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Interview

Interview: Digital Innovation and Commerce in B2B, with Gireesh Sahukar, VP of Digital at Dawn Foods

In 2018, Dawn Foods, a 100 year old, family-owned bakery ingredient manufacturer, made the strategic decision to invest in delivering a best-in-class digital experience for its customers. Gireesh Sahukar, their VP of Digital, joined Justin King and Peter Crosby to lay out their ongoing journey to digital and commerce success.

TRANSCRIPT

Peter:

Welcome to unpacking the digital shelf where we explore brand manufacturing in the digital age. Hey everyone, Peter Crosby executive director of the digital shelf Institute here in 2018, Dawn foods, a hundred year old family owned bakery ingredient manufacturer made the strategic decision to invest in delivering a best-in-class digital experience for its customers. Gireesh Sahukar their VP of digital joined Justin King and me to lay out their ongoing journey to digital and commerce success. Gireesh, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. Uh, as, as I mentioned in our opening, you, you run the digital innovation lab at Don foods, which is a a hundred year old B2B bakery ingredient manufacturer, a family run business. As a matter of fact, in a time when people with digital skills are in high demand across industries, what made you choose Don foods to put your energy into?

Gireesh:

Thanks, Peter, it's great to be here and I'm looking forward to the conversation this afternoon. Don foods is under the oil company. They're a B2B major. Um, we manufacture and sell bakery ingredients. Um, the key draw for me with, uh, with Don foods was, you know, it's, it's a family owned business. It's privately had, it's a family run and we can focus on the long-term vision. We can focus on delivering capabilities for our, um, customers and we can focus on, uh, you know, as a a hundred year old company, uh, how do we stay relevant and in business for the next 100 years and what do we need to do, um, in order to make that a reality? So those were some of the things that drew me. I had, uh, previously been at, um, similar, uh, family owned businesses, family run businesses, and we could take a long-term view. I've been at publicly traded companies and the challenge with, um, you know, making sure our, um, Euro or your, or, uh, you know, quarterly sales numbers are met and those goals are made. Um, you know, it takes away from being able to, um, try towards a, uh, long-term ration and being able to do something for the long-term.

Peter:

Yeah. I mean, in your career, you had been at, at, um, at Belk at Curry Dr. Pepper. Um, and, and so as you said, you've sort of experienced that, that, that family run business. W w what is it that, that draws you to, is it the, the long-term focus that draws you to something like that? Being able to know you you've, you've got some runway to, to really work things through

Gireesh:

That's exactly it, you know, um, you can, you can lay out a roadmap for, for a long-term mission saying, you know, this is the, um, end goal. This is, uh, especially when you talk about digital, digital is a journey. It's not a, it's not a destination. You know, the, the, the journey is more important than the destination itself, because the goalposts keep moving with, uh, with every year, things in e-commerce are never static. So you, you have to keep moving and it takes a lot of, um, energy and focus and effort to continually invest in that continually make sure that as an organization, you can focus on those kinds of, uh, uh, new approaches, new ideas, try new things, uh, test and learn, and, um, gather feedback. And digital provides that opportunity to be able to, um, gather feedback from your customers that you couldn't really do in, um, in other channels and historically in other offline ways of doing business.

Gireesh:

So, um, with, with digital, you have that opportunity and you can take that forward. And in a, um, in a Dawn setting, it was, uh, all the more, um, compelling because, you know, we could focus on that. Long-term, we may not have legacy technology. We were coming from a, um, fairly, um, early 20th century view of doing business. You know, we were doing a lot of, um, business face-to-face person to person, which is fairly difficult in the B2B industry. Uh, and w you know, we, we came from that view. We did not have a technology landscape. We did not have legacy technology that we had to, um, move forward and modernize and, um, you know, have any constraints there. So we could imagine what the future would be like and what we needed to do to be in business in that future.

