This week we’re interviewing Ray Tyler, who’s doing online sales using Shopify. Unlike other farm-specific software, Shopify is a comprehensive eCommerce platform. The benefit of using Shopify is it’s an industry leader, so it has a lot of well-developed features. You can quickly post your products online with an appealing and easy to use visual display. There are tons of app integration, and everything works together seamlessly. They have excellent customer service, quick load speeds, and it’s managed on secure and reliable servers. In our interview, Ray Tyler is going to detail how he uses Shopify on his farm and why you might want to as well.
Why did you initially start selling online? (1:35)
We saw a change in West Tenessee in how customers were buying their food. There were fewer chefs interested in buying local. We saw a decline in farmers’ market attendance. And then we saw Jeff Bezos purchase Whole Foods. It was that week that we said we have to get an online store going. That was three years ago.
What percentage of your sales are online right now? (3:15)
About ⅛ of our sales are online right now, but by the end of the year, we have the goal of making it ¼ to ⅓ of our sales. We’ve experimented with a lot of online platforms and landed on Shopify, so now we have most of the bugs worked out and are ready to push ahead with scaling online sales. The rest of our sales were restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers’ markets. We sold to a lot of restaurants but had a negative experience and decided to pull out of them. By the end of this year, we want to have ⅓ online, ⅓ grocery stores, and ⅓ farmers’ markets.
What are the negative aspects of online sales? (5:30)
The number one thing for me is computer work. The logistics can be complicated and more involved than you might imagine. My wife is better at it than me, but we both don’t love being on the computer. You also have to deal with the consumer digitally. A farmers’ market is much more straightforward. We are realistically spending about an hour in managing our online sales a week. When we grow this aspect of our business, we should be spending more like 2-5 hours online a week.
There’s no end to it. There’s always more you can do. The more time you invest in development, the better the consumer experience. When you compare it to how many hours you have to invest in being at a farmers’ market each week, it’s more likely that even though you will have to grow your online sales slowly, it will be worth the time invested.
What we’re finding is that once you have your online sales set up, you can target ads on Facebook to our surrounding counties. With 50 reliable clients, we can replace any heavy hitter large client who doesn’t pay their bills on time. There are a lot of advertising opportunities out there on sites like Facebook and Google. It is going to be work, but if you invest the time slowly but surely, it’ll be worth it.
What customers are you looking for? Converting farmers’ market customers or finding new ones? (15:40)
I’m looking for both. On our online store, we close the cart at midnight Sunday, and it opens up on Wednesday/Thursday, depending on what we have going on that week. Those people need to be reminded that the deadline is Sunday. We have a good-sized local email list and a good number of folks who follow us on social media. We’ll send out two emails a week, one on Sunday night with farm news and what’s for sale, and then I’ll run a farm ad on Facebook and Instagram. And then I’ll have another promotion that has targeted ads towards people who are interested in cooking, nutrition, and fitness. That’s been effective.
What visuals and details have you found grab new customers’ attention via your ads? (18:00)
I would say video works the best. One that has visuals of crops on the farm. I’ll pay for professionally produced videos and sometimes shoot one just from my phone. Depending on the time of the year, sometimes that video I shot will do better than one, I paid $500 to have done for me. Thanksgiving and Christmas are terrible times to do ads since the market is just saturated, and good local food isn’t that interesting to people at that time. Different times of the week have better conversion as well if you learn to pay attention to them.
How do you gather email addresses? (20:45)
In Jackson, we had a big poster at our farmers’ market that said we wouldn’t be coming there anymore next year, sign up to get on the mailing list, and that was effective. What helps is having some sort of incentive to get people to sign up. We’ve offered a discount if people order pickup at a market ahead of time, for example. We like that with these promotions on Shopify, there’s a great discount code option. You can offer it on specific items. One development that converts well is at the beginning of tomato season people can checkout with the offer code ‘spring’ and get 50% of their tomatoes.
You have a reasonably large Instagram following – how much has that helped? (24:45)
The challenging thing about social media is that many of your followers won’t be local. We do much better with targeted local ads. We spend about $50/wk. We spend a bit more if we want to experiment with multiple ads to see which were the most popular, or when we have more product we want to move.
What’s the best way to grow your online sales? (27:00)
First, know that you’re going to have to be committed. It’s going to take time unless, of course, you already have experience with operating a computer and an online presence. If you do, then in a couple of weeks you could be doing well. Our operation is complicated since we are delivering to a broad demographic across a lot of deliveries, but even though it took a couple of years to build, it’s going very well.
The question is, what do you want this to do for you? If you are delivering over a large geographical area with a large variety of products, it’s going to require a lot more set up. But to set up deliveries to a couple of drop sites with only 5 product offerings, you could be set up in just one day. It might not look as pretty as you’d like it, but you can perfect that later. Be careful not to get analysis paralysis; it can be overwhelming trying to make it perfect. You simply need to be able to take the order, get paid, and deliver it. You can make changes to your site until the end of time, so start today to get it done and get paid.
Why did you choose Shopify? (34:15)
There are thousands of apps and plugins available to build your store any way you want it. The platform gets along with other platforms well, and you can set it up quickly. It has dependable customer service, which not only means you can solve problems by giving them a call, but they’ll even troubleshoot a website build with you to find a way to get you a feature implemented that you’re interested in. There’s nothing we’ve wanted to do that we haven’t been able to. There are lots of themes, and it’s quickly implemented. The pricing is also reasonable at just around $70 a month for the middle of the road feature package.
It works well for products that are sold by the piece. If you are selling something agricultural by the pound, such as meat, and don’t know how much it’s going to weigh until you process it, that will make things a bit more complicated. You would have to know your weights, and even then, it would be difficult to list. I have a friend who sells by the pound, and he just tells his customers that he’s going to get his weights as close as he can, but sometimes it may be under, and they’re okay with that.
People find it easy to use. There are going to be people who find it difficult to use no matter what, but that’s less than 5%. Sometimes people have a hard time finding what drop off site to select.
