2020 – a year to remember!

When we started 2020, we had no idea what the year had in store for us, we started with flooding and spent the rest of the year under Covid restrictions. It forced us all into embracing new technologies and adapting the way we work and provide services.

As a technology provider we’ve been key in helping our customers adapt, services like Microsoft Teams, Office 365, WordPress and SharePoint have become essential in our day to day lives. We’ve helped with digital transformation, whether that is utilising new cloud services, Apps, E-commerce Websites, Intranets, or providing cutting-edge services.

Here’s a look back at what we did in 2020.

Nettex Poultry

What we did in 2020 

Spent many hours on Teams

We moved all our project meetings, pitches and training sessions to either Teams or Zoom – it took a while to get use to it but now it feels almost normal.

Launched Some Great Websites

We worked on some great projects for some great customers including… Nettex PoultryHospital DirectMystique LingerieWrekin SpiritWaste SpectrumAir SpectrumThe Broking GroupGKN Structures and NowCars.

Became Cyber Essentials Certified

In September we became Cyber Essentials Certified meaning that any customer can be rest assured that their defences are secure against the most common forms of cyber-attack and we are proactively using best practice methods to counter any such attack. Read more

Developed some great Apps

We worked on a number of iOS and Android app projects and have a number in the pipeline for 2021. Read more

Welcomed Dan

We welcomed Dan to as our new developer back in September. He’s been a great addition to an already strong team.

IPSA

We hope that over the festive period you all get chance to spend time with your loved ones, to relax, to switch off and to re-energise in anticipation of a new year full of opportunity and freedom.

See you in 2021.

Mystique Lingerie and Swimwear Unveil Brand New, Contemporary e-Commerce Website

33 years in Shrewsbury town centre and have now launched a state-of-the-art e-commerce website to help attract a new target audience

Mystique is Shrewsbury’s premier Lingerie, Swimwear and Nightware specialists situated in a lovely cobbled street, on the corner of Butcher Row in the beautiful historic market town of Shrewsbury.

The business has been trading 33 years and Debbie and Paul Carvell purchased Mystique in April 2019.

Debbie decided she wanted the business to move with the times and attract new customers and a younger demographic, so commissioned the building of a new e-commerce website.

Debbie comments:

“I brought the shop from the previous owners in April 2019. I was previously a primary school teacher so a bit of a career change! When the opportunity arose to buy Mystique, I was excited, having been a regular customer for many years, always dreaming of becoming my own boss and owning my lingerie business was a dream come true. Fashion and design have always been a big focus in my life.

I had a modest marketing budget for the first year and made the decision that Mystique needed to modernise and build an e-commerce website. Our lingerie and underwear are high end luxury products which are usually purchased in person – browsing, touching, feeling – but I knew Mystique needed a modern e-commerce site to broaden our customer base. Of course, a website in theory should mean anyone in the UK or Worldwide could purchase from us, especially if our luxury items start ranking organically in search engines.

Even if the website became an online brochure to browse the products, before a customer came to visit the shop and buy, I decided it was worth the investment.

The walk-in retail market has been a challenge since I took over Mystique. Huge local floods, Brexit and then Coronavirus! Despite this, I pressed on with my initial decision.

Debbie continues, “I chose The Web Orchard after being recommended them by someone who I trust a lot. I met with Pete and Simon and was impressed with what they had to say and being a local company was a real bonus too. I like to keep business local and I could do that with The Web Orchard.

We worked together during lockdown as I knew the retail walk in landscape would change for many months, so I was keen to have the e-commerce platform in place as quickly as possible.

I’m very impressed with the end result – they have delivered a very high quality and visual site, which shows off our luxury lingerie and underwear very well, to a standard where people may have the confidence to buy online.

Pete White, Director of The Web Orchard, adds “We always enjoy working in the fashion industry, especially with high end brands such as those sold by Mystique. The website and products look great and should help support the walk in retail sales and attract additional new customers for Mystique in these challenging times”

To see the new website, visit www.mystique.co.uk

Pickstock Foods Unveil Brand New, Contemporary Website

Pickstock Foods are a family run business with 30 years’ experience in processing quality British lamb and mutton in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. Their 4 core values are reliability for customers, consistent quality products, prioritising animal welfare and minimising their environmental impact.

With a clear vision of what they wanted from a brand-new website and as a start-up business looking to make an impact, marketing manager Tamara Pickstock wanted an eye catching and fresh 2020 design with sharp images and clear, concise messaging.

“We opened in January 2020 and it was clear from the outset that if we wanted to expand our customer base, a brand new website was essential. As a family business, we love working with and supporting other local businesses. We searched for local, talented website designers in the Shropshire area and came across the Web Orchard.

