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Case Study: How Swanky Helped This Australian Agri-Food Business Expand Into D2C Ecommerce

After participating in the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise’s E-Ag program, facilitated by Swanky, Australian agri-food business Victoria Hill Lamb leveraged our Shopify expertise to support them with their D2C ecommerce journey. Find out why they wanted to expand into a new sales channel, how Swanky helped, and what impact this has had on their business.

Written By
Harry Magriplis

Victoria Hill Lamb: Brand overview

Victoria Hill Lamb (VHL) is a lamb feedlot based on the Darling Downs in South East Queensland, run by graziers and fifth generation sheep farmers Stephen and Claire Schmidt.

This family-run Australian business produces premium lamb boxes and delivers them direct to customers’ doors. Each box contains a minimum of 10kg of pre-cut, family-friendly portions for ultimate convenience.

More than delivering flavoursome, high-quality lamb straight to customers, VHL is passionate about animal welfare and ethical farming. The Schmidts also believe in the importance of knowing where your food has come from, and are dedicated to sharing the history and processes of VHL with their customers.

This case study explores how Swanky supported VHL’s expansion into direct to consumer (D2C) ecommerce, helping the Schmidt family to diversify their business and make the most of the fresh food ecommerce trend.

An opportunity to expand into D2C ecommerce

Historically, VHL has sold all of its lamb to Thomas Foods International (TFI), one of the largest meat processors in Australia.

In 2021, the Schmidt’s identified an opportunity to diversify their sales approach and start selling directly to the end consumer (whilst simultaneously retaining their B2B relationship with TFI).

Selling D2C offers VHL greater margins than selling large volumes to meat processors interstate. However, the main reason for them wanting to sell D2C was to meet the demands of customers who were increasingly looking for high-quality paddock-to-plate produce, that is sustainably sourced and ethically produced.

“We wanted to give consumers an opportunity to enjoy the same tasting delicious lamb that we enjoy week in, week out, in the comfort of their own home. Tender, flavoursome lamb, ‘the way it used to taste’ can be hard to find in supermarkets and butchers’ shops and little is known about the provenance of the produce that is on offer.

– Claire Schmidt 

An introduction to Swanky

With its D2C ambition in mind, VHL participated in Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise’s (TSBE) E-Ag program, which was run with the support of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland.

This program was run by Swanky’s Australian team and our Managing Director Sean Clanchy, who educated the participating businesses on why and how they should consider selling to end consumers online.

“The E-Ag program gave us the fundamentals and confidence to move forward with connecting to our customers through e-commerce. It was the launchpad for us to begin our dream of supplying the Victoria Hill Lamb box direct to consumers from all over the state.”

– Claire Schmidt (Source: TSBE News)

As part of the E-Ag program, Swanky conducted three workshops:

  1. Researching market fit.
  2. Defining a go-to-market minimum viable product (MVP).
  3. How to set goals and KPIs to profitably market a business.

We also ran a series of 1-on-1 mentoring sessions with participating businesses to flesh out their brand, business and technical requirements. Our team helped them to define their ecommerce project scope and assist them in seeking out relevant implementation partners.

During the workshop series, VHL approached Swanky to see if we could turn their idea for an ecommerce business into a reality.

How Swanky helped

A new Shopify website

Swanky’s engagement with VHL began with an initial 3-month website and branding project. This involved crafting a Shopify MVP to help validate VHL’s business case. It was essential that the new online store embody VHL’s closely-held values and share their story with consumers, as this is an essential part of their brand DNA.

Namira Putri, New Builds Project Manager at Swanky, describes the build phase in more detail:

“VHL knew what they wanted – they had a clear vision for their online store. Claire projected what she wanted and outlined this in a brief. This paved a smooth path for us to strategise the email content, choose the theme and build the personas through their brand colours.”

 

 

VHL’s ecommerce store showcases the Schmidt family’s passion for ethical farming and high-quality food, allowing them to connect with consumers and share their love of fresh, locally-sourced meat. The chosen Shopify theme is great for showcasing images in order to support this brand storytelling.

 

Building an efficient ecommerce tech stack

Leveraging our expertise and experience in D2C food ecommerce, we were well positioned to consult on solutions to integrate with Shopify in VHL’s ecommerce tech stack.

Okendo for customer reviews

We recommended and implemented Okendo, a popular tool that captures and displays detailed customer reviews.