Justin:

Are she talked about staying relevant, and then you said yet the goalposts keep moving. I'm sure you've seen a lot of change in business shifts over the last couple years, especially instead of a a hundred year old company. How, how did, how did Don foods, um, deal with some of those business shifts that have happened?

Gireesh:

Yeah, Don started a, um, strategy, um, work a few years ago. Um, and as they looked at, you know, we're coming up on our a hundred year milestone, what do we need to do to stay relevant for the next 100 years? Um, that was the focus of that strategy work. And, you know, the outcome of that was a strategy to say, here's what we need to do to stay in business for the next 100 years. And that work led into a strategy execution phase, which created several different work streams. And those work streams are passed with improving certain pie, um, parts of our business, certain aspects of how we do business, whether it was, uh, on the people front, um, how do we organize our company? How do we, um, structure our, our people and how do we manage our people, or whether it was on the products side, uh, to say, um, what are the products that we're making?

Gireesh:

How have we been manufacturing them? Um, and is this the right set of products? Do we need to carry, um, rationalizing our, um, sort of, um, products that we offered to our customers and making sure we categorize the rights of the products at the right prices and, um, you know, putting the right combinations in front of the right customers. And then, um, thinking through, you know, do we have the right set of technologies and tool sets? Do we have the right go to market approaches for, uh, for the changing customers, uh, and customer behavior, um, that all led into, um, these each individual workstream saying, Hey, there's a lot of, um, technology questions that we're asking. There's, um, there's a lot of digital, um, things that we are bringing up here that we don't quite have a, uh, house for in, in this strategy execution. So we need to do something about the digital aspect of all of these work streams.

Peter:

And so, um, grace, that when you talk about sort of the digital requirements at the core of that, right, is that, um, uh, B2B buyers are getting into a consumer type mindset, uh, that, that they want to self-service, they don't want to talk to people, uh, they want to transparency in, in their buying process. Uh, tell me a little bit about some of that in those sort of early strategy discussions of, of shifting to digital, like w does that reflect sort of the conclusions that you were coming up with?

Gireesh:

Absolutely. We saw some of the same, um, scenarios and, um, shifting patterns in, in the B2B buyers. Um, I, I think Gartner put this stat out there a while ago, you know, more than 50% of the B2B buyers are now millennials and millennials have been raised with, uh, technology all around them. They know, um, and their views, their, um, technology, the internet has been a constant presence in their life throughout this entire, um, you know, uh, you know, uh, personal life for them. And as they came into the workplace, um, whether it was in, uh, in the more traditional B2B distribution space are in the manufacturing space and they started interacting with their suppliers, uh, you know, they started demanding the kind of ease and convenience that they had in their personal lives. Now, just because, you know, we work in the B2B space does not mean we have to accept that inferior tools and websites are okay.

Gireesh:

Right. People have been used to the convenience of B2C e-commerce, they, they demand the same thing in B2B e-commerce, they, they ask for some of the same capabilities. They want to know all about the product without having to talk to a Salesforce. And they want to see a three 60 degree views of a product. They want to see, you know, what the, uh, height, weight, um, dimensions of the product are. And they want to understand how the product can be used. They want some ideas, and in our case, they want recipes and they want different, uh, uh, features and videos of, um, you know, different recipes being, uh, put into action. Um, so w we've seen some of those same things. We've, um, we've had a lot of our customers saying, Hey, I can, um, buy online from others. Why can't I buy online from you guys? Uh, why did we have to do this, uh, paper ordering or, um, sending emails and text messages and so on? Um, so there, there was a lot of built in, uh, pent up demand for this, from our own customer base.

Justin:

Grecia you mentioned how these work streams, how you assemble these work streams, but digital was left out. How did you organize digital then? Did you, you wrapped that into the rest of your organization? Was it separated out? Like, how did you, how did you organize that?

