How does a 65-year-old brand stay relevant in an e-commerce world?
Beer Nuts sweet and salty peanuts first appeared on the shelves of U.S. stores in 1953—the same year the first color televisions went on sale. The world has changed a lot since then; so has Beer Nuts’ business.
Molly Dietmeier, direct sales supervisor, has seen some big changes over the past year in how the Bloomington, Illinois-based snack food company approaches consumers. She spoke with xSellco about how the 65-year-old brand is trying to appeal to the next generation of snackers.
xSellco: Tell us a little bit about the history of Beer Nuts and your e-commerce store.
Molly: The product, our original sweet and salty peanuts, started in 1937 but the company didn’t actually become Beer Nuts until 1953. We launched e-commerce in the early 2000s. That was a very basic, shopping cart type of site.
Our current e-commerce store launched in October 2017. Before that, we were using a company called Celerant but we had a lot of pain points and frustrations. We started looking for a solution at the start of 2017 and when we found Shopify we fell in love with it.
It’s mobile-friendly. You can change everything. It’s flexible. You can add new applications to it. Whatever you need to change, it’s not difficult. And the SEO with it is so much better than what we had. Our SEO was basically non-existent before. We felt we needed to catch up and Shopify is really helping us get there.
xSellco: You mentioned mobile-friendliness. Is the ability to browse your website on mobile devices something that’s important to your customers?
Molly: Historically our customers are an older crowd, but we see an opportunity with millennials and younger generations buying off their phone. It’s not necessarily for our current customer but to reach new consumers.
xSellco: Who are you competing with for those consumers?
Molly: Planters, Wonderful and Kind Snacks, but when it comes down to it, anything snack food-related is a competitor. When you go into a store or you go online, what food product are you going for? We would like the answer to be us. Whatever feeds your stomach is what we say. We’re competing for that.
xSellco: How important is e-commerce to Beer Nuts’ business, in terms of sales?
Molly: Right now, because we’ve just started to focus on it, e-commerce is still a fairly small portion of our business. But we’ve started pouring more and more time and resources into e-commerce and we really expect significant growth within the next few years. So while it’s a small portion right now, there’s big, big potential there.
xSellco: What do you think has played the biggest part in your growth to date online?
Molly: Not to sound too generic, but marketing. We never really had any marketing up until about a year ago and we’ve really started utilizing our brand better as well. Plus, having flexible platforms like xSellco and Shopify have really helped us grow because we can better serve our customers. If they have a great experience they’re more willing to come back.
xSellco: What do you mean when you say utilizing the brand better?
Molly: So, to be honest, we never took a relation to beer. We’re Beer Nuts, but we would never play up the beer part. We were a little hesitant to go down that road and maybe, possibly, be offensive to people. But we’ve decided that most of our stuff has to do with beer so why not make that natural connection, go for that crowd and not be afraid of it anymore. It’s fun. It makes sense to us.
So we’ve really started leaning that way, and I think it helps us just to take on what our brand is and what it stands for in our social media postings and email blasts. We’re tying the products to an experience while you’re drinking.
xSellco: When did Beer Nuts start selling on Amazon?
Molly: Our wholesale department started using Fulfillment by Amazon back in 2006 and we moved to Merchant Fulfilled in 2016. We basically just send it direct to the consumer, but we are also utilizing Fulfillment by Amazon through Merchant Fulfilled, so we can keep more control of our product and make sure the quality remains and doesn’t get passed through a billion hands before it gets to the customer.
xSellco: Is there anything else you do to manage your brand’s reputation on Amazon?
Molly: We’re really focused on quality and our product can’t sustain its quality if it’s not stored correctly or if it’s passing through many hands or not shipped the right way. A lot of people sell our products on Amazon, such as third-party sellers, wholesalers, whatever it may be, and xSellco Repricer has helped us go after them.
xSellco: What’s your strategy for providing an excellent customer experience?
Molly: We focus on training, constantly. We always ask ourselves what can we do better. Constant coaching can be hard to dedicate time to, but it’s hugely important.
Listening to customers to understand what they’re actually telling you is important to the customer experience as well. Don’t just have a prepared response all the time. Connect with them, listen to what they’re actually asking you or what they’re complaining about because it might not actually be a problem.
And then, on top of all that, take the time to invest in tools such as xSellco Helpdesk, get trained in and they will take you a long way.
Molly: We have an interesting set-up. The department for customer service is in this department (direct sales) as well. There’s two full-time staff, including myself, and then we have 20 college-aged part-timers that are actually our customer support team.
So there’s not a full-time customer support team. It’s not a call center. They get off class, they come in, switch shifts, take over. We’re just not that big yet.
And those part-timers answering the phone are also in charge of our sales floor in our stores. They fill shipping orders. There’s a bunch of other tasks they’re doing. They’re not just sitting at the phone with a headset on waiting for you to call. They actually do a lot more and they’re being cross-trained and have a lot more opportunities to then go into a bigger, more full-time career later on.
xSellco: Did you use customer support software before xSellco?
Molly: We were functioning off Post Its and scribbled messages that were hard to decipher, so xSellco was a saving grace for us. It’s really helped with our response times because before there would be a Post It on a customer service desk and you’d be like, ‘When did that call come in and have we responded?’ Now we can assign the ticket to someone, see when they responded, at what time and how long it took to get back to them.
Besides assigning tickets—that’s our absolute favorite—being able to go back in a conversation to see exactly what was said is super helpful. Worst-case scenario, if there’s an upset customer, you can see exactly when and how that situation was handled.
Missing inquiries used to be our biggest struggle. Now we can have everything filtered into one place and see social media, Shopify, Amazon—it’s all in one spot.
xSellco: Since you started using xSellco, are there any tickets or queries that keep cropping up?
Molly: Our biggest ones have something to do with the customer’s order or shipping times. You know, where’s my order? When’s it going to be delivered? Simple things where you can probably send a tracking number and give a little update.
Molly: Because of how our company is structured, questions about the specifics of our products that maybe we don’t know off the top of our heads take the longest to resolve. It might be more of a quality control question than necessarily a customer service question. So it takes us a little bit longer to answer those due to having to go find our manager for quality control.
xSellco: Does it typically take longer to respond to queries on certain channels?
Molly: We prioritize Amazon. Those queries should get answered first, typically within an hour. With Shopify we give ourselves a little more time. If a query isn’t pressing it’s usually a 24-hour time period, except on weekends. On Facebook we try to get back within the hour as well.
I’m a big advocate for efficiency. The fact that I don’t have hundreds of Post Its on my desk anymore has been a huge help. And while we can’t yet attribute specific sales revenue to xSellco, we’ve definitely seen better response times. That was an immediate result.
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