Digital transformation presents new opportunities for small and medium size businesses (SMBs), and according to a just-released Visa study, 52% of consumers surveyed say they would prefer to shop exclusively online.

Further, over 80% mention that digital-related benefits such as an easy-to-use website and a digital loyalty program are motivating factors when deciding where to shop.

With these factors in mind, how do retail bakeries — both small and medium size — reinvent their business models to adapt to these rapidly changing times? At almost 100 years old, Dawn Foods has the answer.

The new Bakery Business Portal from Dawn Foods is being introduced in a test phase in the Chicago market. A group of 8 to 10 retail bakeries are using the portal as a virtual storefront where consumers can order fresh bakery products that they pick up and pay for at the retail bakery store, according to Dawn Foods.

“Their consumers now are able to order online,” says Stevens Sainte-Rose, chief human resources and transformation officer for Dawn Foods. “Dawn has been around 98 years, and the way we have grown is with great team members, great products and being keen on listening to our customers — understanding how we can help them with their total business. They face many challenges: labor, logistics, the changing consumer marketplace, compliance. That is why we are building something new that is made by the bakers for the bakers. We want to support them more seamlessly, because at the end of the day, our bakers are the center of our attention.”

Angie Goldberg, chief marketing officer for Dawn Foods, points out that a driving force behind this initial test, which will be expanded to a large-scale pilot at the end of the first quarter of 2019, is to enhance the ability of retail bakery customers to serve the evolving needs of consumers. Having online ordering capabilities helps retail bakeries plan their production more effectively. Dawn is using this initial phase to test, learn and gain insights for a deeper dive in the next phase of the project.

“The bakers who have signed on are very excited,” Goldberg says. “As we think about our customers, as well as the needs of end consumers, we want to be a full partner and provide all the right business solutions. Needs are changing, and we want to offer turnkey solutions to meet those needs. We want to enable our customers to do business with Dawn online and digitally engage with end consumers.”

Sainte-Rose explains that the bakeries participating in the test phase have an online console that allows consumers to place online orders through the bakery’s own website. This way, the bakeries are better prepared for what bakery supplies they will need to order.

“We are simplifying their process, which gives them time to plan for purchases,” he says. “This is built for bakers by bakers; the portal is very much in a test and learn phase. What they (the bakers) tell us is incredibly valuable and will help inform our larger test pilot launch. We are approaching this in a very agile way.”

Goldberg adds that the portal will evolve, “as we learn more,” and that this initiative helps reinforce customer loyalty over time.

“What’s exciting is they know we understand their business,” she says. “The trust they have in Dawn plays a key role in our continued partnership.”

“We see a very bright future for retail bakery,” Sainte-Rose says. “We want to inspire retail bakery success and are highly committed to it.”