The Great Cookie was founded in 1979 in Ocean City, Maryland and and now operates with 7 locations in the Baltimore area. The Great Cookie became famous with locals because of our unique soft and buttery Snickerdoodle cookie and wide variety of cookies, brownies and cookie pops. The Great Cookie is also a staple in Baltimore for Custom Cookie Cakes for all occasions.
As people moved away from the area, the company would get numerous requests from customers to send cookies across the country- especially the freshed baked Snickerdoodles and Cookie Cakes. A few years back the company launched a website but never really put a focus on it and didn't invest in the right technology for growth. The images were dated and it didn't reflect who the company really is. The Great Cookie also has two mobile food trucks that roam the streets of the Baltimore metro area and attend events. The company needed a new vehicle to allow customers to see the location of the trucks via the website.
In 2013, Jason Fruman, owner of The Great Cookie ran into Jaime Elwood, a local ecommerce and marketing executive at a Baltimore area network event. Jaime was excited to meet Jason- afterall she grew up on The Great Cookie and had no idea it was a Baltimore based operation. Jason and Jaime teamed up to go out and create a world-class website and marketing strategy for The Great Cookie that would delight customers and provide a simple and clean ecommerce experience. Jaime called on some friends at a Baltimore based agency Drxlr to design the site and Shopify was chosen as the platform that would take The Great Cookie to the next level of growth. In January 2014, The Great Cookie launched a fresh baked website on the Shopify platform just in time for the biggest holiday on the cookie calendar- Valentine's Day. Sales tripled during the winter storm PAX on Feb 13 but that is a story for another time.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
The Great Cookie had an email list of about 3000 people but had never sent a single email blast! We simply started off by reaching out to old customers via email and optimizing the website for search. The website had decent rankings on a few terms before the new website launch but has dramatically improved organic rankings for all kinds of keywords with the new SEO friendly website.
The website also integrates feeds from all of our social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram via a social hub/blog page on the site.
To date, The Great cookie has mostly been using owned and earned media to gain organic traffic and conversions. The growth has been steady and the website conversion is above industry averages. We are about to venture into the world of digital ads including Google Adwords and fresh baked cookie re-targeting to take it to the next level!
The website also places emphasis on Business Gifting and The Great Cookie is looking to partner with businesses across the country to support sales and customer retention efforts with Custom Corporate Cookie Cakes and Custom Cookie tins. The company has already partnered with a few companies such as Pandora Radio to support their national sales efforts. The Great Cookie is delivering fresh baked cookies to companies all over the U.S. and plans for this to be a major channel for expansion.
The company is also using the website for fundraising and will be looking to partner with schools and non-profit organizations to use the website as a platform for fundraising. The Great Cookie will give up to 20% back of all online sales and provide marketing support to organizations who are looking to raise funds. We are looking forward to our first national fundraiser with the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America this winter and hope to bring on many more as we expand. This will be done via a custom coupon code for smaller organizations and custom branded cookie tins and cookie cakes with dedicated landing pages for larger organizations.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
We are using the Mailchimp application for our email integration which has been fabulous. We use ShipRush to integrate to Stamps.com for our shipping. We primarily ship via USPS but also offer UPS service. ShipRush allows our fulfillment to be automatic with shipping labels and automatically fulfills our orders in Shopify once the labels are printed at our bakery. We wish there was a direct integration to Stamps.com but ShipRush has worked well. In the cookie business we have to ship things fast and fresh so we use the carrier that makes the most sense depending on the transit time and location. We built a custom shipping calculator in the checkout so customers may choose a delivery date before choosing their shipping method. It isn't perfect because it isn't fully integrated with Shopify and this is an option we'd love to see in Shopify in the future.
We are looking into adding new apps to the website including Product Reviews and other apps that would support SEO efforts.
For our local area customers, we integrated with Twitter location services to add the location of our mobile cookie trucks to be found on our find a location/truck page. When we tweet our location, the cookie truck appears on the map.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Take it one day at a time. The Shopify platform is easy to use but you'll still always be learning something new every day. Absolutely use the Shopify ecommerce university. I relied on this resource almost every single day when starting up this store and now read every Shopify blog and tutorial. It is an amazing resource and if you can't find you answer there, simply start a chat with a Shopify guru. They have been so helpful and even when we were having a meltdown due to a problem with our shipping integration- they got me back up and going in no-time.
My advice would be to really spend time making sure your site is optimized for SEO. Shopify makes it easy and I am seeing great results as I go in and refine my pages and product pages for keywords and better information/images for our customers.
Lastly, eat cookies- they make everything better.