(Note: This story appears in the October 2022 issue of STOREROTICA Magazine)

Holiday Products is unveiling an overhauled website that doubles as a virtual assistant.

Like any distributor worth its inventory — and arguably any business in the 21st century — Holiday Products has a website to facilitate the online shopping experience: categories, product descriptions, a detailed “search” feature, and an online shopping cart.

Where Holiday Products is jumping out ahead of the future is by turning its already exhaustive website into a virtual assistant.

SE Magazine spoke with Molly Romeo, Senior Account Manager and Product Specialist at Holiday Products, about the 18-months-in-progress remodeled website (available now) and what customers can expect from it moving forward. And for any skeptical parties, there’s no need to fear a redesigned website, just a more intuitive one.

SE: How exactly will the website serve as a virtual assistant?

ROMEO: You can find your assistant by visiting the recently revamped “MY ACCOUNT” section. There, a customer can see everything to do with their account, such as the account details, open orders, invoice history, items purchased history, aging, saved carts, a personalized stock/ inventory list, and all MAP policies.

SE: Will there be a learning curve for longtime customers utilizing the website/virtual assistant?

ROMEO: We have a cheat sheet that was sent to our beta testers, and while those savvy folks thought it was a fun read and helped to point out all the newness, they didn’t really need the tips prepared for them to successfully navigate through the modules.

SE: What will the assistant’s capabilities be — how will it serve/aid retailers navigating your website? How will that benefit and streamline the process for all parties involved (including Holiday Products)?

ROMEO: The changes and features added were based on customer feedback. As our guidelines, we naturally took our key clients’ wish lists into consideration and merged those ideas with the most common support questions. This streamlines things because people can easily find their own answers to queries involving balance due, open orders, printing invoices, tracking numbers, MAP information, and more. The new features also help to keep customers organized, as they can print their own invoices and reports, download tracking information, see what’s selling well for them, and monitor back orders or open orders.

My favorite new feature is the Saved Carts option. Our customers process both stock orders as well as drop ships from a single online account, and they can now feel free to build a stock order without the interruption of having to enter a drop ship order. When that situation arises, the stock order can be saved, then the client can enter their dropship PO without losing all the work they’ve put in to create their stock shipment. When ready, that saved stock order can be moved back to the active cart and shopping can resume. Another way Saved Carts can be used is for bundles. Many online stores offer product bundle deals of their own creation, so having the components for these bundles stored in their Saved Carts results in a one-click reorder, which is a for sure a timer saver. I can also see Saved Carts being helpful if a customer is building a special order for an event or perhaps for a seasonal bulk buy. The ability to keep building your Black Friday, Holiday Season, or Valentine’s Day order in the background while still placing regular stock orders can result in more thoughtful and profitable choices for those key busy seasons.

SE: What was the impetus for this redevelopment/change to the website into a virtual assistant?

ROMEO: Customers want answers fast and at all times of the day. While account managers are always happy to help, this revamp includes the ability to see everything clients need to answer their most common questions at a glance.

SE: What were the wrinkles you had to iron out before you rolled out the final iteration?

ROMEO: The reporting was a little bit of a bear. Everything had to be completely customized to get the data translated from one system to another, but the end result has been seamless.

SE: What has the response been so far?

ROMEO: Feedback has been fantastic! I’ve lived through many website changeovers, and this is the first time I did not receive the “Why didn’t you add this or do that” questions. Nor did I receive suggestions for further improvements.

For more information, visit holidayproducts.com.