Randy and Jane Miller have been in the bison business since the 90's, personally raising their bison herd. They began mostly packaging bison meat for family and friends and a few local grocers, sending the rest off to high end chefs. In the summer of 2011, they began to see an increase in demand and potential for sales for this healthier meat and decided to take their product direct to the consumer, offering their bison meat online.
Our first online store was set up through our fulfillment provider and was not search engine friendly and was hindering growth for the business. We re-opened our online store front with Shopify in April 2012 and haven't looked back since. Our sales grow each month as we get to ship our responsibly ranch raised bison meat all over the United States.
How did you earn your first sales? Which channels are now generating the most traffic and sales for you?
Bison meat is definitely a niche market, and our product is something a lot of people are unfamiliar with or at least have questions about. We earned our first sales through traffic on Google AdWords. Since then, we've put a significant budget towards organic SEO and Google AdWords. We've dabbled in Facebook Ads a bit as well.
However, in the last year, we have doubled our total traffic through content marketing and our blog. We've created and posted a number of recipes on our website which are curated and promoted through our blog and on social media – Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Google +. We have a number of blog posts that now rank very high for our keywords. Our traffic and sales have increased greatly in 2014 after a heavy focus in 2013 on these recipes and content marketing.
By focusing our content strategy on questions people have about our product (i.e. "How do I cook it?" "What are the benefits?") we show up on the first page for keywords we struggled to reach before and build trust in our customers and potential customers.
Tell us about the back-end of your business. What tools and apps do you use to run your store? How do you handle shipping and fulfillment?
Our entire site is run on Shopify - although we use WordPress for our blog as it was already set up and going prior to opening our Shopify store. The Shopify platform is so flexible that we have been able to accomplish just about anything we've wanted on this platform - including generating a large database of recipes for our customers and potential customers.
We've dabbled with a few apps - mostly the reporting ones like RetentionGrid.
Fulfillment has been our biggest challenge and cost. Since we have a somewhat unique issue of shipping frozen, perishable product, we work with a third party fulfillment center which helps us keep our costs lower and reach most of the country within 2-3 days via Ground Shipping. Taking styrofoam coolers, dry ice and the added weight of these items into consideration (as well as the fact that we have to reach our customers within 3 days) these can add up to considerable costs.
What are your top recommendations for new ecommerce entrepreneurs?
Definitely use Shopify!
Take advantage of the great apps available on their platform -- there are so many free ones that can help benefit your store.
The Shopify blog is an awesome resource with lots of good ideas and insight. Take time to read through their articles, they have awesome shop and business advice.