Gireesh:

Yeah, w uh, you know, I give a lot of credit to our, um, organization and the transformation effort that was going on. They, um, they recognize that digital was a key driver for a lot of those strategy execution, and, uh, they decided to spend on digital as a, another work stream in that same strategy execution. And, um, the organization chose to hire a chief facial officer. They brought in Bob Holland as the chief digital officer for the company in, um, early 2019. Um, Bob, uh, came in and reviewed, uh, where we were as a digital, um, uh, company on the digital maturity curve. And pretty quickly Bob realized, and, uh, Bob got the organization to understand that we need to make a pretty significant investments into growing our initial muscle and digital footprint. Um, and Bob convinced me to come on board, uh, late in 2019.

Gireesh:

And, you know, we, even though we were a separate work stream in the strategy execution, um, we interacted and we worked closely with all the other work stream that had, um, uh, you know, a whole lot of, uh, uh, touch points with us. We had to work with manufacturing. We had to work with, uh, supply chain. We had to work with, uh, uh, the people who were to work with the, uh, finance. Um, so every single part of the company was, um, in wallet in one way or another in making sure digital came to life for add-on.

Justin:

W you said, it sounds like you separated that out. What was the, one of the, both of the benefits for separating digital out on its own, into its own department or business unit, whatever you call it?

Gireesh:

Yeah. Um, you know, th the key driver there was to make sure that digital could focus and the organization could keep doing what he was doing additional focused on, uh, the chief digital officer and a digital innovation team could focus on the digital initiatives at Dawn. Um, we did not want to have this become another set of projects or programs. Um, traditionally you've seen these kinds of organizations spun up within it, and, you know, there's, um, instead of under the CIO, um, there's, there's a team that works on this, uh, kind of, um, away from, um, the glare of everyone else. But when you think about this, when you think about all of the, um, other areas of the company that need to come together and need to work together, um, it, it, it takes an entire village to get additional up and running and going and making sure it is successful. It is not a single individual that can make this happen. So, um, yes, it is separate, but, you know, we also had to build all of those, uh, touchpoints and relationships to make sure that this, this worked okay. And, you know, having the separate team was, um, it allowed us to make sure that we focused on that core and not get distracted with, uh, something else that might've happened if we were a part of another organization.

Peter:

And so Gireesh that decision sort of essentially the carve out, uh, you know, you didn't call it a center of excellence or the dyno digital innovation hub. You're, you're really leading that and tell, tell us a bit, because, um, when we spoke about it earlier, it, it, um, it seems like its, its remit was broader than just the digital needed to run. E-commerce. Uh, tell me, tell me a bit about kind of what your, you know, what your mission covers.

Gireesh:

Yeah. The way I think about it is the digital innovation hub is basically a place for a doc footing. A lot of things that we want to try out, we look at tools, technology systems, processes, and we first try them on, on ourselves. Um, we, you know, we basically learn by doing things. And so our, uh, our key goal here is to try something on and make sure that we can, um, get some, um, learnings from doing some as some of these things, whether there is a new technology or whether it is a, um, a new process or whether it is, um, you know, new tool that we're, we're all trying to leverage. Um, we try them on our sets. We see whether, you know, it does it work for the digital innovation hub, does it scale, uh, to 15 people? And then we go apply it or we're, um, you know, and we take it forward to our other leaders and say, here's, um, uh, what's happening. Hey, here's some technology that we've tried. And, um, if this works, um, for us, here's how it works. Here's the, um, some of the, uh, pros and cons of this technology or this tool, or this system, this process of courses, um, what we already have at gone this, um, this gets better, um, for the broader company. And we, uh, look to other parts of our organization to adopt.

Peter:

It seems like it's sort of a gentle or a gentler way of trying to get to consistency of systems across the business by a, and tell me if I, I don't mean to put words in your mouth, but it was part of it. Like there were different tools being for different purposes being put into place across the organization and they aren't able to talk to each other and everyone's learning. Was it, was there some effort to kind of ease the company towards picking the best tool across the company? It's okay.

