Santa Monica Seafood Expands to Direct-to Consumer

Santa Monica Seafood was officially established in 1939 at the Santa Monica Pier. Several things have changed throughout the years. Their two Southern California retail stores still provide the best quality and variety of seafood for restaurants and customers. Customers can now purchase their lobster tails and swordfish online at their Dock Direct online shop.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on people around the world. It has affected everything, from their work and social lives to where and how they shop. Many of the restaurants that the seafood company provided were closed down overnight. The former customers of these restaurants were also missing the delicious seafood dishes they used to enjoy. As people tried to cook their favorite dishes at home, the direct-to-consumer market boomed.

Fishing for the Perfect Fit

Santa Monica began to explore expanding their direct to consumer ecommerce company. They knew that they had to keep their customers first and provide the best experience. As they were still trying to figure out how their new customers shop, they knew they needed a flexible website that allowed them to make quick changes.

Alfredo Chavez is Santa Monica Seafood’s Director of Ecommerce. He says, “We had a strong relationship with our customers and we wanted to keep it going.” We appreciated the flexibility offered by the platform because we weren’t sure what our direct-to consumer offering would look like. There were some general guidelines. We didn’t realize, however, that customers need to be able to select the shipping date. We didn’t know whether they preferred to select the species or have it selected for them because this was their first time buying fish.

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Before settling on BigCommerce, they considered Shopify Plus and Magento. Khai Vuong is the Director of IT at Santa Monica Seafood. He says: “We wanted to be able to grow to thousands and possibly millions of transactions per month. We started our journey looking at different solutions. BigCommerce is the perfect compromise between large, complex solutions like Magento and smaller, more flexible, but less restrictive solutions such as like Shopify.

Due to its high development costs, Magento was quickly removed. Magento would have required more IT staff to maintain. Vuong says that they considered the security implications and the patching, as well as some support for creating content on the web store and maintaining some marketing campaigns.

Chavez explains why BigCommerce won over Shopify. “Once we really got into the details and talked to our developers, BigCommerce was the best choice. It was the most flexible, both programmatically as well as how easy it was for users to make changes. Chavez is grateful that his team can make any adjustments to themes they need.

A site that works for everyone

Santa Monica Seafood was able to create a website that was both user-friendly for the frontend developers and for the marketing team.

Vuong says that BigCommerce’s Page Builderwidget is one of its greatest strengths. This allows our creative director not only to create the store but also to manage the content without IT involvement. This is crucial as we move through the pandemic, and plan to migrate our entire business to an ERP system. The ERP side is what the IT team must focus on.

Chavez says that marketing is her forte. It’s simple with a tool such as BigCommerce. It’s easy to use BigCommerce. How do I place a banner? How do I end a promotion or begin a promotion? How can I offer a buy one-get one [offer]?” All of that stuff is built right in. Once you have used it once, it’s all done. It’s done. You won’t forget how to use it.

Santa Monica Seafood uses headless eCommerce, which is a separate frontend and BigCommerce on the backend to allow for greater flexibility. Vuong says: “The headless commerce element allows us to quickly get a store online, capitalize on the market and begin broadcasting our presence to our customers.” It also gives us the ability to expand beyond what we originally planned when we started.

Delivering Customers What They Want

Santa Monica Seafood has expanded its customer base and markets by being flexible. Santa Monica Seafood has proven to be a great example of adaptability. Chavez was able to experiment and find ways to increase conversion rates and provide customers with what they want.

Chavez says, “When I first started running Google Ads, I was getting lots of traffic but very few conversions.” “I went in. I made some changes to the verbiage. My conversion rate increased by adding a 10% first purchase coupon. To make that purchase, the customer needs some incentive. That is possible.

However, not all customers came through Google Ads. So Chavez ensured that all touchpoints were addressed to ensure that no customer was left behind. We added the 10% to the banner on the landing page as well as the coupon in the newsletter. BigCommerce provides the tools to make communication with customers easy at every stage. The seamless integration with Klaviyo allows us to integrate the offer into our email flow. We offer customers the chance to get the first 10% coupon every chance we get.

When it comes to customer feedback, the company listens. Some customers didn’t like the styrofoam packaging so they switched to curbside recyclable packaging. They also adapt the fulfillment process to meet all customer preferences. Customers wanted curbside pickup from their two retail locations. They were able easily to add this option. Customers can also set up recurring deliveries by using ReCharge.

Teach a man to cook fish

Santa Monica Seafood also supports new customers by offering content in the form recipes that help customers cook their favourite dishes and discover new ways to enjoy their seafood.

“The BigCommerce blog makes it easy to create and maintain recipes. This is important for customer engagement as well as sales. Customers can also get ideas and inspiration from BigCommerce about what they can do with our products. Vuong says that it was an essential feature in our product selection process, and that BigCommerce has made it a great feature.

Chavez, a marketer, loves how simple the process is. “I can put recipes up there at any moment’s notice or on a regular basis and not have too much to worry about how to build it out and how I want it look like.”

Never Stop Experimenting

Santa Monica Seafood is proud to have built a beautiful website with an enthusiastic new customer base. But they won’t be content. The world is constantly changing and the site must adapt to meet these changes.

Chavez says, “Since restaurants began opening up again at the end February, what was working has stopped working.” My traffic began to drop. My ad word budget needed to be adjusted. There was a direct correlation between opening up and losing traffic. Then, I had to adjust my product selling methods. When restaurants closed, I was selling more lobster tails and crab legs. Santa Monica Seafood’s strategy has included being able to quickly adapt to changing customer behaviour and pivoting to do so.

Wrapping up

Each business faces its own unique challenges. Santa Monica Seafood found an ecommerce platform to solve their unique challenges. This allows them to be flexible and adapt to new markets. BigCommerce allows them to quickly add fulfillment methods, spin up new content, or promote, and not impact their backend development.

Many of their challenges mirror those of other enterprise businesses trying to adapt to changing retail environments. You can read the data-driven report from Digital Commerce 360 to see what ecommerce businesses are doing about it.


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