Ecommerce Success Stories / How to Sell Online

Commerce, Customers and Scale: How a “Love Thy Customer” Attitude Drives Innovation for Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

Tracey Wallace / 4 min read
Table of Contents

    Let’s get honest about what it truly takes to be a successful retailer today. You hear a lot about omnichannel strategies and inventory management thoughtfulness. You can read stat after stat claiming that commerce is becoming disparate making it harder and harder for the smaller brands to compete with the seemingly endless cash flow accessible to the likes of Walmart, Amazon and other retail behemoths. Then, you’ll read an excited Facebook or Pinterest product announcement detailing how the social network’s new strategy is all about turning their social platform into the next commerce hub this time aimed at bringing success to the bottom line of the midsized retailer.

    There are a lot of distractions out there in regards to how to grow your business intelligently. But, like any tried and true, beloved recipe, the secret to the sauce is rather simple: love thy customer.

    Like you, consumers today are overwhelmed. They can shop on the same platforms on which they post commentary about their daily lives. They can rattle off at least 15 brand names, and no, these aren’t necessarily the brands from which they buy. Instead, they’ll see a Netflix ad, or a retargeting ad on their Facebook feed, or a promotion before a YouTube video of Adele’s latest, greatest hit. There are brands in this world vying for your consumer’s attention every second of every day and for the most part, they’re doing a really great job.

    These are the companies that have an endless cash flow, and many smaller, more cost-effective businesses end up scaling down their big plans and projects due to fear of being run out of business by the bigger box brands.

    There are brands vying for their consumer’s attention every second, and doing a really great job.

    Don’t let that be your brand and if you optimize for the customer experience, it won’t be.

    Now, the stats will tell us that doing this, that being customer-centric and creating a positive brand affiliation, is how you build a successful company. Just look at some of these:

    • 94% of customers who have a low-effort service experience will buy from that same company again.
    • 55% of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
    • On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.
    • 59% of people would try a new brand or company for a better service experience.
    • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.
    • Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor and they will do business with you again 70% of the time.
    • Customer experience quality could result in a swing of $184 million for a large online retailer.

    But, while this information may be good in theory, stats don’t do much for you in practice. So, instead, let’s take a look at one of the U.S.’s leading mid-sized retailers and analyze their customer experience strategy.

    An Inside Look at Jeni’s Customer-Centric Team

    Meet Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, if you haven’t already. Started in Columbus, Ohio by Jeni Britton Bauer in 2002, the company today has 23 brick-and-mortar scoop shops and more than 500,000 online fans. This ice cream shop is known for its innovative flavors and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production practices.

    There is very little Jeni’s doesn’t do to make your experience just a little bit more engaging.

    Jeni’s is a perfect example of a modern day American omnichannel retailer. They advertise on all social channels as well as Google AdWords. They also promote their digital channels in brick-and-mortars and send direct mail to around 12,000 of the brand’s most loyal customers. And, they use marketplaces like Amazon to strategically boost brand awareness and drive revenue.

    All the Yelp reviews I found rated Jeni’s at least a 4 out of 5 stars. Just check out their website if you want to see why. From their design to their product description to their checkout experience to their beautiful annual report information, there is very little Jeni’s Ice Cream doesn’t do to make your experience with the brand just a little bit more impressive and engaging.

    Jeni’s Corporate Gifting Concierge Service

    In 2014, though, the team decided to to take it all just one step further, bringing the Jeni’s signature ease, convenience and both literal and figurative cool to the B2B space. Much like Amazon did with its Prime service free shipping, what Steve Jobs would have likely called giving the customer what they want before they know they want it, Jeni’s Ice Cream has mimicked in their own way for corporate gifting.

    Jeni’s is making it insanely simple for anyone to gift any number of people one or multiple of their products. The process is so simple, in fact, that it can be listed in three steps:

    1. Download the provided form.
    2. Fill out the gift recipient, address and which product you want to send.
    3. Send the form back.

    That’s it, and by December 18, all of your items will have been delivered to the doorsteps of your recipients.

    Jenis Ice Cream Delivery

    “We give volume discounts to people sending in bulk, too,” says Ryan Morgan, experience manager at Jeni’s Ice Cream. “But, honestly, the biggest piece is the concierge part of it, just making it super simple to send a lot of gifts. We take care of all the details. Give us a spreadsheet our team will take care of the rest including handwriting a note from the sender in each shipment. Last year, our biggest gift concierge customer sent more than 350 packages.”

    Let’s review:

    • The Jeni’s team thought through some of the biggest holiday gifting pain points out there
    • The team chose a painpoint to solve
    • The team marketed that solution based on that pain point
    • The team made sure that they were able to deliver on their marketing promise

    That’s a solid strategy but did it work? Certainly enough to do it again in 2015! Yes, the strategy absolutely worked.

    The team’s ultimate goal was drive net new customers, to earn brand awareness and customer loyalty based off of surprise and delight convenience tactics. And you know what is interesting about these kind of tactics consumers don’t mind them. In fact, while consumers understand the marketing value behind successful surprise and delight strategies, just being part of an innovative and convenient initiative removes their reluctance to participate and spread that oh-so-valuable word-of-mouth marketing.

    The goal was drive net new customers and drive loyalty based off of surprise & delight tactics.

    “Last year was the first year we marketed a gift concierge service and there were a lot of first-time customers who contacted us because of how easy we made it to send a lot of gifts,” says Morgan. “And, the recipients of the gifts themselves have a high probability of using the service themselves in the future, particularly when you’re talking about B2B gifting.”

    But, you might argue, ice cream is a universal product. Rarely in that industry do they experience consumer negativity or reluctance to buy.

    You’d be wrong.

    Weather can be a serious detriment to the ice cream delivery industry, but not for the reasons you might think. In regards to Jeni’s specific B2B campaign, weather often poses a serious threat to customer satisfaction.

    “The biggest challenge we face during the holiday season is unpredictable severe weather,” says Morgan. “If a storm takes out the FedEx system, we inevitably end up with a lot of packages stuck in transit that need to arrive within 48 hours. But, if that happens, even if it was beyond our control, we always reship at our own cost so that customers can have complete confidence in our service.”

    Turns out those customer experience stats are just as true in practice as they are in theory. Take it from Jeni’s: build a customer-centric brand, foster loyalty one customer at a time and there is very little any competitor or big box brand can do to hold back your business back.


    Tracey Wallace

    Tracey Wallace

    Director of Marketing MarkterHire | Former EIC, BigCommerce | Founder, Doris Sleep

    Tracey is the Director of Marketing at MarketerHire, the marketplace for fast-growth B2B and DTC brands looking for high-quality, pre-vetted freelance marketing talent. She is also the founder of Doris Sleep and was previously the Head of Marketing at Eterneva, both fast-growth DTC brands marketplaces like MarketerHire aim to help. Before that, she was the Global Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce, where she launched the company’s first online conference (pre-pandemic, nonetheless!), wrote books on How to Sell on Amazon, and worked closely with both ecommerce entrepreneurs and executives at Fortune 1,000 companies to help them scale strategically and profitably. She is a fifth generation Texan, the granddaughter of a depression-era baby turned WWII fighter jet pilot turned self-made millionaire, and wifed up to the truest of heroes, a pediatric trauma nurse, who keeps any of Tracey’s own complaints about business, marketing, or just a seemingly lousy day in perspective.

    View all posts by Tracey Wallace

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    Less Development. More Marketing.

    Let us future-proof your backend. You focus on building your brand.