Brick & Mortar: Bringing Retail Online with Callisters Christmas

"The things I do buy, I still have a preference at least to go find it locally first. See it, feel it, touch it. Then I normally sleep on it..."

"Anything over $14.00, Andy has to sleep on it."

Beyond the Cart Lightburn Podcast - Ecommerce -

PODCAST EP:08 — Bringing Brick & Mortar Stores Online with Callisters Christmas 

Today, in episode eight, we're talking to one of our largest ecommerce success stories. Come discover how we brought this traditionally brick-and-mortar business online with special guests, Callisters Christmas. 

Hosted by:

Andy Winthieser
Partner
Nora Lahl
Partner

Today’s Topics:

  • Failing (Twice)
  • Types of Products
  • Customization & Personalization
  • In-Store versus Online Customers
  • Marketing Tactics
  • Finding Success

LOOK & LISTEN

The following is a transcript of the cross-conversation streaming in the above media: 

Today, we've invited one of Lightburn's clients to join us, with over 30 years of experience under their belt. Callisters Christmas had brick-and-mortar down cold. But they needed help making the switch to digital.  

So today, we've got with us our good friends from Callisters Christmas. Hi. Hello there. Thanks for joining us today.  We've also got another member of the team from Callisters Christmas, Kelly. Hi, Kelly. Hi. Thanks for joining us today, ladies. You sound so official. Yeah. What me? Oh no, shoot. Yeah. Uh (laughs) thank you. Um, we've realized my secret dream of being a broadcaster. So, um ... I've been practicing (laughs).

We invited Kelly and to join us today.  as we were putting together these first few episodes of Beyond the Cart, we realized that,  Callisters Christmas is really one of our greatest success stories of what it means to go beyond the cart and do more than just build a website. So we wanted to hear even before the folks at Callisters Christmas got started with light burn, what their experience had been with e-commerce and, and what it's been like working with a partner that is helping do more than just build the site. So, can you tell us a little bit about the business as a whole?

Absolutely. We are a family-owned business. Um, we've been doing brick and mortar for Callisters Christmas for 30 years. This is actually our 30th anniversary. And we started in the malls. We started on carts and went to pop up stores before pop up stores were popular. And that's where we ran for years and years. And we decided when, when the websites, when everybody started going online, the number one question everybody asks us is, "Are you online? Are you online?" And this is in the probably the early 2000s. So the first attempt, we said, "Okay, we'll do a website."

FAILING... TWICE

And we are very brick and mortar people. We are not we didn't know anything about the web and we, you know, are very, not very computer savvy. So we went with our first web developer. And it was a costly and very epic fail, didn't hardly got off the ground. We didn't, we never launched it. So we put it aside for a couple of years. And a couple years later, we again, number one question ever ... Our customers were asking is, "Are you online?" So we went our second attempt at a website. And I found a web developer and then said, "Look, I liked the websites they developed," and I went with them.

We launched it. And we got halfway through the season and it was, it was just, it was a failure, again, a failure. Very, very expensive and didn't work. We had to shut it down for a million reasons. So in 2017, Kel- my niece, Kelly, said, you know, "You have to get online. We have to get online, we have to get online." So we went to our third attempt at a website. And that's the way we found Lightburn. And what draw me to, drew me to Lightburn and what, what I looked for, what I found with the last two is that both web developing companies, they had no retail sites.

And so I thought, you know, that was our problem. We are a retail, we have, you know, thousands of, SKUs retail items that like the websites are fine, but they couldn't handle any kind of volume. So when we got to website, I went on to the website, the Lightburn website and found Kringle, and it, it was a beautiful site. And I'm like, "This is ..." I mean, it made me want to go out and buy Kringle. I'm like, "This is exactly what I want." That's the feeling that we had. So that's where we started.

And, and the difference between what I was trying to convey with the, what we do with the, the brick-and-mortar store is we don't sell, we don't sell necessity items, we sell impulse. And we can create that in a brick and mortar. And we didn't know how to do that online and that's, that's what Lightburn ... First thing Lightburn brought to the table is they were able to create the same feeling that we get in our stores. And that's where we started with.