Showcasing reviews can be a particularly powerful tactic for brands like VHL who are new to D2C ecommerce and looking to build up a customer base at speed.

This type of social proof is very effective at increasing consumer confidence and boosting conversion rate, especially when it comes to purchasing food online. Ecommerce shoppers can be particularly cautious about buying edible products, but positive reviews from existing customers can help alleviate any concerns.

You can read more about the powerful impact of customer reviews in our round-up of best practice for your D2C food ecommerce website.

Klaviyo for automated email marketing

We also recommended marketing automation platform Klaviyo to the team at VHL. This popular solution will enable them to deliver personalised, automated emails across the customer journey.

 

Paid advertising support

Once our New Builds team had leveraged their Shopify development expertise to produce a stunning MVP, the project transitioned over to our Growth Accelerator team, with a focus on paid advertising.

Our Paid Ads Specialist Harry Magriplis worked closely with VHL’s marketing and sales representative Charlotte Schmidt in a tutor arrangement. Over a 3-month period they had a series of 1-on-1 meetings, which gave Charlotte the confidence and skills to take on sole management of the brand’s ads accounts.

The first month of advertising focused on driving traffic to the new VHL site via Facebook, allowing the pixel to mature and learn.

 

      

 

After the first month, we analysed our results and conducted team strategy sessions to refine our approach moving forwards.

In the next month, we were able to drive the following results:

  • +59.5% new users
  • +67.85% traffic
  • +175% revenue
  • +200% transactions
  • +19.15% conversion rate

“I really enjoyed my time with the team, they are highly knowledgeable and, importantly, they were able to convey their knowledge in a way that was palatable for a novice,” explains Charlotte.

“Each week they stepped me through a new concept or function relating to Facebook ads. I enjoyed the structure of our sessions as it gave me clarity on where I was heading. I always felt comfortable asking questions and knew that my online queries would be answered promptly and in great detail.”

Overcoming the challenges of D2C food ecommerce

D2C food ecommerce certainly isn’t without its challenges, as the VHL team can attest to. Delivery and storage issues can often prove difficult for brands in this sector.

One challenge VHL faced with selling large lamb boxes was finding customers that had enough freezer space to store half a lamb. To try and navigate this, they decided to target their marketing primarily at country folk who will typically have space for larger freezers.

In addition, since their farm is located hours from highly populated cities, they found themselves driving a long distance and burning a lot of fuel for weekly delivery drops, for very little monetary return – thereby impacting their profit margin.

They have since changed their delivery schedule to monthly, allowing them to cut back on fuel costs. Despite reducing the number of delivery drops, they have managed to maintain their number of monthly sales and are still thought of as a “convenience service” by customers.

The impact of selling D2C

Pivoting from a traditional B2B wholesale model to a hybrid B2B/D2C strategy has enabled VHL to capitalise on the growing ecommerce trend for fresh food, whilst catering to increased consumer demand for a paddock-to-plate experience.

By helping them to diversify their business and expand into another sales channel, Swanky has enabled VHL to put in place structures that scale. This is important for future-proofing their business and accelerating their overall growth.

Their D2C expansion has helped improve their brand visibility and drive revenue. Thanks to their direct interactions with end consumers, they are capturing rich customer data and constantly learning about their shoppers’ needs. This will allow them to understand their audience better and evolve in line with consumer demand.

Thanks to the ecommerce-fueled growth they have seen already, a feedlot expansion is in the making, and the Schmidts have ambitions to sell into restaurants and butcher shops. They also have their sights set on a subscription service for their customers, offering VHL lamb boxes on a recurring basis.

The team at Swanky are excited to see where VHL’s D2C ecommerce journey takes them, and wish the Schmidts every success in the future!

A trusted Shopify Plus agency to support your D2C ecommerce journey

Are you an agri-food business looking to expand into D2C ecommerce? Maybe you’re a B2B-first retailer in another industry looking for support as you navigate to a hybrid business model?

We have a long history of accelerating our client’s ecommerce growth with powerful digital solutions that drive awareness, traffic and sales. Our Australian team recently helped fashion wholesaler Goondiwindi Cotton with their transition into D2C ecommerce, increasing revenue by 343% in just two months!

To find out how Swanky can help you unlock your ecommerce potential, contact our team of Shopify Plus Experts today.

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