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Case Studies







Case Study: Building a Shopify Store for New Coffee Ecommerce Business Blackstone Road

Sean Fisher, owner of new Australian coffee ecommerce business on the block, Blackstone Road, tasked Swanky with building a DTC Shopify store to make his new subscription brand a reality. This case study examines the key features of this new ecommerce website, complete with insights from Sean.

Written By
Harry Magriplis

Who are Blackstone Road?

Speciality coffee and lifestyle brand Blackstone Road (BSR) launched in October 2022, with the irresistible offer of “delicious, high octane brain fuel delivered to your door”.

This new-to-market coffee ecommerce subscription business uses only the finest imported, organic and fair trade beans, roasting them to perfection in Brisbane, Australia.

And if delicious coffee wasn’t enough, BSR are committed to a sustainable future, having implemented several green initiatives across the business. They are proud to be a 100% carbon neutral brand who contribute zero waste to landfill.

Behind every good coffee brew, there is a skilled roaster, and behind every successful business there is a brilliant owner. BSR happens to be lucky in that regard as it’s owned by Sean Fisher – avid coffee drinker, friend of Swanky and extremely experienced marketer.

As the current Head of Marketing at Australian brand Outback Equipment and former Head of Advertising at international success story Hismile, Sean’s no stranger to the world of ecommerce.

Discussing his inspiration for embarking on a new coffee ecommerce venture in a recent interview with Harry Magriplis, Paid Ads Specialist at Swanky, Sean said:

“I wanted to experiment and experience starting a business from scratch. I wanted to find something that I believed in, could build a brand around and build a community around.”

Having previously worked with Swanky to deliver an extremely complex product builder project for Veneta Blinds, Sean was confident that our Australian team would be able to help him launch and accelerate BSR on Shopify:

“If anyone was going to do a fantastic job, it’s you guys. Your track record with subscription brands speaks for itself.” 

How Swanky helped: Building an MVP coffee ecommerce site on Shopify

Using our expertise as a Shopify development agency, we built a Shopify MVP (minimum viable product) for BSR, bringing Sean’s vision to life in ecommerce form.

A GIF that begins with the Blackstone Road logo and then scrolls down the brand's Shopify store homepage.

Taking an MVP approach is one of the fastest ways to get a new ecommerce experience off the ground. The aim was to focus our efforts on building a solid ecommerce foundation with the major features necessary for BSR to start selling DTC.

This approach will enable Sean to validate his initial ideas and start learning about his audience, before adding new features and improving the site in future development phases.

Discussing why he chose Shopify to host the BSR ecommerce store, Sean said:

“Shopify is the platform that makes everything so much easier. I wanted to build this thing once and build it right. From a technical perspective, I didn’t want any of those problems that involve hours and hours of development work fixing them.

“It’s relatively affordable from a start-up perspective but it’s also infinitely scalable. I’m never going to have to move away from Shopify.”

Leveraging our long experience working with food and drink subscription brands, combined with Sean’s knowledge of the Shopify ecosystem, we loaded the following apps into BSR’s digital toolbox:

  • Recharge – for BSR’s ‘subscribe and save’ offering
  • OctaneAI – to provide tailored product recommendations from quiz answers
  • Gorgias – a leading customer service solution
  • Okendo – for collecting and showcasing customer reviews
  • Klaviyo – for keeping people engaged with email and SMS marketing
  • RiseAI – for member and rewards programs
  • Reconvert – to create powerful upsell and cross-sell funnels
  • CustomerHub – for an enhanced customer account page (that’s more flexible behind the scenes)

Let’s explore some of these tools in more detail and examine how Sean is leveraging them to boost conversions and retention on the BSR ecommerce site.

Key ingredients of the Blackstone Road website

Recharge-powered coffee ecommerce subscription model

Subscriptions offer benefits for both retailers and consumers, making them an attractive business model in DTC ecommerce. For example, merchants can enjoy increased retention metrics, lower acquisition spends and better financial forecasting, whilst subscribers benefit from convenience, money savings and personalisation.

At the core of BSR’s offering is a simple subscribe and save model for fresh coffee, powered by Recharge.

