Daleys FruitWe spoke to Greg Daley, co-director of Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery about how digital technologies have transformed their business into an Australia-wide online presence.

Business Overview

Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery was established in 1980 as a family business and has remained so for the past 33 years. Daleys propagate fruit trees and selected ornamental trees which they sell and distribute across Australia to retail nurseries, fruit growers and local retail markets. They established their website in 1998, and have since become a predominantly online business.

How have digital technologies impacted the way your business operates, especially with respect to your transition into a predominantly online business?

Our online presence had a huge impact in growing our retail side of the business. We now have 90% of our market as online customers spread right across Australia. In 2006 we implemented a full-time partner, Correy, who works from Brisbane developing the website and IT systems. Correy helped us to substantially increase our digital focus, and reach that online figure of 90% from what was originally 20%.

The key challenge has been fine tuning our dispatch procedures to handle large quantities of small orders. With the aid of barcode and labeling systems that are integrated with our couriers, we have been able to develop processes that have resulted in large efficiencies and labour savings.

By nature, some of our products are that plants can take up to 2 years to produce. This means we can’t always have every product available. We’ve developed a website program that allows customers to request notification when a certain product becomes available. When the stock gets scanned back into our system, our customers are automatically notified by email or SMS that their product is once again available for purchase. We’ve been able to track that this process is linked to 40% of our sales, which just proves it is a great initiative for us and our customers! We also use these customer requests to track demand and hence propagate the plants they really want.

How are digital technologies affecting the way you engage with your customers?

We use email to request feedback from our customers 3 months after they purchase from us. Not only is the feedback great information for us, but we post their comments on the testimonial section of our website to share with others.

Being an online business we also deal with a large number of enquirers. Given we propagate over 500 varieties of trees with their own special requirements, providing accurate responses in a timely fashion is no small feat. Therefore we set up an online forum which is now extensively used by our customers and provides a large body of information. Now many of their questions can be answered by other forum users!

We now provide customer support solutions through video, using YouTube. For example, we’ve used YouTube to show our customers how to prune and care for their trees. Our YouTube channel can be seen here. With our products, it’s much more effective to be able to show our customers what to do, so video is an excellent resource.

We’re also using Twitter and Facebook to engage our customers. They are great mediums to provide information and news to our customers, and also to help respond to their queries. We get a lot of involvement on these social media platforms which is great to see.

Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery

Daleys provide some handy suggestions to their Facebook friends.

In addition to social media, we publish blogs on our website, make our catalogs available online, and have recently added a website feature called ‘My Edibles‘, where our customers can upload their home grown edibles with pictures and a range of information. This way our customers can share their hard work with others, and it provides and excellent learning resource that helps everyone get the most out of our products.

What other changes to you foresee in the future?

We’re particularly looking forward to the availability of high-speed internet. If our net goes down, our business comes to a grinding halt. The NBN should help us deliver service to our customers more easily and efficiently.

We already use online technology for our processes from propagation to potting to dispatch, using items like scanners and iPhones, but we expect this to become even more prominent. Eventually we’d expect to see all our staff using smart phones to have instant access to our products, procedures, sales transactions and internal communication.

We’re also looking forward to the release of a MYOB cloud platform this year, which will enable us to access our financial data from practically any location. These kinds of technologies are very helpful to businesses like ours and we’d expect to see a lot more of this in the future.