When COVID-19 hit, many consumers sought comfort, from junk food to familiar entertainment choices. These desires proved to be good news for The Company Store: sales shot up 50% during the initial lockdown as consumers flocked to the site that says, “We’re all about comfort.”
Founded in 1911 by Scandinavian immigrants who crafted down comforters, down pillows and down-filled featherbeds to cope with Wisconsin winters, The Company Store still specializes in down, but it has expanded into other bedding, towels and other products for the bath, and apparel ideally suited to the new stay-at-home lifestyle — pajamas, loungewear, robes and slippers.
The Company Store’s growth rate eased down to 30% in recent months but it has remained at that level. The growth rate “is holding far longer than we thought it would,” said Corinne Bentzen, CEO of The Company Store in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.
The Company Store was able to handle the unexpected surge in business for several reasons. “For one, we’re totally focused on e-Commerce,” Bentzen said. Another factor was The Company Store’s inventory position. “We plan our inventory to have six months of stock on hand. That’s just how we do it,” she said. Although the inventory didn’t last six months because sales increased beyond the plan, “we were doing really well with our stock until about the end of June.” Out-of-stocks have bumped up over the past two months, and “we’re flying in a lot of products we would normally have shipped by boat,” she added.
Bentzen also gave credit to the technology that powers The Company Store’s robust web site. “Our site was designed for three or four times our normal traffic, or more, because we can get that much in key consumption periods like Black Friday,” she said.
Platform Boosts Site Speed Up To 43%
Bentzen said YOTTAA, a cloud-based acceleration platform for e-Commerce, helped The Company Store maintain an optimal customer experience despite a traffic surge. “We’re seeing 40% to 43% site speed improvement since we started working with YOTTAA in January,” she said. Noting that 60% of traffic to the site comes from mobile devices, she added that the performance boost is the same whether the visitor comes from mobile or desktop.
“What YOTTAA does is to prioritize the data upload from all the partners we’re dealing with on an e-Commerce site,” Bentzen said. “For example, we have a content management system that loads the images, and we have pricing that’s loaded from our ERP. And we have numerous other partners, including social media sites.”
To improve site speed and provide a consistent shopper experience, YOTTAA optimizes the loading of all browser-based elements on a web site, taking into account the bandwidth the user is able to access. “If they have enough bandwidth, they’ll get high-resolution images. If they are in an area with poor access, the visuals will load more gradually but they will still get quality images,” she added.
The solution also can help rectify systemic issues that are slowing down a site. For example, the vendor worked with The Company Store to cache its photos in order to improve how they load. YOTTAA also helped the retailer identify a partner that was chronically underperforming, so that The Company Store could reach out and resolve the situation. “They can also recommend different partners we can work with if we’re not satisfied,” Bentzen said.
The Company Store also was determined to do its part in the struggles with COVID-19. While her team was fulfilling the spike in orders, Bentzen organized donations of $1.2 million worth of bedding products to provide safety and protection for essential workers. Some of the fabric was used to produce more than 500,000 face masks through organizations such as Quilting for a Cause. Sheets, towels, comforters and slippers were donated to hospital staff rooms in areas heavily affected by the pandemic.
A Passion For Better CX
Bentzen brought experience in marketing, e-Commerce and leadership to The Company Store, but she also brought an unusually deep pool of knowledge about consumers across the income spectrum.
Prior to joining The Company Store, Bentzen led Bridal category management and merchandising globally for Tiffany & Co., where she studied the behaviors of the luxury consumer. However, she honed her skills in marketing to the masses with Procter & Gamble, which is renowned as the premier training ground for brand marketers. Bentzen spent 11 years with P&G in Europe early in her career. Between P&G and Tiffany, she led a team of experts in analytics and customer insights for a Swiss provider of tax-free shopping and payment solutions.
“At P&G, the customer has always been the absolute focus. Since my time there, I have been obsessed with always improving the customer experience,” Bentzen said. “The first thing I do when I got up in the morning is search sites to see how they’ve optimized the customer experience or helped them shop. I drive my team a little nuts with the things I see elsewhere.”
Bentzen says she gauges the customer experience at The Company Store by the metric of repeat customers. “If my repeat level goes down, I know I have a problem,” she said. “But improving the customer experience doesn’t end with the site. It applies to customer service, how we ship the product, how we handle returns, and the feel of our physical product and how it delivers against your expectations. It’s everything.”