Tips on how to adapt your business to online

Hi there, with a lovely mug of tea and a squidgey vegan brownie on the go as I type, things feel a little brighter here at Honeybuns HQ. The daffodils are out so Aslan must surely be on the move, with Spring fast on his heels.

Daffodils and vitnage teacup and saucer

It’s been a bumpy old start to the year for our beloved bakery. Our primary focus has been to keep our local team in work and to motivate those who are still on furlough.

Based on an old dairy farm in Dorset, my family and I live on the job and our team reside either in our village or close by. Birthdays, weddings, funerals and friendships have intersected with work life these past 23 years (!), such is the privilege of running a small, rurally based enterprise. Keeping our team together is everything.

Prior to Covid we supplied our gluten free and vegan cakes to the worst hit sectors:



-Pubs and restaurants.

All of which are hurting badly.

We’ve therefore needed to adapt swiftly to reach new online customers and identify emerging trends which will help sustain our business. I hope some of the following might be of use to any fellow small businesses out there.

Free from Oaty Raspberry Bar traybake with knife

Here is a summary of some of the tips and strategies we’ve hound helpful in getting us through lockdown (I’ll go into detail for each one in just a sec):

  • Honesty is the best policy
  • Start up mind set
  • Social Skills
  • Valuing your values

Now for the detail and how to’s for each of the points above:

1. In this instance, ‘honesty’ is a brutal SWOT analysis of your business. After 23 years of running Honeybuns Bakery I had become a little bit too comfortable with how we did things. Lockdown has given us the time to get properly under the bonnet of our company and objectively analyse what we do, how we do it and why. Here are the condensed results:

Strengths: Our team, our values, our cakes and our customers.

Weaknesses: SEO, digital advertising, branding (slightly muddled) and a dated/incomplete website and online offer.

Opportunities: Developing the online shop, leveraging social media, improving branding, product innovation including new and lovely gift sets. Investing in outside SEO help and a new website.

Threats: Competitors, another lockdown, customers being turned off by a clunky website!

We carefully structured questions about our products/branding/customer service, culture, values etc. These were put to colleagues and customers. We then had to accept the answers, good and bad.

2. The Startup mind set refers to how we reacted in those free fall days of the first lockdown. Our order book emptied over night and we were operating on just 5% of pre lockdown levels. We had to ‘think outside of normal’, get creative and take some risks. We trialled new products, new packaging and commissioned a new website. We started making little DIY bake-along videos. We were out of our comfort zone doing these. People watched them via Instagram and You Tube. Off the back of these basic videos, we recognised the need to get more digital savvy and to push ourselves to try new things.

Inside bakery

3. Social media. This may sound old hat. Every business uses Facebook, right? We were giving all social media platforms a go and spreading ourselves too thinly. Pinterest wasn’t right for us as we weren’t selling from it so we stopped. Linkedin always felt an odd fit, so we now leave it alone. We were posting religiously on Facebook but weren’t measuring things to figure out which posts were most effective. Nor did we have a Facebook ad strategy in place. We’re now addressing this and getting more analytical.

Instagram has been a revelation in terms of how effective a (free) marketing tool it is. We now post giveaways on Instagram to help drive traffic to our online shop. We get sales from this and can therefore justify the time needed to keep up to date with all the Insta add-ons (reels, stories etc). Lockdown has gifted us time to look critically at what we should continue to do and what we should drop and not beat ourselves up about not doing all things social media. Less is sometimes more.

4. Valuing your values. With this extra time we decided to select one of our core company values and invest time in it. We chose our BeeGreen initiative which we started back in 2009. We recycle all of our waste, use 40% solar power (on a sunny Dorset day) and have reduced plastics to a minimum. We could still do more.

We’ve now shopped around on electricity deals and as of October 2021 we will be running on 100% renewables, including our own solar panel supply.

We’re launching a tree planting programme this Autumn. We will plant a tree for online customers who buy a year of cake subscriptions.

All of our packaging (except the pesky flow wrap film) is now plastic free and recyclable.

To conclude: A round up of new ideas to offer online:

  • Customers are telling us they want local, hand made, artisan gifts to send to love ones. They are actively seeking out non supermarket brands. They also want to support local small businesses (#supportsmallbusiness)
  • Self care is a growing trend. Working from home, lots of folk now need to break up the monotony of a working week with a little parcel of loveliness to indulge in. Our collaboration with Bek Bek Makes was in response to this trend.
  • Traditional gifting occasions are super popular. Mother’s Day and Easter are set to be bigger than ever in the UK this year. Not being able to eat out or meet up, we can still send some sunshine to loved ones. Do check out our Mother’s Day gifting ideas here
  • Letterbox gifts from cakes to flowers to candles are very much on trend. Avoiding the need to be in when the postman knocks- and no need for a signature makes deliveries hassle free.
  • No more green wash. Consumers want to know much more about a company’s eco credentials. For example, what energy sources are they using?
  • Plastic free packaging is entering the mainstream. Limited recyclability of packaging materials is coming in for consumer scrutiny.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Was this relevant? How can we improve our content for you?

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