Scotland-based butcher Donald Russell has been a highly successful mail order butchery service for almost half a century, supplying specialist grass-fed beef and lamb as well as top-quality frozen produce to consumers and leading restaurants across the UK.

Their reputation in the industry has even seen them become proud beneficiaries of a Royal Warrant, and as Online Butcher of the Year, they are in international demand, supplying to some of the most prestigious establishments worldwide.

However, they’re far from being “just another butcher”. Donald Russell’s success is down to a unique business model that’s based on cultivating close customer relationships, leveraging insights and personalising their offerings to offer a truly bespoke service to their clients.

Tradition with a twist

Donald Russell’s long-standing status as a butcher of quality had already won them a loyal following over the years. However, in order to truly become a provider for the modern age and compete with the convenience of supermarket shopping, the business was faced with the need to move with the times.

With 61% of consumers saying they would be willing to pay extra for better quality meat, and a further 30% wanting to buy meat from a local source to reduce their food miles, it was paramount that Donald Russell was still able to retain its reputation as an independent craft butcher. However, with profitability increasingly relying on consumer confidence, shifting to a digital service while maintaining traditional-provider status was essential to keep pace and foster great customer relationships.

The most important element of this digital transformation was to Introduce a feedback platform where customers could post their opinions and ratings.

This was instrumental in not only cultivating existing relationships but building a new audience – with prospective customers able to visit the website, build their own personal experience, and discover how successful the business was at meeting consumers’ expectations.

Senior managers were also then able to gauge satisfaction for individual products or quality of service, including deliveries – allowing them to tailor their service to their consumer base.

The importance of trust

While wanting to embrace greater transparency and boost customer experiences by offering review platforms, Donald Russell was also conscious of the potential for negative feedback. However, by utilising Feefo’s reviews and insights solution onto its website, they are now able to verify purchaser details to ensure only genuine consumers can post – giving greater confidence about the truthfulness of the feedback customers are reading, and eliminating fake reviews, regardless of whether they are negative or positive.

With research from Shopify showing that as many as 79% of consumers trust product reviews as much as a personal recommendation, it was clear the word-of-mouth success that Donald Russell had garnered over the years was set to be quickly replaced by a digital equivalent. Therefore, it was imperative to embrace the power of online reviews to bolster their reputation in an increasingly digital world.

With ratings and reviews now posted on the website, specific products and foods are highlighted, visible and searchable – and all potential customers have access to the full range of opinions to help them make more informed decisions.

Digitising delivery

Donald Russell was also committed to improving customer experience through a more personalised, digitised service. Thanks to a new digital business model, customers are now able to experience the traditions of craft butchery with one-click convenience – setting up an account and tailoring their own experience by storing payment cards, logging delivery addresses, using gift cards and selecting their own marketing preferences.

With a searchable library of online exclusives and customer favourites, it has been made possible for customers to find their favourite products by code or by name. They can then select the weight and quantity of the items they want to buy, add them to a virtual basket, and check out with a single click of the mouse.

What’s more, there is a whole host of at-a-click recipes, guides and how-to videos to take advantage of, as well as a live chat service with an expert advisor – meaning customers can go far beyond the transactional elements of buying meat and veg to enjoy a truly personal, tailored service that meets more than just their fridge-stocking requirements.

And with a whole host of bespoke delivery options to choose from, all customers have to do next is wait for fresh produce to be delivered right to the door.

Looking to the future

Six years after embarking on their digital transformation, Donald Russell has amassed an amazing 280,000 five-star reviews, with 86% of reviews about quality of service reaching the five-star level, and 78% of product reviews achieving the maximum five-star rating.

The visibility of consumer feedback, combined with the personalised touches of how-to recipe guides and bespoke produce tailoring, has drastically boosted the consumer experience – with the transparency of feedback bolstering customers’ trust in the brand and increasing engagement.

Any online search for Donald Russell now features the company’s high volume of five-star ratings, increasing customer assurance and click-throughs – and helping to inform the launch of new products by allowing managers to gauge early reactions and make adjustments to meet customer expectations.

By embracing ever-changing consumer requirements, Donald Russell has achieved the ultimate success – becoming an undisputed leader in a niche market by cultivating close consumer relationships, personalising the provision of top-quality produce, and offering a customer experience that is truly bespoke.

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