CharBroil.com Heats Up Online Sales

The story of how smart tech and multi-discipline teams made Ecommerce work for an Outdoor Living brand.

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Caroline Posey stands astride two worlds: brand and e-commerce, and she doesn’t mind at all. She loves inhabiting her quirky position at parent company WC Bradley Co. that stretches across three name-brand outdoor living product lines: Char-Broil®, SABER® grills, and Oklahoma Joe’s®.

No one sells more gas grills in the United States than Char-Broil.

A day in the life of a swiss army knife

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Caroline Posey, Sr Manager of Brand & E-commerce

In the last days of Summer 2020, Caroline rolls into her office; she expects a day bristling with decision and action. There’s always something new and exciting, veering around the next corner.

On top of brand management, she has e-commerce P&L responsibility, so her morning begins with a bagel and a gut-check on website performance. Next, she reviews the monthly budget to see if adjusting consensus demand or forecasting is necessary. How is inventory pacing? Are there shipping issues? These kinds of checks have become even more critical this year with everything that’s happened with COVID and the increased demand for purchasing online.

2020 has been unique for our brands, just like for many others. As everyone has had to spend more time at home, we’ve found many people have a new appreciation for their backyards and outdoor spaces, and they’re getting creative when it comes to cooking and providing for their families. Our goal was and is to always be there for consumers who are looking for new grilling opportunities. ––Caroline Posey

Some WC Bradley properties did struggle over the summer months with a little bit of an inventory challenge, as many businesses have this year, which is an excellent problem to have. Somehow, Caroline found that the challenge made disparate teams like marketing, e-commerce, demand planning, and fulfillment, sharpen their collaboration.

As the day progresses, Caroline is hopping from meeting to meeting. In some, she’s learning more about the new product development process — and in others, she’s previewing the pipeline and roadmap. Caroline notes, “I’m really in my role as the liaison between the sales group and our marketing team and being a touchpoint for retailers — for marketing people over at our key retailers.” Lowe’s, for instance, is one of Char-Broil’s key retailers. So now she’s the point of contact for the marketing team over there. Caroline stands at the nexus of all her brands.

Then, of course, there is constant communication with agency partners as well as internal development teams. Whether it’s e-commerce sites, general maintenance, or brand architecture, Caroline’s plate is full. An hour, a day, a week may appear from the outside as a whirlwind of action, underscoring the dynamic that the retail space necessarily entails. “It keeps you on your toes, for sure,” says Caroline with a laugh.

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Food photoshoots are a great job perk

Even though Caroline’s responsibilities are varied, to say the least, they allow her to have some fun with things like food and photography. “We work hard, but we’re lucky because our work is incredibly fun. I enjoy pitching in on projects such as planning photoshoots and brainstorming on new content ideas as we think about how our products will come to life on POP, packaging, ad units, and on our branded websites and retailer channels. Because we’re in the business of selling grills, we often get to discuss which food type will look best on a new product as we plan to shoot for the year,” she says. Plus, a lot of the recipes her brands publish end up as food on her table back home.

Fresh beginnings

Caroline reflected on her naissant days on the job after she was hired 2.5 years ago. Her main body of work was just Oklahoma Joe’s. “My job was to figure out how to build that brand because we knew retailers were excited about it, and so was our leadership team,” she recalled.

Opportunity dawned on a new job and a new brand with new faces all around her. First, she tackled moving OklahomaJoes.com, a static site at the time, to an e-commerce platform. Her boss, Paige, recommended Launch™, a local digital agency in Atlanta, to handle the user experience and visual design. The agency, along with internal IT and marketing teams, folded rolling deliveries into a finished product plat-formed on Magento 2. Since the new site launched in February 2019, it has performed incredibly well.

Following the redesign, Caroline’s elevation to a senior level position with oversight on all brands and commerce channels empowered her to make more key investment decisions. She could choose website platforms, agencies to engage with, and content production. Her influence also extended to brand architecture and the brand persona for Oklahoma Joe’s and also evolving Char-Broil’s brand to keep up with industry trends.

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CB/OKJ tech stack

In her own words, Caroline describes the tech behind it all.

Magento 2

Magento 2 has many more capabilities than Magento 1, several of which allow you to customize and build web content at the drop of a hat. It is a very flexible tool, which is perfect for businesses that want an easy-to-use and timely solution.

