When New York entrepreneur Murray Greenberg opened Murray’s Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village almost 80 years ago, he never imagined it would grow into a national purveyor of fine cheese and specialty foods. Murray’s Cheese still serves its loyal foodies at the flagship store at 254 Bleecker Street, as well as hungry commuters at a booth in Grand Central Terminal, but it now also operates shops inside 400 Kroger supermarkets in 30 states.
And cheese lovers worldwide can order Murray’s fromage and other fine fare on its newly redesigned website, which is as much a community gathering place as a commerce site. “It is the heartbeat of our entire company all in one place,” says Andrew Perlgut, director of technology.
For example, site visitors can read profiles on the company’s blog of dairy farmers worldwide who contribute milk and cheese to the Murray’s product lineup.
Product pages link to videos in the “Cheese Talk” series. One explains how Parmigiano Reggiano is made, starting with an interview (in Italian) with a cheesemaker in the Parma region of Italy who explains why cows must be happy with their food to produce optimum milk. After watching the video, customers can place an order for an 80-pound wheel of the Parmesan cheese, described as “a barrage of nutty sweetness and spice followed by a salt-caramel finish.” (A wheel of Parmesan, the website suggests, is perfect for people to congregate around at a party or even sit on when they get tired of standing and chatting.)
Customers can also click on a section called “Pairing Guide,” select their favorite adult beverage, then get suggestions for the best cheese to go with it. The site suggests the herb-encrusted Hudson Flower cheese as a pleasant companion to a glass of Chianti and the mushroomy Brie Fermier cheese for a glass of farmhouse ale. Customers can also find cheeses to go with their favorite coffees and teas.
The e-commerce team also has developed a cheese-of-the-month membership program and newsletters that promote a cheese-filled lifestyle.
As customers click back and forth between sections of this entertaining and educational website, that activity drives up the site’s SEO value. The site is powered by Oracle NetSuite e-commerce software, which is part of a unified business management solution that also runs the company’s financial, order processing and customer relationship management functions. That tight coupling, which helps Murray’s keep track of which customers have visited its stores and/or shopped online, will help with customer segmentation and marketing activities in the coming year, Perlgut says.
“What we love about the NetSuite package is that our e-commerce orders are coming directly into our system on our website,” Perlgut says. “We have a full view of everything that is happening and we can make sure that our customers’ data is secure.”
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers
Murray’s buys “young” cheeses from leading dairies and cheese manufacturers worldwide, then ages them to perfection in “caves” underneath its warehouse in Long Island City. There, sensors measuring temperature and humidity relay those readings to the “cave master” to ensure ideal conditions.
The company has also begun to create its own specialty cheeses. “We identify small cheesemakers who are making great cheese and we’ll have our cave team put a spin on it to see what we can make,” Perlgut explains. That spin can include unusual “washes,” such as cider or brine, or added ingredients, such as black truffles from France for Valentine’s Day.
At any one time, the company’s cave masters test 30 to 60 small wheels of these innovative cheeses.
“These amazing cheeses are aimed at the true cheese lover who is curious about what we’re doing in the cave,” says Lauren Porten, associate director of e-commerce, who spearheaded development of the company’s new website.
Under Porten’s leadership, employees stopped thinking of Murray’s as a mail-order company that takes telephone orders and started thinking of it as an e-commerce company, where customers can place orders on its website without having to consult customer service representatives.
The company’s physical presence is no less important. Kroger, which acquired Murray’s in February 2017, now operates Murray’s in many of its supermarkets, including Kroger, King Soopers, City Market, QFC, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Smith’s, Fry’s and Dillons.
The transition has been smooth, says Perlgut, who notes that the acquisition by Kroger has given Murray’s access to a large group of technology, e-commerce and marketing experts.
All of this attention might leave someone who isn’t yet a cheese aficionado wondering why all the fuss about a product that is essentially curdled milk.
“Our customers vote with their dollars,” Porten says. “And nothing makes them happier than a big plate of pasta with some Parmesan from Murray’s melting over it.”
This article was originally posted on The Wall Street Journal.