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Follett Makes Impressive Jump to #57 on Digital Commerce 360’s 2021 Top 1000 Report

Sales increase, conversion rates driven by platform enhancements contribute to improved ranking

Follett Higher Education Group today announced a nearly 30 percent improvement in its ranking on Digital Commerce 360’s 2021 Top 1000 report, which analyzes and ranks the leading online retailers in North America. Follett moved from #81 in 2020 to #57 in 2021.

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“The new HCL Commerce v9 platform is designed to help merchants sell more and allows Follett to quickly respond to the changing needs and shopping habits of today’s students while maintaining the ability to scale to sudden changes in online traffic.”

“This past year has challenged our ecommerce teams in countless ways, but our focus never wavered from what it’s always been – delivering a seamless and innovative online experience for students, fans and campus members everywhere,” says Roe McFarlane, president of Follett Higher Education. “Our new ranking is a true reflection of the incredible work behind Follett’s omnichannel strategy and ecommerce platform.”

According to the report, the jump in Follett’s ranking was fueled by several key performance indicators (KPI) where the company demonstrated significant improvement during calendar year 2020.

  • Follett saw a remarkable 88% increase in online sales. While this was due in part to the 2020 shift to online shopping, the real catalyst was Follett’s substantial increase in conversion rates (the percentage of website visits that result in a purchase). Follett’s sales increase greatly outpaced the overall growth average from the U.S. online retail market, which landed at 32.4%.
  • Follett’s online conversion rate was at a notable 8.5%, compared to the average 2.9% from Digital Commerce 360’s Top 1000. This rate was driven by Follett’s new ecommerce platform and a series of enhancements that focused on improving the online customer experience.
  • With more online shoppers following through with their purchases, Follett’s online conversion rate grew by 40%, compared to the average growth of 29.6% from Digital Commerce 360’s Top 1000.
  • Follett’s online shoppers checked out with an average order size of $130, compared to $127 from Digital Commerce 360’s Top 1000.

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Follett recently completed phase one of a $50 million, multiple-year ecommerce investment, which launched in June 2019. Supported by today’s leading technology, the platform excelled by providing a stable and seamless environment for the surge in online shoppers during 2020’s back-to-school season. Notable enhancements include a new HCL Commerce v9 platform, a shift to a cloud-based environment, and a new content management system (CMS) with Adobe Experience Manager.

Gary Schoch, vice president, global CX, commerce, digital experience and Unica leader at HCL Software, partnered with Follett through the upgrade to the new HCL Commerce v9 platform. “From day one of Follett’s ecommerce transformation, it’s been evident that this team’s priority is the customer’s online experience,” says Schoch. “The new HCL Commerce v9 platform is designed to help merchants sell more and allows Follett to quickly respond to the changing needs and shopping habits of today’s students while maintaining the ability to scale to sudden changes in online traffic.”

Follett’s use of Adobe Experience Manager as the CMS that connects with HCL to support a headless commerce model is another crucial pillar behind the company’s online experience. Loni Stark, vice president, strategy and product at Adobe, explains, “Follett’s choice to implement Adobe Experience Manager to support a digital-first shopping experience demonstrates their commitment to driving personalization and convenience for shoppers. We’re proud to offer an industry-leading experience management and delivery solution that allows Follett to easily adapt and improve its more than 1,100 unique campus websites.”

To pull these enhancements together into one cohesive system, Follett relied on Capgemini. “For the past 16 years, Capgemini has been proud to support Follett in their digital innovation efforts in online retailing. Their recent ecommerce transformation enhanced the overall experience for millions of shoppers and established an agile platform that can quickly adapt to evolving customer needs. As Follett’s technology partner, Capgemini was responsible for multiple aspects of the new site, including development, testing, and managing integrations to create one cohesive system. Our shared success is reflected in Follett’s impressive 2020 ecommerce performance,” says Rajnish Nath, CEO of Sogeti US, part of the Capgemini Group.

Follett campus partners, as well as students, faculty, alumni and fans, will continue to benefit from the company’s ongoing ecommerce investment. Personalized recommendations, integrated student information, more purchase and shipping options, real-time communication, and expanded inventory are just a few of the features that the new platform brings.

Lori Krzyzewski, senior vice president of ecommerce at Follett, looks forward to the future as Follett’s ecommerce transformation continues to unfold. “Our team has accomplished a lot over the past two years, but we’ve only just begun. With Follett’s continued investment into its ecommerce platform, we’ll be able to support our campus websites with even more innovative solutions that drive sales, school pride and academic success.”

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