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A vineyard moving fast to outrun a virus

The world is a mess. The last 6 months have felt like 4 years. Everything has changed and the challenges for businesses are not going away. However, with every challenge comes a need (and often an opportunity) to make changes.

As events and restrictions changed and unfolded hourly during the first wave of COVID-19 back in March, clients needed to make decisions, and act decisively. As a consequence, we needed to move quickly too.

Llanerch’s Pivotal Moment (geddit?!)

Ryan, the owner of Llanerch called us right at the start of lock down with an idea. Llanerch is a vineyard venue. They grow, produce and sell wine, they have a hotel, a restaurant, and host weddings and events. All of these are on site at their vineyard. They sell tickets and bookings via the website, but as lockdown was announced all of those offerings effectively stopped.

Ryan’s idea would help solve a number of problems—he needed to make sure Llanerch had some income, now much of the regular business was on hold, he needed to keep as many staff as possible busy, he had suppliers who had food to sell but no means of getting to people’s plates, and he had a local, rural, and older community who had to make a choice to go out to shops to get food or to stay safe indoors.

Llanerch was left with no income, however, we spotted an opportunity to serve the local community by using our already established suppliers with fresh local produce. We quickly realised that the only way to make this a success was to be fast and to do it better than our competitors.

Ryan Davies, Llanerch

The idea was to start an online farm shop, selling local produce, groceries, and household items using their website. These would be available to pick up or for local delivery. It was a big decision and would require significant investment, but if he (and by consequence we) moved quickly he would get himself out in front of the competition.

Keeping it lean

We quickly scoped out what we could do based on Ryan’s initial plans for the business. We needed to be lean and deliver the minimum viable product as quickly as possible. Llanerch’s site is built on Craft CMS, so Craft Commerce seemed like a good choice for the limited scope of what was required. We worked fast to provide a stripped back design and build of a Craft Commerce store.

Bluegg got to work and soon turned around a system that allowed us to get orders online 24/7 enhancing not only the customer's experience, but also saving time and money on phone operators, packing lists, and payments. This allowed us to develop our range and listen to customers' feedback.

Ryan Davies, Llanerch

We had to create some bespoke functionality to handle the constraints of how Llanerch would need to operate during the initial phase of lockdown. These custom requirements also lended themselves to Craft Commerce, which is a more flexible platform than something like Shopify.

We needed to ensure that purchases had enough lead time before delivery or collection so that Llanerch could order and prepare the orders in time. We also needed to build custom plugins and modules so that Llanerch could ensure only certain postcodes could be delivered to.

The initial launch was a big success with orders coming thick and fast. This was helped by the team at Llanerch’s anticipation for what customers would want in the midst of a pandemic. For example, customers collecting their orders didn’t need to leave their car–the team just put the order straight into the boot–the first time I saw contactless pickup. They also had great suppliers–they were my supplier of bread flour and yeast when every major supermarket and online shop were out of stock.

As business grew so did the range. Ryan realised that they could open their kitchen again and offer restaurant prepared food, ready for customers to finish at home. This then grew into offering sunday lunches, picnics, and afternoon teas.

A re-platform for success

As the range grew, and the scope of this business changed, we began to hit the edges of what Craft Commerce can offer without expensive bespoke development. We made the decision to recommend Ryan replatform the ecommerce side of the website over to Shopify. Shopify is a lot more mature than Craft Commerce, and the app ecosystem is more diverse, meaning that a lot of the things we would need to develop already existed or where part of the platform already.

The downside of Shopify is that it is not as bespoke as Craft. The challenge we had now was to implement as much of the required business process as we could using apps and templating. This was a real head scratcher and required some serious problem solving skills. Happily, we teamed up with Shopify expert, and long time friend of the show, Keir Whitaker to help us navigate the Shopify landscape.

It soon became apparent that we needed to expand the functionality further to allow UK wide postal sales, and enhanced ways of searching and shopping e.g. social media.

Ryan Davies, Llanerch

Again, we took a lean approach, helping us develop quickly and get the updates online as quickly as possible. We used an off the shelf theme which fitted the brand as closely as we could. We then made custom modifications to the code and added plugins for the functionality we needed.

Part of the extended functionality was adding the ability for Llanerch to sell some products nationally. This would allow them to sell their own wines directly, outside of the local area, for the first time. This created a headache as we needed to make sure users who were buying wines nationally couldn’t also buy milk and cheese which were only available locally. We leveraged some of Shopify’s built in functionality to embed products on an external site, which allowed us to include products for national delivery on the main llanerch site keeping them separated from the farm shop.

With the other systems running in the background, we were able to take our time and develop a future proof system to allow Llanerch's offering to grow and unleash a new arm to the business. Thank you, Bluegg & Keir for your hard work and providing us with a system we are proud of.

Ryan Davies, Llanerch

Conclusion

The change of direction, which was to a certain extent forced upon Ryan and the team, has grown into its own successful sub-brand and business. Ryan has plans to grow and expand the farm shop and national offering. This is not only helping Llanerch through some very challenging times for the industry, but is also going to see them have a stronger offering when things start to return to normal. We’ve been really pleased that we can help one of our clients grow and prosper through a difficult time.

When you are running away from a bear, you don’t have to be faster than the bear, just faster than the other campers…

Have you got a business idea you need help with? Need to pivot your business in a new direction online? We can help!

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