Bridestowe Lavender Estate has been a Tasmanian agribusiness icon for over 100 years. The farm has taken many shapes under several custodians over its lifetime, but you may have seen the headlines from the mid-2010s when the current owners created a purple teddy, Bobbie the Lavender Bear, who became a household name in mainland China.
It was a wildly successful period of the farm's history. As the "Bobbie phenomenon" wore off, Bridestowe realised they had to diversify their product both online and offline. Inspired by the momentum created by Chinese social media influencers, the family-owned business decided to embrace the opportunity that digital marketing and social media presented.
The results have been spectacular.
In 2015 Bridestowe embarked on a project with WOOF Media to rebuild their then-underperforming e-commerce website. This began a journey that saw almost every aspect of their digital marketing rebuilt to support hockey-stick growth in tourism visitation, brand awareness and eCommerce.
Bridestowe committed to rebuilding their digital platform from the ground up, starting with their website. Then, they made the most important decision: they invested in the people, partners and tactics to grow their social media and digital presence over the long term.
With an on-farm experience including a cafe and gift shop, as well as their online store, Bridestowe had several different customer groups. From Tasmanian locals with visiting friends and relatives, to lavender-loving city dwellers from Sydney to Shanghai.
Bridestowe invested time into understanding their diverse customers, their motivations and where the product and experience would fit within their journey.
As a remote regional business the challenge of finding and retaining great staff is constant, but it is particularly challenging when looking for skills in the fast-moving world of social media and digital marketing.
Bridestowe integrated an in-house marketing and communications manager to optimise their cost and speed of production. They internally owned the marketing strategy, campaign planning, content production, community management, customer experience, traditional marketing, external partnerships and relationships.
This freed up budget to invest in areas that required targeted expertise; technical strategy, web development, digital advertising (PPC) and ecommerce development. As regional tourism specialists, we had an even deeper insight into how we could best apply these skills in an industry-specific context.
For many small businesses, it's not helpful to have an ambitious new strategy developed externally and handed to the business to roll out overnight. It can be wasteful, disruptive, and hard on staff. Not to mention, it can absorb a lot of budget and leave very little available to actually implement the plan.
Once the new website was developed and launched in 2016, Bridestowe worked with us to evolve their digital skills, audiences and campaigns over 12-18 months.
The farm worked towards the development of an omnichannel marketing strategy, ensuring their traditional marketing and new online presence would operate as one cohesive, reliable extension of the business.
This approach allowed time to test and learn what got results and how they could manage it along the way.
The Tactical Side
When it came time to accelerate their investment again, the audience was engaged and growing, the team was confident, and the tactics had already proven to generate a fantastic return on investment.
Bridestowe offers free entry to Tasmanian residents in appreciation of their ongoing support, and to remove any prohibitive costs that may prevent locals from connecting with a very special part of their State's history.
Another mutually beneficial relationship that has developed organically is with photographers. Photographers frequently request out of hours access to the property, which management will often facilitate for no extra charge in exchange for some photos, which are shared with credit to the photographer.
Tourism is an industry built on partnerships and collaboration. Regional, state and national tourism marketing organisations need great products to promote the region, so it was important to make it easy for them to do so. Engaging on social media, providing great media and timely information, and hosting famils and "Instameets" (influencer meet-ups) were all key to supporting these relationships.
Customer Insights Feedback Loop
One of the best insights? Hearing exactly what their customers wanted. From reviews to comment sections and conversations over direct messages, these invaluable insights benefited every arm of the business. Online feedback inspired new product development, new experience development, campaigns and customer service improvements, just to name a few.
Extending the Engagement
The ability to create an online presence and ecommerce department could be one of the greatest blessings imaginable for a highly seasonal business in a remote location.
Lavender is in bloom for 6-8 weeks a year, and while the farm remained open all year round, visitor numbers were much lower in the shoulder seasons. With the development of social media communities, passionate visitors could now engage all year round. Learn about the farm's romantic history, re-order the lavender products they discovered in-store, and gather tips about what to do on their next visit.
Bridestowe experienced an impressive 20%+ year on year growth in visitation for the three visitor seasons between 2016-17 and 2018-19.
Sales of their products online grew steadily over that same period, with each campaign performing better than the previous one. Notable peaks include Christmas and Mothers Day sales, and a record-breaking winter sale in June 2020 - right in the middle of Tasmania's pandemic lockdowns.
Both Tourism Australia and Tourism Tasmania have recognised and supported Bridestowe's success. This generated unexpected but very valuable exposure in a number of locations, from bus stops in Hong Kong to international trade fairs across the globe.
Tech giants also noticed the momentum. Google featured Bridestowe as a case study in their Grow With Google series, and the farm was part of a panel in Facebook's 2019 Community Boost program alongside Tourism Tasmania and Mona Museum.
These are fantastic results for their business, but on top of that is the estimated $10m of economic value that has supported the regional community of North East Tasmania.
I am impressed with the simplicity and clarity of our new website. I feel you really understood our brief. Since launch our sales have increased by over 100% compared to the same period last year. You guys have really delivered.
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