I remember when you came to us and, and said you love the Kringle site.  that's Racine Danish Kringles. Another client of ours that we've been with for many years and what's interesting about that is that for both, there was a sense of brand that was really important to convey. But you hadn't, you hadn't really had a site that had a brand on it. So part of what we did for Callisters was helped develop what does Christmas mean for Callisters Christmas. There's lots of different versions of Christmas. So we looked at pictures of, of your ... We were, we joked that it's Christmas in July because that's when we were building the sites.

And so we were immersing ourselves in what your what your shops and that weren't open at the time, what they looked like. So we looked at lots of pictures of how you set it up. And you, you told us that it was almost like a shock and awe situation. People would w- walk in and just be dazzled by all the different choices. So it was really important to convey that sense of really thousands of different ornaments to choose from. 

TYPES OF PRODUCTS

Yeah. What is a typical SKU count in one of the, the brick-and-mortar locations? We probably would hit ... I would say we have five to six to 10,000 ornaments, you know, at any ... Wow.

You know, depending upon the size of the store. Because we are a pop up, our stores, you know, vary in size from, you know, anywhere from 1,000 square feet to, we could have 7,000, 8000 square feet. So that would depend. But we easily run 5,000 SKUs. And that, and that was the question, you know, when you, when you go transition from brick and mortar to online, do you need all of it? Do you need ... You know, how does it, how do you, how do you define what you're going to put online? And the one thing that we looked at was, you know, there, there's, online, there, there's hundreds of people that do what you do. So how do you, how do you create to be a little different? And we found that, you know, we, if we find some of the different things that people didn't, not the same, you know, 50 ornaments that everybody carries, will you find it unusual?

So when they could, when they can, when they come in the store, the first thing they would say is, "If I can't find it here, I'm not gonna find it anywhere." And how do, how do you convey that onto the website? And I think the thing that, that I, I was most excited about when we first started this project with Lightburn was every member of the team dove in and they got excited about it. And I, and then two experiences before that that didn't happen, where every single member of, of the Lightburn team figured out what we did, looked at what we did and got excited about, and were excited about it.

And that was like, okay, they, they get it, you know. They, they may not get the, the intricacies, but you got what we were. You want everybody in the team understood it and, and looked at it and said, "Yeah, okay, I get this." And to me, that was the, that was the point that I said, "Yes, this is gonna work because the two, two prior times that we had done this, that didn't happen." You know? So that was, I went, "Okay, this, how do we make this be exciting like the store is?" That's where it started.

Well, and one of the ways we did that was digging into the inventory, understanding the categories of products, and how to convey those categories in a way that people could logically shop through. so there's a few different ways that we can organize things, and comparing how you organized the in-person experience to the online experience, there was a lot that, that could stay the same. There, but there were a few different ways that people might search. You know, we've talked about this before, that the way people behave as users isn't always how you expect them to behave in an in-person situation.

So us translating that experience, so you still felt that sense that there's, you know, hundreds of ornaments here but also get to the point where someone can see one at a time on a screen that was really important for us. And then another piece of this that we haven't talked about yet is that what, what you do is you do personalization of all these ornaments. So you're not just selling ornaments, you're selling a service. So can you, can you describe, uh, the ... Absolutely. ... personalization process a little bit?

CUSTOMIZATION & PERSONALIZATION

Absolutely. I do ... Ornaments have become ... Everybody use them as the memories of what your, what your year was. And you find a s- a special ornament to relate to whatever, whoever you're giving the gift for. And whether you're six or 60, it's fun to have your, have names on them. So we personalize every, personalize almost all the ornaments on our, our website. And it's done by hand with, you know, our, our artists who do that. They just print the name with a permanent marker. Simple process. But it's really the most important part of what we do. Because it does make it a little more special. And it's not that a customer has just bought an ornament for somebody. They took the time, they thought about it, they made it even more special by adding a name, which is a very ...

When you're standing in the store and I can say to, you know, Mrs. Smith, "This is how we do it, we can do whatever you want." You can't relay that online. It's, they just, they don't understand it. And if ... You know, our customers who have been our customers for 30 years, they've trained us, we've trained them, it works. Now we've gone to this broader market who may have never seen this before. So they don't exactly know what we're talking about. They don't exactly know what we do. How do we make that work? And we added that, that op- ... Lightburn added that option that people could personalize. And we really had very little problem, people got it (laughs). You, you know, made it simple enough but still made it look like it was special enough that it worked and, and people ... We personalize almost all the ornaments online.

