Wholesale, Industrial & Commercial
How FoodServiceDirect.com Delivered A Superior B2B Buyer Experience
Hypercharging B2B Growth
Most of the U.S. shops online for everything they need. So why should the food service industry be any different? This was the initial thought that lead to the founding of FoodServiceDirect.com (FSD) in1992. While various industries such as fashion and tech powered forward with the rise of eCommerce, the food service industry seemed to move slowly, still relying largely on traditional distribution and cash and carry sourcing methods. FoodServiceDirect.com is changing that. FSD is a US-based food service distributor offering B2C and B2B buyers an ever expanding digital storefront for bulk purchases. With over 250,000 SKUs, FSD’s online catalog is stocked with a variety of classic crowd pleasers and comfort foods, alongside environmentally friendly disposable products and supplies. Having made substantial investments in Google Advertising, FSD’s list of customers has steadily grown to include a veritable buffet of retailers, restaurants, delis, food trucks, hospitals, offices, and more.
As FSD continued to grow, so did the brand’s capability to attract even more B2B buyers which account for 50 percent of their customer base. To accomplish this, the company planned an ambitious modernization of their digital sales platform tailored to the unique needs of FSD’s business operations.
The first store would be an all new eCommerce storefront which would let them grow their business and expand into new service areas while continuing to accommodate B2B and B2C customers alike. The secondary store would go a step further, structured around a B2B business model created in partnership with one of the major food service franchisee chains.
This new B2B-centric platform would empower franchises under a convenient outlet to distribute food products and other consumables directly to their franchisees. Conversely, franchisees would be able to seamlessly manage the entire ordering process across multiple food service locations, all from the convenience of a centralized admin dashboard. Now all FSD needed was a capable leader to make this plan a reality.
Mete Gumus, previously CFO for Unilever Food Service division, was recruited to lead the FSD Team as its Managing Director, a role that required vision on how to scale the FSD platform through innovation and strategic alliance with manufacturers and distributors.
Leading FSD’s digital modernization efforts required a thoughtful technology leader who have had experience working with various eCommerce platforms. Mete on-boarded Adeel Murtaza as Head of Technology. Previously, Adeel had served as Head of Web and Digital Solutions for French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, as well as founding shareVentures, his own business consulting agency. With prior experience building and managing complex webstores, he was intimately familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of popular commerce platforms.
From the get-go, Adeel envisioned both stores built around an API-based, or “headless” commerce model hosted in the cloud rather a template-based solution. First, this would ensure both stores could connect with FSD’s existing business systems including order management and product inventory. Secondly, a headless approach would provide developers with the speed and flexibility to create a customized front end experience for each of the proposed webstores. Third, cloud-based architecture would help FSD log major savings in physical hardware and support staff.
If you’re not familiar with headless, it’s an agile approach to commerce architecture which uses automated programming interfaces (APIs) as a flexible communication layer between the front and back end of a website. This eliminates creative constraints and accelerates development of the brand experience across consumer touchpoints, in turn growing a merchant’s relationship with their audience.
The team implemented a rigorous selection process for their new eCommerce platform spanning nearly 200 specific features while factoring in cost considerations, system development timeframes, and post-deployment maintenance. Upon review, many competing platforms such as Shopify fell short of the expected technical capabilities required to manage both FoodServiceDirect.com and the new franchise site as well as their corresponding audiences (B2B and B2C) and business models.
A Robust Solution Tailored to B2B Needs
When they analyzed the capabilities of Magento Commerce, Adeel and his team knew they had found a complete solution capable of handling their large, diverse product catalogue. Rather than being locked into templates, the open nature of the Magento architecture allowed them to easily customize product detail pages, create brand pages, and more. The platform’s flexibility also meant key portions of the site could be refined as many times as needed, such as the checkout process which was changed four times before being finalized.
As a cloud-based solution, Magento Commerce already came with built-in solutions for security, monitoring, and performance. This would eliminate the need for additional vendors to integrate additional solutions. For example, Magento already has monitoring tools from New Relic and Blackfire.io included and CDN and a web application firewall from Fastly to enhance performance and security right out of the box.
With the development of both stores gaining momentum, the headless approach proved its worth, with APIs providing the customer data needed to shape a frictionless purchasing experience. One of the major advantages headless has provided is the boost in scalability, allowing Adeel to add additional resources at any time. A seamless integration of third-party technologies via Magento Commerce helped enrich functionality across each webstore, including a search functionality API by Unbxd, product data enrichment solutions from 1Worldsync, customer service software from ZenDesk, and FSD’s own in-house product management software.
A New Platform for B2B Growth
Since the launch of their new commerce site, FSD not only met, but over delivered on promised business objectives with minimal disruption to their operations. By installing Google Merchant Center to create and manage ads for FSD using data from their product catalog, a significant portion of new customer acquisition can be attributed to Google Ads.
Adeel and his team are actively pursuing new initiatives to further grow the FSD customer base and digital sales alike.
Using Magento Commerce, FSD now offers a competitive purchasing experience to their B2B customer base while pushing towards even more ambitious business development goals in the year ahead.