The Web Orchard really stood out in the tendering process. Firstly, they were really likable people! That will always be important to us. They were very local and just the right size business to work with us, we were confident we would get the regular communication and rapport we were seeking in what would be an important and time-consuming three-month project. We loved their proposal – it was modern, clean and fully recognised our objectives. They had worked with other local agricultural companies so had a good understanding of our industry and what we wanted to portray to our customers.

Their pricing was fair – not the cheapest of the three, but not the most expensive. Whilst we had a budget in mind, we didn’t want to cut corners and compromise the quality, much like the actual products we supply.

Pickstock Foods and the Web Orchard agreed a 12-week timescale from kick off meeting to the website going live, it was important that this was achieved for the start-up business to promote the brand, as many web or IT projects can double or treble in length.

Tamara continues, “The website was ready after 11 weeks and I can’t stress enough just how approachable and helpful Pete and his team are at the Web Orchard. Whoever picked up the phone on the numerous calls knew exactly who I was and knew all about the project and who was working on what aspect. I’m really fussy but so pleased I kept it local and whilst they pretty much got everything right first time, nothing was too much trouble to amend.

I’m delighted and actually pretty proud with the end result. They provided some great training too, so I can post articles and update content.

We are still in close contact with the Web Orchard as we are using their SEO services – it is difficult to rank well organically, especially with a new website, but we are making steady progress with our chosen search terms.  A good business decision all round so far.”

Pete White, Director of the Web Orchard, adds “It was very apparent from the customer the importance of quality and sustainability within the business, we helped craft a modern looking WordPress website to accommodate this. We hugely enjoyed working with Pickstock Foods as their brief and vision was so clear, and we continue enjoy a close working relationship.”

Why now is the perfect time to refocus your E-Commerce Efforts

In March 2017 the UK Government published their Digital Strategy1, the document covers a broad array of digital considerations including connectivity, digital skills, digital start-ups and security. Section 4 talks about ways of helping every British business become a digital business, an area which takes additional importance due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This spurred a number of initiatives aimed at helping close the digital skills gap and encouraging digital adoption. One initiative is the Productivity Council, established to drive engagement with business and improve productivity through appropriate use of digital technologies, whether this be maintaining an online presence, adopting cloud technologies or selling online.

In 2018, E-commerce in the non-financial sector contributed £688 billion to the UK Economy, rising from £582 billion in 2017 (ONS2). Given the general upward trend and with the Covid-19 pandemic it’s not hard to imagine this topping £1 trillion this year.

Many businesses do e-commerce very well, in fact in 2018, 20.5% of turnover of businesses with 10 or more staff was done online (ONS2). This still leaves almost 80% of business done through traditional means so it begs the question what is holding business back? Why are businesses not as digitally focused as they could be?

There are potentially a number of reasons:

  1. They lack the skills or know how in either setting up an online shop or how to manage the marketing aspects.
  2. They’ve dipped their toes in to e-commerce in the past but didn’t have the success they were expecting or got burnt by an agency who didn’t fully understand their market or offering.
  3. The perception that their customers are not online or looking to buy their products online.
  4. A general low priority afforded to digital transformation.

Covid-19 has presented a unique opportunity, people are having to buy more online. In the online grocery market alone, there is expected growth of 35% to £16.8 billion in 2020 (Mintel3) with other sectors following similar trends.

So what are the reasons for businesses to reevaluate e-commerce?:

  1. Improved technology – the systems and devices we use have improved massively over the past 20 years but a few key areas have specifically helped e-commerce:
    1. Smart phones and responsive websites – with smartphones in almost everyone’s pockets, people have the means to easily buy online wherever they are. This coupled with the move to responsive web design means that sites are designed for a range of devices and screen sizes. This has helped improve usability and as a result conversion rates.
    1. Better e-commerce platforms – many of the large e-commerce providers such as  WooCommerce, Shopify & Magento have become mature platforms. They support all the common features people need to sell online and are expandable into many complex and niche scenarios. This coupled with improved back end systems for functionality such stock management and CRM has made the whole process much smoother.
    1. Improved security – a focus on security across all aspects from payment gateways, browsers, operating systems and e-commerce platforms. This has helped give confidence to consumers.
  2. Decline in physical shop usage – the high street has taken a beating throughout the Covid-19 crisis:
    1. Shops have been closed or have reduced capacity & opening hours.
    1. A change in the way people work, more people are working from home and not in tows and city centres.
    1. Older generations being forced to adapt through shielding.
  3. More accessible ways to reach customers – mature online advertising platforms such as Facebook, Google Ads and LinkedIn make it much easier for businesses to reach their target audience.

So what is next?

