The omnichannel retailer is reinventing its online platform to boost e-commerce operations while ensuring a personalized customer experience both on its website and in its 700-plus stores.
Batteries Plus is on a mission in 2023. The quest is all about enhancing the customer experience by reinventing the online shopping experience, fostering deeper relationships with customers and boosting e-commerce operations with the goal of being the leading omnichannel retailer in the industry.
No small task for any retailer, even one that’s been around for a while and achieved groundbreaking milestones in 2022. Now boasting 700-plus stores nationwide, most of which are franchises, Batteries Plus opened as one store in Green Bay, Wisconsin just about 35 years ago. Headquartered in Hartland, Wisconsin, the company sells much more than batteries. It also offers key fobs, light bulbs and phone repair services as well as key replacement and key cutting services.
Last year saw the brand achieving double-digit commercial sales growth and its commercial sales are expected to break even more records in 2023, according to a company press release.
The digital transformation strategy, which kicked off in early 2022 with the hiring of Derek Detenber, chief marketing and merchandising officer, and Aaron Bundschuh, stepping into the newly-created chief digital officer role in November, will depend a great deal on collecting and analyzing consumer data and will showcase how the brand is differentiating itself via a data-led, customer-centric approach.
Who’s leading the charge
The transformation strategy kicked off in early 2022 with the launch of a new web platform in March and a focus on performance improvements and the addition of innovative features, specifically a higher level of customization and personalization.
“I started in mid-February. One of the first things I became involved in was helping Batteries Plus work through its re-platform. As with all projects like that, there were some bumps in the road. Through the great work of our internal teams and external partners, we have systematically improved our experience sprint after sprint and have seen the e-commerce results start to bear fruit,” Detenber told RetailCustomerExperience in an email interview.
“I’ve also been working on developing strategies and tactical plans for our category and marketing teams. We recently restructured both teams in an effort to better support both our digital and in-store efforts in 2023. So, I have been very busy since I’ve been here.”
Not only is the brand building out its internal digital team, it’s looking to leverage the power of its agency and platform partners.
He credits early successes to the brand’s “amazing” partners within its own e-commerce and IT teams as well as partners Brillance and Mindworks.
“I am proud of how far we’ve come in such a short time. But we have a long way to go and plenty of ideas to implement before we’re through.”
The digital-first strategy is being driven by changing consumer habits and what customers want from a retail experience, said the CMO.
“We’ve been involved in e-commerce for a long time, but we wanted to adopt a more digital-first approach to our business. Consumer habits have changed a lot over the past two years alone and we needed to adjust our business to connect with what customers want. In order to do that, we needed a digital-first thinker, a digital native marketing mind, someone who knows that world inside and out. That’s why we hired Aaron,” said Detenber.
Bundschuh is no stranger to digital technology, whether it’s marketing or e-commerce. During his two decades of experience, he has led online and digital marketing for top names including The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, where he directed the launch of its e-commerce experience.
His philosophy is that customers jumping online to get a car battery should have a different experience than the consumer seeking device repair service, but both should have a high-end personalized experience.
“While we’ve been investing in e-commerce and digital marketing efforts for roughly a decade, we’ve seen significant shifts in recent consumer shopping as a result of COVID and the supply chain issues of the past few years,” Bundschuh told RetailCustomerExperience in an email interview.
“As more and more consumers are starting their shopping journey online, they have come to expect real-time information regarding product availability and fulfillment options. In order to meet these expectations, we knew that we needed to revamp our e-commerce experience.”
The plan in progress
A key aspect of any retail digital strategy is a brand’s ability to be nimble. No retailer has the luxury of taking months to write a plan due to market conditions and competitiveness.
“Since both I and Aaron have only been here a short time, we haven’t had time to sit back and write a perfect plan. We’ve had to jump right in and push forward. Honestly, though, that’s the exciting part about this experience. We are writing the plan and building it as we go,” said Detenber.
But there were some definitive guiding principles from the very start.
“We want to be customer-led. We want to think about customer experiences in both an online and offline world. We want to tailor our online efforts to have a positive impact on both the customer experience and the experience of our store associates. Finally, we want to be extremely iterative…test, learn, test, learn,” Detenber said.
One complexity for Batteries Plus is that its business runs across multiple categories and crosses both retail and commercial channels, and so it’s both a product and service business.
“So, our online presence has to be multi-dimensional because it serves many types of users and many types of use cases. That put a lot of pressure on our platform. We needed to address those use cases in a bigger and better way. We knew that becoming a true multi-threaded, omnichannel retailer would allow us to service our customers better in their digital journey and position us to build a stronger connection with them,” said Detenber.
The consumer expectation for a personalized experience is a challenge facing every brand and retailer.
A good number, 71%, of consumers expect companies to deliver a personal experience and 61% get frustrated when that personal experience isn’t delivered, according to McKinsey & Company data.
“Personalization means a more satisfying experience for consumers, which translates to big gains for online retailers. Data has shown that the fastest-growing companies drive 40% more of their revenue from personalization than their slower-growing counterparts,” said Bundschuh.
The internal plan
Crafting a seamless, rewarding and personal experience for every different customer requires collaboration among a brand’s internal teams. Nothing succeeds in a silo approach given the deep integration of technology.
At Batteries Plus the digital strategy was primarily led by both the business and tech teams with healthy support from the project management office, explained Bundschuh. It involved team members from a variety of different disciplines, including e-commerce, digital marketing, IT, business intelligence, finance, category management and merchandising.
“With so many different individuals involved, one of our key strategies was to create an agile process to help manage our re-platforming effort. Communication was key. We held regular alignment and review board meetings to help anticipate and remove obstacles and make sure that everyone was on the same page,” said Bundschuh.
He recommends that brands, before taking any initial steps, first align the entire organization for the changes to come as a true digital transformation touches every part of the company and requires buy-in from all the stakeholders.
A good initial step, he added, is defining very clear roles and responsibilities for everyone involved.
“For an undertaking this large, it’s helpful to take a phased approach. Don’t bite off more than you can chew right out of the gate. Plan a few small steps, implement and then measure them to help gauge the progress you’re making. This will help you build momentum over time,” he said.
The ultimate goal, he said, is creating a consistent omnichannel experience across all customer touch points.
“In order to accomplish that, we’re going to continue to learn more about the customer journey by collecting data and using it to improve our solutions and reduce any friction during the buying process. This will allow us to provide the right message to our customers, at the right time via the right channel.”
Photos provided by Batteries Plus
Judy Mottl is editor of Retail Customer Experience and Food Truck Operator. She has decades of experience as a reporter, writer and editor covering technology and business for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews.