Jelly Belly finds its sweet spot with a new e-commerce platform

The candy retailer is seeing sharp rises in conversion rates and sales, e-commerce marketing manager Jason Marrone says. The home-grown site is built on Microsoft technology with search and rich media outsourced to SLI Systems and Fluid, respectively.

Katie Evans


For the 2008 holiday shopping season, Jelly Belly Candy Co. recorded an 18% year-to-year rise in conversion rates and a 51% surge in retail sales at JellyBelly.com, which it recently rebuilt in-house for the fourth time, e-commerce marketing manager Jason Marrone tells Internet Retailer.

When the company realized it was ready for a new platform to replace its third home-grown web site, it spent six months investigating several technology options including licensed and software-as-a-service platforms, Marrone says.

But the company chose to stay with the build-your-own option because it operates as a wholesaler as well as a retailer, which requires a platform that can handle a lot of back-end integration among inventory records and trading partners, he adds. “We looked at plenty of outside platform solutions, but it would have been cost-prohibitive to do the customization necessary to back their e-commerce engines into our enterprise resource planning system,” Marrone says.

The new site was custom-coded in Microsoft Corp.’s .Net development environment, which uses web services and other forms of web-enabled technology for integrating consumer-facing front-end applications as well as connecting with inventory and other back-end operations.

Nonetheless, realizing the in-house tech team could not do it all, Jelly Belly also brought in outside expertise for crucial areas that it wanted supported by the latest proven technology, Marrone says. For rich media, including a zoom function that lets shoppers view enlarged product details, Jelly Belly has deployed technology from Fluid Inc. For site search, it went with a hosted application from SLI Systems Inc., which is designed to improve search results based on how shoppers use JellyBelly.com.

“These features are definitely making it easier for our shoppers to find what they want, while making our products look better online,” Marrone says.

Building features like site search and rich media tools in-house would have made them too difficult to maintain over the long term, he adds. “If we were to build something like site search in house, we might have a state-of-the-art search at launch, but very soon it would not be able to keep up with the latest functionality.”




business, Jelly Belly, Marrone, Online shopping, Science