Platypi Chocolate

Nestled in the beautiful Otway Ranges in Forrest, Victoria is Platypi Chocolate, a purpose built chocolatier and café. Mandy and Michael Bishop launched their business in 2018 and although the business was already a hit with locals, the pair wanted to build the business’ profile further amongst tourist groups and promote their existing and new product lines.

It's an expectation that you will have an online persona; if you don't have one then you cease to exist.


Platypi Chocolate

Up-front digital investment


If Platypi Chocolate were to promote its name to a new market, it needed to expand its existing website and work on a digital marketing strategy.

“We had a fairly simple website and posted on social media a few times a week. The first year of business was a whirlwind with limited time to pursue a quality web presence or a digital marketing strategy,” Mandy says.

Although Mandy and Michael had the expertise of creative company Evolution Design Agency to develop their digital marketing strategy and website, their time was still the biggest cost during the website development phase.

“We essentially needed to roster ourselves off a day a week for about three months to work with our vendor, get the website right and get our stories up there," Mandy says.

Due to the pair working directly in the business, setting time aside meant additional costs were incurred to roster staff to cover their own usual labour – an unknown expense in getting their business online. But once the website launched, the time commitments to manage the website and execute the marketing strategy normalised. Mandy still needs to invest time to update the website with new products, manage inventory, publish blog articles and regularly post on social media, but not at the same intensity required for initial set‑up.

The results


Platypi Chocolate launched its new website in early March 2020, transforming it from just a simple landing page and into a whole‑of‑business website. As the spread and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic became more apparent, the usually busy café could only offer take-away or delivery options for their customers, and by the end March, Mandy and Michael had decided to close their café doors completely.

The launch of Platypi Chocolate’s website occurred at the perfect time and although its physical presence had changed, the business was able to maintain revenue through its new online sales channels.

Easter is normally one of the busiest times of the year for this chocolatier, and by using social media channels, Platypi Chocolate were able to tell its Easter story and promote the purchase of products online. Regular posts promoted their delicious product range to customers in the lead up to Easter. They kept up the momentum with additional posts that showcased personalised chocolate gifts for Mother and Father’s Day, the next big focuses for the business.

Over the last 12 months, Platypi Chocolate has seen a steady increase in followers on their Instagram page @platypichocolate by 28 per cent and their Facebook followers for Platypi Chocolate increased by 45 per cent.

In addition to posting on social media, Platypi Chocolate advertised on WIN TV and featured on the ABC News which helped create a positive uptake of new customers when the café doors re-opened in mid‑May for takeaway.

People have seen us in town or these other channels, and a lot of people have then looked online, liked what they’ve seen and have come for a visit to Forrest.


Michael Bishop. Platypi Chocolate

Website features


The new website is able to showcase the business’ products and services with beautiful photography, and includes an e-commerce store, blogs, reviews and contact details.

“The website wasn’t useful before” says Mandy, “but now it’s creating a really good image about the business.”

E-commerce

As consumers continue to change their purchasing habits, selling your products through an e‑commerce system is very important for businesses to consider. An e‑commerce shopfront will make it easier to sell your products to your customers, no matter where they are, which became critical during COVID-19.

“While we’re down 72 per cent in sales because of closures, we would have been 100 per cent down without the website,” Mandy says. “It was our only revenue and let us keep telling our story.”

Blogs

Blogs are an effective way to increase your organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) ranking, which makes your site appear earlier in search engine results and improves visibility.

Platypi Chocolate developed blog content that reflects the business offering, promotes local knowledge of attractions and highlights its relationships with other small businesses in the Otways region in southern Victoria. Even though Platypi Chocolate may be in competition with other businesses in the region, Mandy and Michael are proud to promote the attractions and businesses around their hometown because the benefits of collaboration and creating a unique experience for tourists outweighs the negatives. They have even coined these interactions as “collab‑etition”.

What’s been learned?


Running a business during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge, but it has shown Mandy and Michael a different way to work.

COVID has shown how a balanced life is actually a good thing for us. We’re opening and closing earlier than we used to; in winter there just isn’t the demand towards the end of the day, so closing earlier has been working well.


Mandy Bishop, Platypi Chocolate

On the topic of ‘going digital’, the pair acknowledge that "finding time to learn something can be hard; it’s a lot of work but in the end you do get the reward.”

When Victoria entered its second lockdown, Mandy and Michael were better prepared to launch into their online sales campaign. Being involved in the Click for Vic campaign made a big difference to their business during this time, but without a quality website they would have not been able to capitalise on this opportunity. Platypi Chocolates also collaborated with other websites, including the Victorian Country Markets campaign and One Hour Out.

Mandy’s advice to other small businesses without their own website, or without the time and/or funds to create one, is to look to the sites out there that can extend your reach and build your profile in the meantime. As with any partnership, assess each carefully to suit your business needs.

“We have turned down several agent sites for finance, product mix or marketing reasons. Look for ones that allow you to maintain your product through a vendor portal”, says Mandy.

If you are thinking of making digital changes to your business operations, Mandy and Michael suggest that “you have to make a commitment; there's no point doing it if you're not doing it well.”

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