The website only takes orders Thursday thru Sunday, why is it set up that way? (43:30)
Monday, we get together to know what we need to do for the week. We print out our pick list, and then on Tuesday, we pack all the orders. On Tuesday, we deliver to four cities, and on Thursday, we make our Memphis delivery run. There was a problem when we posted that deliveries we Wednesday and Thursday since we’d have people place an order on Tuesday thinking they’d get it that Wednesday. It didn’t matter how many pop-ups we put up to try and clarify it. We also didn’t want to be printing orders every day of the week, so for the quality of life, we only print orders on Monday, so we don’t need to spend much time behind a computer.
How have you found using the drop off sites vs. residential delivery? (47:45)
At our drop-offs, we partnered with health food stores and the like. We don’t pay them a commission, but what they get out of it is foot traffic. The customer shows up and tells the cashier they’re here for their order, and the cashier gets it for them out of the walk-in cooler in the back. This is a win-win for all of us.
We’ve played a lot with home deliveries. Some of our attempts at it haven’t worked out since the order amount people put in didn’t justify paying a driver. We have a good driver, though, and we’re going to try again. We are looking at making delivery free for people. Or what you could do is institute a minimum to make it worth it.
What is your average online order value? (55:15)
My average is $38 vs. $17 at the farmers’ market. Even though more customers are buying at the market, if you get 100 orders online a week, that’s not bad. Getting people to pay that much for a CSA share a week was exhausting.
We’re at around 50% for repeat customers. I have some customers who order a significant amount every week. Shopify has analytics on your customers that give you details about who order the most and so you can implement rewards for these people. You can also offer perks based on the number of purchases and so forth, which Shopify helps you with. They give you advice on customer retention.
Is there anything you’ve tried out with online sales that just hasn’t worked out? (1:00:00)
I would say packaging. We put our produce in plastic thank you grocery bags, thinking we could treat it like a farmers market. People were taking it home and throwing it in the fridge like that, and it was going bad. This means every vegetable has to be packaged individually. But we’re getting paid well for that work, so it’s worth it.
If you want to follow along with what Ray Tyler is doing on his farm, you can check him out online at Rosecreek Farms and see his farm store here.
Listen to the Episode:
Listen to more episodes of Farm Small Farm Smart
Subscribe to Farm Small Farm Smart in your favorite podcast player:
Diego: [00:00:00] Today, the online sales series continues and we're talking platforms one specific platform, Shopify. Find out why you might want to consider using that and how one farmer is using that to do a lot of vegetable sales each and every week.
Thanks for listening to the show today. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO.
If you're looking for a platform to run your online store, there's no doubt that Shopify will be one of the platforms that you consider compared to a lot of farm specific platforms. Shopify is a general e-commerce store program. That's been around for a very long time. They're an industry leader. The benefits of using something like Shopify is it's easy to set up and use.
It has a visually appealing online store. There's tons of app integration. Everything works together seamlessly. The store is managed on secure and reliable servers. You have quick loading speeds and outstanding customer service. All those features have made Shopify an industry leader when it comes to selling goods online.
But how does the platform translate to selling produce today? Ray Tyler of Rose Creek farms who runs the farm store Rose Creek farm store.com is going to talk about why he uses Shopify to run his online store. Today's Ray's going to talk about why he sells online, why he chose Shopify in what he likes about it.
He's also going to get into some of the logistics around delivery, packaging and advertising coming up. When you guys initially made the choice to start selling online, why was that?
Ray Tyler: [00:01:43] What was the why? Why was because we were seeing a. Change in how the consumers in Western sea were buying their food. And there was less chefs interested, right?
In vine local, there was a number of the farmer's market space was. at its peak in Memphis. And we started to see a decline in consumers. And so we were sensing this urgency to be diverse, be diversified in how we sold our produce. And then. Jeff Bezos bought whole foods. And when that happened, I think it was like that day or that week.
I said, Ashley, we have to get a online store up and going that doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be, You know the bulk of our sales, but we have to understand and learn how this all works, because this is the future. And that was what I think three years ago, when the, when that changed happened or so, and so that was the big reason, the urgency to be diversified and watching how consumers spend and how they buy their goods.
Diego: [00:03:13] So fast forward to today. What percentage of your sales are online right now?
Ray Tyler: [00:03:19] Because we haven't been driving it that hard. We were about maybe one eighth of our sales. And our goal was this, he, by the end of this year to be about one, one quarter, cause we'll do a little video or maybe we'll do some kind of email campaign and we'll see those numbers, maybe we'll get five new customers, but B because we didn't really want to do home deliveries just yet.
And so it's kinda more of this. Side hustle of, Hey, Riddick learning this. And I think about, yeah, I would say about four months ago, we really made the decision of, Hey, let's make this a quarter or two, maybe even up to one third of our sales by the end of the year, because we had basically dialed then how, we've experimented with many different online store platforms.
We landed on Shopify and we had learned a number of things that really worked for us. So we got a lot of the bugs out enough where we were really ready to scale it up. Yeah. So pre-req coronavirus. We were about one eighth.
Diego: [00:04:35] Would the other percentage of your sales going to farmer's markets and groceries?
Ray Tyler: [00:04:40] Yep. Yep. Restaurants. We're a pretty big part of it up until last summer, we decided to drop restaurants for the most part. we got, Yeah. I just had a negative experience, an outward part of the state. And so we decided to really hit farmer's markets, grocery stores and online. So that was, we wanted to be one-third grocery stores, one-third farmer's market. And one third online. That was what we wanted to see happen, by the way end of this year.
Diego: [00:05:12] Before we get into the nitty gritty of how you're doing it all. Upfront, what are some of the negatives or the things that they're not totally bad, but when you think about selling online versus selling a farmer's market, what are the cons of online? If you're making a comparison here, what don't you like about selling online?
Ray Tyler: [00:05:33] The number one thing for me, I think it's just, the computer work. when you think about farming, you don't think about sitting in an office behind a computer, uploading files and, taking pictures of product and prices and, email campaigns, and then just the logistics that goes behind the scenes that, you don't really see on a farm.
So I would say for me personally, that is the number one downside. I don't want to enjoy, I'm not a natural computer geek. And My wife is a lot better at it, but she really hates office work a lot and she would much rather be out in the field on the patch shed. So that for us, it's definitely getting all that set up.