A screenshot of a product page from Blackstone Road's coffee ecommerce website, showing the subscribe and save option.

Subscribers can save 10% by signing up for a recurring order, with the option to amend their delivery cadence at any time to suit their needs. Consumers crave this sort of flexible self-management, especially when it comes to consumable products like coffee that aren’t used at a blanket rate.

Crucially, BSR subscribers can cancel their subscription at any time too. Although it may seem counterintuitive, making it easy for customers to leave a subscription can actually encourage retention and advocacy.

You can read more about the importance of flexible subscriptions in online food and drink retail in our guide to a successful food and drink ecommerce site.

Product recommendation quiz

The BSR site leverages an Octane AI quiz to help customers find the perfect roast for them, delivering an in-store recommendation experience online.

The quiz guides users through a series of simple questions to help them identify a suitable product, covering things like brew method and flavour preferences.

In the final step, users are asked to enter their email address to unlock their personalised product recommendation. Collecting contact details like this is important for maintaining conversations and building long-term customer relationships.

A GIF that shows the process of completing the coffee quiz on Blackstone Road's Shopify website.

Because coffee is very much a personal preference product, this website feature is extremely important in helping to convert users and provide a great experience to first-time shoppers.

In fact, the coffee quiz has become BSR’s most powerful selling tool, as Sean describes:

“So far, more than 50% of sales have been associated with the questionnaire. It’s mind-blowing! 

“When you have products that are so heavily influenced by individual taste and have multiple options available, it’s a no-brainer to go with a quiz.”

Quizzes like this one are also a great way to capture zero-party data from users. The information that your customers provide can be used to tailor post-purchase messaging and help to build meaningful connections. In BSR’s case, behavioural data is passed to Klaviyo to do just this, as we discuss below.

Targeted email marketing with Klaviyo

Klaviyo is a powerful customer marketing platform that we often recommend to our clients here at Swanky. It has a number of out-of-the-box email and SMS flows that can be leveraged in just a few clicks.

One way that BSR are using Klaviyo is to build custom segments, then send targeted emails and SMS messages that encourage repeat purchases and improve customer retention.

A deliberate ecommerce email marketing strategy like this will allow this new brand to:

  • connect with their audience on a personal level and build ongoing customer relationships;
  • promote relevant content, products and promotions to customers; and
  • monitor audience behaviour and learn more about which types of emails resonate with individual customers – the more they get to know their customers, the more they will be able to tailor their email communication, and the more likely customers will be to repurchase.

BSR are also leveraging Klaviyo’s remarketing post-purchase flows to convert users from sample to subscription. If someone purchases a small sample-size bag of coffee, they automatically get put into an email flow that helps them along their sample journey and gently nudges them towards a subscription.

The emails in this Klaviyo flow ask questions like:

  • How did you enjoy the samples?
  • Which one did you like the most?
  • Are you looking to find a bigger bag?
  • Are you ready to subscribe?

Capturing and displaying social proof

Social proof is a powerful tool for boosting shoppers’ confidence in your products and brand. For consumers, seeing other people’s rave reviews and high star ratings tends to reassure us about committing to a purchase.

This is particularly important for new businesses like BSR, whose products consumers won’t necessarily be familiar with, and for subscription brands, who want users to commit to a recurring order rather than a one-time purchase.

Reading reviews about how others have enjoyed the brand’s coffee, coupled with user-generated images, will increase trust in BSR. And, as an added benefit, visual social proof does a great job of capturing attention and triggering FOMO.

BSR are using Okendo to capture authentic reviews and showcase them on product pages.

A screenshot of some customer reviews on the Blackstone Road coffee ecommerce website.

Smooth customer service

High-quality customer service is crucial for success in subscription ecommerce, as this model relies on repeat business from satisfied customers. And, considering the nuances and complexities of food and drink ecommerce, providing an excellent standard of customer support is particularly important in this sector.

In fact, research by Recharge indicates that customer support integrations are the most-widely used integrations amongst food and drink subscription retailers online.

Customer service is even more key for new brands like BSR. Providing timely and positive assistance, wherever your customers are, is crucial for demonstrating your reputation as a reliable retailer and building trust with shoppers.

