As head of product at online retailer Nuts.com, David Lerner normally works hard to increase the conversion rate on his ecommerce site. But with the coronavirus pandemic driving a big increase in demand for such shelf-stable foods as the pasta and beans Nuts.com sells in addition to nuts and dried fruit, the e-retailer is trying to slow down sales.
“We have way too much demand and not enough capacity,” Lerner says. “Supply is more or less okay, but we don’t have the capacity to produce and fulfill the orders.”
As a result, Lerner says, “We are doing everything we can to slow down sales so we can service our customers.”
Nonetheless, sales are way up, increasing more than 50% last week over the same week a year ago. And Nuts.com is not just putting the extra revenue into its pocket: The e-retailer is pledging to donate up to $100,000 to Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that supports more than 200 food banks serving the needy.
Nuts.com asks customers to hold off placing orders
The steps to slow down sales include CEO Jeffrey Braverman asking customers to put off placing orders for a day or two if they don’t need food immediately, so that those with a pressing need can get their products more quickly.
“If you aren’t in urgent need, we ask that you delay placing your order for 2-3 days to help us meet the needs of customers who can’t afford to wait,” Braverman says in his note. The message appears on the website periodically, with Nuts.com displaying it when sales spike. “We turn it on and off as we try to keep sales at a good pace,” Lerner says.
In addition, Nuts.com, No. 676 in the 2019 Top 1000, Digital Commerce 360’s annual ranking of North America’s leading online retailers, has halted almost all of its marketing and placed limits on certain items in high demand, Lerner says. It also has removed from its site items that sell slowly, so that warehouse workers don’t have to waste time looking in back corners of the distribution center for a rarely ordered product.
The high demand also has led Nuts.com, which normally ships orders the same day they’re received or the following day, to post a note on its website warning that “Due to volume, orders may be delayed 2-3 days.”
Another note on the site explains that, in the interest of safety, Nuts.com will not be taking returns for now, nor processing refunds. That will prevent warehouse workers from getting infected by handling products sent back by people who are sick. But, the note adds: “We will do whatever it takes to make it right.”
Donations to Feeding America
Underscoring its commitment to doing the right thing, Nuts.com, a family business that’s been around for 91 years, is encouraging website visitors to donate to Feeding America. Plus, the retailer pledged to match donations up to $100,000. As of March 25, the Nuts.com website shows that it has received 1,211 donations, totaling $44,565. Nuts.com matched that amount with its own contributions, making its total contribution to Feeding America $89,130.
In addition, Nuts.com is pledging to contribute $2 of every sale of selected products to Feeding America. A note to that effect appears on the product pages for those items. This second campaign, which also began as the coronavirus spread, is “a way for customers to support the cause while also filling their pantries, in lieu of straight cash donations,” Lerner says.
Lerner recognizes that having more demand than you can handle is a problem many retailers would welcome, and he hears from friends at luxury and fashion companies that their sales are way off. But in the end, ecommerce will benefit from so many consumers shopping more online at a time when many bricks-and-mortar stores are closed, and in many cases buying groceries on websites for the first time, he says.
Data backs that up. Online orders to full-assortment grocery merchants increased more than 210% from March 12-15 compared with a year earlier, according to Rakuten Intelligence, which tracks online sales via consumers’ email receipts. Of shoppers buying food online recently, 41% were buying groceries online for the first time, according to a survey by Gordon Hackett Research Advisors.
“As people get comfortable shopping for food online they’ll shop for more of everything online,” Lerner says. “When the economy returns, ecommerce will be one of the big winners in all of this.”