It's the backend work it's dealing with, uploading product, take a product down, dealing with sales, and there's just, there's always. Then you're dealing with the consumer on their sides and you're having to help them. So yeah, it's definitely, it's a lot simpler to go to a farmer's market because once they give you the money it's done, there's no delivery.
There's no making sure the order, God packed correctly. So farmer's markets are pretty straight forward, but online is a little bit more nuanced to build.
Diego: [00:06:54] Obviously, there's a lot of energy in learning that needs to go into building it. But the good thing about an online store is once it's set up, it's set up, you don't have to change artwork that often a lot of the copy's always going to change those types of things.
Now that you've been set up and rolling. How much would you say you're spending a week in terms of. Tinkering on the website, call it upkeep, call it updates, communicating with customers, everything up through packing. So not including packing orders, but just doing the online sales portion. How much are you spending?
Ray Tyler: [00:07:30] We are realistically spending about an hour a week. We should be spending. Ideally, if we wanted to really, get serious about this and be a hundred percent, we probably need to spend two to five hours. I would say of really, there's with all this stuff, there's no into it. Like you can always get better about marketing, customer service feedback.
checking on customers, there's always more you can do. And what we've found is that just a little energy towards, a little change in the overall customer experience really makes, Really makes a big difference in the overall sales and ease of the customers side of things. And it can also make fulfillment, for the farmer, a lot more efficient as well.
So I would say one hour minimum, but really two to five hours, ideally is what you need to be spending in a week. Maintaining the site and just whatever questions and different things that you feel like you need to change each week.
Diego: [00:08:49] I totally get that as somebody who runs a website, I've had paper pod now going for three years and there's still stuff that I think I wanted to do when I started the site three years ago that, It's still on the kind of to-do list and you're still always digging into it. Technology's evolving. There's always something to learn and know and change and tweak. It. It's challenging.
Ray Tyler: [00:09:10] It never ends, but think about it this way. If you go to a farmer's market now, mind you depends where you live, but my cities are, I drive two and a half hours away from my farmer's market.
So I am on the road, A good five to six hours on that market day. So think about what I could do during that time, no matter what you do, you have to invest in your business. And, and another reason why we started the Shopify is because we were doing, my wife was doing a market and it was an outdoor markets in Tennessee.
And so obviously it's not. Negative 25 degrees, but it was, the lettuce was freezing on the table, like hard, solid, and she was not enjoying it. she had small kids and she was like, I would rather sit in a corner office with my kids there, than sit at a farmer's market and no one show up.
and she still has that mindset where it was like, okay, let's say if we lost our grocery stores and before she would go to a farmer's market, she would invest a couple hours a week to sell an extra couple thousand dollars a week online. Cause now that it's set up, it's just like every. Little thing you do. it's a really big uptick and overall gross sales.
Diego: [00:10:34] That's a really good point. if people think about where they're at, there's likely one farmer's market, that's the golden standard in their area. And if you're in that might justify that six hour round trip. If you can do a thousand dollars in sales or more than a thousand dollars or whatever that number is for you, that's great.
But then the second tier farmer's markets, you're maybe spending the same amount of time to go there. And coming home with $200 for people in smaller markets or at sub standard markets compared to the best one. You may say, can I do better on my own? Just marketing it myself, given all the time that I'm putting in, because I like what you said, I'm going to go there all day, spend that time. And not many people are going to show up. I might as well put the work into doing an online store. It might not work right away, but this market's not working right away either.
Ray Tyler: [00:11:23] Exactly. And so w what's great about this day and age, it's really an exciting time to be a power because you have so many options.
So with, so let's look at, there's obviously everyone has a different demographic, in my County, and it's one of the poorest demographics in the state. but there is still there's business owners and there is, their Selmer does have a farmer's market, but we would probably literally make $50 later.
but. What we're finding is through Facebook. You, once you get your online store set up, you can target, business owners in your County. And so what we're finding is that we're doing more in our kind of few surrounding counties on Shopify. Then we would add a really affluent market. That's an hour away.
because what we're doing is that no matter where you live, there is a, it could be 1% of your County. Maybe it's a half a percent, but those people have businesses maybe are online businesses and they care about feeding their family. Good food. But the question for a lot of the farmers is where hard hobbies people.
and Ashley and I have thought all we need is, 50 good customers, in McNairy County. And. That can completely replace a heavy hitter or a client that doesn't pay its bills. So with Shopify, we've been able to do just that and we've been able to get. People and they're so grateful.
Cause they're like we had no idea that there was even a farm in McNairy County or in Selmer. And so we they're weekly customers now. So once you get that online store and, play around with, maybe if, even if you're not on Facebook, get on Google, there's a lot of ad. Opportunities out there that there's really no excuse if you're a farmer and you don't want to go to three hours away, there's a lot you can do just from your farm, but it is going to be work and it's not going to be fun.
but again, a lot of this comes to. I think a lot of people want, the one silver bullet or the one easy market that it's just, they can just go to and then sell everything. And, the truth of it is that yes, that could be out there, but most likely it's not there for you.
And you're going to have to do work. To sell whatever produce or meat or eggs that you want to sell. And, but if you're willing to do put in the work, teach yourself, and it's not about going from one to 60 in one day. It's if you can make one small change a week, Know, in 50 weeks, you can really have a pretty well-oiled machine that's very, easy to use.
Diego: [00:14:36] And it's making you money. You mentioned your advertising in your County there to acquire new customers. Has your strategy been more to convert existing customers, meaning farmer's market customers over to the online platform or just to get brand new customers who weren't customers before.
Ray Tyler: [00:14:54] I'm looking for both. So I'm looking to remind people because people do need to be reminded. A lot of people want to, and then they just forget. So for example, like in our particular store, we closed the cart midnight, Sunday, and then opens back up on Wednesday, Thursday, depending on, Kind of how much we want to sell and what we have going on that week.
So what happens is those people need to be reminded that, Hey, Sunday, deadline is Sunday. And so we do have, we're probably, we have a really good size email list. That's local. And we also have a lot of people who follow us in Western to see who follows on our social media. So we'll send out two emails, one on Thursday, one on Sunday night, reminding them, this is the farm news, this is a new product, here's the sale.