Gireesh:

More a mindset of making sure let's try things. Let's not, um, you know, box ourselves into the first option, uh, that we see, but let's, let's make sure that we evaluate, uh, certain things, you know, we, um, we had been, uh, because we, the digital innovation hub was based in Boston and our, um, broader companies. Uh, our headquarters is in Jackson, Michigan. We had to, um, you know, continually figure out how we communicate with, uh, with the folks in Jackson. Um, we tried a few things. Our, um, corporate videoconferencing solution at the time was, um, Skype. And, um, you know, we tried Skype, we had a few issues so that, um, in Boston we started, um, um, using zoom as a Crile. And, uh, you know, we eventually also piloted, uh, Microsoft teams and we landed on Microsoft teams because there was interoperability between teams and, uh, Skype that did not exist with Skype and zoom.

Gireesh:

Um, so we looked at those kinds of things. We said, here's an option, um, that works and works really well in zoom, but it doesn't really work with the rest of Don. Um, but here's another option that works about equally well as, um, zoom does and works really well with, uh, the rest of Don. So we, uh, we pushed for, with the adoption of teams and, you know, because of the interoperability there, wasn't a whole lot of forth that other folks had to do. And eventually everyone, um, slowly has migrated over to teams. I think it's, I think it's interesting that a digital innovation lab isn't about necessarily just

Justin:

About customer experience, you kind of automatically go to customer experience. Now you're talking about kind of digital adoption inside of your company with tools and things like that. I think it was really neat. I know that in our previous conversation, one of your biggest kind of most consequential project was your, I think you built your e-commerce platform from scratch. What, what were you seeing inside of your buyers, your customers, the shift in their behavior that, that made this unnecessary thing to, to create and how, how did you deal with, um, creating a solution for them?

Gireesh:

Well, like I mentioned earlier, uh, you know, our buyers are getting, um, younger, you know, um, the bakery industry is a tough place to be, you know, bakeries are, um, typically, you know, 80 degree kitchens, which is where most of the staff spends their time, 80 degrees or, um, you know, um, higher temperatures. So, you know, you literally have to be able to deal with the hate or you can't stand the kitchen. Um, and you know, it's, it's, um, it's a pretty long day. You'll start the other day in the middle of the night, you know, uh, pretty early, uh, after midnight you start working and, uh, you have to produce, um, your, uh, your products for your consumers before five or 6:00 AM on a daily basis. So it takes a lot of, um, uh, effort and energy to kind of have that schedule on a daily, ongoing basis to be able to do that work. So our customers, um, you know, put in a lot of time and effort and energy into this. And, um, as, uh, as buyers, they're getting younger, you know, they're, you know, they're working in the middle of the night and they want to go home at 10:00 AM and go to sleep.

Gireesh:

If you're say a person shows up at your door at 10, 10, 15 in the morning, when you're about to get ready to leave, you know, you're not in the best of moods to be able to want or want to talk to a Salesforce and you want to just go home and take a nap so you can get ready for your next day. Um, that allows us to work better, uh, with a digital's, um, e-commerce solution with our customers, because then they can do the, um, ordering and the self-service capabilities, um, more on their schedule and their convenience, and not when our sales people show up at their doors. Um, our customers know and use digital experiences every day. And we wanted to bring some of that to them in a very, uh, thoughtful manner. So we went out and looked at all of the e-commerce platforms, and we said, uh, one of the insights that I was able to draw a was that every e-commerce platform vendor has been talking, making their platforms, uh, available, why API APIs or making it API driven or making it available as API first, um, a lot of headless, um, concepts were being mentioned at the time.

Gireesh:

So there wasn't any disagreement that the industry was moving to a, um, API forest architecture. It was just the timeframe of when a different, um, um, windows would get there. And our, um, inside there was, there was not a disagreement here on what the future of e-commerce platforms are. Um, it's just about the timeline. So we chose, um, platforms and technologies that were already API, um, ready and API driven rather than wait for a monolith. Uh Wender uh, to break their platform down into API APIs and make it available like BIS that allowed us to, um, build our e-commerce solution that our customers wanted, um, and go to market fairly quickly. We went from no code, no written requirements to a fully functioning, um, uh, website that our customers were able to use in 22 weeks. And we can, um, we can do that today.

