The Vermont Country Store closed its two brick-and-mortar stores for a portion of 2020 due to COVID-19, but online sales through its ecommerce website shot up 60% between April and November, allowing it to hire additional employees.
Then came what is usually the store’s busiest time of year, the November and December holiday rush.
Company leaders took the unusual step of capping the number of phone and online orders. By limiting orders, they could meet customer service expectations with a smaller number of employees in the distribution center. Instead of adding the typical 550 seasonal workers for the holiday rush, managers hired half that many, a reduction necessary to allow employees to follow social distancing guidelines.
We’re very pleased with our new ecommerce website. Now we’re only limited by our own imagination and creativity.
President and CEO, The Vermont Country Store
When the pandemic hit, The Vermont Country Store had recently updated its website with Oracle Commerce. The company chose the cloud-based application because it wanted to create a rich online buying experience that, like the stores, is “built to browse,” says Jim Hall, company president and CEO.
The organization wanted a website that would allow call center agents to easily connect order information to customer records, so that agents could continue to offer the company’s legendary customer service. Its website also needed to easily handle extreme seasonal variations in business volume, a valuable feature as online business exploded during the pandemic. The Vermont Country Store was also keen on an ecommerce solution that would continuously update with fixes and improvements to ensure the most modern site experience.
In addition to Oracle Commerce, the company also adopted Oracle Responsys Campaign Management, a campaign management tool to help the store send targeted messages to customers based on their personal interests and buying behaviors. That tool later proved essential during the pandemic, when the company needed to steer customers toward products with greater inventory levels.
Looking forward, The Vermont Country Store is implementing Oracle Infinity, a digital analytics platform, to better understand how to measure and influence customer behavior in real time.
When the pandemic first hit, company managers closed the stores for two months to understand and implement new safety standards. Company leaders then adopted mask and social distancing requirements in all areas of the business and split the workforce into two shifts, which never overlapped, to control the spread of possible infections. Those precautions led to the most important result: No employees fell ill.
While the company capped holiday sales so workers in the distribution center could keep the required distance from one another, online, catalog, and call center sales hummed along. During that time, the company reached out to customers using Responsys to keep them up to date about the availability of their favorite products and promotions.
“People were buying cheese in massive quantities,” Hall says. “We sold hundreds of hams and cans of soup by the truckload.”
The Vermont Country Store was able to burnish its already shining reputation as a company that holds the safety of its employees in the highest regard.
“I think our team at The Vermont Country Store appreciated the fact that we placed people above profits,” Hall says. “We still had an extraordinarily good year in 2020.”
Oracle has helped us immensely. Our relationship is more than just a product from Oracle, it is the support that comes with it and the teams we get to meet and work with. It allows us to be more creative without spending more money. It’s bringing the size of Oracle to our smaller company and allows us to be more adaptive and flexible.
Ecommerce System Administrator, The Vermont Country Store