It’s no secret to anyone in business that one of the most dramatic changes brought about by the pandemic has been the emergence of eCommerce as an essential tool for retailers that want to thrive in a post-pandemic world.
As recently as a year or so ago, eCommerce was considered a “cool” toy by many brands or the “future” of retail, implying that the future was well down the road. These brands considered eCommerce little more than just another convenience for customers.
That changed almost overnight.
Today the internet is the new “Main Street” for millions of consumers, and eCommerce is the storefront. This is becoming more prevalent every day.
According to Digital Commerce 360, consumers spent $861 billion online with U.S. retailers in 2020, a striking 44% increase from $598 billion spent in 2019.
This spike shows a dramatic change in consumer behavior in what is a relatively short amount of time. As a result, some brands responded well to this shift while others scrambled to react.
At Edible, we were able to respond almost seamlessly, leading to what was a record-setting year in terms of sales. More importantly, however, thanks to decisions made two decades ago, we were able to quickly adjust to the “new normal.” We effectively took care of our customers — both existing and new — even at the height of the global shutdown.
Looking back now, I realize that getting Edible into the eCommerce game early not only paid off, but it set us up for future success in ways we never could have foreseen.
Back in 1999, like many young entrepreneurs at the time, I was fascinated by the dot-com boom. As has happened throughout history when disruptive new technologies come along, a lot of people questioned early on the potential of the internet as a tool for retail. At the time, most of the naysayers simply didn’t understand it.
Yet in my mind it was clear even then that because of the rate at which the internet, browsers and other tools were evolving, it was only a matter of time before it would become a disruptive force to traditional retail. I was eager to get in on the action.
I took what was then an unconventional step for retailers by designing our website ordering and delivery system before I even opened the doors to our first store in East Haven, Connecticut.
From day one, my bet on technology paid off. Almost immediately our website was a catalyst for business demand. At that time, the idea of placing an order on the internet was still new, and many people were skeptical about giving their credit card numbers to a computer. But still, our site generated about 30% of our orders, a significant number for the era. Most importantly, we were laying the foundation for what would become the cornerstone of a global business based around emerging technologies.
That commitment led to the eventual creation of a full development team that would become NetSolace and, later, incorporating Naranga and its expansive range of digital services into the business building tools available to our franchisees. Over time, our talented development teams developed state-of-the-art eCommerce and POS systems allowing all our franchisees to digitally connect and conduct business through the Edible cloud. By building these capabilities internally we also created a strong barrier to entry for those looking to enter our segment.
Little did we know at the time that we were perfectly positioning ourselves to become a critical resource for millions when a pandemic would sweep the world 20+ years later.
With technology comes opportunity
Over time, eCommerce is ultimately what allowed us to rapidly grow and develop such a dynamic franchise system. As consumers became more comfortable conducting business online, our dynamic eCommerce system coupled with our ability to hand deliver Edible’s signature arrangements right to a customer’s front door created an omni-channel franchise model that allowed thousands to pursue the American Dream of business ownership.
We now have what I believe to be the ideal business model not only for the fast-paced business environment of today – as we proved during the pandemic – but more importantly, we have a business model perfectly designed for the needs and opportunities of tomorrow. We have a robust eCommerce platform that has been constantly evolving over the past two decades and continues to do so. We have dedicated franchise owners who are passionate about the communities they serve. Having franchise owners in the mix gives us a unique ability to personalize our eCommerce capabilities. We refer to it internally as the “last-minute, last-mile,” meaning that when you order a gift from edible.com, you know the person receiving and fulfilling that order is a contributing member of your local community and not someone in a mystery distribution center hours away. That means something to us. It means something to our franchise owners. It means something to their local economies.
With technology comes innovation
Of course, when it comes to technology, standing still is not an option.
According to my daughter Somia Farid Silber, Edible’s vice president of eCommerce, “the beauty of eCommerce is that it’s so easy to pivot offerings and messages.” Not surprisingly, edible.com is vastly different today from what it was when I first launched the business. But it’s also different today than it was a month, or even a week ago.
As the perfect tool for introducing and maximizing new offerings more efficiently than ever before, the possibilities of eCommerce are endless. In many ways, we are still just scratching the surface two decades later. Just within the last year, we’ve used edible.com as the primary source for introducing an array of new product categories. We’ve also used it to test a wider range of products and price points to appeal to broader audiences than ever before.
But as much as things change and our systems evolve along with those changes, one thing always remains the same: the consumer is the driving force behind it all.
The secret to eCommerce success
More and more businesses are recognizing that eCommerce is a key to surviving and thriving in the modern marketplace. Furthermore, companies now see that the technology exists for them to incorporate it into their businesses in a way they can truly own, rather than being forced to play by the rules of 800-pound online gorillas like Amazon and Walmart.
The dynamic evolution of software and platforms is helping businesses go digital like never before. At Naranga, for example, our team has developed fully-integrated operation management software tools that allow more than 400 franchise companies to seamlessly control their brand to drive sales, improve operational efficiency and connect with their individual franchisees.
Of course, as more companies get in on this digital transformation, there’s more out there to compare. Whose website is flashiest? Whose app design is the most creative?
As proud as I am of the robust platform edible.com is today — made possible by our decades of working to perfect it — our eCommerce capabilities are ultimately just a means to an end.
At its core, eCommerce is really no different than any other type of commerce. It’s all about the consumer, and it always has been. When I first launched Edible Arrangements with what was then considered a dynamic website, I didn’t do it to show off what I could do with some fancy new technology. I did it because it was the best way to give my consumers what they wanted, which was and still is a positive yet convenient shopping experience that results in a quality product – something that WOWs them.
Consumer preferences will continue to shift, and we will continue to be at the forefront of responding to those shifts. For example, we’re already working on expanding our delivery infrastructure to include high-tech vans that can store fresh products to make delivery even faster. As our eCommerce system gets better, so too should the way we fulfill orders.
I’m proud of the eCommerce brand Edible has become, but I’m even more proud of the fact that we’ve proven our ability to innovate and adapt our technology to meet the needs of this new environment. That is the key to survival in the digital age, and I’m confident after all these years – and after the past year in particular – that we’re ready for whatever comes next.