Julie Macken is the Deputy Queen Bee of Neve’s Bees a family business turning the produce of their bee hives into totally natural skincare. Founded in 2017 in the last year they’ve switched to eCommerce going from just £10,000 to £50,000 in annual online sales. She takes us through how she shifted the business from primarily wholesale and events, to almost entirely eCommerce. Plus how that’s changed their objectives for wholesale and events in the future. We also discuss why she wants to keep her business below £250,000 sales a year.
Neve’s Bees Start In eCommerce
Neve’s Bees started 4 years ago when Julie’s daughter Neve had the idea that she wanted to keep bees. They made lotions and potions with their beeswax and distributed them to family members, and received positive feedback.
They got invited to sell at a market fair where their lip balms sold out, and they eventually won the Blenheim Palace business competition which got them local coverage, as well as a year’s contract to supply Neve’s Bees products in retail stores at Blenheim.
This catapulted the business into the world of retail and markets, and prior to Covid, Neve’s Bees sold products equally through their three channels: country fairs, retail, and online.
Julie hopes their story encourages other retailers to see that you can go from not really knowing very much, to having a successful online business.
Doing Business During Covid
As of March last year, Julie still had a lot of market activities lined up. When it was announced that these were no longer possible, they thought they would need to cease operations since 90% of their time was used for events.
Even though they were making more profit from online sales, eCommerce was just an afterthought. But because they had good feedback from customers and they were enjoying running a business, they decided to work on an online strategy.
They went with the classic Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) model, and used eCommerce marketing efficiently to capture consumers on each stage of the purchase journey.
The Next Strategy
Julie said their next step was to hire Digital Gearbox to help with their Google Ads strategy. They did banner ads, shopping ads, and remarketing ads, and measured each of them to know which was one was working based on their target.
- Set up an email capture system through a pop-up on their website
- Tested two discount rates (10% and 15%)
- Did a sales promotion by giving a free gift that was aligned to Neve’s Bees branding
A strategy tip Julie believes in is to grow your brand first and the sales will follow.
Advantages Of Digital Marketing
Digital promotion is a lot more measurable, which makes running local, targeted campaigns much easier.
Julie’s advice is to work out who you’re targeting, have a few different scenarios and test them out, and find out which one works.
They tested Facebook during last year’s lockdown period and this enabled Julie to figure out who their audience was.
Knowing the investment will pay off enables you to invest confidently as in their case with Facebook which they will do again this year, and the whole practice becomes scientific because you are able to target your audience accurately.
Current State Of The Business
Neve’s Bees continues to sell only in the UK because of trade barriers pertaining to the main ingredient of their product which is beeswax.
Julie also mentions that they want to continue on as a family business still employing local people, and staying in the premises of their current property.
More on Neve’s Bees
- They still use the same platform which is WordPress
- The first they contracted was a designer for their website and the second one was an IT person
- For their marketing backend, they use Mailchimp
Back in February, they updated their website to make way for a better online shopping experience, after seeing sales go up 5-fold in less than a year.
The Future Of Neve’s Bees
Country fairs and markets will continue to play a part in Neve’s Bees sales strategy because they’re great for personal interaction and getting feedback for new products. They will also continue to distribute their lip balms through retail.
Both markets and retail become conduits to getting their customers online. Through eCommerce, they are then able to give their customers a great experience that starts with packaging and the way they mail their products out, to communicating via email, and eventually building rapport through social media.
eCommerce Book Top Tip
- Use your own brain and your intuition. Switch off your conscious thought by doing something repetitive and that is when the best ideas come to you.
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
Tool Top Tip
Growth Top Tip
- Branding: grow the brand, stick with it, and let your small wins take you where you want to go with your business.
- Surviving as a retailer reliant on in-person selling with Sue Monhait of The Ribbon Print Company
- Goat Milk Stuff’s PJ Jonas on growing an eCommerce business to $1m and improving efficiency
- Blue Ocean Blogging Strategy with Adam Bastock
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