increase in orders
increase in revenue
increase in conversion rate
Performance metrics compare March 2021-December 2021 over March 2017-December 2017.
The sun peeks through the clouds over the mountains on a foggy morning in Fujian province, China. In the valley below, farmers are hard at work painstakingly plucking the finest tea leaves from the plants that will make up this year’s harvest. Two men standing next to a red and gray cinder block building are bickering about something; no doubt about the price for the lot. One takes another sip of the freshly brewed tea and gets a contemplative look on his face as he reconsiders the offer. They shake hands and continue their conversation.
That’s one way to purchase some of the finest teas China has to offer. But if you don’t have the time, tea knowledge or bartering skills, you might want to try the next best thing: Silk Road Teas. Catherine and Ned Haegerty have been working since 2004 to bring rare, artisan Chinese teas to the United States.
Silk Road Teas started importing specialty teas in 1992. In 2004, Catherine and Ned Haegerty acquired the company and have been purchasing teas on the ground in China ever since. It began as a wholesale enterprise, working with some of the largest retailers in the US. “About eight years ago, we started to be more active on the web, and are currently speeding up. We changed our business model to reflect a mix of business-to-business (B2B), or wholesale, and business-to-consumer (B2C),” Ned explained.
Looking at the road ahead
At first, Silk Road Teas was using the ProStores platform. As the B2C arm of its business began to ramp up, and the competitive tea market began to grow, Ned knew that the website needed an update to scale and stand up to the competition. Moving forward, Silk Road Teas’ new platform had to provide:
A modular design that could offer them tools they needed, when they needed them.
A hosted solution with reliable uptime.
The ability to handle complex inventories.
Excellent customer support.
Finding the right tools for growth
As Ned began to search the market, he found a number of platforms to compare, including WooCommerce, Shopify and BigCommerce. After performing his due diligence, Ned chose BigCommerce for two standout reasons. “We felt that BigCommerce brought guarantees in our uptime and solutions in general. That was just really important,” he explained.
BigCommerce was also a great choice because of the complex inventories involved in the tea trade. “When we come back and assign lots into inventory, we create a code to tell us what it is, type of tea, variety, and so on. Then we have to deal with all of the lot numbers and the quantities associated with them,” he said. “We’re in a fairly complicated business.”
To ease those complications, Ned has taken advantage of a number of applications BigCommerce offers.
Mailchimp, a powerful sales-driving marketing tool that allows you to better engage and build relationships with your customers.
SLoyalty, a customer rewards program that offers customizable rewards to customers, keeping them coming back again and again.
QuickBooks**,**a time-saving integration that can help link your online store to Quickbooks, keeping owners from having to manually enter data.
“We felt that BigCommerce brought guarantees in our uptime and solutions in general. That was just really important,”
Ned Haegerty Founder, Silk Road Teas
“I can't tell you what a distinguishing characteristic and value add [customer service] is for BigCommerce to your customers,” he explained. “I think right at the top of the [best features] list is tech support.”
Ned Haegerty Founder, Silk Road Teas
Growing, and Growing, and Growing…
We first checked in with Silk Road Teas in 2017. Even then, the site was bringing in high amounts of traffic and was growing steadily year over year. When looking at growth over time, Silk Road Teas has continued that trend in number of orders, revenue and site conversion rate.
As the business has expanded its B2C offerings, its website has grown in both product listings and in its complexity. No matter how complex the site gets, Ned knows that he can come to BigCommerce’s support team for help. “I can't tell you what a distinguishing characteristic and value add [customer service] is for BigCommerce to your customers,” he explained. “I think right at the top of the [best features] list is tech support.”
New trips. New adventures.
As the B2C side of the business continues to grow, Ned will continue to leverage the native tools and integrations within BigCommerce to help his company expand. Search engine and email marketing tools like Mailchimp will continue to be valuable assets in the company’s overall marketing strategy, but the main driver of the business will always be the experience Ned strives to provide his customers.
Although, at the time of this writing, Ned has not visited China to purchase tea since the COVID-19 pandemic began, his years of experience with vendors and traders have made it possible for him to continue selecting the finest teas China has to offer. “It's like being in China right inside my warehouse,” he explains. “All the tea is there to try and it's very exciting.” And, with the help of BigCommerce, he can continue to bring that excitement and experience to his customers, too.
Published: April 2022
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