Central England Co-operative uses Yext to level up its digital experience
- Grocery and Convenience
- 400+ locations
- Staffordshire, UK
Owned by its members, Central England Co-operative is a convenience retailer that prides itself on being there for the good of the community. The brand is based on a cooperative of members who came together back in 1840 to offer an economy of scale to customers, and is still based on the principles of that agreement, remaining customer-focussed in every aspect of its operations.
On its mission to serve its customers as its first priority, Central England Co-operative identified its digital footprint, both on and off the company’s website as a key area in need of development. As a local convenience brand serving its customers in the community, the brand did not have an e-commerce element to their business, and it had not put a big emphasis on the digital experience. “Because we’re not transactional online, as a brand we weren’t necessarily realising the benefits of taking control of our online estate” said Rob Willis, Digital and Design Manager at Central England Co-operative.
“Yext helped us to understand that our customers were getting one experience in our stores, and an entirely different one online”. With more and more customers seeking out information from online sources, Central England Co-operative realised the gap in their search strategy that needed to be addressed. “Customers simply weren’t able to find the information they needed across our digital estate. Yext was the solution for that.” said Willis.
Central England Co-operative leveraged the Yext Search Experience Cloud to level up its digital experience and manage its information online. “There was no comparison with the other vendors we looked at. We needed a comprehensive platform to manage all of our information, and the Yext products and expertise was just on a different level. It’s become a fundamental pillar of our digital strategy” continued Willis.
Providing answers to the community in COVID-19
In June 2020, the brand began using Yext’s revolutionary new site search product, Answers. “It was a lightbulb revelation moment really. We had very little visibility into what our customers were searching for, so when we heard about Answers we jumped at the chance to get more insights into what our customers really want” said Willis. The brand was quickly able to uncover the fact that product questions account for about 75% of all queries through the search bar, and get a previously-unknown view of what their customers were searching for most often. This meant that the team was armed with the data they needed to inform content creation and product features to drive conversions.
“It is so much more than just a search bar; it was the first time we could really get a sense of anything from a customer perspective like search queries or website clicks.” With location pages built by Yext, the brand could also deliver specific location-based calls-to-action in their search results, meaning that they had new metrics on the information that users were engaging with, but critically that customers were able to find what they needed at the touch of a button. “We were absolutely blown away by how much engagement we were getting with the Answers search bar, almost as soon as it was deployed on the website” Willis continued.
With the impact that COVID-19 had on grocery and convenience stores at the height of the first wave, the brand needed a solution which would allow it to answer the thousands of questions it was receiving per month. Mike Ankers, Digital Support and Data Management Lead at Central England Co-operative said “Answers has given us an amazing window into what our members and customers need from us, and that was something that we would never be able to do through Google Analytics or other traditional methods. It is a hugely powerful, intelligent and adaptable platform that has given our website and online presence a massive boost”.
The Central England Co-operative team has also seen huge benefits in migrating its information to the Yext Knowledge Graph, which underpins the Answers experience. “The Knowledge Graph structures all of the information that we have across everywhere our customers need it” explained Imamul Hussein, UX Researcher and Technical SEO at Central England Co-operative “We know that when we input the information into Yext, it will be tagged up with schema correctly, and it will be available to our customers across our digital endpoints. The way I see it, Yext is becoming our source of truth for all data”. Ankers added “the Knowledge Graph is absolutely key to everything we do. It’s the single source of truth for every element of our digital strategy”.
Forward thinking fuelled by Answers
As the brand looks to the future, it plans to expand its offering online and provide regional trials for providing an e-commerce offering. “We have used Yext to populate our entire product list, and in some specific trial regions across the UK, consumers are able to order the products. For those that are not in the trial regions, we have been able to capture their data and register their interest for when we expand the programme. Without Yext we would not have been able to do any of it”. Ankers went on to add that “we can tailor Yext Pages so specifically that features only appear on certain pages as they relate to the trial locations, so it has been phenomenally helpful to be able to look at what traffic we’re getting, to inform the future of the trial.”
Insights from Answers is helping the Central England Co-operative team to shape their digital strategy. “If we didn’t have Answers, I don’t know what the solution would have been for us. It gives us the insight to inform the direction of travel for the business, and helps us to always consider the most important thing, which is what our customers really want from us online”. Ankers continued “I see Yext as so much more than a piece of software; they are a strategic partner for us, and I’ve never experienced the level of commitment and support from any other supplier.”
69% of searches returned results powered by Central England Co-operative’s knowledge graph, rather than a blue link, helping customers to find what they need quickly, and providing a direct answer to their question.
With product queries accounting for 75% of all searches, Central England Co-operative customers were able to get a direct and specific result about the product they were looking for. This meant that consumers didn’t bounce back to Google or other sources of information; they were served exactly what they needed on the brand’s website.
Customer Service queries accounted for 12.5% of queries, meaning that the brand was able to answer customers in an efficient manner, saving time and cost on call centres or local store phone calls.