At Callisons, coming up with new ways to add flavors, scents and other characteristics to everyday products has driven the company’s growth since the turn of the 20th century.
Now the family-owned ingredients supplier is pushing into new ways to grow through digital commerce — a relatively new channel for Callisons that is already generating significant increases in business.
Callisons develops and supplies mint oils and other ingredients that its manufacturer customers use to flavor products ranging from toothpaste to beverages.
It works with its laboratories to design, develop and test new flavor combinations. In addition, it relies on communications between customers, Callisons’ sales reps and in-house technical experts to match the latest ingredients and flavors to what customers need. For example, a customer may want to make a new product to entice customers — like new mint-flavored chewing gum with a spicy twist.
Lacey, Washington-based Callisons has traditionally helped buyers order the right mix of products through in-person connections with the company’s technical experts and sales reps. Its constantly evolving product lines require effective communications with customers to explain the latest available ingredients and combinations of them — for example, new “cooling, tingling or heating” flavor sensations in chewing gum or dental care products, and ingredient combinations designed to enhance sweetness and mouthfeel of confections or beverages.
Going more digital for customers
That business model has worked well offline for more than a century. But, in a recent foray into ecommerce accelerated by COVID-19, the company is out to learn new and better ways to connect with customers and grow sales worldwide. The privately held company doesn’t release financial figures, but its digital strategy is producing significant results in market exposure and lead generation, says Bob Motta, chief business development officer.
“We had a sidelined sales team for close to two years, so we started to think about new ways to engage customers,” he says.
This is not the first time Callisons has learned to shift its operations. It launched in 1903 as a supplier of Cascara tree bark that it sold as a nutritional supplement for digestive systems and delivered to customers via horse-and-buggy. When demand for Cascara fell off and as new market opportunities emerged, Callisons evolved over the years to serve diversified global markets. Although it’s best known today as a major supplier of mint oils, it also develops extracts, essences and scents; it now sells thousands of ingredients to manufacturers for making products ranging from toothpaste and chewing gum to beverages and sweet confections.
The company’s new ecommerce presence is opening new doors for attracting and communicating with customers as it goes to school on ecommerce techniques. But moving further into ecommerce required figuring out how to offer online customers many of the in-person model’s benefits while also making the online channel more helpful to sales reps.
For years, Callisons had operated a non-transactional website. But with the pandemic, it began adding to the site such features as requesting ingredient samples, and it expanded the company’s online presence with a branded storefront several months ago on Knowde.com, a marketplace for ingredients and chemicals.
Relying more on ecommerce channels, however, resulted in new and faster ways to communicate its latest offerings to customers in search of the special mix of ingredients that would make their products stand out with a special flavor, scent or texture.
Matching buyers with technical experts
Critical to Callisons’ success is matching combinations of ingredients and flavors and scents from thousands of options, including those customized to individual customer’s needs. Earlier this year, the company launched an online FlavorChoice feature that let customer with registered accounts request samples and related specification documents. But often, finding the right ingredients and combinations requires direct customer interaction with Callisons’ flavor specialists and other technical experts.
Callisons recently deployed Knowde’s “Live Conversations” online application, which is embedded in its Knowde.com marketplace storefront as a “Talk to experts” live chat and also accessible from the home page of Callisons.com.
Through Live Conversations, Callisons’ technical experts reply to customer inquiries within an average of two minutes — a fraction of the time under the traditional manual system, Motta says. By comparison, the traditional system would take hours or even days to schedule a customer meeting with an expert, he adds.
Now, instead of someone at Callisons having to track down the appropriate technical expert, the Live Conversations application is designed to search for an available expert and ping their cell phone or computer to instantly connect with the customer.
“This is an opportunity for us to engage the customer live when they’re on our storefront and interested in our products,” Motta says.
He adds that the company’s digital commerce and marketing efforts are generating a sharply increased number of customer leads that result in potential sales activity like requesting samples.
“By providing more live touch points and more relevant information to enhance the customer experience,” Motta says, “there’s an enormous potential there to expand our footprint in the marketplace.”
Sign up for a complimentary subscription to Digital Commerce 360 B2B News, published 4x/week, covering technology and business trends in the growing B2B ecommerce industry. Contact editor Paul Demery at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @pdemery.
Follow us on LinkedIn and be the first to know when new Digital Commerce 360 B2B News content is published.