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- A coffee shop decided to close its physical location and shift to an ecommerce business model; a wine bar closed its doors and turned to curbside pickup.
- Both The Ruby Tap and Perk Coffee Company leveraged technology to overhaul their operations during the pandemic using no-code tools like WordPress, Stripe, Google Sheets, Shopify, and more.
- They were able to set up online ordering and recurring subscriptions, manage fulfillment and customer support, and automate workflows between each step in the online sales process.
- The Ruby Tap co-owner Dan Nelson reported over $100,000 in revenue since launching online, while Perk Coffee Company’s Austin Gray said the company shipped over 160 orders in its first month.
- For those new to no-code tools, they don’t require a lot of time or money to get started, and they can save countless hours by automating repetitive tasks, according to these two entrepreneurs.
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When The Ruby Tap team designed the first of its now two Milwaukee-area wine bar locations nearly eight years ago, it was intended to be a cozy, neighborhood spot for people to hang out with friends and family, Dan Nelson, co-owner of The Ruby Tap and director of design at Tock, told Business Insider.
“Even though we sold wine for retail, most of our revenue came from guests ordering and enjoying their wine, beer, and food at the bar,” he explained.
Since the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent shelter-in-place orders, the company has had to adapt, shifting to an all-retail business model — with their sole revenue now coming from curbside pickups.
On March 17, Nelson took to Twitter to announce that their two locations were closed, while sharing the positive news that the company had built an online bottle-ordering system to power its curbside pickup efforts.
He also shared the exact no-code tools he’d used to do so: WordPress for its website, Stripe for online payments, Google Sheets for easily sorting the orders, and Zapier for connecting the various apps powering the company’s online ordering machinery.
Within a matter of 12 hours, everything was up and running and the company had more than 50 orders, he tweeted, adding, “What a world.”
Meanwhile, less than a week later, on March 21, Austin Gray, partner of the Denver-based Perk Coffee Company, was busy adapting his business model — and within that same morning, he had his own online ordering system launched, built using all no-code tools.
He even created a video tutorial showing exactly how he did it.
—Austin Gray (@austinrileygray) March 23, 2020
By early April, when Gray and his business partner made the decision to self-quarantine and close down the shop altogether, they had shifted to building out an ecommerce site to “allow for worldwide delivery of our coffee beans,” he told Business Insider.
Again, they turned to all no-code tools, including Shopify for the ecommerce platform, Mailchimp for email marketing, Google Sheets for keeping track of customers and their orders, ReCharge for its recurring subscription billing offerings, Proof to track and boost conversion rates, Zapier for connecting all of these apps and automating the workflows between each, and Slack for internal company communications.
Since launching, the company has shipped over 160 orders in its first month.
“My business partner and I are big fans of MRR- [monthly recurring revenue] style businesses and are expecting the recurring coffee deliveries to supplement the income we’ve lost from the pandemic inside the retail shop,” Gray said.
Within less than a month of Nelson’s initial efforts with The Ruby Tap, the co-owner posted an update on the same Twitter thread that the number of orders had jumped to 800, amounting to $50,000 in revenue. Less than two months later, by early May, that number jumped to 1,700 orders and over $100,000 in revenue, Nelson told Business Insider.
Nelson and Gray shared the exact steps they took to adapt their local brick-and-mortar businesses to digital ones and how they’ve faired financially during the transition.
The Ruby Tap is making 5 times more retail revenue than before the pandemic with its online ordering system
Each week since shutting down service indoors, The Ruby Tap has been offering new “Wine to Go” specials, such as growler flights and bottle packs like “California Blends,” available for order online thanks to a Stripe integration with the company’s WordPress-powered website.
Zapier then passes each unique order’s details into Google Sheets, where Nelson’s wife and her sister, who run the day-to-day operations of the wine bars, can access the information, filter between the company’s two locations, and indicate order status changes, such as “packed” and “picked up.”
Nelson’s day job as director of design at Tock, a tech startup in Chicago that’s building out similar tools for restaurants, wineries, and bars across the world to manage their pickup and delivery orders, has provided a helpful background during this transition.
However, he noted that his wine bar isn’t a tech company and they weren’t looking to create something custom. They needed something that would be “fast, low cost, and easy to support,” he said, and the no-code tools he ended up using make setting up and experimenting with these kinds of online ordering processes easy for anyone — with or without a coding background — without requiring a lot of time or money. And with the platform up and running more or less automatically, the team has been able to focus on operations and customer service.