  • Prebuilt controls for content types, ranging from page layout to text boxes, to digital video imagery
  • Page builder tool functionality for flexible CMS build-your-own-page systems that mix and match functionality and page previews
  • Variety of extensions and plugins to help set up the platform, reporting, data, and everything related to the website making for an all in one solution
  • Now owned by Adobe and rebranded as Adobe Magento Commerce.

Salsify

Our company uses Salsify for a variety of needs, including as a data repository for product specifications and as a way to connect our product data with our website platform, Magento. We built a middleware program that allows us to make product content changes in Salsify and have an immediate connection point to the front end of our websites.

  • Data repository for product data
  • Serves the product team, marketing team, agencies, and sales team
  • Holds product imagery, digital video, and everything else related to a product that you want to add and upload
  • Stores marketing copy and marketing specifications

Slack

Slack is a tool that was mainly used to communicate with specific teams in the organization before COVID, but now that we’ve all been working from home for quite some time, we use it to communicate with several teams. It’s a great way to stay up to speed and get organized.

  • Most professionals are well versed in the use of Slack for communication

Emarsys

Emarsys is our email marketing program. It is a powerful tool with a lot of capabilities, and it truly allows brands to build upon one-to-one interactions with their target audiences.

  • User-friendly and versatile
  • Email templates and audience segmentation
  • A solid content strategy is needed to manage and grow
  • Recently acquired by SAP

Spark of pride

On a steamy July day, Caroline settled in front of her screen, her heart pulsing a bit faster than usual. The overall business, including e-commerce, was blossoming into a success story. She had spent a few long nights along with some colleagues preparing to tell that tale to the whole company, including top executives.

It was the quarterly town hall, virtually packing 200 people awaiting the 20-minute presentation. She slipped into the history of their online business before gliding gradually over to the current state of affairs that she colored with team success stories, exciting progress, and promising results. As she articulated the digital properties’ expectation shattering financial status, she felt a swell of pride for her team. Caroline wrapped up her presentation by summarizing the future strategy of her beloved brands. The presentation marked a turning point for Caroline.

With this presentation, I feel I bolstered the leadership team’s confidence in me, and they are happy to have someone managing our branded websites who understands our business and overall market trends, not to mention someone who is forward-looking and goal-oriented.

– Caroline Posey

Overcoming obstacles

Caroline began her tenure with a pretty steep learning curve as she merged Ecommerce and brand strategy workstreams across two properties. Each of those brands has multiple products, consumer targeting, marketing communication, and website-management styles. Caroline reflected on how she overcame that initial baptism by fire.

Once acclimated, she had to contend with issues stemming from a myriad of homegrown legacy tools, which is an issue commonly found in large companies. Despite some positive changes, limitations with backend systems still entangle routine web maintenance — and even inventory management.

Caroline meets her challenges with a formulation of persistence and patience. She meets entrenched processes with data-driven insights and an inquisitive stance that confronts the premise of a decision, as well as its assumption. Change is hard. It’s also necessary. Situational awareness is required for asking the right questions. And patience is required for getting hold of the right people at the right time, chasing down numbers, and uncovering data that nobody even knew existed.

I’m glad people know me as being persistent. I always want to be thought of as a go-getter who is focused on improvement and new opportunities.

– Caroline Posey

Persistence means comfort with improving processes 1% at a time, even if it feels like nothing ever changes. And then, all of a sudden, one day, everyone realizes how far things have moved in months or over a year.

What’s Next?

Yet another freshly redesigned Char-Broil.com was just released on November 11th, 2020. Once again, Char-Broil partnered with Launch to translate the brand into a lively and user-friendly experience, and the internal IT team developed it on Magento 2.

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Example of the redesigned shopping experience.

During the design process, Caroline and the team thought about converting people online rather than in a store. In-store shoppers look under the lid and touch what they’re going to buy. What kinds of content and information will help those folks make that purchase without the real product in front of them? What do they expect to pay in shipping, and how do they hope to get to their house? And how can Char-Broil be right there by their side during set up and grilling?

The new site capitalizes on all the knowledge Caroline and her team have gained over the past several years and provides a digital edge for the company heading into 2021.

Written by

Co-founder of Launch. We are an experience design agency that specializes in digital products, websites, video, and strategy.

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