Commercial Lamp Supplies, an Exeter-based supplier of light bulbs, lighting and fittings, was enjoying modest success, but owner-manager David Madams wanted to raise sales without embarking on an expensive marketing push. Since launching its online shop, the business has started exporting and boosted turnover by 20 per cent.
What I did
Define how the business will develop
"Before setting up our online shop we used to sell our products direct to other businesses through catalogues and sales representatives. In order to get the most out of our new sales channel, we drew up a brief covering what we wanted to achieve.
"We decided that raising turnover and opening up new sales channels were the key objectives. But we also wanted the website to help us convert more enquiries into sales. We got so many enquiries by phone and email, which took up a lot of our time to process. We found that we were losing out as we did not have an automated process to capture these potential customers.
"Having identified these areas, the online shop has really helped us to refocus our business plan. Turnover is up by several hundred thousand pounds a year and we've opened up new sales channels - we got a £70,000 order from South Korea just a week after the site's launch."
Integrate business processes
"Launching the website forced us to review and change how the business operates. Overall, this has benefited the business enormously. By automating our processes, we can track buying habits and use this data to improve our offerings. We've also overhauled our buying patterns, increased our warehousing capability and improved our delivery activities - saving us money. Customer orders now come straight into our database from the website, reducing our processing costs. More importantly, the website has improved our cashflow. Since we've started accepting payments online, we've been receiving them far sooner than before."
Use the website to raise the business' profile
"No matter how good your online shop is, if you don't update it people don't come back. So we've worked hard to ensure the website has a fresh look. By doing this and by using our company name as the website address we've been able to reach a much wider audience, giving us the ability to increase sales.
"We now sell across the UK and into parts of Europe and Asia. And because our business is effectively open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we can compete with much larger businesses. In order to maintain this performance, we've registered the website on several search engines, which in turn is generating lots of enquiries."
What I'd do differently
Get full product listing on the website from day one
"When we launched the website, we didn't put our full product range on the website - we didn't appreciate how big demand would be. This meant we couldn't fulfil all the order requests we were getting on some lines, while the others on the website weren't selling in comparable quantities."