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.

New Website for ‘The Dabbers’

Based in Nantwich Cheshire with a large and loyal fan base, Nantwich Town Football Club required a new website that would enable fans to quickly access information on the club and the matches via their mobile devises, whilst allowing the Club’s media team to easily update information.

Wanting to support the growing level of traffic to the website, it was important that a new website would be simple to navigate whilst offering impact via engaging visuals. Above all else, Nantwich Town FC wanted to provide a better user experience for their fans.

Objective 

Tim Crighton, Director at Nantwich Town FC elaborates on the brief that was given to The Web Orchard:

“The old website was looking dated and wasn’t designed with mobile or tablet in mind. The digital world has moved on quickly in the last 5 years and now 75% of our website visitors view the site from a mobile device, mainly as a result of clicking on links from our numerous social media channels. We needed a modern website that looked good and gave a great user experience, on all devices, from mobile through to desktop.

We have over 10,000 social media followers on one platform or more, which helps generate more than 5,000 unique website visitors per month. Together with “Dabbers TV” which highlights points of every game, the amount of traffic on the website is growing month on month, so it was vital that a new website would be able to effectively support this.”

Method

Understanding the objectives of the project, the team at The Web Orchard produced an engaging website that ticked all the boxes.

Introducing a bold, bright new look that made the website instantly recognisable to the thousands of fans accessing the information, bold headings and imagery was included to encourage intuitive navigation around the site. A live Twitter feed was also added to the homepage to enable browsers to access real-time information without having to leave the website, whilst simultaneously boosting website rankings on Google.

Ensuring that all aspects of the Club had an equal presence to the 1st team football information, The Web Orchard built clear layout into the website’s design to encourage browsers to visit more and different points of interest, spending more time on the site. Including large menu options and navigation buttons helped to both suggest a journey through the website, whilst also providing ease of use to viewers accessing the site from a touch screen mobile devise.

The Web Orchard were ball sponsors at the match against Scarborough Athletic on the 14th September 2019 at The Weaver Stadium.

Result

Delighted with the end result, Tim concludes:

“Further the website’s launch we have been able to hear the positive reaction of fans on social media and in person within the stadium on match day. The feedback is brilliant so far, the supporters are very pleased and with google analytics showing a huge ride in traffic to the website and time spent on the website, we are absolutely thrilled.

The new website looks great, the user experience is superb and works well on desktop, tablet and mobile. We are very grateful to The Web Orchard who have certainly delivered a website that goes above and beyond the brief.”

View the website.