And then I'll run an ad. that runs on Facebook and Instagram, reminding those people, Hey, here's the store. And then we also have, I'll do And mind you, I'm no expert in social media marketing. So let's make that clear, but, I've learned enough that, it's quite effective and then I'll have another one that I'm looking for new people.
So I'm looking for new business owners. I'm looking for a demographic that is interested about, They have families that are interested in health, fitness that are interested in cooking and things like that. And so I've narrowed in my certain demographic, which, Facebook makes pretty easy to do. And that's been really effective.
Diego: [00:16:48] You found works best when you're advertising for new customers in terms of the language. Or the imagery, Khalid, what the prospect is seeing. You've probably tried a bunch of different things and seen, okay, this works better than this. What generally works best in your area for the people you're targeting?
Ray Tyler: [00:17:10] I would say people like video the best we've had decent success with some still, but in, any kind of video really does well. And any kind of video that has. good pictures of our video of crops in, I think people tend to be really attracted to farming and gardening. There's a lot of gardeners in West Tennessee. And so a lot of those folks are really drawn to just farms in general. So any kind of video tends to convert fairly well.
Diego: [00:17:47] Highlighting the freshness. Is it highlighting local? is it convenience to them? Is it, or you find they gravitate towards one thing or another?
Ray Tyler: [00:17:56] that's you know, that's a great question. I'm I probably don't have enough experience to really say. With confidence, what my demographics, because it's really going to, I think sometimes it depends too on the season cause so here's, what's interesting is that you can do, let's say you do a really nice ad.
It's got. I've paid for some professional production videos and they'll do fine. And then I'll do one myself just from my phone. I'll throw a bunch of crops in there, I'll throw in my, my kids eating some food I'll grow, I'll throw in, maybe some dishes and that may convert better, different times of the year, then that really nice.
Add that I paid $500 to get produced for me. So sometimes I found that different times of the week tends to do better than others. also it depends on the season as well. Thanksgiving and Christmas is a terrible time to do any kind of ads because they're just saturated. It's really expensive.
And everybody is interested in buying Christmas gifts, not really eating good local. Food. Like they're really more interested in brownies, pies and turkeys. I haven't found, the short answer is I have not found the silver bullet. what is the best thing for us? We're always trying different new things.
Diego: [00:19:23] What's been your strategy for getting existing customers who maybe are walk-ups at the farmer's market, too. Get into your email list system. Is it just a passive sign up sheet? I don't know how well that converts, somebody wanting to put three mil, but this is one thing I imagine a lot of farmers are going to want to do.
If they don't have an online presence, I have a robust farmer's market booth. A lot of people stop by how do I get them to come seek me out
Ray Tyler: [00:19:51] online. So in Jackson, what we did is we would have a big poster. So what, when. this was two or three years ago when we decided to launch and actually advertise publicly, we said, Hey, we're going to do home deliveries this winter.
We're not going to be at the market. Sign up. To get on that list. And that was really effective then, we always have it, have an email sign up sheet there. We always have had that for our markets. However, I met this one market right now where I have a very limited amount of space and that's just because I'm the first year there.
And, It's just market politics. I have a two square foot, maybe if that, blank space out of the table where I put my sign up sheet, but usually everyone puts all the groceries on it. And so it gets wet. It gets destroyed, but it's still there and people still sign up. it's always a good idea to collect as many emails as you possibly can.
But what really helps is if you have a reason for them to sign up. So if they know that you're going to be. This continuum in that certain market for the season. And they are really liking the, they're really enjoying your products and they want to keep buying. Then most of them will ask, Hey, how do I keep buying you in the wintertime? And that's a great segue to go, will join my newsletter. Here's the sign up sheet. we'd, we do weekly newsletters and we'd love to have you guys.
Diego: [00:21:24] Yeah, I almost wonder if you can create some sort of exclusivity of. We're just getting our first set of tomatoes in. We don't have enough to bring to market. We're going to offer them to the email list first.
Ray Tyler: [00:21:33] Exactly. Or, we've done this before, where, Hey, if you order online, you can pick it up. The market will give you a discount. And but the only way you can do that is you got to get all my art on our email lesson. Here's the discount code.
One, one thing I'd like to mention with this is that with, we've tried different several different, online platforms with Shopify. They have a really great discount code option. So in other words, you can like. You can have discount codes on just spinach. If you want to put on nothing else or you can have different levels of people.
So you could have, for us, we have workers who will buy through Shopify and there are free where we have some others that maybe their family, or maybe close friends and they'll get. at different percent of that's break on that. one thing that I failed to mention earlier when we do ads, one of the greatest conversions that we have is we'll say, Hey, tomatoes for the season. Enter the code, sprink at checkout to get 50% off. And that really converts fantastic re really get a lot of new customers that way because who doesn't want a discount. And so for that first customer, getting that option of a discount has really helped us acquire a lot of customers in our demographics.
Diego: [00:23:03] You have a pretty active and large Instagram following. How much has that helped? Move this process along for you.
Ray Tyler: [00:23:09] Yeah. It's definitely helped the problem with social media. And this is that, there's people all over the world that follows, And so it's I don't need the people in, England to see that they know that I've got food available online.
it's great if you want, if he has some education workshops, that's great. But for someone, I'm trying to get, my neighbor to buy Proteus and they need reminder ah, it just doesn't, it hasn't converted very well for us. So I feel like having the ads, you don't have to spend a lot of money.
cause when you. you can even pay for ads three remind because the way the algorithm with Facebook, not all your customers who follow you will always see your posts. And so you can select, Hey, I need to send a reminder to everybody who likes Rose Creek farms who lives in Selmer or Henderson or Jackson, Tennessee. And that's very cheap to do.
Diego: [00:24:10] What do you spend a week on average on ads?
Ray Tyler: [00:24:13] Probably around $50 a week. I would say on an average, if I really want to move a lot of product on my bank, or if I want to, if I want to learn some things, I want to have a few different ads. And it's like this past week I had three different ads going at the same time.
Cause I wanted to see which ones converted the best. And I had a picture and video and I think maybe one was a repeat from long time ago. On this past week, the one that did the best was the still picture.
Diego: [00:24:43] Do you run these on Facebook and Instagram? Are you mostly just Facebook?