To raise community awareness of their new curbside pickup model, The Ruby Tap leveraged digital channels like email, Facebook, and Instagram.
And the response from the community “has been enormous,” Nelson shared. “From the number of people liking and sharing our posts to the number of people ordering and repeat ordering to everyone offering up their support and encouragement, it’s been a tremendous thing to see during such crazy times.”
While the team was worried this support might fade over time, April’s orders were stronger than those in March, and the team hopes to continue to generate interest by innovating with new special bottle packages and marketing efforts.
So far the company has brought in five times the amount of revenue from the retail side of the business than the two shops did before the pandemic.
“We’ve already started to ask ourselves, ‘Can we keep this going when everything is back to normal?'” said Nelson.
As a result of this curbside business, The Ruby Tap team has been able to offer weekly hours to its staff (all of whom are part time).
“Managing and packing wine orders for curbside doesn’t require a huge operation — there’s no kitchen to run or bar to tend or tables to bus any more — but we still are offering up hours and shifts (paid, of course) to our staff should anyone need them,” said Nelson. “These people are helping us pack orders, print tasting sheets, and keep the behind-the-scenes operations humming.”
Perk Coffee Company’s ecommerce platform makes purchases and subscriptions easy
Recognizing the growth potential of ecommerce businesses at this time, Gray and his business partner have prioritized building an online sales platform “to diversify the marketing and sales of our current products during a time where retail sales are down,” he said.
He walked Business Insider through the backend of the digital operation they’ve set up, with Zapier as the “backbone of everything [that] allows all of the apps [used] to be connected together upon the ‘trigger’ of one event,” he said.
Step one: Customers can place one-time or recurring orders for Perk Coffee Company’s beans on the company’s Shopify site. “This is referred to as [a] ‘trigger’ in Zapier,” Gray explained.
Next, if the order is a subscription, the company relies on ReCharge to automatically create a recurring bill for customers based on their preferred delivery cadence, whether that’s every week, every two weeks, or once a month, and also allows customers to choose from specific options (like whole beans or ground coffee beans).
“This is the only solution I’ve found to doing monthly recurring subscriptions in Shopify efficiently,” shared Gray.
At that point, the customer’s name and email is passed along to the company’s email marketing platform, Mailchimp — Gray recommended this email tool in particular for companies looking to stay lean, since there’s a free version available — for future outreach purposes.
Meanwhile, the customer’s name, email, phone number, shipping information, and product details are simultaneously sent to Google Sheets for customer support purposes.
The company runs on G Suite, Google’s apps for businesses, and Gray said he uses Google Sheets in almost all of his online operation workflows to keep tabs on things like inbound website leads and customer orders.
Each time a new order is created, the team is looped in via an automated Slack post while the fulfillment manager receives a text message with the exact order details.
For tracking purposes, each new sale is recorded in the company’s Proof account, which helps measure how well they’re translating web traffic into purchasing customers.
“And the beauty is, Zapier enables all of these tasks to happen automatically upon an order being placed,” explained Gray.
While the company’s original website was built on Squarespace, Perk Coffee Shop turned to Shopify to build out the ecommerce platform because it offers more powerful tools to support online sales.
As a way to incentivize customers to consider trying out the company’s new subscription options, they offered a free bag of coffee to the first 25 people who placed recurring coffee delivery orders.
“We notified friends and family of the offer, posted on The Perk social media handles, and also posted on our personal social media channels,” said Gray. “The offer was so well received that we chose to keep the free bag of coffee offer in place after the first 25.”
While the company made the decision to close up shop during the pandemic, Gray and his partner wanted to be able to continue paying their two employees. In addition to leveraging earnings generated through this new ecommerce initiative, the company is tapping into recurring monthly revenue from its partner company, Green Spaces, a coworking space, to fund paying these team members.
Though he’s been learning HTML, CSS, and Java during quarantine through FreeCodeCamp.org, Gray doesn’t have a coding background. One of his mentors, a cofounder of Proof, introduced him to Zapier, which then sent the coffee shop partner down a “path of learning no-code automation,” he shared.
Since getting started, the entrepreneur now uses Zapier anytime he encounters a repetitive, time-consuming task.
For small business owners looking to start creating no-code solutions, Gray recommended checking out the no-code online education and community platform Makerpad.
“No-code saves me countless hours of my time each day,” he said. “I can’t even begin to count how long it would take me if I were manually inputting data into each app within our stack.”
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