Today, Vitamin World is a leading retailer and manufacturer of quality vitamins, minerals, herbs and nutritional supplements. It has nearly 400 stores in the United States, Guam, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. In addition, it has a very strong online presence. “We are truly the destination for customers who want to be the best they can be in terms of health and wellness,” Krause says.
One key area Vitamin World has focused on is in understanding how its customers shop, how they view the company in relation to the competition, and what they see as the company’s strengths and opportunity areas. “This has given us a great deal of insight to better direct our internal support functions as well as our outside suppliers,” Krause says.
This has helped the company devise its omnichannel model. Vitamin World sees its website as the company’s flagship store. Nearly 70 percent of customers shop online before coming to retail stores, so it is critical that the customer experience is easy, educational and informative.
The company rebranded and re-platformed its website with Demandware in March 2014 as a part of its overall rebranding effort. The new site is much easier to navigate and is responsive to users regardless of how they shop, whether they are shopping from home on their PC or with a mobile device.
“Our customers have voted in a very positive way as our e-commerce sales have grown significantly,” Krause says. “We have also been working to make cultural changes in our stores so that our associates fully embrace the new omnichannel world. We reward our associates when their new customers make a purchase on the web, helping associates think of the web in terms of being a true partner in meeting customer needs.”
When Krause joined Vitamin World in 2012, he found a very positive customer-centric culture with a focus on meeting customers’ needs and helping them achieve their wellness goals. But consumer insights also revealed awareness challenges. This was the driver of the company’s re-branding project with branding agency Prophet.
“The process was very balanced in terms of identifying key strengths to leverage based on current customer loyalty, while understanding what needed to be communicated to attract new customers,” Krause says. “Our ‘from the source’ positioning really captured the benefits of vertical integration and how it differentiates us from our competitors. We set out to help clarify that we source ingredients from around the world and manufacture products ourselves here in the U.S. This sends a strong message about our curation of products and product quality. It also emphasizes our associates as the source for customer service and guidance.”
To date, the company has rebranded 90 stores, and they are performing better than the balance of the company in all key measures. Vitamin World is looking to add key visual and merchandising components of the new branding to almost all stores by the end of the year. In addition, the company has redesigned packaging to reflect its positioning. “We expect that products representing more than 60 percent of our sales will be on the shelf in new packages by the end of the year,” Krause says. “This will have a dramatic effect on how all of our stores look and feel.”
Investments in remodels and new stores as part of its rebranding efforts as well as in developing ecommerce business have been critical. But the most important investment Vitamin World is making is to understand customers’ needs with consumer insights and executing programs to meet those needs. In addition, a robust training program helps associates deliver the best possible customer experience.
Vitamin World believes it is important to separate the fads from the trends. In any cycle, there can be huge category fluctuations based on news releases, studies or media programs. But Vitamin World sees one long-term trend that is extremely positive for the category. People are aging, and healthcare is expensive and complicated. As a result, people are trying to take care of themselves in a more holistic or preventive manner. That will drive the company’s long-term growth.
“The retail environment continues to be one of the most dynamic segments in business,” Krause says. “We need to continue to adapt to our customers’ changing shopping behaviors so that they can shop where they want, how they want and when they want. This will create an increased demand for value-added services in and outside of our stores.”