Ray Tyler: [00:24:47] Just Facebook, the guy that I'm, for some reason, I had not picked it out in Instagram. I don't know why, but it's just the conversion rate on that has been really terrible. You can waste a lot of time in a hurry on it.
Diego: [00:24:59] So say you wanted to go forward with this plan to dial up your online store presence. And move it up to a larger percentage of your overall sales. This is important because I think a lot of people during this time are going to go from zero online presence and they want to go to something.
How can you continue to dial this up? Do you just, do you have to change anything or you just keep doing what you're doing and realize I'm going to add a few people a week and it's going to build their
Ray Tyler: [00:25:31] overtime. Yeah, the best way is one is to be committed, but commit that you're going to spend a certain amount of time a week and know that this is going to take time. A lot, unless you're pretty computer savvy, then. I can easily believe that if you already have a good following, you already have a good email list and you're fairly decent at building a website, within a couple of days you could be doing really well, right now.
yeah, and it doesn't have to there's and there's, ours is pretty complicated because we're delivering to. A lot of different cities to homes, to drop offs to different, to, different days. We have a lot of discount codes. there's a lot of things. We had a set emotion to make this work in our demographic.
It's working Burberry. We did. we're doing excellent. during this time we were ready and, yeah, we're just basically, it just, just cashing in all the work that we've done for the past few years, getting this set up, but that's because we, really committed to learning this and slow. Please build us up. But again, when we did this, it wasn't a, we, this is the only way we're going to make it. We knew that in time, this was going to be vital. We just didn't know when.
Diego: [00:27:02] Yeah, I know. I'm trying to not bias this cause I think I have more experience than the average person working with websites, but I would imagine the average person could put together. Oh, brand new website, get all their artwork, if their pricing up and be able to go live with it over the course of one week, putting in some significant time, some of those days?
Ray Tyler: [00:27:27] Less than that. With Shopify, you could have five products. You start with one drop-off, maybe, or, maybe it's maybe you live close to a city and so people come and pick up or you drop off at two locations, make it very simple five products.
You could have a Shopify site up in the day or a company like local line, which, my wife got set up in a couple hours does not take long. The. The issue comes is, the real question is this, what do you want this to do for you? What do you mean by that? Let's say you're a farmer and you're like, you know what?
I've been sat down. I've I need to deliver to pointy different cities, five days a week, then that's going to be a more complicated site to build. Because that's a lot of moving parts and a lot of things that you got to get set up. So that's going to be a lot more, but if you're just, you know what, I only got five things.
Cause I was only thing that I was selling was salad, mix, micro greens, radishes, and tomatoes then, and I just need to do. two drop offs to a parking lot somewhere. Then you can have that set up in one day. It may not be, it may not be as pretty as you like to, but you could at least be taking sales in one day.
Diego: [00:28:57] The copy out, work the logistics out over time. I think that's where people get hung up is they spend forever. They're going to go to your site. They're going to look at well, how's Ray doing it. Then they're going to go to somebody else's site and they're going to try and come up with the perfect design. And I know from experience. Yeah. Just get something up that works and is functional start selling and then improve it as you go, because you can get an analysis paralysis
Ray Tyler: [00:29:24] forever. Yeah. I will say, cause I've been getting a ton of requests for this and I will say start today. Research everyone's site what they're doing, what you should do. Just get a blank piece of paper and write out what do you need, what needs to happen in order for you to survive this week? And it'll be pretty short, you'll say, I got to move these 10 products. To this group of people. And I was like, okay, get you a Shopify store set up now, plug in five products. you don't even have to take a picture.
you can get stock picture of radishes, from like this does not have to be, the best site on the internet. You just need. To be able to take someone's order, get their money and deliver to them in a timely and an accurate order. And then once you get that set up, then it's every week you're going to change it.
Okay. Maybe you'll get some better pictures. Maybe you'll work on your copy a little bit better. Maybe you'll, research on, Hey, how do I buy, how do I install a buy now button? Or, how do I make some rotating webpage? we have a massive, less on changes that we want to do two hours and that'll never end.
Like you said, like you can literally make changes to your site to the end of time. But if you go into this with that mindset and you're just like, I just want it to be perfect now it'll never be there. And then you will. ultimately be, behind and possibly no one is entitled to be in business.
if you don't do the thing that has to be done in order for you to have sales, to keep your employees, keep your lights off, you'll be looking for a different job. So I think a lot of this just comes down to just start, make it happen. Don't wait. Then you can think about, Hey, is there a better way to do what I'm doing?
Diego: [00:31:31] I get it from somebody who works on a website. Sometimes it can be intimidating. Sometimes you just don't want to do the work and sit at a desk. But like you said, at the end of the day, it's your job. If you don't like it, you're going to be finding another job. So do the work and keep the business going.
Now let's move on to how you actually do this in the real world. So people can look to implement this, to sell your vegetables online. You're using Shopify as a platform that I'm very familiar with, but I have never personally used it for my website. So for you, why did you choose Shopify?
Ray Tyler: [00:32:08] The thing with shot profile is that it has all these plugins and there's thousands of apps that you can plug in your store to do virtually anything you wanted to do. And so the way I look at Shopify is that once you build a store on Shopify, anything you want to do or make any changes will be possible on that platform, whether it's. customized orders, different, saydrop favs deliveries.
You can, you can have the optionality to ship product. If you ever want to do that in the future, there's just endless amount. the one thing about Shopify is that you can plug in on just other, websites. Really easily. So it just, Shopify is one of those very user-friendly platforms that a lot of other major, platforms get along with really well.
Diego: [00:33:14] I think that's something people should consider when they look at choosing a service because it's like getting something from Amazon. They're huge. They do customer service. you have a problem. Amazon's going to solve it. Where you go through these startups and there's nothing wrong with being small.
we face these challenges. Personally. We customer service where there's just less people. It can be harder to solve problems. Shopify, as an established platform, that's been around forever. It's huge.
Diego: [00:33:45] They have things figured out. So tell me if I'm wrong on this, but if anything goes wrong with a plugin or if there's any questions in terms of the site goes down, you just email Shopify. It's not like you have to email the app developer for this app to troubleshoot that it's just one customer service support.