Gireesh:

Um, you know, again, this is what we did a year ago. You could probably argue that you can do that even pastored today with some of the technologies that have matured and improved. You can probably do that in 16 weeks. Um, I know you guys talked to our Papa about Pepsi, which launched in, you know, 30 days or less, uh, I find a memoir, right? So there are, um, you know, uh, players out there that can do this, um, you know, pretty quickly nowadays. So to come up with a compelling, um, uh, solution, a solution that is, um, easy to use self-service for the customers and, um, really fast expedience, um, and a modern interface, um, is, is, is, is easy as well as, um, you know, becoming, uh, commoditized and readily available.

Justin:

I would just say, it's funny because when I hear you say it's, it's easy, uh, I think, uh, I I'm imagining all our listeners who have been involved in such a project sort of, um, uh, have been through it. I don't know if the easy is a word that I would use, but I'm, I'm, I'm thrilled that you didn't use it, throw you used it. Um, cause it's not a word that most people use in describing these type of projects.

Gireesh:

That's fair, you know, um, maybe not easy in every organization, maybe there are challenges organizationally, but from it, when you think about it from a technology standpoint, from a, um, e-commerce platforms and product perspective, there are plenty of options out there. Um, you don't need to do what we were doing, um, you know, 10 or 15 years ago when you had to, you know, uh, think about hardware. I think about hosting, think about, uh, the commerce, uh, platform mind, or think about, uh, hardening, all of that, think about security, um, you know, in data centers and, uh, power, electricity cooling systems, you don't have to worry about those things, you know, the public cloud options, um, have, uh, given you infrastructure as a service, the, um, you know, microservices based e-commerce platforms have given you a commerce platform. Um, you know, if you have a credit card, you can enter your credit card information and get a commerce platform, um, that is available to you instantaneously.

Gireesh:

Um, you can get front end as a service. So a lot of these things are available to you at a pretty much, um, you know, no effort or minimal effort. Um, it doesn't take months or years to put all of these things together, right? The, the foundation is available to you off the shelf. What do you really have to focus on then is building your, um, secret sauce, so to speak, what differentiates you from your competitors? What do you want your customer experience to be? So you have to think about a completely different set of things that, um, you know, would typically come in, uh, you know, down 15 years ago and we were doing monoliths, that would be about six or eight months into a project like this.

Peter:

And let's drill in on that because when, when you're talking about easy, I think in the, sort of the three-legged stool of people, process technology in this case, probably to your point, technology has become the easier leg. And so drilling in on those major requirements, what were the principles of customer experience that you wanted to make sure. And who were the customers, because it's not only probably your end customers, it's also your internal customers, right? So walk us through some of those major principles and, and where you ended up with those.

Gireesh:

Yeah, we identified a, um, a bunch of different customer classes. Obviously you are, um, um, end users that are using the platform, placing orders, um, you know, uh, working with their accounts, they, our sales teams are, uh, the focus, but we also needed to make the same platform available to our sales reps. We needed to make the same platform available to our customer service reps, and we needed to make the same platform available to our internal, um, managers, um, you know, uh, catalog managers, promotional managers, um, and our own product managers and, uh, development and operations staff. So we had a lot of different, um, uh, customer classes and B we decided that we were not going to a separate applications and separate interfaces. We're going to put all of the capabilities into one UI. So everyone, when they were talking to customers or when they were talking about a particular, um, product on the site, or when they were talking about an issue, they were all looking at it from the same interface and they were looking at the same things.