Yeah. And we actually came up with a system. That was one of the challenges that we faced at the beginning, how to show where the personalization would happen on an ornament in a way that could be replicated across hundreds of SKUs and live on into the future.  we work back and forth on how to show it to someone. And then we talked to you about how do you explain it to someone in, in person and what are the different questions that are asked. So we developed that, that flow, and we know often people don't read very much, right, online. They want to just keep moving forward. Correct. So how, how do we... Correct... make sure that they're (laughs) understanding the process without creating friction? Um, and, and so that was an interesting challenge, 'cause I think we, we showed you a couple of, of different ways of conveying it, "No, that's not quite right. Because what about this?" And sometimes people ask us this question. So it was really an iterative process and I, I really like what we came up with. We've used that as inspiration for other, um, similar types of configurators that we've had to do. I don't know how many times over the years we've said, "Well, let's look at Callisters 'cause that works really well."  what, what can we borrow from that experience?

And if I'm, I'm being honest, as we, as I said...  and we fought the process of, uh, another, a third attempt at a website, because it felt complicated to us, because it was, it was something that we didn't know how to fix. And in the two attempts before, there wasn't an answer. You know, we didn't ... Nobody, nobody helped us say, "Okay, this is how you can do this." I mean, we are great, we know our product but to know the internet, we didn't know anything about it. You know, when, when Kelly, our younger person said, "We've got to get online, you've got to get this." You know, we, we fought as hard as we could. Didn't wanna do it because we kept stopping at that.

So, and, and part of that is our customer base, uh, through the stores is a little older, a little less tech savvy. So it's like, "Okay, how do we make them understand it and be able to do it? And in the three or four years that we've done this, it is really our least challenging thing. Everybody ... How you, you've designed it and how this works, it's the least challenging thing we have on our website. Everybody gets it. It's super simple but it's, it's not too simple that you look like, "Oh, really? This is what you're doing?" Everybody's is excited to do it online as they are in the store. They, they, they feel like it, it made it a little more special. And so how, how the process, how you came to do that, it works, you know, and, and it's perfect.

Music to my ears. It works. And it's years later and we're using the same, you know ... We, we really thoroughly tested out that process for, um, showing where the personalization happens and allowing a person to enter their custom, uh, language, whether it's a name or a date. And,  confirm that that's correct and it's really smooth. Correct. I, you know, that can be a really bumpy thing if you don't get that right because it creates a lot of customer service issues, it can create a lot of confusion... Correct... if the fields aren't mapped correctly when you get it, um, when you receive the order.  so the fact that we don't hear from you ... Correct. ... too often is such a great sign, right? That means that the system is working. No surprise. (laughs) And the only thing, the only mistake we made, we should have put a limit on how many letters (laughs). Well, it's not too late. Sometimes we write symbols (laughing). And that ... Now you're gonna get those teeny, teeny tiny writing.  Do you ever, do you ever say, "Wait, wait, wait. Let's call these folks of and, and negotiate"? You know, we've, we've ... Honestly, one time, we've had to say, "Okay, it's just not gonna fit. I do ... There's just no way." Right. And I mean, and since 2017, one time. So I'm, I'm really happy with that. That's not bad.

I said it's, it's really the least ... Any kind of problems that we've, we go through, it really is the one that we have very little ... I mean, every once in a while, you have to call and go, "Do you want, you know, ex- ..." I'm not exactly sure what you want. But that's again, we do that in the store. It, it is just, you know, people don't exactly understand what it is. And so sometimes you just have to email or call and say, "Hey, what did you want?" And, and people are absolutely thrilled to say, "You know, I'm glad you called." And, you know, it makes it a little more personal.

Yeah. Which is who we are. Yeah, absolutely. Cool. Yeah, well, I ... You know, it's been a number of years since we obviously kicked off and, and started working together. But I remember you saying that, "Hey, eventually, we would love for the website to potentially even replace the brick and mortar stores,  and be a year round thing." Because obviously, those stores are ... When do you guys typically open one of those pop ups?

