Two years ago Sonny’s Direct began the process of cleaning up its website to make online purchasing easier for its customers, a bit of an irony for a company that makes automated car wash equipment, parts and services.
But the company, which calls itself the largest manufacturer of conveyor car wash machines in the world and is operated by Sonny’s Enterprises LLC, Tamarac, Fla., realized its web experience was anything but smooth, says chief financial officer Dave Shield.
The website, SonnysDirect.com, wasn’t responsive, meaning it would not shrink to fit the screen of a handheld device; had poor search capabilities, limited to the contents of its online catalog and excluding educational materials and articles about products; had a content management system that was difficult to change; and its former digital commerce system—SAP’s Web Channel Experience Management technology—is scheduled to phase out by 2020.
Sonny’s prides itself on customer relations and in 2015 began exploring new technology to upgrade its customers’ online experience. The company polled its customers to learn what they liked—and what they didn’t—about its e-commerce site and used that feedback as the foundation of its new site. A key stipulation: the new one had to integrate with its SAP enterprise resource planning system, Shield says.
Sonny’s decided on SAP’s Hybris e-commerce platform and, after evaluating four implementation specialty vendors, chose Westport, Conn.-based Zaelab.
Three months after rolling out the upgraded website and functions in late August 2016, Sonny’s recorded a 34% increase in revenue, a 21% increase in average order value, and a 12% increase in orders per day, the company says. The company didn’t provide dollar figures.
The planning to implementation process took only about six months because Zaelab offered a continuous delivery implementation model, says Nick Fazio, director of I.T. at Sonny’s, meaning there wasn’t a lengthy initial blueprint and design phase. Instead, “they were able to jump right in and they delivered pieces over time,” Fazio says. The technology operates on a cloud-based platform from Amazon Web Services.
The new technology addressed two key reasons visitors come to the website, Fazio says: learning and shopping. A potential buyer of a new car wash system can now easily learn about the industry and the equipment, while those customers already running car washes can learn ways to do it better, he says. And in addition to improved parts search functionality, the responsive design enables customers to order parts via smartphones or tablets as soon as they are needed.
All commerce-related functions are tied to the SAP ERP system, except shipping, which goes through AWS and then back to the ERP system, Fazio says. Zaelab integrated the new e-commerce platform with technology from other vendors, including Paymetric for credit card tokenization and processing technology, Marketo Inc. for customer segmentation and marketing services, and ProcessWeaver Inc. for real-time shipping costs and delivery estimates, Fazio says. Tokenization refers to a security process in which credit card numbers are converted into codes, relieving businesses of the need to store customer credit card numbers.
Next on the technology agenda for Sonny’s is connecting its controls tools—including point of sale and machinery controls—to the SAP Hybris platform, Fazio says. That will enable car wash system owners to monitor performance of individual parts and cleaning liquids and chemicals.
“It keeps track of everything used in the tunnel,” Fazio says. The ideal outcome would be to enable car wash parts and supplies to be ordered automatically so operators won’t have downtime.
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