Having recently published a case study around The Fish Society’s massive growth in the past few years, we sat down with the team to find out more. We had a chat with Jeremy Grieve (CEO), Alistair Blair (Founder) and Ben Pritchard (Ecommerce Manager) about how they survived the pandemic and what they are working on behind the scenes. If you want to know more about their operational efficiency and focus on sustainability, please read part two.
Regarding our ecommerce efforts and marketing promotions in the past year, our initial reaction had been to just keep the status quo and not scale up our campaigns because we saw an uptick in demand back in March. As the year progressed, we did start to hire more people and we got back to doing different marketing initiatives. For example, we were pushing up our paid social strategy as we were moving into the fall and wanted to have something really impactful for Black Friday and peak season. We hired new colleagues, like our marketing manager Amy - the first time we’ve actually had a dedicated marketing person in house. Like we said, we quickly realised that now our volume is shooting up, we have to scale up our resources as well.
There was a sweet spot, where compared to normal times, it was really quite cheap to acquire new customers. We were getting a huge return on the money. We have seen that come down now. We're spending quite a lot more but still acquiring a lot of customers. But inevitably, in the end, the ROAS comes back and it becomes unsustainable to spend at that rate and you have to trim the spend. Our stance has now gone from acquisition to a focus on retention and figuring out how we can inspire all those new customers that we've got in the last six months to place a second or third order. Our current focus is on: How can we convince them to keep coming back, making recipes and investigating all the other exciting items we sell?
The way we engage with our customers, we like to be very frank and sincere and less salesy with them. If you read a few of our blurbs on the website, you’ll find that they are not just spilling over with enthusiasm; often, there are some qualifications. I’d say we are very friendly to our customers. Although the website is very important to us, we are equally accommodating to people who want to phone their orders in. We offer 100% genuine phone interaction (in my view this is a real signal of quality) starting off with answering calls straight away 98% of the time. And when we pick up we have a very engaging manner. Our people on the phone are well-informed and have authority to deal with “issues”.
We really want to get our communication out there. And, we're going to really start talking to the customers more through video as the year goes on – have a look at our new TikTok channel. Charlotte, our most recent recruit, is 22 and a TikTok veteran. It was her idea to get the channel started. But it chimed for me - my grandchildren had been showing me around TikTok and I had been thinking… this is where we should be. Of course, we’re already on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
We are building a presentation kitchen at the moment. It has three cameras in the ceiling. It will stream out recipes for our customers. We're going to get suppliers in, who might talk about why that fish is good or how they grow or catch their fish. We also have a couple of ideas of ways to engage the community later on, by doing events, maybe a pop-up show using our in-house chefs or something similar.
We also have new “prepared in-house” lines, which is a new departure for us. We've always had a fish pie, which is an iconic dish in the UK. In the past, we’ve always had it made for us by somebody else, which was not ideal because we didn't get the quality or quantity we wanted. The lady we found who could deliver the quality, could only make 30 at a time. I'm not kidding. We would give an order for 300 and then it would take a month to get the order in. We ran out all the time. So when we moved to these new premises, I was very keen that we should have a production kitchen and start making our own fish pie. And, it turns out we didn't have space in the building – it was already full. So we rented a container kitchen, like they would use at a festival and it's in the car park out here.
It cost an unbelievable amount of money to plug this in, but now it is pumping out a fantastic range and every week our chef comes up with delicious new ideas I’d never dreamed of. We are not going to offer something you can buy in the supermarket. Anyone for squid arancini? Our customers will love all these exciting new offerings.
We just launched a new recipe section! We're going to have a welcome pack for people that are placing their first orders. In that we're going to run a “Send us your recipes!” campaign with first, second and third prizes on a monthly basis. Everyone who submits their recipe will get an email at the end of the month and see the top 3 and why they won. We think this will be a great way to engage the community.
Alistair: My favourite fish is a turbot and a Dover sole as the runner up. I like to eat them plain as I think they have a very good taste.
Jeremy: I haven’t found my favourite fish yet, but I had a very good Miso black cod at a Japanese restaurant once. For having friends over, I like to go with seafood options like prawns or scallops.
Ben: I’m a veggie. (Author’s note: I then asked for his favourite fish to look at and the answer was halibut, which can be very impressive in size.)
Closing Remarks: The Fish Society have been making a lot of changes for their customers and we are looking forward to seeing the new videos from the presentation kitchen, as well the new recipes coming in. So why not have a look at the new recipe section or The Fish Society TikTok account?