The shift in consumer behavior may have long term lasting impact. Habits that people pick up and the ease of shopping online is likely to represent a permanent change. E-Commerce was a growing area already and it looks like this trend will continue and accelerate.

The UK is well positioned with expertise in selling online across the country and the UK government has identified the Digital Economy as a key growth area to support. Consumers are more willing than ever to use e-commerce and improved platforms have made setting up a site easier than ever.

If successful, increased digital adoption could play a crucial role in closing the UK’s productivity gap with its peers.

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-digital-strategy
  2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/itandinternetindustry/bulletins/ecommerceandictactivity/2018
  3. https://www.mintel.com/press-centre/retail-press-centre/mintel-forecasts-online-grocery-sales-will-grow-an-estimated-33-during-2020

An edited version of this article featured on the Centre for the New Midlands.

Iraq Business News

Just over six years ago we took over the news site Iraq Business News and its associated publications in Iran in Libya. We’ve seen the rise and fall of Isis and the knock-on effects that has caused for people and business. 

In that time the Iraq website has received almost 10 million page views from 2.4 million users in 217 countries. The weekly newsletters for all three sites have been read a huge 1.7 million times.

The site survives thanks to its sponsors and with stats like the above we like to feel we have a strong value proposition – for more see…  www.iraq-businessnews.com

That time we had a website on Dragons Den

I was cleaning out my pictures folder earlier and came across the below screenshot. Five years ago a customer approached us wanting a new website ready for their appearance on the BBC show Dragons Den – the only problem – the show aired on prime time BBC2 in 2 weeks time.

Not to want to miss such a great opportunity we pulled out all the stops to get the site designed, built and populated with only a few hours to spare. The next problem – what to do if the 3 million people watching the show wanted to visit the site?

Fortunately, in our planning we had separated the front-end homepage & product pages from the shopping cart functionality based on the assumption most people would simply want to check out the company rather than purchase its products.

We configured Drupal to generated static pages then used Cloudflare to cache our assets for a long period. The result was that the 250,000 visits the site got over a 90 min period were almost all served up with content from the Cloudflare network and the company received more orders in that period then they normally would in a month.

The achievement for me wasn’t that we got the site designed and built in such as short period, its that we kept it up, loading fast and fully exploited all the PR the show had given the company.

TWO Supporting The Movement Centre

As part of our commitment to help local organisations we offered to help out with the website hosting of Oswestry Based specialist treatment provider The Movement Centre.

Dedicated to supporting children and their families living with movement disabilities, the small team based within the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital in Gobowen, provide specialist therapy to children across the County and beyond.

Of the support provided by The Web Orchard, The Movement Centre’s Chief Executive Victoria Handbury-Madin comments:

“The Movement Centre are extremely grateful to The Web Orchard for their support. As a charity we need to raise funds to cover our costs and to enable us to continue to support children with movement disabilities, so that they can reach their full potential. By providing free web hosting and support for our website, The Web Orchard have helped us to reduce our overheads, meaning even more of the funds we raise can go directly to supporting our vital work, delivering our specialist therapy and supporting our families. In 2019 The Movement Centre lost all NHS funding due to cuts, so support like The Web Orchard means more to us than ever!”

Autarki Website

One of my favourite projects this year has been working with start up fashion brand Autarki. We developed their e-commerce platform showcasing their product range and integrating social media.

Their co-founder, Ben, popped in the office today and surprised Will and myself with Hoodies! https://www.autarki.co.uk/

The Web Orchard working in partnership with Housing Plus Group

Continuing their focus on accessible information for their stake-holders customers and colleagues, one of Shropshire and Staffordshire’s largest housing providers, Housing Plus Group, turned to The Web Orchard for assistance once more for the production of their 2019 Annual Report.

Building on the success of the 2018 report which saw us creating an interactive car journey to illustrate the organisation’s updates, the 2019 project has seen the project management team swell to include the skills of video production company 7video. This multi-agency approach has resulted in the production of the most interactive report that Housing Plus Group has ever had.

Objective

Working with Housing Plus Group we created a concept based around a self-navigating board game. Taking players around the board to illustrate the 12-month progress of the organisation, the game also introduces a new multimedia element. Incorporating video case studies and staff profiles, the 2019 Annual Report aims to make the information included within it accessible to all.

Result

Now available to view on the Housing Plus Group website, the 2019 Annual Report for the organisation is already receiving increased attention. Delighted with the result, Ben Payne at Housing Plus Group says:

“We are always keen to find better ways to do things to enable more people to benefit. The creative production and presentation of the 2019 Annual Report is a great example of this. Making the information we want to communicate more engaging, we look forward to see the increased reach that we can achieve as a result of this project.”

The Housing Plus Group 2019 Annual Report can be viewed at www.housingplusgroup.co.uk/annual-report-2019.