Covid-19: How Oakhouse Foods kept delivering during the pandemic

Despite catering to a predominantly elderly and vulnerable demographic, Luke Harrison, head of data science & systems at Oakhouse Foods, describes the company as “a digital business” but one that doesn’t shy away from using the phone as a ”powerful tool” to solve customer problems.

Harrison says the pandemic has “accelerated growth” of the frozen meal direct-to-consumer business – owned by €7.2 billion Irish food company Kerry Group – leading to a spike in demand from new and existing customers.

Because its customers are in a high-risk category, the company made early preparations ahead of the lockdown, including introducing contactless deliveries and equipping drivers with PPE. It also set up its customer service team to work from home, switching physical telephones to software based systems, as well as ramping up capacity for deliveries and ensuring its tech could support an increase in demand.

“We knew if we weren’t able to deliver food it would be tough for our customers to find an alternative. So there was almost a sense of duty in ensuring we could continue,” says Harrison.

The right architecture

Recently migrating to the Magento 2 Commerce platformwith the help of agency C3, enabled the company handle the increase online. “It enabled us to scale really quickly. So where a lot of our competitors or food retailers were implementing a queuing system, or had downtime… we stayed online for the whole period despite our sales growing at high percentages.”

A lot of its customers have embraced mobile at “a rapid pace”, skipping over desktops entirely and using handheld devices as their first eCommerce experience. That made the platform’s responsive mobile experience “crucial” in supporting the customer journey.

The site also hosts a live chat functionality, which is mostly manned by its customer service team. “For other retailers live chat is more of a problems/solutions based [scenario] whereas ours is very much a chat – customers like to talk about how their day has been.”

He says the company is keen to introduce humans as often as it can. “We have automated email programmes in place, but we are also calling customers and asking what their experience was.”

In order to improve the website functionality, Oakhouse also recently worked with conversation rate optimisation agency Endless Gain. Sitting in lab sessions with customers and using biometric data it to view their reactions was eye-opening, he says. “We were seeing things that we had assumed wasn’t a problem for our customers, was actually causing them a problem.”

For example, it emerged a lot were “meandering” around the checkout process, as they didn’t necessarily understand what was being asked of them, or if they had fulfilled the inputs correctly. “What was interesting was the customers never blamed the site, they blamed themselves, which is some regards was quite heartbreaking,” he says. “While the process may not have been bad experience for other eCommerce consumers, for them it was really problematic.”

Now the checkout experience is less friction – down from the previous four steps to two – with text reassuring customers they have completed boxes in correctly.  “The Magento checkout is something we are particularly proud of."

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