We open we usually open the one up in Minnesota at the Mall of America, we open it in the summer, because there's a lot of tourism. But mostly they're fourth quarter pop up stores. Okay. You know, it's in the Christmas season.  And the, the other thing, too, that I, I don't think a lot of people realize is, you know, you guys pretty much buy your invent- you have to preorder all your inventory, right? So ... Absolutely. January. So you've already got 20, this coming Christmas is orders in and ... Correct. ... starting to receive that inventory? Correct. Yes. So, once it's gone, it's gone. So how did that, how did that work with COVID? I know, one of the, the top selling items of 2020 was, you know, COVID related.

Yes. You know, lot, lots of mask.  was that a late addition or did they ... It was, it was. You know, when, when COVID first hit in March, all of our orders were in, you know. We were, they're preparing ... And we had come off of 2019 being the best year we'd had. So, we, you know, we were really ramped up to, to continue. And March hit, and everything shut down. And we went, "Oh, my gosh, what are we gonna do?" You know? It, and as, as everybody, you know, we were right there with the entire world just daily, you know, kind of changing orders. And, you know, "Let's skip this and let's do that." And, "Will we open for Christmas? Will, will everybody be shut down? You know, what, what, how is this gonna look?"

And then May, some of the company started producing COVID ornaments and we kind of ... Personally, we're like, "Nobody is gonna want to buy those, you know." (laughs) That was our first reaction, "Who will want to buy those?" And so then, you know, a couple of the, the vendors that just think about it, you got to do it. And we jumped in, and you know, it saved the year, and it saved the year for a lot of people, you know. Our, in our industry, everybody, you know, any, all the ... Everybody was scared, you know. From manufacturers to ... You know, everybody. We are all looking at going, "How is this gonna look at the end and where are we all gonna be standing at the end?" And the COVID ornaments pulled us through, you know. They, everybody loved the idea of the masks and the toilet paper.

Oh, yeah. Toilet paper. And, you know, Santa wearing a mask. Santa toilet paper. And everybody stuck at home with masks, you know, and those ... They just sold like crazy. And, and we saw an uptick in business because, you know ... And because of the marketing efforts that Lightburn has put into this, you know, it really helped us get our name out there. And, you know, we got, uh, even a couple national publications. We had, we're featured in a couple articles with our ornaments. So, you know, it just was that bump that we needed last year. So it's gonna be a little tough to meet those numbers this year but I have faith (laughs). Yeah.

You know? But, it, it was, it was. You know what I mean? We were, we're very thankful for, for the, that we got through it. Uh, you know, everybody, a lot of our vendors, everybody got through it. And went, "Okay, we made it through." (laughs). Yeah. And you guys have a bit of a unique situation. Um, and we've had some fits and starts where, you know, you guys have very specific ornaments and, and you'll publish those out into the catalog. Google will pick up on that and because we have the site fairly well optimized, you guys rank really high for some,  the non ... Absolutely. You know, so getting ... Essentially, getting those new ornaments out as soon as we can, as early as we can in the year so that that has time to settle in and Google and drive traffic. That's true.

But I remember early on, uh, in, in the launcher like, "Hey, why are we selling this ornament? We never sell this X, Y, Z ..." Yes. "... ornament in the store." And it's like, "Well, 'cause you rank number one for that, you know?" It ... Right. It's still not hugely popular but now The planet is your, is your store now. Well, yeah, what was the ... There was one in particular that was just a weird ... It really caught on. Um ... The Boy Scout? I think it was a Boy Scout. Yeah. Yeah, that sounds familiar. Yes. Or something like that. Yeah. Cab Scout. Cab Scout? Yeah. The Eagle Scout. Eagle Scout. The Eagle Scout. Yeah. Yeah. Yes. Very sort of ... Yes.  You know, uh ... Niche. And the girl swimmer. Yeah. You know, the girl swimmer (laughs). That's more like ... Sell just a ton of those. Yeah. So ha- had you guys changed your purchasing? You know, obviously, you would purchase for the brick and mortars and then the e-commerce site, your one was, , good. And then it's grown from there each and every year. But how has that changed your purchasing?