Gireesh:

So when our customers was looking at a particular, um, raised a doughnut mix, our sales rep was looking at that same product as that customer. Um, so they were impersonating that customer's, uh, view of what they were looking at, um, in sort of a co-browsing simultaneous, um, view model. Um, so we, we took all of these kind of different things saying, Hey, um, our customers need help in being able to use this kind of platform, but our sales reps also need to be able to see what our customers are doing. So if customers add items to cart, um, I would say it's stuff should be able to go see that card and, uh, and make suggestions. This is the, um, you know, interpersonal relationships that they have. They understand each other's, um, uh, you know, uh, business really well. And our, uh, our, um, uh, sales reps know how our customers operate and you know, what frequency they are with us and what products do they buy?

Gireesh:

What, uh, seasonality do they go after and so on. So you can't really bid all of that into a website. At first, it takes time, it takes effort, it takes a lot of energy and, you know, it, it also takes a lot of learning, which, you know, it comes with time. So we wanted to make sure we give them the core capabilities and the tools that they can all use at, um, on the same platform, in the same interface at the same time. And it needed to be easy. It needed to be, um, you know, uh, available 24 seven, three 65 in self-service manner, uh, for our customers, it needed to be available on, um, multiple different, uh, devices, um, not just desktop, but also, um, uh, tablets and mobile phones. And, um, you know, some of the modern POS uh, systems have browsers, uh, enabled. So, you know, to be able to do work with those interfaces as well. Um,

Peter:

And tell me a bit about how you wanted, I know part of it that you wanted to do was in addition to helping your end customers, you were hoping that your commerce site were, would transform the sales visit, the, the actual in-person sales visit. Uh, and tell me a little bit about that, what you found. Cause I, I, you went out with the sales reps, right. And you sort of, that helped you diagnose what can, what can we fix? So tell me a little bit about,

Gireesh:

Yeah, but, you know, um, upon coming on board, um, uh, Dawn, one of the first things that I did was I took a tour with one of the sales reps. I wanted to see what the day-to-day selling process for a sales rep looks like. So, uh, you know, they, they visited a handful of customers about, you know, six to eight customers, uh, depending on, um, where they are located. And they spend between 30 to 45 minutes at a customer location talking about how their business is going, what they're doing, and then pivoting to, um, uh, you know, saying here's, uh, the next week's order that have written down our customer, um, would, you know, basically say yes and no to that our sales rep would actually, before meeting the customer upfront, they would go through the back. They would, um, take a look at, um, you know, the inventory, they, uh, the customer has left in their storage and they would go look at what did this customer order last week and go through the list and say, okay, you know, they are, um, these many items of cake mix and raised a doughnut mix and so on.

Gireesh:

And they would start writing up that new order. And when they're done taking that kind of inventory, managing, they'll go up to the front and they would say, here's what I think you should order for your next order. Um, the customer already knows because they're constantly in their kitchen, they're pulling bags off their shelves and using items to make product and so on. So they know what, what inventory they have left, they know what they needed to buy. So a lot of that conversation that, um, you know, about 30 to 35 minutes of that 45 minute visit was spent really on, um, transactional, um, uh, order taking and inventory managing rather than, um, you know, spending time on, um, introducing the customer to new products or giving them new ideas, tips, sharing trends, and techniques that we put together every year, or just talking about, um, where some of the, um, competitors are, what the competition might be trying, what new events might be happening locally that the customer might want to, uh, participate in, pay attention to.

Gireesh:

Um, and, uh, you know, none of that was happening, but by moving all of that, um, transactional stuff to a self-service model, it gave both the customer and the sales rep more time to have those, uh, qualitative conversations and be able to build that, uh, sort of, um, business, likewise, the relationship moving forward. Um, you need some things do have to be there in your, um, e-commerce solution to be able to do that. One of the key that you need, there is a view to customers, order history. The customers need to be able to see, um, when did I order, um, this time last year, right. Um, and go pull up our history and say, okay, um, you know, it's Halloween season, what did I order last Halloween? So take a look at what you are last Halloween season, or, um, you know, what did I order in the one Valentine's day season last year, or, um, a bunch of good day, which is big in the Midwest. Um, so things like that, you mentioned like that, that are, um, you know, regional, national, global, uh, what have you, the customers need to be able to see those kinds of histories and be able to, um, repurchase those kinds of products, you know, that seasonal timing as well as by their more regular items on a frequent basis. So the site needs to be able to, uh, surface those things, um, you know, the right product at the right time for the customers to be able to make that kind of, um, shopping experience easier.