Ray Tyler: [00:34:02] Yeah. Yeah. And that's exactly right. yeah. And like with Shopify, you can call them or email them and you can tell them, Hey look. This is what I need to happen and okay. Yeah. Why don't you try this app or that this thing. And so they'll send over the link and sometimes you sit on the street, you do have to buy some apps, which we're more than happy to do because most of those apps really make your life easy. And then, you would try it and then bam it'll work.
So if there's any issue whatsoever, the customer service is just, like you said, you're basically paying for. Just the, one of the best customer service that's that we have found.
Diego: [00:34:42] It's also uptime too. Cause they're running everything on their servers. They're managing it. They're secure secured servers. So if you're taking payments, so if there's downtime, they're on it versus you having to work with your host. So going with this all in one, like a Shopify or a Squarespace has its advantages. From that standpoint as well.
Ray Tyler: [00:35:06] That is correct. Yeah, it really is. And so I've just found that, I know there's some other sides, Barnes DOR and some others, Harvey. There's a lot of guys out there and, I'm not an expert in any of those things. So I can't say how their customer service, we just know from personal experience that Shopify has really made it easy for us. And there's nothing. That we want to do that we haven't been able to do just, Hey, we want to do this.
That's okay. call them, help us with this. And they'll make it happen. And just, just the themes that they have and like different storefronts. And, again, what can happen is once you get into your. Once you get into your store and you get a built and you realize halfway that, Oh, wow, I really want this change. Or that change. It's really easy to make those changes on that Shopify platform.
Diego: [00:36:01] Which Shopify platform do you have? They have, a basic I'm looking at it now, 29, 79, two 99 a month. Do you know what platform you're operating with?
Ray Tyler: [00:36:09] I'll have to ask Ashley on that platform. I want to say to the middle one, but I could be wrong.
Diego: [00:36:16] Regardless of whether it's 29 or 79, I don't think anybody doing this unless you're huge is going to need the two 99 a month version. It's a small cost. Some of these apps and themes, you have to buy $50, a hundred dollars. I'll do those sometimes up to $150. If they can make your life easier or present things better, like they pay themselves off very quick, but people get real squeamish about it. $50 plugin. And I'm like, you're trying to do $20,000 in sales a month or $20,000 in sales, a quarter who cares about a $50 plugin?
Ray Tyler: [00:36:52] Oh, nothing. w we just had almost 150 orders this week and it was like easy, we got these apps prints off your pick list. And it's just so simple, just so easy.
Diego: [00:37:06] So Shopify, I think, is really known for selling stuff. That you don't eat. How have you found it works for a farm application?
Ray Tyler: [00:37:16] I would say for an item that you're not selling by the pound. So for instance, let's just say, if you were a farmer, if you're a bee farmer and you wanted to sell, the, tip steak and you've, you need to get paid for every ounce.
That could be a challenge. So any product that you can have one set price of okay, here's a bag of salad mix or $5, or, here's a bunch of salary for that. That makes it easy. Cause it's, you're basically selling a product. And most of what Shopify is for shipping. So that's really what they're known for is they really make shipping easy.
Now we're doing that ourself. Like we're not hiring a ups or FedEx would be that forest. So we're the delivery. So it's been pretty easy for the most part, but if you're someone selling something by the pound and you don't know. How much that's going to weigh until you go and process that order. I could see that being pretty complicated.
Diego: [00:38:19] So it's up to you as a farmer to really unitize everything and just come up with knowns and then the pack crew goes to those weights and you hit it that way.
Ray Tyler: [00:38:29] Like I, I have a friend, who's has a pretty big. Meat operation. And his sales right now, we're just going through the roof because it's all online.
And what he does is he just does buy the item in some, some items. and he tells people, Hey, it's, you're probably going to pay a little bit more for this pack because I've got to do a base unit. So it may not be quite exactly a two pound steak. but we can get it as close as we can. And they're, their customers are usually fine with that.
Diego: [00:39:02] So Shopify has worked well for you. Do you think customers find it really easy to use?
Ray Tyler: [00:39:07] so far it's been easy. The only. Other thing that I would say people get confused by is what drop off or pick a location to select. some people are going to have a hard time on an online, no matter what, they're just not there.
They're just going to have trouble. But for the most part, 95% of our customers really tell us that it's really easy to use.
Diego: [00:39:38] So you have Rose Creek farms.net, which is your farm website, and then you have. Rose Creek farm store.com, which is the actual online store is Rose Creek farms store.com. Just accustomed domain. Through Shopify, meaning Shopify is managing that site. Like they're hosting it or do you have Shopify platform embedded in some other hosts?
Ray Tyler: [00:40:06] So Shopify is the host. So one thing about Shopify as well is that they can help you search for domain names. There they're hosting that store.
Diego: [00:40:18] So that solves the logistical step. For a lot of people, you don't have to go find a host or web hosting.
Ray Tyler: [00:40:24] You want to cut as many steps out of this as possible.
Diego: [00:40:28] It was up and running. It's online here. Can you walk people through the methodology of how you established when your store is open? Because it's not like walmart.com or amazon.com people can log on 24, seven, three 65 and buy something. The store is only open each week between Friday and Sunday. Why is it set up that way?
Ray Tyler: [00:40:53] So instead of that way, because Monday is the, so yeah, it's closed on Sunday. Midnight is the last chance to order Monday is for us, we don't work.
the farm who does not work on the weekends, So we need Monday to regroup, as a farm, we'll make plans for the week. It's when my wife and I will touch base on what needs to happen with the farm to Sydney, with me and my manager. And then we'll get normally Ashley we'll print out the pick list on Monday and then our crew will get that harvested on Monday.
And then Tuesday Ashley's sister come. And they'll pack all the orders on Tuesday. Then Wednesday, we deliver to four cities on Wednesday, and then on Thursday we make our Memphis delivery run. Memphis is two hours for us. So that's a complete. I complete day. And then when we're going to Memphis, we have to deliver to our grocery stores and all that as well.
So we need some time to help us find out how much we have to pack and it gives us time to get all those orders. Packed efficiently. And then by Thursday, we're done delivering and then we're ready to start taking orders. We're actually telling people that they can start, I know there's a pop-up that tells people Friday, but we're actually allowing people to order on Thursday.