You know, we have, we, we've grown ... You know, when we start in 2017 and like, I remember like when we first started, and the, the conversation was, you know, this is a, a process. You won't get, you won't go to number one, immediately. You know, this, that's not how this is gonna, how this works. And you really guided us in that perspective. And seeing, you know, like and even touching on the whole marketing thing, the thing that set us the, two times before, there was never a marketing plan in place. Where you came in and, where you came in and said, "There's a ma- you have to market this." And we, again, we don't know anything about it. We, we didn't have any of that knowledge, we did not ... We ... Our marketing was done through our pop ups. So that was all we did.

So having that marketing plan in place helped us grow. And I mean, it has grown and steadily along. Without the marketing plan, we'd be, we would be still doing what we did two, two websites ago. Virtually nothing. So that was the start of it. The difference, it is a little bit of a different thing than our brick and mortar, because people buy a little differently. So that's, that's been a challenge to say, "Okay, we need to keep enough of this in stock." Because it's things that's in, in the store that we will sell all day long, we don't sell online. Things that we don't sell in the store, we sell like crazy online.

And, and it really is hard. And like I said, I mean, I think nobody in the ... I, there's nobody in the world that expected the volume, you know, of just online shopping. There just didn't. There's no way to have stopped it. You know, is there a way around it this year? I hope they've figured out something, you know, because it ... We don't want a repeat of it, of it. But, you know, it was, it's just bad (laughs). Yeah. You know, and the, the bummer with shipping is, you know, you really kinda have three options, sort of. Correct, correct.

You know? Mm-hmm (affirmative). So it's not like ... I mean, there's not many things that's ... Mm-hmm (affirmative). ... so important to a business that there's only three options to choose from. Exactly. Um. Well, yeah, I mean, you know, again, that's ... you know, I think we all know, that's a huge factor in Amazon's success, right? They, they've ... Absolutely. They'd, they'd take control of that which ... And, and, and nobody in the world is used to that. So now they're, you know, they, they really do expect it to be there what, 15 minutes after they order it (laughs). Yep. Tomorrow.

Have you noticed though ... I mean, Amazon's kinda waving the white flag a little bit, which I thought was interesting because ... And I hadn't, I haven't needed anything in months, until recently, like the, for the same day delivery. I don't know how  does this. I'm ordering online constantly. I don't know about you guys. You know, he'll be like, "Yeah, I haven't placed some online order in three weeks." What? I'm in 's camp (laughing). [crosstalk 00:34:45] I just don't, I don't buy a lot. I'm ... That's good. You, I mean, it's a good thing. Like just like buying from Amazon on a whim is a bad habit, right? Like I think it's, it's like being like an unbridled consumer. It's a bad habit. It can be. Yeah (laughing). Yeah. 

But, you know, in the past, you could go on and say, you know, the same day options. You know, Amazon had a ton, before COVID, just an absolute ton and they were adding to that and they were getting very aggressive with same day shipping. And now ... Mm-hmm (affirmative), yup... there's very few of any ... Uh, I ordered a, a, a mouse for my computer the other day thinking it was same day delivery. And it wasn't.Uh, it showed up two days later. So ... Yeah. Well, and I got have in a few times where I was supposed to get it that week or, you know, two, a day later prime, and then it didn't show up. It, it came maybe three days later. And so they're, they're willing to risk that, right? And I, I don't think ... Yes.

... Amazon is hanging its hat on great customer relationships. They are, they are all about the volume. Well, and they ... And just, you know, they're, if, if they ... And convenience. ... if they get enough out of you ... And convenience. Yeah, volume and convenience. And so for a small business like Callisters, i- it's quite different. It isn't, uh, volume and convenience. It's the relationship and you're, you're building that customer relationship ... Absolutely. ... through every order. Absolutely. Well, I think you hit the nail on the head, , earlier, when you said merchandising. And this is something that I think about a lot because it's still, I still ... The thing, the things I do buy, I still have a preference, at least, to go try to find it locally first.

