Darts Farm, a unique lifestyle shopping destination, transformed its eCommerce operations by using SC Order Tags & Flows. Read on to find out how.
When Darts Farm started trading as a pick-your-own fresh food operation in the early 1970s, modern computers were in their infancy and the internet hadn’t been invented. Fast forward some 50 years and the farm - now a unique lifestyle shopping destination - is processing hundreds of online orders every day.
The Darts Farm team, based in Exeter in the southwest of England, only started planning on launching a proper eCommerce platform in the early part of 2019. Up until this point, they had focused almost exclusively on marketing the farm as a destination experience for customers, who could come and shop at the market hall, enjoy a coffee in the café or eat some lunch at the restaurant. While that concept remains the cornerstone of their business, Darts Farm wanted to keep ahead of the times and scale their online offering.
Michael Still, head of special projects at Darts Farm, said: “There was already a website, but it needed to be upgraded. We had been selling Devon-based food gifts to various customers, so the plan initially was to build an e-commerce site to deal with scale.” They opted for Shopify as their platform of choice and were up and running by November 2019 - in time for a flurry of Christmas sales of gift hampers and meat from their locally renowned butchers.
Following their initial success over the holiday season, Michael said the team was gearing up to offer customers the option to pick their delivery date - either to their home or for in person collection at the farm. Darts Farm used an agency to build a bespoke delivery date selector on their Shopify theme to tag the order with the customer’s preferred delivery date. But as more customers started using the delivery date picker and the variety of products being ordered grew, staff found it increasingly difficult to group and organize orders based on what had been purchased.
As Darts Farm continued to scale, they realized the need for a processing system that was more flexible and would allow them to apply tags to certain orders.
“This is where SC Order Tags & Flows came in. It suddenly allowed us to apply tags based on a wide variety of variables related to the Shopify order.”
Michael Still, Head of Special Projects
Michael said they were using the fulfillment app OrderlyPrint to help with picking lists and packing orders when they came across the integration with SC Order Tags & Flows. It allowed them to apply the customer’s selected delivery date as a tag on the order and then within OrderlyPrint, they were able to sort those date tags into chronological order.
“Using the tag-based approach, we were able to identify a whole range of factors about orders,” he said. “The key was the delivery date the customer had chosen, but the fact that we could also identify whether it was a hamper order or a grocery order and if there were any items in the order that required special treatment - there was a myriad of flexible options in SC Order Tags & Flows.”
By the time the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020 and the world was forced into lockdown, Darts Farm already had solid e commerce foundations in place. Despite being classified as an essential store and remaining open, Darts Farm still saw a huge spike in online orders as many customers opted to stay at home. Something they weren’t prepared for was the volume of items on the order and the type of essential products which pre-pandemic were rarely bought on their site.
“People were shopping for a whole food shop, especially for things you wouldn’t normally shop for at Darts Farm, so we needed to be able to apply tags to these orders. “We needed very quickly to be able to pile on more products - the whole range of smaller items that you might want on your grocery order. We have somewhere in the region of 650 products and since starting [on Shopify] we’ve had about 26,000 orders.” He added: “We also introduced subscription packages with ReCharge and we needed to tag those so the fulfillment house could see it was a subscription order. Some of the tags we rely on come from some of the other apps in our Shopify store, but SC Order Tags & Flows allows us to be more flexible and apply further tags based on those tags, due to the rule delay option. It means we can do additional actions on the order, like creating labels in bulk for example.”
As the order volumes increased during the lockdowns, Michael says the team went through a “steep learning curve” on how to fulfil and process orders.
Coincidentally, due to a development that was on hold, they happened to have a spare 16mx16m space that they could convert into somewhere for managing online orders. “We’ve got a great team here of about 60 staff so we got together and built ourselves a fulfillment run with pallets and thought out how to do this with refrigeration, packaging, etc.”
“We made mistakes and learned things very quickly.” They also had to come up with alternative ways for packing orders and developed different zones such as a cold packing area, an ambient area, somewhere for bottles, and so on. Michael said: “We went through that process and it was all hands on deck. A lot of it is the processing of the orders and the printing of a picking list, so whether that’s printing an individual order or a summary picking list because we had to take picking lists to the butchers to prepare all their products for the following day to be packed. “We were basically working on a 24-hour fulfillment run. The cut-off was midday on a Monday and a list would be developed and printed. Everything gets prepared on Monday, packed on Tuesday, and delivered on Wednesday.”
“It was thanks to SC Order Tags & Flows and OrderlyPrint early on, the logic - at least for me - because I was driving it - was applying tags to orders that were driving an efficient fulfillment process. Filtering orders by tags has always made very good sense to me. As we adapted our business to the changing needs of our customers, we knew that one of the major differentiators for us was to be able to start to offer customer selected delivery dates. This addition to our ecommerce offering has been very successful and it just wouldn’t have been possible without the ability to reformat and tag orders with the delivery dates using SC Order Tags & Flows. It made fulfillment that much quicker.”
To offer a wide range of shipping options e.g. collection, delivery dates, etc., you need to consider the tech that’s going to power that. The more options that are provided the more complicated fulfillment can get, meaning a bigger variety of order types to fulfil. Finding the right technology to streamline this process is important and you should play to the strengths of the systems.
The developers behind the apps are going to have a huge amount of knowledge and experience in the area their apps sit within. They will be speaking to a lot of merchants who all have different problems to overcome. Their knowledge is incredibly valuable and is always on hand to listen and offer ways of improving processes or coming up with clever solutions.
Soon after building our delivery date picker, we realized we need something more flexible. We didn’t think twice about looking for alternative solutions that allowed us to continue on our growth path. Just because something made sense at the time, doesn’t mean it still makes sense in the future. E-commerce is a fast-paced industry, with new technology appearing all the time. Embrace the new things that come up and focus on what you want to offer your customers, rather than trying to fit the customer needs around what’s currently available.
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