The pet industry has been experiencing explosive growth, largely driven by the rise in eCommerce shopping (expected growth from 4% in 2015 to 25% in 2022). Pet shoppers’ purchasing habits are signaling a desire for choice and flexibility when it comes to how, when and where to purchase (in-store, local shopping experiences and the convenience of online shopping options). Traditional brick and mortar stores needed to find a way to enter the eCommerce marketplace to retain and win back consumers who were flocking to online competitors, like Amazon and Chewy.
The good news is that ASC was already on a path to help. The distributor knew it had an opportunity to develop innovative solutions to help its retailers compete as they struggled to meet this challenge. But in addition to helping customers, ASC knew it also needed a clear digital strategy of its own.
It takes creative leaders to recognize the need for change and push forward even in the face of uncertainty. In his first year as CEO, Don McIntyre set out to better understand the overarching challenges ASC and its retailers were facing. As a result, Don set a vision for nothing short of a full-scale digital transformation. One of his first steps? Recruiting digital strategy and marketing expert, Angela Spears.
Aligning with best-in-class technology partners has been a cornerstone of our digital strategy, igniting our ability to have speed and the expertise in specialty areas critical to our success
First, we began by reimagining the customer ordering journey. Given ASC had grown rapidly through acquisitions, this step necessitated a change to a new national eCommerce platform, OroCommerce (taking the place of four legacy ordering systems). Next, ASC partnered with the user experience (UX) team at Bottle Rocket to develop a new UX design and navigation for the web front-end, making web orders simpler and engaging. With this new foundation in place, the team quickly shifted gears to take on their next big challenge: mobile.
Working in lock step, Bottle Rocket and ASC created an industry first mobile ordering app that allowed retail customers to quickly find products, create favorite shopping lists and track orders. A barcode scanner allows customers to search for products and add items to a list or cart with ease. Face and touch ID recognition allows for trouble-free log in, while a personalized dashboard gives each retailer access to their order history with one tap.
With synchronization between web and app, ASC customers can move freely between handheld devices and computers, anytime, anywhere. One retailer acknowledged that via this new ecosystem, her ordering time was “cut in half.”
With a new eCommerce platform and mobile and web ordering available to its retailers, ASC turned to the next part of its strategy: helping independent pet specialty retailers compete online. Animal Supply Connect, a digital eFulfillment and delivery solution, is connecting retailers directly with their online shoppers. Now retailers have the ability to ship direct to consumer via ASC’s warehouses in a simple and economical fashion.
ASC’s success has been a true team effort. The full support of the CEO, the right partners, a willingness to invest in a change management plan and the support of an agile methodology to get to market quickly have all been critical success factors. Executives and employees have evangelized the digital vision across all levels of the company – from the Board of Directors to the warehouse managers to the sales representatives. The innovations developed have done more than enhance the customer experience – they’ve enhanced ASC’s corporate culture and have fundamentally changed how the company operates.