11 Dec 2015

E-commerce Case Study: Website A

In this case study we give an example of a site that has gone from just £4.5k takings in its first year and doubled its takings each year to now reach £264,017 in its 4th year of trading.

There are many e-commerce platforms that advertise the ability to have a functional ecommerce site up and running in essentially no time for very little money. There is a sense in which these claims are true. But in most cases, the site launched is unlikely to lead you to e-commerce success.

Having a successful e-commerce website takes time, money, or both.

Invest in your website if you want your e-commerce shop to succeed and apply the same rules as you would to opening a new physical store. You need a marketing strategy and budget, and to spend time, money and effort.

Adding e-commerce to an existing retail business probably won’t boost sales significantly overnight, but once it does start growing it will add to your business and help improve your offering to your existing or new customer base. Be patient and put in the time & effort and you should see results.

One of our Easitill customers in the pet and aquatic sector is a key example of good e-commerce growth. They initially opened the website with minimal effort, simply utilising the features available to them using in their existing Easitill EPoS system. The product data was predominantly already there in their existing system and so they got a website up and running with this. They saw little initial return (£4.5k takings in the first 6 months), but recognised that if they wanted results they needed to invest in the site further. They had ambition to achieve much greater sales results and understood that to achieve this the website needed investment from them in further time, money and effort including a marketing strategy and USP's to set them apart from their competition.

In order to protect their business we are going to quote examples from them anonymously and refer to them as Website A.

Weekly Sales - YoY
(Note the nose dive in week 6 is only due to a Google Adwords Campaign error and having to stop google advertising. The steep climb and inflated takings in week 8 is due to a competitive offer on a specific product thanks to a special deal with the supplier.)

Monthly Sales Chart - YoY

As you can see from the sales graphs with the ambition to achieve greater takings year on year and investment in resources and marketing & help from Easitill they have achieved what they set out to and increased their takings significantly.

We interviewed them to ask them what they believe has helped achieve this success and whether they would mind us sharing this with others starting out and they agreed. Here are the results.

·       Website A currently spend approximately £500 per month or approximately £16-18.00 per day on Google Adwords advertising in conjunction with Google Shopping. This started around £150-300 per month and has grown to the current expenditure gradually. They are currently looking at increasing this again to £35 per day.

Here is an example of Google Shopping Ads — using the search term “levis 541 jeans.”

·       The majority of the sales for Website A come from google shopping results driving traffic to them.
·       The second highest source of sales now comes from people visiting the website directly. This is due to the initial marketing efforts, consistent prices and offering now attracting repeat business.
·       Third most successful source of sales is organic traffic followed by email marketing.

·       They also have built up their brand advertising through some yellow pages style ads and directory listings.

·       They have some social media interaction with a following of approximately 1,500 people but this has proved marginal at driving sales directly. However it has proven a great way of keeping existing customers involved with the business and events and the brand as a whole. They keep their page updated at least weekly and not just with products, they engage customers in other ways too.
·       They have also done some local radio advertising by way of collaboration with their local radio station on a pet competition.

·       They paid Easitill to rework and redesign the site after the initial release to try to improve and simplify the site, as well as make their brand image consistent. They made it cleaner and easier to navigate and tried to make their group, department category structure easier for customers to use.

·       They believe their increase in sales is predominantly down to the following factors:
o   Google Adwords in conjunction with Google Shopping to drive sales
o   Their customer service i.e. a dedicated online order advice and phone line - open 7 days, care sheets, next working day delivery as standard, low delivery charges on all items that aren't free delivery, text alerts from the courier for shipping progress, FAQ section on website
o   free delivery offered over a range of items
o   the clean and easy navigation of the site
o   being an friendly family established business image

·       Advice they would give to others starting out retailing online is "Start small and build slowly. Keep adding gradually to your marketing, website and offering."

Website A also employs as many ecommerce best practices as possible and take key retailing lessons from running their bricks and mortar retail operation, such as the following:

  • · Upselling/cross-selling products by setting up associated products in Easitill
  • · Multiple pictures – products from different views etc.
  • · Compelling and high quality product imagery
  • · Clear contact details and dedicated phone line
  • · Next day delivery as standard
  • · Low rates and free delivery on items
  • · News and events content pages
  • · About us pages showing the company background and history – showing the company is “real” and established.
  • · Other content useful to customers such as pet care sheets
  • · Clear and detailed product information
  • · Brands assigned and featured within product information
  • · Clear and easy navigation – which they review when necessary
  • · Clear delivery and returns policies
  • · Clear payment logos and badges to reassure about online payments & methods
  • · Customer feedback
  • · Social media sharing widgets
  • · They have written descriptions and their website first and foremost to be for their customers rather than focusing just on Search engine optimisation.
  • · Product Information includes at least 30-50 words about each product including helpful data like product specification where relevant.
  • · Keep website regularly updated and “fresh” with new content. They review the website regularly and make changes when and where necessary.
  • · Email marketing
  • · Clear and friendly “no questions asked 14 day money back guarantee” Returns policy.
  • · Option to pay using PayPal to speed up checkout – no card details necessary just log in to PayPal
  • · Secure certificate badge to reassure people the site is secure and safe to use
  • · Key Selling Points in a Prominent Place – directly on landing page and in header and footer.
  • Good Customer Service
During the period of growth for Website A, Easitill have also done what they can within the license fee to assist and improve the product and keep up to date with the e-commerce industry standards. The website software has been added to and improved with regular updates. Conversion barriers have been removed in the checkout process where possible and streamlined in order to try and make checking out easier and we continue to explore this and other areas all the time. Any elements we learn on SEO and structure we try and add and improve wherever possible in new releases. We are trying to streamline customers e-commerce processes too. Upselling and cross-selling has continued to evolve with a new release now automatically associating offers as well as the option to upsell/cross-sell associated products by manual selection. Our content editor (CMS) has been reworked most recently to be easier for people to use with drag and drop capabilities.

In summary, for ecommerce success, continued investment must be made. An ecommerce store opening should be treated as if you were opening a physical store with the same rules of retail applying such as marketing & merchandising, investment, customer service, pricing, products, quality and more applying. The website must be tended to regularly.