Yeah. I, I think I found that, I found also, like you said where people are doing that. They're using the website as figure out what I want, then I come in the store and I, I ... Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative)... I have my list of what I want.  They pre-shop. Yeah. Yeah. Had you guys ever thought of, um, curbside pickup? I don't think we added curbside pickup or anything. Did we? No. Well, maybe a new location, though. Um, the... With the personalizing we... You know, with the personalizing, it... Oh, yeah... it becomes hard. And, and honestly, it, it really is when you can get people to come into the store and, and see it. They, you know, it's, it's much more, it's just more of an experience. We really are all about the experience.

That's what Christmas is. It's the warm and fuzzies. It's the, it's all about that, you know. So the, the website has been able to really appeal to that person. The same person that likes our store, like shopping the website, they enjoy seeing it. So you have created that same experience. So that was what, that was our number one goal. How do we ... The first thing I think we asked, how do we create that experience? And you were able to do that. So that's been a, a real plus for us that, you know, people get that same feeling online as they do in the store.

IN-STORE VERSUS ONLINE CUSTOMERS

Yeah. But the one thing that I still don't, I think, you know ... And I don't know that anybody's perfected this online, you know, we still haven't gotten quite that impulse, "Hey, I have this ornament in my hand in the store and I'm walking up to the cashier. "Right. And you just, something catches your eye, right? Right, right. It's very ... That's a very different feeling online. Absolutely. Uh, and ... Absolutely. ... we certainly promote items, but it's ... Absolutely.

We definitely do get that with gift wrap option now that we were able to add online. Because people have definitely, especially last year, I noticed that gift wrapping was a great addition to their purchase. And gift wrap sale is up. That's a nice little impulse at the end. Yes. Yeah. And that makes sense. And, and that's one thing, you know. One item, right? Mm-hmm (affirmative). That we can regard, pretty much regardless of what you order, that applies. Yeah. Um. But it's hard to sneak in, uh ... Well, that's ... ... uh, another ornament and get that average order value up. 

That's a good, that's a great segue to the I think one of the challenges here is that average order volume,  and kind of how that plays with trying to offer free shipping. Which we've talked about before and we'll probably talk about again. The, you know, how valuable it can be to provide free shipping. And I can't quite recall what your threshold is right now.  for free shipping, $75. Yeah. So that's, that's a, that's a quite a few ornaments. Um, and so to get people ... Correct. ... up to that level can be hard. Because to, a typical order is I think, you know, around $50. Maybe, maybe even more like $35. Um, so trying to nudge folks up to that $75. [crosstalk 00:40:41] $35, yeah. Yeah.  because it's a, it's just a couple ornaments. Correct.

Um, and so, um, you don't have a ton of like big ticket items. Um, it's not a consumable that you would order extra of, right? Um, and especially if it's a gift ... that you're shipping to another household. Um, you know, you're not ordering more of it, because you're just shipping to ... Right. ... you know, the three kids, you, the, your nieces and nephews or whatever. Um, and so you only need three of them. Right.  Well, I think what you said is right what you said was right, it's hard ... In the store, I came in for one ornament and I'm walking out of here with six. And that happens all the time. Where ... Mm-hmm (affirmative). ... it doesn't happen online. And that's, it's hard to convey that, it's hard to, like you said, to get people ... They don't find, they don't happen to, happen upon something that they went, "Oh, this would be perfect." You know? And there's categories that we do really well in the store that haven't caught online. And it's like, "Well, how do we get that to catch?" And I think people see it and then they, they think about it, you know. And, and, and that's where, that's been the struggle is such a, to get those tickets up because people ... And I think anytime you shop online, it's like, by going to the store and I see something I like ... Well, I was here for a shirt and I might have bought a pair of pants or, you know, you would buy more because you are seeing it. 

Yeah. And that is a challenge with the website. That's probably the, our greatest challenge.  Well, and it, it's harder, still, too, because a, a ton of our volume is still coming through Google shopping. And so that's a great you know, place to get clickthroughs, because that's someone who's more likely to complete their order, they're already looking for that specific product. But then ... Correct. ... we're sending them straight to that product, instead of the homepage where we're doing promotions and, um, it makes it a little more challenging. Right. So we have added ...  a counter when you check out that shows how close you are to free shipping. Um, that's been somewhat helpful. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Um, but it has been ... You know, I think that's a good example of the difference between your, you know, the, the relationship you have with someone who's shopping online and is looking for something super specific, versus someone who's browsing, what their behavior is gonna be, right? 'Cause providing great service online ... Right. ... is maybe getting me checked out as quickly as possible. Because I'm busy and I'm, I'm looking on my phone and I have 10 other things on my to-do list. So, um, you know, how do we keep that ... Correct... speed and convenience while still finding ways to, to promote a more impulse by browsing scenario. So it's a work in progress, I would say.