Justin:

I think, I think you've just described every B2B, know that when you talk about the sales, the sales process and being basically 75% transactional, right. Going over inventory, going over the order itself versus the selling part of the relationship part, the innovation, the new products, uh, I thought that was really good. I think you described every B2B company really, really well. What, what platforms did you end up choosing? But for all my it people out there that are listening and like, okay, just tell me, I went to foundation, like, w where did they choose? What, what did they go with? What was some of the platforms that you actually ended up with the technology

Gireesh:

On the technology side? We, um, we grew up in architecture for us. We said, um, you know, after all the conversations with the major e-commerce vendors, um, we came out with an architectural view for us. We said, here's the e-commerce solution view for our system? Um, here's the e-commerce platform. Here's how it'll talk to the, um, the customer. Here's how the customer will interact with it. Here's where the application was said. Here's, um, the interactions with each other. Um, here's how we will interact with our, um, you know, central auto-management system and ERP and warehouse management systems. Um, so we drew up that architecture for us and we said, okay, um, what systems, uh, will fit into this architecture really well? And we said, our architecture is going to be microservices based simply because we wanted to make sure that we, we, as a technology team were going to be at the same place where all of the technology vendors were going and all the platform vendors who are going to are already bare.

Gireesh:

So we said, we choose the same architectural framework and foundation that all of these vendors are going to are, um, implementing or already deployed. So we chose that. And then we chose, we asked ourselves who are the vendors that best fit this architecture. Um, and we chose commerce tools as our e-commerce platform, and we chose, um, the react JS as our front end, um, uh, framework for doing UI development. And we chose Salsify for our PIM, the chose content stack as the headless platform. Um, and there were some other, um, you know, we also leverage a local Boston based, uh, startup, uh, for, um, regression and automated QA, um, rather than using people, we use a, um, another, uh, service, uh, for QA, um, that reduces the, um, human manual effort and the resource requirements on that. So we ended up with all of these technologies, the underlying team was, you know, they're all microservices based. They are all API for us. They're fully available as API APIs and they, um, the roadmap is structured that way. Um, they all, um, you know, we weren't looking for it, but, uh, all of these, uh, vendors and platforms support graph, QL, uh, which is a, uh, emerging, uh, uh, technology, I think it has, uh, it has a higher potential than, uh, uh, than some of the other technologies that have come, uh, in the past. And I think, uh, you know, more and more we would see and, uh, via ourselves we'll adopt [inaudible].

Peter:

So Grecia, um, how long, uh, how long has this now been live and, and, and,

Gireesh:

And youth, we launched July 1st of last year, um, right in the middle of summer. And we've, uh, we've been live for, um, little over six months at this point, and we've seen a lot of customer engagement. Uh we've um, uh, signed up more than, um, 50% of our, um, customers. We, we went after a very specific, uh, market segment of customers. We went after what we call the artisanal bakers. Um, these are mom and pop independent standalone bakeries. Um, and we went after that segment first and give back more than 50% of our customers signed up on that, uh, uh, out of that segment, um, online and, um, you know, a lot of them have, uh, um, become, uh, digital first customers. They continually, uh, shop, uh, or, uh, there are, uh, for their orders and products online. They continually place their own orders and our, um, um, customer service teams and our sales teams, or helping them engage. Um, and, um, you know, moving away from that transactional selling to more of that, the business advisory, um, selling with those, uh, the customers.

