Choice Pet is a pet supply store with seventeen neighborhood locations in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. After starting their journey with Endless Aisles as one of our Special Ordering beta clients, they soon transitioned to use the Shopify ecommerce plugin in order to reach more customers on the go. Recently, we sat down the with Chief Operating Officer, Larry Bocchiere, to discuss their experience with Endless Aisles and why they chose to launch an online store.
Endless Aisles: Larry, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us.
Larry: No worries at all. It’s my pleasure!
Endless Aisles: I wanted to talk a bit more about the launch of your online store last quarter. I know a lot of work went into getting it ready. What inspired you to make the decision to invest in building out an ecommerce offering for Choice Pet?
Larry: Yes, it’s definitely been a busy couple of months for us here. I think we really started to think about ecommerce long before Phillips announced Endless Aisles. We’re constantly talking to our customers and trying to get feedback on how we can better serve them. I think we started to think about it around 2015, but over time it became apparent that this was something we had to offer our customers if we wanted to continue to serve them long-term.
In 2016, we went to market with a scaled-down version of an ecommerce site that only offered around 350 items. There were some inherent complications with inventory overhead and levels, especially when dealing with perishable items. We did the best we could and tested the waters.
Endless Aisles: I love that you have such a strong focus on listening to your customers. What kinds of things were they saying?
Larry: It varied, but we did start to see regular customers coming in less often and buying smaller bags. Most of them were starting to get their pet’s food delivered by Amazon or Chewy for the convenience. We’ve always leaned into home-delivery and special ordering, but it’s a complex operation and one that couldn’t scale long-term. A lot of customers are busy – aren’t we all!? – and the ability to quickly shop online while on the go or in the evenings is a godsend for some. It was clear that they loved shopping with us; the customer service and advice we provide in-store has a lot of value in the eyes of our customer. Our goal was to implement an omni-channel experience that highlighted our in-store offering.
Endless Aisles: Completely. I think we all find that sometimes online shopping simply doesn’t cut it, especially for more complex decisions around what to feed your pet.
Larry: Exactly. I think it was around January 2016 that we decided we needed to bring our in-store brand to life online. The way to do that would be to offer our customers online shopping and seamless home-delivery experience in addition to our existing offerings.
Endless Aisles: So, shifting to when it all started to kick off, can you tell me a bit about your experience with Endless Aisles?
Larry: Of course! I was actually one of their beta clients for the Special Ordering portal. Before it launched at SuperZoo, I was running the beta in a few of my stores, providing feedback to the Endless Aisles tech team, and testing the grounds. I have to say, the live version came out really great and I immediately got my stores set up after SuperZoo.
Endless Aisles: What did you like about the Special Ordering Portal? Any feedback on what could have been better?
Larry: The portal was streamlined, easy to implement, easy to learn and even easier for my staff to use. I think that besides seeing the delight in customers when we could offer them products we couldn’t stock on our shelves, the ease of use was very important. I did think the search functionality was a bit wonky, but I understand that a new feature has launched to make it easier to use. There are some hurdles the independent retailer may have to navigate in relation to their POS as well, nothing that cannot be overcome.
Endless Aisles: Wow, that’s really great to hear. We’ll definitely share that with the team. So, I know you worked with Pet Store Websites to build out your Shopify Site and integrate with our ecommerce plugin. Can you tell me a bit more about that process?
Larry: It was really a no-brainer to go with Pet Store Websites. We didn’t have the internal resources, and other services required an investment that simply wasn’t feasible. They supported in building out our site that was true to our brand, and did all the back-end set up to make sure my catalog was published and displayed in a way that was easy for our customers to shop. The whole process from signing with them to launch was around 45 days, but we had some customization to our catalog to accommodate our in-store inventory. We’ve also hired them on an ongoing basis to manage our site, which is great as it means we don’t have to add to our headcount in-house
Endless Aisles: 45 days is pretty quick – There must have been some bumps along the way….?
Larry: Yes, with any product launch there are bumps along the way. I was one of the first accounts to go live with the Endless Aisles plugin, so it took some time to make sure my catalog was synced and that all the pricing was set up to reflect our strategy as a business. There were definitely a few late nights and weekend work, but it was well worth it.
Endless Aisles: How did the Endless Aisles plugin affect the process of building out your site?
Larry: Of course the drop-ship element is a huge benefit of the platform, but really the product information is the big time saver. I honestly can’t imagine pulling together the images and descriptions for so many products internally. Let’s just say it saved our team a lot of time and energy.
I have been really impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the entire Endless Aisles team. The entire process from start to finish was supported at every turn by my on-boarding team. They answered my questions and addressed my concerns immediately, most of the time working later than myself!
Endless Aisles: Nothing some Red Bull can’t fix!
So what’s next now that you’ve launched the site?
Larry: Now it’s all about getting the message out there. We are advertising the new site in our stores, to our email list, and even running some local direct mail this month. We’re working on building out our digital marketing capabilities too so that we’re top of mind when local customers are searching on their phones or browsing their social news feeds. The goal is to make sure our customers know that when they want to shop online and get their pet’s food delivered, we can offer that to them. We can now offer them that great in-store experience and the convenience they’re asking for.
If you would like to get more information on Pet Store Websites for your own store, check out our article Up Close and Personal with Pet Store Websites.