Going Digital and Thriving During COVID

Forter Chief Marketing Officer Angela Whiteford recently sat down with Christina Callas EVP, Chief Digital Officer (CDO) from Total Wine & More, to discuss how Total Wine has shifted their business approach amid COVID and positioned themselves, with help from Forter, for continued growth and success into 2021. As the second in the series, the Suite Talks sessions provide attendees with an opportunity to connect with key business leaders to understand how they’re shaping the future of retail.

It is a fascinating time in the consumer space across the market. COVID has proven to be a catalyst for even more interesting changes across the retail landscape. For Total Wine & More, as COVID regulations rolled out, wine and liquor stores were categorized as “essential businesses,” prompting a need to move quickly to ensure their stores could continue to safely operate both for employees and customers alike, amid rapidly changing conditions.

Leaning Into Digital

As customers lean into digital buying, businesses need to likewise lean into digital selling. Christina noted that her team’s focus “to drive customer engagement and growth through digital properties” remained consistent, but they needed to accelerate their timelines and place more focus on security and stability. The team also placed more attention on post-purchase customer experiences, and the effectiveness and safety of “pick and pack” processes the business offers their customers.

The Total Wine Digital Team’s priorities throughout COVID were to:

  • Ensure convenience for their customers
  • Create seamless site experiences
  • Ensure post-purchase interactions to encourage customer retention and loyalty

Fast & Flexible, No Added Friction

Christina noted that one of the most important themes throughout 2020 was the ability of the business and the digital team to be fast and flexible in supporting changing customer behaviors and supporting fulfillment requirements. Part of the reason that Total Wine was able to augment their digital engagement so rapidly was due to their partnership with Forter. Total Wine offers their customers curbside pickup options that enable an online order to be picked up within 2.2 minutes of the purchase. This type of accelerated omnichannel experience would not be possible without the capabilities of Forter’s fraud prevention platform and access to the company’s global merchant network of more than 800 million users. This approach combines real-time decisioning with more than 6,000 behavioral data points to ensure Total Wines can process orders from new and existing customers.  While customers may not always need on-demand fulfillment the way they have during COVID, the convenience factor and the ability for the brand to offer this solution is sure to continue to entice customers long after COVID conditions dissipate.

Forter has also helped Total Wine to secure and stabilize their website while striking the necessary and delicate balance between fighting fraud and being a business enablement tool. Forter stopped rising rates of opportunistic fraudsters, aiming to slip through the cracks and test credit cards as consumer volumes increased during COVID. Forter’s solution has also helped Total Wine to keep customers happy and also allow first time, or new customers to have wonderful shopping experiences by “removing friction from the shopping process.” During a time when online consumer volumes are higher than ever, and new customers are being declined at a rate of 5-7x higher than returning customers, Forter has enabled Total Wine to scale with customer growth and demands, friction-free.

To enable even more business and approve more customers, Total Wine is currently in beta stages with Forter to help improve pre-authorization rates. Forter’s solution will apply its same real-time approve / decline decisions, but work with issuing banks to send the decisions through and help the business improve authorization rates with their bank of choice.

Looking Ahead: The Top 3 Digital Challenges for 2021

Christina commented that for her digital team, “the focus going into 2021, will be to minimize friction between channels.” CDOs and E-Commerce execs should focus on the following:

  1. Understanding how to fulfill orders from their brick and mortar stores. For Total Wine, their brick and mortar stores, all 220 of them, are also their fulfillment centers. Each center is unique both in inventory and process, so the business will need to take into account the nuances of each location and think through all customer bases while keeping their staff safe.
  2. Making the shopping experience unique and personalized. Customer expectations of service are growing and in order to stay competitive, businesses will have to ensure customer engagements are unique and personalized. With millions of customers across a range of geographies, businesses will need strategic approaches to personalized coupons and vouchers, curbside pickup options, reward programs, and customized inventory. Not only does the customer experience need to be personalized, but it also needs to be efficient and streamlined. With more brand options than ever before, winning at every customer interaction counts.
  3. Win at every interaction in the customer journey – whether it’s physical or virtual. Shoppers love Total Wine for the high touch, in-store experience they have with each visit to a store location. So how can the business translate this hands-on, engaging, and delightful user experience from their offline channels to online exchanges? Digital officers will need to capture the thrill of the in-person shopping experience on their digital platforms. Christina commented that in-store shopping is likely to return once COVID conditions die down, but businesses will “need to give their customers compelling reasons to shop.” This will require creative brand initiatives and investing in a seamless connection between online engagements and offline ones.

Heightened digital penetration rates are here to stay. Businesses need to ensure that their fraud prevention solution is not hampering their ability to scale, capture new customers, or offer the kinds of curbside pickup options and omni experiences their customers desire.

To hear our complete conversation with Christina, listen to the full webinar recording here.

4 minute read