How the World’s Largest Christmas Store Thrives Year Round-Pt. 2

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We’re back with Bronner’s Vice President Maria Sutorik. In the second half of our conversation, Maria discusses all the technology powering the World Largest Christmas Store’s online presence.

Let’s move to technology and the nut and bolts of your site. Who are some of your vendors? I noticed McAfee, Nextopia, and both sites are Yahoo! Stores.
Both the McAfee Secure and Nextopia relationships came from the fact that we host with the Yahoo! Stores platform. We actually have three Yahoo Stores; Bronners.comBronnersCommercial.com andBronnersWholesale.com. We do our payment processing offline, and also use a local search agency that we’ve been very happy with.


Seems a natural environment to allow customers to showcase their Christmas displays (either video or photos). Any plans to incorporate user generated content?
Improving our use of UGC is on my wish list for 2010. We’d like to do a lot more but it is a question of where do we apply our time. Our MyChristmasWonderland.com site has operated for several years and is integrated with GoogleMaps. It is a place where Christmas lovers can post pictures of their outdoor lighting displays. It is really quite amazing to see the results when our customers invest time and effort and creativity into their gardens.

How is social media such as FaceBook and Twitter working? I saw that you have Facebook pages for both the commercial and retail operations.
Our use of social media services is working well. Facebook and Twitter have proven great sharing channels for customers to share their experiences. Right now, we have 6000 Facebook fans and 1,500 Twitter followers. We’re careful to split up the Facebook audiences between our retail and commercial customers because their interests relative to Christmas are very different.


Do you handle web development in-house or it is outsourced?
We do both. The creative is done in-house, while we outsource a lot of the store coding to a specialist Yahoo-Store developer. Our Bronner’s commercial site is handled by a former employee who left to launch a web development firm. We produce all photography ourselves.

What about search engine marketing and search engine optimization. Do you handle those in-house?
The search agency handles both optimization and search engine marketing. I manage our comparison shopping program. Although we use a third-party feed software, we manage feeds ourselves. That’s a lot of work because the key to profitability is submitting the right products with the right pricing, productdescriptions and titles.

How did you find Nextopia?
We had seen them at a show. We thought the time was right to upgrade our site with a really comprehensive site search and merchandising system. The price certainly was right, too. It made perfect sense. The implementation was painless and the performance has been terrific. We’re using the eComm|Search module to handle site search on Bronners.com.


How does Nextopia’s site search technology and modules fit in with your ecommerce plans?
We use all the core functionality, including search filtering. It really helps customers find their way to the products they’re looking for, particularly when they aren’t sure of the spelling or, perhaps, there is a regional difference in what a specific product is called. Overall, we’ve been very happy customers since 2007.

We’re raising a glass of eggnog as a toast of thanks to Maria for sitting down and talking to us about what it is like to live Christmas 365 days a year. Merry Christmas to everyone at Bronnersfrom the engineering elves at Nextopia Software.

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