Ripe for change

An unintended consequence of 2020 saw online shopping achieve staggering profits, while delivered meal kit companies reported record numbers of new customers week-on-week.

Though many of us were already familiar with online shopping, last year the world of e-commerce became indispensable when we were stopped from visiting brick-and-mortar shops.

Suddenly, most of us were spending lots of time at home, and with all the new technologies now available it became easy, not to mention incredibly popular, to shop from the comfort of our couches.

In 2020, an NZ Post report - The Full Download - revealed a massive 25 per cent growth in online spending, signalling that Kiwis had formed a new, unbreakable, shopping habit.

Adapting to an e-commerce world

For one Tauranga-based business, the 2020 online surge was a reminder that nothing stands still in the world of e-commerce. 

"Suddenly it felt like we were supplying half of New Zealand with avocados," says Thorley Robbins, owner and managing director of The Avo Tree.

"Our orders tripled, and we had to double the number of our delivery vans. We definitely had the tiger by the tail."

Servicing extra demand, with speed

The Avo Tree, which harvests and delivers fresh avocados to customers' doors, was seeing the effects of a massive 47 per cent growth in online spending on specialty food, groceries and liquor.

Robbins says his business was able to keep up with the increased demand because of the working relationship he has with freight partner NZ Post.

"We were so snowed under but amid all of that one thing we didn't have to worry about was if our delivery vans were going to turn up or not because they did every day."

Robbins says couriering fresh avocados from the trees to a customer's front door can be tricky, and credits NZ Post's speed, reliability of service and excellent communication channels for making it happen.

"We simply couldn't operate without NZ Post, it would be impossible," Robbins says.

Flexible possibilities with NZ Post

Robbins says the key was working with NZ Post to get the longest time possible out of The Avo Tree's dispatch window.

"So for example we will say the later you guys (NZ Post) can pick up the more fruit we can get out and the quicker we can get it to customers, so we don't have to worry a van is not going to turn up at 4 o'clock on a Monday afternoon when we've got 160 boxes of avocados sitting here that need to go.

"Communication has been really key and NZ Post has been very open to those communication lines. It becomes very transparent, and everyone knows what we are trying to accomplish.

"The delivery drivers themselves are somewhat an extension of The Avo Tree team. We are on a first-name basis, they love to see us, there is real trust and reliability that's built up."

Enabling new endeavours

The business originally went with a different courier company before NZ Post, Robbins says, but it quickly went sour.

"I spent hours and hours each week worrying if a van was already going to be full when it turned up," Robbins says. Often they were. "We had vans turn up and they could fit only 20 boxes in and we had 300 boxes of avocados sitting there for delivery."

The Avo Tree has recently branched out into skincare products, and the peace of mind that comes with partnering with NZ Post meant the launch of the new line was easy, Robbins says.

"We had built such a strong relationship with NZ Post and our systems are so slick. Prior to launching we had set up such a strong solid relationship with the understanding of what we both needed that it just fell into place," he says. "It was seamless and I mean that in a very literal sense."

Working with NZ Post hasn't just been good for business, says Robbins, it was essential.

"We simply can't be here without them and that NZ Post has the ability to do what it does so efficiently and on time means we can just keep on concentrating on our business growth," he says.

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