How CBS used digital transformation to build the brand and the business during the pandemic
Our @Work series is a look at how companies are using good communication, branding, and digital solutions and transformation to grow their business. We're looking at the impacts of a well-thought-out branding strategy that's put into practice.
No conversation about branding in 2023 is complete without looking into the importance of digitization and using technology to build a reputation, engage consumers and drive sales.
Digital transformation allows companies to reach and engage with their target audience in new and innovative ways. By leveraging digital channels, companies can create a more personalized and interactive experience for their customers, which can help to build brand loyalty and trust.
We spoke with Brent Burrows II, senior manager of e-commerce and brand innovation at CBS Bahamas, to find out more about the company’s brand and business growth during and coming out of the pandemic.
When it comes to digital transformation and the impact that it can have on establishing a business as a household name, few companies have done a better job of it locally than CBS.
Efficiency and a top-tier customer experience has become synonymous with the brand, and a lot of that reputation has been cemented over just the past three years.
When the COVID pandemic reached Bahamian shores in March 2020 and people were confined largely to their homes, few businesses were prepared for the new world of online ordering and delivery services.
But CBS, which sells a range of products ranging from construction materials to home goods products, was ready.
The Driving Force
Burrows said the work to ensure the brand had a strong online presence had begun years before the pandemic. The early-2020 launch date for CBS’s website was initially meant to coincide with the company’s anniversary, but it was just a coincidence that the website launched just as pandemic lockdowns began.
“The need arose largely in part for our Family Island customers,” Burrows said.
“We knew we needed a better way to serve them. It was a little bit difficult selling to the Family Islands and having to deal with phone calls, emails, bank transfers, people dropping off cheque. That kind of was the real push and realization for us to get online from the retail store point of view.
“And we also wanted to have a bigger presence for customers in terms of being able to show off our portfolio and the products we manufacture locally, and our vendor selection for our special orders and things like that.”
“There was no way we would have been able to do the volume we were doing with the alternative.”
However, the timeliness of the website’s launch allowed CBS to capitalize on what was a trying time for businesses across the country, helping to establish the company as a go-to for a range of products due to the easy online ordering process and efficient delivery and curbside pickup options.
“It was tremendous for us,” Burrows said. “We basically had a team that was working full time, just fulfilling the online orders, getting them delivered. And then another team that was just trying to get as much inventory added to the website as quickly as possible.
“...And it worked out really well. It's hard to go back to the pandemic and think about all the different things that were going on. But there was definitely a stretch there where we were pretty much only selling online, and people were coming to CBS and doing like the curbside pickup thing, I think when nobody was allowed to be in the store.
“So, without having the website setup, there was no way we would have been able to do the volume we were doing with the alternative, which would have been people driving, telling us what they needed, us having to go locate it in the store and manually check them out and give them their stuff. It was a huge time saver and a big asset for us during the whole pandemic.”
Burrows noted that the company’s daily revenue and number of transactions increased by roughly 25 to 30 percent following the introduction of the website.
And he said that being able to establish that reputation at a time when many other businesses just didn’t have the tools to deliver the same level of service has carried the company forward even coming out of the pandemic.
Continued Success in the New Normal
Burrows said he believes the website worked to attract new customers, especially when online shopping was one of the only options available for commerce due to health and safety concerns.
“I think we executed it very well, so word got around pretty quickly that CBS had this website,” he said.
“And that carried over even when things got back to normal. We're really fascinated to see the majority of our customers, even the customers who come in store to buy something like they start that shopping journey online.
“Whether it's from a Facebook post, or from a Google search, they somehow end up on our website and know that we have it in stock, and know what the price is. And that's what sends them to CBS to buy the items. There's a whole list of like 250 or 300 hot keywords that if you type those in on Google, CBS is going to be one of the top three search results that come up. And I think that plays a tremendous part in driving traffic to the store.
“So it's good for the online sales, but we never really realized how good it would be for the in store sales as well.”
Last year, more than 80 percent of CBS’s website visitors were new, demonstrating continued growth.
And it’s not just a website for CBS. Instead, there has been an ongoing push to continuously find better solutions to solve customer issues and improve the overall experience.
The result has been establishing CBS as a company and a brand that values the customer experience and is always seeking to improve it by paving the way for easy and efficient interactions through digital transformation.
A Holistic Approach
While the website itself is the backbone for a lot of CBS’s operations, Burrows noted that there are numerous other systems in place to bolster the success of the company.
“We've sort of re-tailored and revamped our entire approach to customer service, special order sales, quoting everything to kind of piggyback off the website, so that we can give the customer this more complete self-service kind of feel,” he said.
CBS makes use of a 24-hour live chat on the website and the company’s Facebook page, as well as a customer service ticketing program and a detailed order tracking system for Family Island customers.
And the brand’s use of online marketing, developing not only ads for social media but also videos highlighting DIY tips and projects, helps to engage customers in new and more personal ways.
CBS professionals demonstrate how to replace a bathroom faucet.
“And there's a lot of other things in the pipeline, too, that we're working on to pull everything together and give the customer this really cool experience, no matter how they interact with us,” said Burrows.
“Whether it's online or in-store, it's this kind of omni channel, all-in-one sort of solution where they can pick right back off on another channel from where they might have already started their shopping journey.”
“We have this integrated approach to customer service."
Burrows said he believes this is a significant part of the reason customers come back to CBS — the sense of self-service, easy access to information, and being able to do business on their time and without having to come into the store.
And he noted that it’s not only improving the customer experience on the front end, but also streamlining the way things happen behind the scenes to create a more efficient operation through and through.
“It makes our lives way easier because now we can standardize things across the board,” he said.
“We have this integrated approach to customer service. It's much easier to train three or four customer service reps, whom you are now funneling all your incoming customer service requests through no matter what department they come through. It helps to make sure everybody's on the same page as opposed to having 10 or 15 people across the company answering the phones and answering emails.
“It really helps you to streamline and makes it a lot quicker to make changes and improvements, and I think the customers really enjoy the self-service aspect. So, to me, a customer should be able to go online to some sort of portal or account and be able to do whatever it is they need to do with CBS from anywhere in The Bahamas and get that accomplished. And that's the end goal we're working towards.”
More To Come
While the importance of a strong digital presence was one of the biggest pandemic lessons for companies across the globe, in The Bahamas, many businesses still haven’t been quick to embrace digitization.
But Burrows encouraged Bahamian brands to make the effort.
“The payoff is 100% there,” he said. “It definitely makes it worthwhile. You know, if you put together a digital presence and you execute it properly, I'm willing to say that you will almost immediately notice a positive change.
“And I think a lot of people think that getting set up is a lot more complex and expensive and difficult than it needs to be. But I'd say don't overthink it, stick to what you do best and what you know, and just don't overcomplicate things. Just start there, and once you do it, well, it's going to work.
As for CBS, Burrows said the company is always innovating and trying to think of new ways to better serve its customers.
“We have some pretty cool stuff in the pipeline that's going to just blow people away, and it’s way better than what we're doing now,” he said.
“We're always trying to stay ahead and work on new things. We know we can't become complacent. It's a very fast-changing environment and we're always looking to make it better and take it to the next level.”
Digital transformation can help to provide a strong foundation for brands to increase their reach, improve the customer experience, bolster the brand’s perception, increase engagement and, ultimately, boost sales and revenue.
But it’s not just about the technological systems in place. Digital transformation should be an integral part of a brand’s overall marketing and communication strategy, ensuring a holistic approach to branding that is in alignment with core values and resonates with not only consumers, but also employees and other stakeholders.