When you’re in the business of selling seeds, few things are more important than the quality of growth. For Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a purveyor of produce and flower seeds, tools, and supplies, it’s a top priority.
Founder Rob Johnston has said, “If we sell someone seed that doesn’t germinate well, that customer isn’t going to come back. We’ll do practically anything we can to maintain quality.”
That commitment to quality growth permeates all aspects of the 45-year-old Winslow, Maine company, including its digital storefront, which serves not only as a means to purchase products but also as an educational platform for individual growers and farmers.
“We’re helping people grow healthy food,” says Gretchen Kruysman co-CEO. “The question is how can technology help with something as back-to-basics as farming? How can we use technology to strengthen the relationship with our customers?”
Johnny’s was an early adopter of ecommerce, having launched its first transactional site the same year Amazon started selling books, 1995. Yet as its business grew to serve customers across the U.S. and more than 50 countries, the company knew that its site had to do more, had to be more, for its customers.
“We can’t meet and talk with each and every customer,” says Kruysman. “But they want information on harvest windows, soil conditions, diseases, and more. We know we need to help them find just the right product.”
Finding the right product is just one element of delivering top-shelf customer experience. Johnny’s partnership with Salesforce — it launched a new site on Commerce Cloud in late 2016 — does just that and more. It gave Johnny’s customers a way to quickly find the best products and gave Johnny’s a way to monetize its voluminous educational content. In fact, one of its goals was to make the site as dogeared as its popular physical catalog.
Its efforts have paid off; customers spend 33% longer, up to an astonishing seven minutes exploring the site, and are looking at 29% more pages. Gross merchandise value in 2018 was up 16% year-to-date over 2017.
A partnership built on a shared foundation of continued growth and innovation
Johnny’s was looking for more than a vendor/customer relationship, and in Salesforce it forged a partnership to grow its business together. As with all Salesforce customers, the implementation of the technology was truly only the beginning.
Just six months after the new site went live in November 2016, Johnny’s began working in conjunction with its dedicated Commerce Cloud Success Manager to strategize and leverage Salesforce resources to grow and optimize its online business. After aligning on goals and jointly developing an action plan, Johnny’s began implementing Salesforce Accelerators, a series of revenue-driving tools designed by the Commerce Cloud Practice team. For Johnny’s, these include a comprehensive SEO audit, a shopper journey health check, a web page speed assessment, merchandising assessments, two rounds of distribution industry benchmarks, and a heatmap engagement, each delivered by Success Specialists with subject matter expertise.
“It’s been amazing how truly committed Salesforce is to helping us grow the business,” says Alisha Burns, Ecommerce Manager. “We’re taking insights from the Accelerators and weaving it into our planning, which makes it feel like our team is much bigger than it actually is.”
Johnny’s is pragmatic in its approach, and it’s committed to implementing technologies that have a concrete benefit for customers. One example: Einstein Product Recommendations, which uses AI to automatically recommend products based on browsing history and other criteria.
“We can tell not only if someone has added a recommended product to their cart but also if they check out with it, and make repeat purchases. That was really the validation. We watched the behavior and the data and discovered that Product Recommendations were clearly a benefit for customers,” says Burns.
Johnny’s has also leveraged Salesforce’s powerful benchmarking insights, in which customers learn how other customers’ businesses performed using the same tools.
“We just have access to more data,” says Burns. “We can read benchmarks anywhere, but Salesforce shares with us how [anonymous] others have performed using the same tools we are.”
A higher purpose
The company’s mission is as elemental to human existence as can be, says Kruysman. That is, to help friends, communities, and farmers feed one other.
“To choose farming today is to take on a lot of challenges. We realize what we are doing is helping someone who’s trying to support a family, so we have to have the best products,” she says. Products grown from Johnny’s seeds “have to taste that much better, look that much better on the plate, and be that much healthier. That’s how we distinguish ourselves.”
When you're ready to take your ecommerce to the next level, download our e-book, Ecommerce and the Quest for Growth, and learn more about how Johnny’s Selected Seeds embraces technology to nurture organic growth.