The seamless process of online shopping--click a button and receive your goods--means many of us take for granted the complicated logistics that allow our online purchases to make it to our doorstep without delay. In today’s success story, Mary Ziegler, co-owner of HalfNuts.net, let’s us in on how her company makes sure every package arrives with a hitch.
JL: Tell us about Half Nuts and the products you sell.
MZ: As our name suggests, we sell a wide variety of nuts that are raw, roasted, salted, and even topped with delectable coatings, such as chocolate or butter toffee. The other half of Half Nuts is a wide assortment of candies, chocolates, dried fruit, snack mixes and most notably, our proprietary Ziegler Giant Bar.
JL: What is the Ziegler Giant Bar?
MZ: The Ziegler Giant Bar was candy bar created by The Ziegler Candy Company. The name is no coincidence... the Ziegler Candy Company was run by my husband’s family for four generations before they closed in the 1970s. Growing up around the candy factory inspired my husband to make candy a part of his career path at Half Nuts. Today, we continue to offer the original Giant Bar in the same molds, with the same recipe, as an homage to the Ziegler Candy family history.
JL: How did your online store come to be?
MZ: We started in our brick and mortar business in 1990. As a convenience to our local customers, we set up a website and listed all of our products online, so they could see what we had and shop without actually coming to the store. Since our first website debuted in 2002, we’ve redesigned and re-launched it several times before settling on the current one. We have expanded from just our online catalog for our local community, to becoming a full scale national retailer of nuts, candy, and lots of other treats.
When we hired our web developer, Arafat, we were impressed with his website portfolio and the overall design of the shop. That’s why we’ve stayed with him since PrestaShop 1.5.6 and have recently upgraded to PrestaShop 1.6. Arafat takes much pride in his work, and has custom built us a great PrestaShop website.
JL: What challenges have you encountered selling perishable goods?
MZ: The main challenge we have shipping the products is the fact that they are perishable and we want them to arrive as fresh as possible. The perks of living in Milwaukee include having nice cool shipping weather for most of the year. However, as our sales grew online and we started shipping much more to the South, but also to the East and the West coasts, we had to deal with the hot weather those regions are apt to have. Some have shipping weather all year round that is poses a problem for us. Our vendors often use ice bricks to ship product to us, and we then offer those ice bricks to our customers for free.
Although this helped keep the products cool, the weight of the ice bricks increased the shipping costs for our customer. Because of this, we implemented the Connect to UPS and the USPS Shipping modules, to let our customers pick the shipping option they prefer. We let them choose whether they want a service that tells them the exact date they’ll receive their package, like UPS does, or if they prefer the less expensive option, with the United States Postal Service.
Another thing that we offer are Styrofoam coolers. These provide great insulation for the “meltables” we ship, without excessively weighing them down. While it cuts down on weight, it still increases costs due to the size of the package. This is why we use two shipping modules that offer two different shipping options. Letting our customers choose their own shipping method has helped keep our costs down and in turn, keeps our customers happy.
JL: With holidays like Valentine’s around the corner, how do you prepare?
MZ: Valentine’s, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas...all the major holidays...are busy times for us. We start promoting for these events about 15 days ahead of time for the smaller holidays, and a month prior to the major ones like Christmas and Easter. We’ll add features like a pop-up notification and we offer holiday discounts for online orders. For current customers, we’ll remind them about our store with an email marketing campaign and offer the same holiday discount. To prepare logistically, for holidays and other busy times, we always arrange extra staff to fulfill orders on a timely basis, usually within 24 hours.
Do you think you have what it takes to start selling perishable goods online? Get started today with our eCommerce software. Want more inspiration? Check out other PrestaShop merchants in these previous success stories!