Peter:

I mean, that, that's amazing in six months of operation, I think that, that that's a Testament to both the hunger for that experience, but also the fact that you're able to, to make it available to them. Are there any particular, um, uh, stats or improvements or, um, or sort of feedback from your internal teams as well that you can, you can share with our audience?

Gireesh:

You know, um, one of the, one of the feedback that we heard early on from our customers was that I did not know your caddy died. I did not know your category, this product, you know, I use a different supplier that I buy this one item from, but you already carry this. So, you know, their, um, their customers are consolidating their suppliers, uh, and they're bringing, uh, some of those one-off purchases that we're making here and there to us. And they're saying, you know, now I can see the entire product catalog. I can see all of the items that you carry that is available to me. So that has been a significant, um, uh, development for our customers. They, they have been, uh, happy to, um, to see that we can be more than, you know, a difficult customer can, um, you know, uh, can see a few skews that, uh, that are listed on the order guide that their sales rep gives them usually about 50 skews.

Gireesh:

Um, but to know that they have, um, you know, hundreds and thousands of skews available to them that they can buy and that, um, you know, they, they can get the same degree and level of service and the confidence of the quality of the product, um, that cultivated with our customers, you know, they, they know that they can get the same, uh, from us, um, helps them, um, you know, bring getting additional, um, products into their basket. And we've seen that, um, on an ongoing basis, our, uh, customers who buy online, um, have, uh, a bigger basket, uh, there are more items in their cart on a week over week basis. We are seeing that, um, in comparison to customers that are not online, we are also seeing, um, the overall, um, uh, average order values go up. Um, you know, even in these difficult times for a lot of our customers, because they had to be either, um, uh, closed for a period of time or had to do business at a very reduced rate. So, uh, to continually see some of the AOE improvement, um, doing during these times, um, obviously it's hard to make comparisons, um, given, uh, given everything that's happening. And, uh, but we still see some of those, uh, green shoots and improvements. Uh, and that's been fantastic to see just in this most warm, the cockles of your B2B heart.

Justin:

Absolutely. No, it's, it's, it's a, it's a pretty, it's pretty fascinating what you've done. I mean, even, even in the technology side, Grecia being microservices focused, um, instead of platform first, a lot of people go platform first and then worry about kind of the technical architecture. Um, second, you guys went in technical architecture first and then found platforms that fit, obviously your business requirements, um, the, the, your, the last thing that you said about the customers now seeing a greater assortment, you know, I mean, what you just talked about about customer, knowing that you have a product means average order value is going to increase at some point, right. It might not have yet, but average order value is going to increase at some point, because they'll start realizing, Oh, I can add these three items that I didn't even know Don foods carried before, um, in the future, do I need,

Peter:

Yeah, I love the potential of this to create loyalty on the, on the two vectors, one being just the gosh, I can now go to your point. I'm a Baker, I'm up at two in the morning, and I can go and take care of this stuff without needing to, you know, add my convenience. Plus if I can, the fewer vendors, I have probably the better, if I can consolidate all of my business with Don foods, and I can discover these, these products that, that match up with my needs that's loyalty. And, and that, that to me is a super exciting sort of value of this, of this investment. Absolutely Greece, thank you so much for, for coming on and sharing this journey with us. I know so many of our listeners in B2B and actually a lot in B2C even, uh, are, are on this journey of figuring out how to transform their customer experience through, uh, through, through a platform and a journey like this, and the way that, that you have chosen to implement it at Don foods, I think is, is a, is a great case study for, for those folks. So thank you for the generosity of sharing with the DSI community today.

Justin:

Yeah, thanks for having me, Peter. Um, you know, I appreciated the time and the conversation here and looking forward to, um, uh, uh, future guests and, uh, some more exciting stuff from you guys. Thank you. Gireesh

Peter:

Thanks to Gireesh for joining us. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a colleague or leave us a review wherever you get your podcast. Thanks for being part of our community.