BSR are using leading customer support platform Gorgias to handle all their customer conversations, across onsite and offsite channels, in one admin.

Driving acquisition and retention with a referral program

Harnessing the power of referrals is a common strategy leveraged by food and drink subscription retailers, including BSR.

By tapping into their growing subscriber base and rewarding these existing customers for referring friends to the brand, they are simultaneously aiding acquisition whilst improving retention rates.

Plus, referred customers typically spend more, have higher lifetime values and are more loyal compared to customers acquired through other methods.

BSR’s referral program is managed through

Affiliate community

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based acquisition strategy, popular amongst ecommerce marketers because of its ability to reduce customer acquisition costs.

Put simply, affiliates promote a brand and its products on their own websites or social media channels in return for commission and other benefits.

In BSR’s case, perks for affiliates include discounts, free products, sales commission and exclusive insights into new products:

A screenshot from Blackstone Road's coffee ecommerce website, showing information about the brand's affiliate community.

BSR are using Shopify Collabs to build their affiliate marketing program. The platform allows brands to find and partner with individuals in their niche. It’s particularly useful for brands just starting out who may be looking for assistance recruiting affiliates, as it has a directory of creators available to browse. Merchants can also set up commission structures for affiliates on Collabs, as well as make payments directly via PayPal.

For Sean, he sees the BSR community as the brand’s biggest marketing channel in the future:

“The affiliate marketing play for us will be huge. Building up a community of people around the brand that truly believe in the product to secure word-of-mouth growth. This is a difficult channel to build a brand around, but it can be one of the most effective, inexpensive channels as well.

“My main focus will be on building that community, whilst supplementing sales and growth with typical social media ads, good content, and remarketing across all the different channels. 

“And, as BSR grows, we’ll be leveraging new platforms that are giving creators insane organic reach, like TikTok.”

What’s next for Blackstone Road?

With a robust Shopify MVP, we have helped build solid foundations for Sean Fisher to scale his new coffee ecommerce business.

Sharing his thoughts on Swanky’s involvement in the project, Sean said on LinkedIn:

“I couldn’t have chosen a better team to make this come to life!” 

We’re grateful to have been invited along on BSR’s DTC coffee ecommerce journey and can’t wait to see where 2023 takes Sean and his new ecommerce business.

Speaking of next year, whilst he wasn’t able to reveal everything that he has planned, Sean told us about his hopes to expand the on-site quiz to help consumers work out what quantity of coffee to order:

“A customer not being sure how much coffee they need to order is the next big wall to try and break down. The next thing is going to be building a questionnaire that recommends quantities and delivery cadence based on how much coffee they drink, how they brew it and how many coffee drinkers are in their household.”

Sean also shared the exciting news that BSR are looking to diversify their product range over the coming 12 months, moving beyond their hero coffee products. New items will include coffee tools, homewares and clothing.

“It’s more than just coffee. This is about building a brand and building a community,” described Sean.

Meanwhile, coffee pod drinkers may soon be able to enjoy BSR products as well, making the brand accessible to an even larger audience.

Watch this space!

Explore the Blackstone Road Shopify site and all its delicious coffee blends.

Looking for a Shopify Plus agency to launch or grow your coffee ecommerce business?

Blackstone Road is one of a whole host of food and drink brands we’ve worked with to accelerate their ecommerce growth. In fact, we’re considered the go-to Shopify Plus food and beverage agency for global DTC brands.

Our multidisciplinary teams in Australia, the UK and France leverage industry-leading expertise to design, build and grow exceptional food and drink websites on Shopify Plus.

In particular, we’re recognised as the leading Shopify DTC subscription authority for food and drink brands, having created custom subscription solutions for brands like Huel and HelloFresh.

We also have a growing portfolio of coffee ecommerce brands, including Australian retailers Montville Coffee and Groundskeeper Willie, as well as British brands Union Roasted Coffee and Crankhouse Coffee.

To find out more about how we could unlock your food and drink brand’s ecommerce potential, contact one of our Shopify Plus Experts today. We would love to chat.

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