Absolutely. I mean, the marketing part of it has been, I mean, it's, it’s, it’s made, it's made 100% difference, because without all of marketing, you know, we would just, we wouldn't be doing anything. I mean, the day we turn, at the end of the season, we turn the marketing down, we stopped spent, stop our spend, because we can't guarantee people are getting it for Christmas. And it's like we turn the website off. You know, like it is, it's such a stark, it's like, "Oh, wow." You know? It's night and day. So without the, without the marketing that, that is done, it, it is just, it's transformed it. It's absolutely ... You made it, you made it possible to be successful. Yeah. Yeah. And we, you know, I, we talked about marketing strategy in general in a previous episode. and I think this is a great example of where we, we had a model worked out. And, and , part of the sales process was you helping,  you know, the team at Callisters understand what could this be worth. Is it possible that this would be, you know, doing the same volume as another retail location? And so you put together a lot of different scenarios of, of what the sales model could look like, what the keyword volume was to, to validate that yes, people are shopping for this, um, the way we think they are. And then ...

Well, and that's, that's a very ... Oh, go ahead. ... critical factor.  and we've done that for a number of clients, but it's a critical factor for anyone that's gonna use paid media, you know, Google search or even Amazon search now and, and whatever's ... You know, if you're spending 25 bucks to get a $25 order, you're gonna dig yourself a pretty big hole pretty quick, right? So ... Right. 

Ugh, you know, we can generate a lot of orders, the, the question is, "Okay, can we generate those orders profitably year one?" That's best-case scenario, and then keep those customers coming back every year, that's the, certainly the goal. Um, I still think too many people in, in, in your world, , will go back to Google, type in the same search, even though we're staying in front of them, right? We're like sending them emails and, and other things. Correct.

MARKETING TACTICS

They're still going back to search. So we are still seeing a little bit higher than we'd like. It's getting better, you know ... Mm-hmm (affirmative). ... cost per acquisition. But, but, yeah, I think that's critical. And that's one of the first things we did is ... 'Cause especially on, on e-commerce sites with low order values, right? Right. I mean,  even if you have good margins, there's just not a lot of dollars there. And Google's getting expensive, as you guys already know. Absolutely.  how would you guys compare? I don't think a lot of people realize, and I didn't until, we had a number of clients a few years back there had brick and mortar in malls. But I don't think a lot of people realize that, you know, you pay rent at a mall plus a commission, right? Uh, based on your sales?
 
You, you pay a percentage of your sales is really how it breaks down. And the easiest way to explain it, you pay a percentage of your sales. But we've always used that ... And it's, it's, it's pretty high. But that's always been our marketing is, you know, we don't do a lot of outside marketing, our marketing is spent in our rent. Because the, the sheer volume of people they bring into the mall that they bring in, you know, you, you get the benefits of a bigger crowd especially as an impulse item. You know, that's where, that's where our benefit was. So, that's where ... We never, we never marketed ourselves because we did, we had the mall doing it. So when we got to the website, there wasn't any of that. And we had, we had nowhere to even begin.

And I think, when you came, the, the first thing that you, that we talked about, this was a, it was a Callisters Christmas, but it's an absolutely a separate business, and you need to treat it like a separate business, not just an add on, you know. It needs its own inventory, it needs its own marketing plan, it needs everything of its own, so that you can, that it is its own business. That it becomes its own business. And I think that's what really has helped us also, besides the marketing is we, this was the first time we, we made this its own entity, and that, that really helped it. And that's what, what you guys brought to us, also, was like, "Hey, this is how you, this is how you need to do this." And, and helped us through that process also.

