Last updated on January 7, 2024

Image Credit: Yotpo Studio
Aimee Millwood
Director of Content at Yotpo
March 7th, 2016 | 4 minutes read

When K&H Pet Products decided to launch an online store, they’d already been in business for twenty years.

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Up until then, the Colorado-based company sold their products, like their signature heated pet beds, primarily through retail channels like Petco, Petsmart, and Amazon.

In 2013, they realized the need to build their own online store. For them, creating an online store wasn’t about growing a new audience, but providing the best customer service they could to the customers they had and taking control of online reputation management. 

Kyle Berg, the eCommerce and web content manager brought on to lead the project, took some time to speak with me about why the established brick-and-mortar store built a website and what results they’ve seen so far.

“The primary reason is that we knew there was a market for people who had a desire to buy directly from the manufacturer,” he explains. “They like a direct manufacturer-customer relationship, because they know they can call us and they’ll talk to a person.”

“Whether it’s for an order issue or a product issue that needs a part replacement, they won’t be placed on hold or directed to someone who sells tons of other products. They’ll be talking to the experts.”

Before, if someone needed a part replacement, there was no way for them to easily find the part or order it. Many people would just call K&H directly, and the company didn’t have a way to take transactions for replacement parts, so they would send it out at their cost.

Building an online store allowed customers to find and order replacement products easily. It also allowed them to control their online reputation management.

Brick & Mortar’s Need for Online Reputation Management

“A lot of times there is misinformation out there about our products – reviews that reflect the service of other sites or inaccurate product specifications and so forth,” Kyle explains.

“We can’t control these things when they’re off our site, but when we have our own site, we can make sure all the information is accurate and customers get the best service.”

As they began selling online, they were surprised to find out a lot of other ways that having a website could help them improve their customer service. Through their product question-and-answer section, they were able to provide customers with answers to frequently asked questions  to correct misinformation.

“It allows us to provide as much accurate information as possible so that when someone calls us and they’re confused, we can say, ‘Okay.  Yes, I understand that you read that elsewhere but here’s the way it really is.  You know, here are the dimensions for this product.  Here are the colors available.  Here’s the product number.’”

Not only have customers really appreciated it, but it has reduced employee customer service workload by 50% because they’re able to preemptively answer customer questions. It also increases conversion and trust in the product.

“If they’re browsing at night while we’re not here and available to answer their question, they may never come back to our site.  But if we can answer that ahead of time, they may end up buying the item five minutes later because we were able to give them the answer they needed.”

The Impact of Q&A on Customer Service

They noticed the huge impact the product Q&A has on their sales when they needed to disable it while optimizing their site.  The same frequently asked questions began flooding their service center, and they realized just how many times the same questions were asked.

They still sell their products on other sites, but they’ve noticed many customers enjoy the direct connection with the manufacturer. Their biggest challenge with having their own site is simply letting customers know they exist. Because the majority of their main sales come through physical stores or online retailers, it’s hard to let people know they have a store available.

“Everybody knows about Amazon.  Our products are readily available on there, and some of them have thousands of reviews. They’re doing very well.  So the biggest challenge is letting people know that we’ve got an online store, and shoppers have another option.”

While they haven’t invested heavily in marketing or advertising their online store, their online customers normally come because they’re current customers or want to buy from the manufacturer directly. So far, the store still made great sales – over $500,000 in revenue in the first 28 months.