So what we're doing is we're taking that pop-up down on Thursday in a prob probably be on Wednesday because of the amount of traffic and that we've been getting started on a Wednesday. We felt the need to go ahead and order it and to open it up earlier.
Diego: [00:42:44] Is there a reason why you wouldn't let people order any time? Just knowing that order's placed Monday through Sunday, get delivered the following Wednesday.
Ray Tyler: [00:42:56] So we tried that for several months and the problem is that because it says we deliver on Wednesday and Thursday, but the problem is if someone places an order on Tuesday, they think they're going to get it the next day or if they do it on Thursday, Yeah. So it's just, it just, it seemed like our. We couldn't put up enough pop-ups and emails. No, it's like it is the following week, And so again, what we're dealing with is we're melding be a lot of farmers who, people who are used to getting second day delivery. We may get there one day.
the way things are going now, I have a full-time driver, so it's very possible that we can offer that service, which would be amazing. And the delivery is not the issue. It's making sure, my wife only works two days a week on the farm. And she's really particular on how these orders gets done.
And she doesn't want to be in there five days a week, packing a few orders. You'd just rather get her sister in there and knock out 150 orders in one day, just make it done and be done for the week. So we have to make this work. So that way we enjoy our life. So that's like the balance of we got to take care of our customers, but we also want to do our life as well.
Diego: [00:44:13] And for the customer, they can just, when that window's open, they go online, they order it. But they're paying at that time as well, right through the spot Shopify site. So then when you get the order it's paid for and you go to deliver something that's already been bought.
Ray Tyler: [00:44:28] And so nice, no collected money, no. Trying to figure out why it hadn't been paid six months. it's yeah. in our demographic, it is, it's really a shame how hard we have to work to collect money. How have you been found
Diego: [00:44:45] drop-offs at a drop point versus delivering to someone's residence?
Ray Tyler: [00:44:52] So in our particular drop-offs how we've made these deals is again, we're in a demographic that is not, is, we're not in a foodie demographic. So there is some health food stores here and there, and they have more business too, and they want our customers going in their store. Like they want, if they could get every one of our customers in the store, they would be a static because our customers will drive two hours just to go to whole foods.
So what we've done with these folks is I've found these like local grocery stores and different wellness centers. and I've said, Hey, look, what if we do a drop-off on at your store? We keep. Are produced in the back of your walk-in cooler that our orders have already been failed. It's already paid for, and our customers will go into your store.
They'll say, Hey, I'm, Melissa Jones, I'm here for my rosary farms order. Your cashier will go in the back cooler. They'll find her order in a bag. They'll go get the back of it to her. And off she goes and. So that's worked really well for us. And, we don't give them a commission. We don't give them any money.
What we're giving them is foot traffic. So we have what they want. And they have what we want, which is, a space that's, an hour or two away from our farm that there's a lot more people congregate it. So it's, we found a way to make it a win-win for all of us.
Diego: [00:46:32] Are these people that you knew before you did this, or did you approach some of these people could, would this offer to do this?
Ray Tyler: [00:46:41] I've known them. So I've, I'm really big on relationships and, trying to, I probably do too many favors, over promise myself, I'll try to help them in any way I can. And so that's giving me a little bit of social equity that I was able to cash in.
but yet at the same time, making sure that is valuable for them. So yeah, that, I don't know if I would just do that to some random store that I didn't know. And this is why like computer farm or a, you need to know every restaurant that claims to be front of the table or crew small grocery store owner. That's trying to sell whole health food items. you want to be an ally with those people.
Diego: [00:47:24] Could you see a way of getting away from drop points and ever just delivering everything to individual residences?
Ray Tyler: [00:47:31] Yes, because we. We started doing the home deliveries. we've actually always done that off and on. It just takes so much time and it's just, we found that people never really ordered it enough to make it worth it. So when this, so we offered it again last fall as a trial because we wanted to hire a driver and it was a way to help recoup some of our labor costs. And it never really took off because it was, $5 again, people here it's tough.
but now. We took a risk and went to free delivery two weeks ago. And our driver he's really good. He's we have zero problems with him and he's either was a cooler in the front door. He drops it off. If there's no cooler, he just it's on the doorstep. And again, we've communicated the, how this is going to work and it does not take them that long.
It'd be a lot. Less to send him with, free home deliveries in a word to pay for him to go to a farmer's market all day and not sell much.
Diego: [00:48:41] I think a lot of people might get stuck on the delivery charge, especially if you're in a rural area. I think the nightmare scenario probably unusual. And you could comment on this better than I could, would be somebody orders, one bunch of cilantro and it's 30 miles from the next stop.
And so they want to charge for that time. But I look at it the goal is to grow this big enough where it is self-sustaining you may eat some of that delivery charge in the beginning, but over time, not having a delivery charge is going to work out in your favor because you can draw in more customers in the longterm.
Ray Tyler: [00:49:21] Yeah, no, you're right. So one way to look at this too, is this is why it's really important to really know what is your end game. And so for us, we thought, you know what? We'd actually. Like this to be a pretty big portion of our ELLs, we're going to have to do more things. So the, what you can do though, is you can do a minimum, like you have to order for us, we went $25 or more, and we'll deliver to your house for free and people like that.
and if it's $5 here, we're probably not gonna deliver for $5. that's our line because we're in a rural area. We could literally be, that we would probably lose money possibly, but $25, like that's worth driving five or 10 minutes out of your way. And if you're going to hire a driver for the day, your order, like w we, we promised them 40 hours a week. And yeah, we do use them on the farm as well, but I really need him to be on the road, as much as possible
Diego: [00:50:20] Contractor or an employee, are you providing the vehicle or do they. Provide their own vehicle.
Ray Tyler: [00:50:25] Yeah. we're doing that. yeah, I used to do it myself, so I think it depends, like if you're in a position where all your sales channels have just dried up, then it's you get this store set up, you do the deliveries, like you do what it takes to deposit money, enough money in that bank to keep farming.
And it may not be fun. It may not be something that you want to do at first, but if you do this right, and you have the end game in mind, you can scale this up or you can hire people to do all this work for you. But at some point, you're going to have to do a lot of this work yourself until you get to that point.
