Meat producers and distributors are notorious laggards when it comes to e-commerce adoption, preferring to rely on the same basic sales model they have used for decades: selling to supermarkets, grocery stores, restaurants, and grocery stores through their sales teams .
However, the emergence of the coronavirus has started to change the sales approaches of meat producers and distributors as more businesses and consumers turn to e-commerce to make purchases.
As the pandemic broke out, our online business took off, reminding us of the need to diversify in serving our customers digitally.
Justin Marx, managing director
Last year, Silver Fern Farms Co-op Ltd., a Dunedin, New Zealand-based cooperative of 16,000 New Zealand sheep, cattle and deer farmers, and Marx Foods, a Seattle-based distributor of specialty and game meat, poultry, seafood , Products and more have taken steps to improve their ecommerce game and learn how to better engage customers online.
While both companies are placing more emphasis on e-commerce, each company has taken a different path on its way. For example, Silver Fern Farms has launched a direct-to-consumer channel. Marx Foods, a distributor for Silver Fern Farms, is launching a B2B e-commerce website to complement its retail website at MarxFoods.com, which is already receiving some orders from businesses and consumers. As the pandemic disrupted B2B in-person sales transactions, Marx’s business customers began placing more orders through the retail e-commerce website.
“When the pandemic broke out, our online business picked up speed and reminded us of the need to diversify in serving our customers digitally,” said Justin Marx, fifth generation family-owned executive at Marx Foods.
Plenty of reasons to get into e-commerce
For Silver Fern Farms, who had been trying to open a direct customer e-commerce channel for the past five years, the decision to take the e-commerce leap was dependent on a myriad of factors.
First, the company believed that a business-to-consumer website would create a stronger brand connection with consumers. Second, Silver Fern ran into sales issues when shops and restaurants began to close as the pandemic hit the globe. Eventually, the explosion in consumer e-commerce sales during the pandemic for all types of items, including groceries, convinced the company it was time to launch a B2C channel. Online grocery purchases have increased 41% since the pandemic, according to business consultants McKinsey & Company.
Silver Fern Farms’ new e-commerce website, launched just before Thanksgiving last November, is set to serve consumers in the United States, the company’s second largest market after China. It is also expected to build on Silver Fern Farms’ brick and mortar retail presence in the United States. Silver Fern Farms, which opened its first US retail store in 2019, has 615 retail locations in metropolitan New York City, the Midwest and California.
Establishing a closer brand connection with customers
Consumers who sign up on the site can purchase bundled items that include various cuts of meat such as steaks and ground beef, as well as individually wrapped pieces. According to Silver Fern Farms, the website that runs on the Shopify Plus platform was developed and launched in about six months.
“Our goal is to create a closer connection with our brand with consumers. A direct-to-consumer website is one way to tell our story about our sustainable farming practices and the quality of our meat, ”says Kyle Wehner, strategic marketing project manager for Silver Fern Farms. “We traditionally follow a wholesale and merchandise sales model. It was important for us to find a quick way to market the ecommerce that Shopify offered. “
While Silver Fern Farms has refused to publish the sales volume through the website since its inception, the company says it has recorded steady sales and a growth in regular customers.
Looking ahead, Silver Fern Farms plans to track metrics such as how consumers navigate the website, preference for parcel or single-serving packages, and the frequency of purchases. The company uses this data to determine the types of products to add to the website.
“We are currently in the initial phase of learning and expect the website to develop a lot over the next 12 months when it comes to customer experience and customer loyalty,” says Wehner. “Which products will be added in the future depends on the data we collect. Our own supply chain puts us in a better position to create a better end-to-end customer experience. “
For Marx Foods, B2B and B2C
While Silver Fern Farms wanted to set up an e-commerce channel to encourage brand loyalty among consumers, Seattle-based Marx Foods plans to open a B2B website in April to promote online purchases by B2B customers via the Improving B2C website launched in 2007 To launch the website that accounts for all B2C sales, Marx Foods operated a Seattle retail store but closed it after ecommerce sales started.
Despite the lack of its own B2B website, Marx Foods, which stocks Silver Fern Farms products, has extensive experience in digital sales to companies. When a B2B buyer enters their credentials to log into the retail website, they’ll be shown on a special landing page with products tailored to their needs, such as: B. in food.
While B2B e-commerce sales make up only 2% of Marx Foods’ total e-commerce volume, they have grown significantly since the coronavirus pandemic began. And Marx Foods expects that they will continue to grow in the coming year, says managing director Justin Marx, who represents the fifth generation in the family business Marx.
To promote its new B2B website, which will run on the Oracle NetSuite platform just like their B2C website, Marx Foods has launched an email marketing campaign for its B2B customers. In addition, the company plans to expand many of the customer service tools used by its sales reps and on its B2C site to the new B2B site. For example, online B2B buyers can reach out to customer service with specific product questions and ask questions about how to better manage food costs to minimize waste, which is a major concern for restaurants.
“E-commerce is an extremely important part of our business,” says Marx. “That’s why we are using the resources and energy to expand it.”
Peter Lucas is a Highland Park, Illinois-based freelance journalist specializing in business and technology.
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