After 15 years working for a supermarket chain in the Sauerland, a scenic area of rural Germany with hilly farms and grey shingle homes, where local farmers struggle to reach the masses and compete with bigger farms, one thing was abundantly clear to Christian Schulte: Local produce is the best produce and more people ought to know about it.
Wanting to get the message out, in July 2015 he founded Hofladen-Sauerland.de, an online shop which allows small farmers to sell directly to consumers.
Today, Hofladen-Sauerland.de has 50 suppliers and hundreds of customers spread across the region, as well as a warehouse and two brick-and-mortar stores. Managing the logistics — to sell everything from beers and brandies to jams and sausages — is complicated, so Christian downloaded the WhatsApp Business app in May 2018 and uses it to communicate with his suppliers as well as consumers.
“Without WhatsApp, communication would cost much more,” explains Christian. “SMS costs money, and WhatsApp is much faster and easier than SMS.”
Hofladen-Sauerland.de receives more than 20 customer messages a day and Christian estimates that since using the app, his business has added 30 new customers. Overall, he says 30 percent of all its customers now communicate with his team via the private messaging service.
“I like to order over WhatsApp because I only need my smartphone and it does not matter where I am,” says a customer. “I always get an answer directly.”
The shelves at Hofladen-Sauerland.de’s shops proudly display a bounty of local products and thanks to the WhatsApp Business app, it is easier than ever before for people to enjoy them at home.
“On WhatsApp Business,” says Christian, “we are always available.”