But I really see the future being. a lot more farmers go. I think this is this, epidemic that we're going through is, could be, one of the best things that could happen to farmers, because it's going to be a wake up call. We're going to realize how consumers are buying and how this change of them buying online is not going away.
And so at some point, this is probably something that a lot more farmers should have embraced, but, No one ever likes to be, in a position of change changes is tough. But I think embracing this kind of change could be the best thing that you could do for your farm and or your business.
Diego: [00:51:49] I fully agree. And to give people a sense of how this is working for you, what's your average order, would you say in terms of value?
Ray Tyler: [00:51:57] So my average order value is $43 and 39 cents.
Diego: [00:52:03] What would an average farmer's market buy be?
Ray Tyler: [00:52:05] I average is at the farmer's market is, on a square. My square reader is $17,
Diego: [00:52:14] so you're more than double online, but you're probably doing more transactions on one day at a farmer's market. So maybe the numbers went out there.
Ray Tyler: [00:52:25] Hang on Diego. I was on the wrong one. I apologize. Hang on just a minute. Yep. Okay. So it's a little less, it was actually $38 this past week, but I had a lot more people.
Diego: [00:52:34] Okay. So $38 and average, so pretty good overall. And I think if you ask the average farmer, how would you like to have an average sale of $38?
A meat vendor might say, eh, not enough, but for a veg vendor, that's pretty good sale. That's pretty good for vegetables. when you have, 130 orders, that's not bad.
Diego: [00:52:57] Here's another comparison. If you were going to do a CSA in your area, On a weekly basis. What's the high end of where you could charge. Could you charge more than $38 for a CSA box?
Ray Tyler: [00:53:09] Not a chance. anything's possible. We, we did the CSA numbers, years ago and we started out with a 25. Member share a week. And we had dropped down to 15 because we just, it was really hard to find enough people willing to pay in our demographic who are willing to pay $25 a week for vegetables. So $38 per order in my demographic is a slam dunk. Like I am very happy with that.
Diego: [00:53:40] How sticky do you find your average customer? And what I mean by that is how. How many repeat orders do you think you're getting?
Ray Tyler: [00:53:47] We�re around 50%, which is, not the greatest, but what we find is, we have a number of pretty heavy hitters who will orders each week. I've got a lady who orders more than the sum of my restaurants and it's just her, she has Lyme disease. And so she's really wanting to change her health and she's every week without fail. but others are, heavy hitters, but maybe that are once a month. and so there's like a lot of that, where not everybody's ordering each week, but. There are going to lead to order at least once a month.
Diego: [00:54:26] Do you do anything to encourage people to come back over time, other than just providing good customer service, providing good product? do you throw some free stuff in some of these big boxes that people get? Is there a, Hey, if you shop this many weeks in a row, you get this, is there a long-term customer bonus, anything like that to say, Hey, keep us in mind. Like we want to be your. Vegetable provider we'll throw an extra product.
Ray Tyler: [00:54:52] one thing that I've been on with Shopify is that it has some really, compelling options on customer retention. And so you can, send them this, people who've ordered, like I can see who's ordered, The most, I have really good clients and they'll say, they've ordered this much from you. Do you want to reward them? And or you can do like perks. if someone orders, four times you can set it up to where they'll. Shopify will be like, Hey, they've ordered this one time and this much money.
do you want us to send them a gift card or a gift code? And so there's a lot of things you can do. And that's why we like Shopify because for the future growth, like this thing could be a monster for us. Like as far as customer appreciation and people feeling special, like it really is a fantastic platform.
Diego: [00:56:02] Two years for four growers. Yeah. I love it. Everything you've talked about in this one, just to close it out. Is there anything that you've done in the recent past with this whole online store? So we're not going back to the beginning platforms that you tried out, but that just has not been successful either with pricing, either with delivery, packing the website itself. Are there anything that's Hey, we tried this. Either we can't figure it out or it just doesn't work.
Ray Tyler: [00:56:30] I would say the number one thing would be packaging. So a lot of customers do not know how to store produce very well. And when we would put like all their produce in a thank you bag, like they would at a farmer's market, we got so many complaints about produce going bad.
Because they just don't know how they just, they just they'll unpack it. They're excited that they throw out the refrigerator and then it Wilton in a day. And that was a really, that was a big, negative thing that we did for Shopify. we thought that we could treat them like a farmer's market.
So every vegetable has to be packed individually, which is work. but we're getting paid well for that work. So that's probably the number one thing we found for us. It won't be that way for every person, as far as, excuse me. As far as the technical side, my wife may could speak more about that than I could, but so far everything that we have done on Shopify, any change has been positive.
Diego: [00:57:45] Good to hear. And I love your enthusiasm around this. I want to thank you for. joining me on short notice and taking some time out of a busy day for you guys to do this and really help people for people that you know, want to check out your online store, follow what you guys are doing. Learn more about some of the things like your lettuce class that you have to offer. Where's the best place to go, just to learn about you guys?
Ray Tyler: [00:58:05] Yeah. you can always go to Rose Creek farms.net, and my wife has recorded. The back in of our store, unlike all the apps we use, like everything she does from beginning then. so she, videotaped that, which was a miracle that she had agreed, but so many people have been emailing her and all that.
And she's really the magician behind our site. so that's going to be available soon. I'll send you a page for that. If people are interested in Hey, we'd be interested in seeing how you set up your site on the back page, all the apps we use, all the different, there's a lot of moving parts and pieces to make the site what it is. So yeah, I'll send you that information, if you wanna include that.
Diego: [00:58:56] I love the idea of it. And thanks again, Ray. Really appreciate it. There you have it. Ray, Tyler of Rose Creek farm store.com. On Shopify and selling online. If you want to learn more about that video, that Ray talked about, check out the link below and you can see their online email@example.com. If you're somebody who uses a platform other than Shopify to sell your farm products online in you're happy with that service, send me an email or hit me up on Instagram at Diego footer.
And maybe we can chat as part of this series. The series continues next week when another farmer talks about how they're selling online and how they're aggregating products stay tuned for that. But until then, thanks for listening and as always be nice, be thankful and.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.