Nortec Small Business and Department of Treasury Business Connect Program's Derek Tink invited me and Nundle Woollen Mill owner Nick Bradford to speak at a Drought Support Networking Breakfast in Tamworth on our respective businesses' online journeys. My presentation follows:
With backgrounds in journalism and fine art Duncan and I moved to Nundle in our late twenties after visiting for 18 months and falling for its dramatic hills, historic buildings and village atmosphere.
We revived a timber and iron building in the main street, re-registering the name Odgers and McClelland Exchange Stores and stocking traditional kitchen and garden wares inspired by original handwritten and typed ledgers.
Some of the brands that we stock are the same vintage as the building: Burgon and Ball, Sheffield, 1730; Kilner, 1842; Opinel, 1890; TALA Taylor and Law, 1899; Mason Cash, 1901; Fowlers, 1915; Falcon, 1920s.
Our business evolved for 11 years without being online. Our online journey began in 2011 after the birth of our youngest son. Creating an online store was a way for me to work from home.
We had been putting off creating an online store, it was too expensive, would take too much time, we didn’t have the technical know how. We finally bit the bullet and teamed with a local web developer who created a framework that allowed us to do a lot of the work ourselves, writing product descriptions, and taking and uploading photographs.
In 2012 I attended a workshop hosted by Derek Tink preparing small business for the rollout of the NBN. Even at that early stage we realised we needed to ramp up our skills to compete with urban based retailers with access to professional photographers and graphic designers.
Consultant Greg Alder taught us the importance of communicating our points of difference, and taking advantage of digital platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and a Blog.
We are most active on Facebook and Instagram, post regularly on our Blog, we do upload images to Pinterest and occasionally post on Twitter. It’s extremely powerful when visitors use our tag @exchangestores and post about their visit to our store or products they’ve purchased. Our social media community is now 9,500 on Instagram and more than 3,000 on Facebook.
A real game changer for us was launching a new website in 2015. By this stage we had experience under our belt, and I had been upskilling in photography to really improve the quality of our story telling.
We teamed with graphic designer Dan Phelan of Safety Pin Design and web administrator Luke Farrugia to design a website using Shopify. Dan designed us a logo and the overall look of the website, while Luke helped smooth the transition from the old to the new.
We started building a database and sending a quarterly e-journal to 4,000 customers. This is now monthly and usually results in about $1500 worth of online orders.
Four years on online sales are now 65-70% of our business and because of the drought, in the last 6-12 months it has become even more important as our regional customers have less income and less leisure time because they are feeding and watering livestock. More recently, tourism to Nundle has been affected by bushfire at Hanging Rock and smoke from inland and coastal fires. Intra regional travel has slowed with road closures, uncertainty, and poor air quality.
Thanks to the Christmas campaigns #buyfromthebush #buyregional and #gocountryforchristmas our sales since the end of October are 70% up and the average order value has increased 15%. I am able to use Shopify analytics and Google analytics to see where our referral traffic is coming from. Since it was launced on October 28 the NSW Government #BuyRegional online hub has resulted in more than 2000 hits on our website. These campaigns cost nothing on our part except our time to register or to hashtag social media images.
If you haven’t registered already I encourage you to, and start using the hashtags. Now there’s also a #stayinthebush hashtag.
Our business also works collaboratively with members of the Nundle Business Tourism and Marketing Group Inc to pool a marketing budget and fund a Nundle website, coordinate NundleNSW Facebook and Instagram accounts, and advertise on social media and in magazines. We just completed a three page advertisement for the Country Music Official Guide, we have a six month advertising campaign in Country Style and advertised in the New England Lifestyle Weddings Issue.
It’s fair to say I live and breathe online marketing for our business and community. This has additional benefits. Whether I am posting about our business or community I hashtag #TamworthNSW to keep Destination Tamworth in the loop about what we’re doing. Sometimes this results in us being featured in their social media or digital newsletter and reaching a wider audience.
You never know who’s looking. Being online has lead to our business being featured in the Australian Women’s Weekly, Downtown, Country Style, and online magazine The Planthunter. Just last week we were listed in The Shopkeepers online article alongside shops in New York, Herefordshire and New Preston as Shops Worth Travelling For.
If I haven’t convinced you already, I invite you to visit Nundle and enjoy our country hospitality, stroll the village and relax in the peace and quiet of the Hills of Gold.