Yeah. And I think for us, that was a really awesome opportunity because you got ... It was kind of a clean slate. You didn't have a lot of infrastructure in place that we had to work around or be constrained by.  Right. Uh, you know, we do have some clients that have bigger systems or whatever and they're not getting off those, right? So their e-commerce has to work with what they've had traditionally. Where you guys are just like, "Let's put on all new systems in." Correct. And so it was, that flexibility made, I think, a, a big difference early on getting it off the ground and, and running. Yeah, it's a- Well, made the third time a charm. It was, it was really great. Yeah. I mean, that, I, I knew you guys had a site that you turned off because it, it, it had issues but I didn't know you had, uh, an attempt before that even. Yes (laughs). So ...

Yes. I mean ... And really, without ... And honestly, we are older so it was like, "Do we really have to do this?" And Kelly being younger and very, you know, much into shopping online ... I mean, if, without her pushing us, we wouldn't have done it. We would have stalled, we would have, you know, hem hawed. Because it was two very bad experiences and very costly experiences. It didn't come cheap, you know. So when we went to do ...

Yeah. You're probably gung shy, right? Oh, absolutely. Like, "Are we gonna just go through the same headache again?" Absolutely. "For what?" It's so ... And I ... And honestly, I, you know, I mean, not, not to, to be this way but because of everything that ... When, , when we first met you and everything that we talked about. And you, you know, really did labor and guided us to be able to do this, you know. It was Kelly pushing on this and then you ... You know, you guys really gave us all the information we needed to be successful. And that, I mean, we will be forever grateful for because it really was the perfect partnership.

FINDING SUCCESS

Yeah, we got it, we got it done, we got it launched. Um, you know, it's, it's been exciting to watch it grow. It's one of ... I know, in our office, you know, kind of sharing with the team what the top item of the year is, is always interesting. And, um, just the order volume is always, you know, mind boggling. Watching that, you know, because it is seasonal, and it's been great to see it grow a little bit more out of the typical Christmas season. But just the volumes that you go from before Black Friday to after has been (laughs) so fun to keep an eye on.

That is the challenge with it. You know, we don't ... If, if for whatever reason, i- if we have a bad day, week, whatever, we don't get to make it up in January. You know, it is, it is do or die every single day during the season. And, you know, that's the scary part of it. But it was, so far, I mean, everything is, has been in place, it has worked well. This, the platform works very, very well. You know, we've, we've had little to no issues, you know, with the platform, so it has, it ha- it works. And like I said, we go from zero volume to crazy. Everything works. Yeah.

From, from a personal family, as a family business, like from the standpoint of that, it's been fun to watch like my mom and my aunts who were definitely afraid to go ahead with the third time on this website. To the first year being like, "Okay, well, it's, it's gonna work." To the second year being like, "Wow, it's working." To now being like, "Wow, this is gonna take care of like, this is where we are now. Like we, we're on the internet and ..." Because with, last year with COVID, I mean, honestly, without being on this platform and having a website, the whole year could have just taken us down as a business. And the website kept us up here and right here with the times in 2021. Absolutely.

Yeah. And it's amazing how many people, you know, sort of were in your, are, were in your situation and, and waited until the last minute and then tried to cobble ... Yeah. ... something together and didn't work. So, yeah. Uh, you got ... It paid off. That's good. I- it was (laughs). And I know I've said this a dozen times,  and . I just want you to know from the bottom of all of our hearts, we have appreciated every minute. You guys have, have come through 100%, you have, you know, you've made this and ... Uh, you've made this possible when, you know, it has failed. And you guys just really have the ... Your entire team has been wonderful. And I just wanna make sure you understand how much we appreciate everything you guys have done.

Oh, , that means so much to me. Like really ... I'm, I'm serious. You, you really [crosstalk 01:02:28] ... 
We couldn't ask for a better feedback (laughing). You guys have all been awesome. Thank you.

I'm, I'm ... In all honesty. Yeah. I'm serious (laughs). Yeah. We, we love what we do and, and we put that first. So I'm glad that shows. It does shows. It could be here. It does show every minute ... Yeah. It shows every minute of every day.

- - - - - - 

Beyond the Cart is produced by Lightburn. Our episode today was edited by Ryan Dembroski. Our music is the song, Let's Go Go Go by Tigerblood Jewel.

Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your audio. You can always learn more about e-commerce at lightburn.co.

We'll see you next time on Beyond the Cart.

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