If you take two former agriculture students with a competitive streak, combine that with an interest in e-commerce and what do you get? Field and Flower, the fresh meat delivery business in the U.K. CAUTION: Not suitable for vegetarians…
James Mansfield and James Flower spent their years in Agriculture College avoiding the books, as they preferred to spend their time bidding on eBay antiques in the hope to resell for a profit! The pair soon realised that e-commerce was an exciting industry to be involved in and upon nearing the end of their studies discovered that they could combine their two passions, agriculture and e-commerce, to create a business. Finding their niche was not a difficult task. Flower’s father was already in the beef industry, and with this foothold an idea was made into reality. This pair created Field and Flower, a fresh meat delivery business and with the advice of friends and family the company was planted and grew into the niche business it is today.
“We were both working full time in other jobs, saving to buy a traditional breed beef animal from a North Somerset beef farmer who was James Flower’s dad,” says James Mansfield, Co-Founder of Field and Flower. After the original purchase of the animal, the pair planned their next step. “We packaged it, sold it and gathered feedback on the ‘beef boxes’, which we sold to friends and family. We set up a basic website that allowed our customers to give us feedback about meat quality, service, packaging and convenience.”
Grabbing the bull by the horns
Mansfield and Flower have faced numerous challenges since setting up the online shop. From the outset they were forced to rely on things that were out of their control, such as delivery logistics. Transporting fresh meat is always going to be a hard task, there are a few more factors to take into account, and means a lot of faith is put in the courier companies. After just two years, Mansfield and Flower now have complete control across all aspects of their business, from butchery to distribution. That doesn’t mean that there is ever a spare moment to relax. The way Mansfield sees it; there is always something to improve upon.
“There are always things to be learnt from people who have tried and tested online and in business. Specifically online, never assume that the customer journey is an easy one – from homepage to checkout – always look for ways make that journey smoother and more enjoyable,” says Mansfield.
Customers are of high importance to this niche market. Not that they aren’t important to all businesses, but Mansfield and Flower have found that networking is extremely important to their business.
“Offline marketing has been extremely important to us as a company in trying to find our feet and get ‘known’,” says Mansfield. “We would meet customers at food shows and were gaining national press. Now we’re exploring online marketing in a much more knowledgeable and methodical way. We’re really starting to get engaged with customers through social media at the moment – this only costs your time and is invaluable.”
Social networks are continuously developing as they incorporate new technologies for brands to utilise, creating more ways for customers to interact with them. It is important for niche markets to create simple ways for customers to interact with their brand to continue to get their name out. Plus, social networks are an easier way that cooking 5000 burgers at a music festival.
“Selling 5000 burgers at Glastonbury music festival was a lot harder than we made it sound. We did that as part of our event business,” says Mansfield.
No Expiry Date
Looking towards the future, Field and Flower has room to move and make improvements to the business. Currently their content management system is run in house by web developers who look after the SEO and with mobile commerce here to stay it is no secret that smart phone users have increased access to websites and applications, and Field and Flower is looking to incorporate mobile commerce into its business solutions. Mobile will make it easier for the customer to interact with the brand.
“Our monthly customers need access to amend their box contents wherever they are, so we’ll be looking at ways in which we can open this technology up to Field and Flower customers,” says Co-Founder Mansfield.
Currently the brand uses mobile with its offline marketing by using iPads to sign up future customers.
The brand is still relatively new to the e-commerce scene, and with room to grow it can only improve from here. Unfortunately for meat eaters in Australia, it may be a while before something similar takes off on our shores. With such a big land mass, it would get difficult to transport to customers in Tasmania one day and Western Australia the next.
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