their customers, innovate, and position themselves in this new normal will thrive and grow.

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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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