Change is an evitable part of life. It is human nature to keep the status quo so change is something most of us tend to avoid or resist.
When change happens in the working environment due to external factors beyond our control, it can be an unsettling time. However, with the right strategy and well planned execution, managing the outcome of unexpected change can become an opportunity. We recently worked with established furniture retailer Allied Home Furnishing (AHF – www.ahf.co.uk) and launched their new look web site (mid July 2016), which until recently was part of the larger Co-Operative Group. AHF was faced with building the business without the support of a larger parent group.
Mature Customer Base
Established since 1979, AHF has 18 stores within the UK. The new AHF corporate structure, still operating on a co-operative basis, inherited the website and infrastructure from its previous incarnation. Part of this was a mature customer base with a preference for shopping in store. Initially the new company’s priorities were the bricks and mortar stores. To grow the business AHF knew it had to update its ecommerce and digital marketing offer to keep abreast of market changes and appeal to a younger audience. Jonathan Gregory, the AHF ecommerce manager explained “we had to carefully balance the needs of our existing loyal customer base whilst preparing the business to cater to a new customer segment with different priorities and shopping behaviour”
Without the larger budget a parent group offers, the new AHF required a start-up attitude and careful planning of its ecommerce and digital marketing investment. Historically, offline has been the driver behind the majority of sales. Jonathan Gregory recognised online was previously only used as a marketing tool and it’s potential to grab a share of direct sales and capture a new audience was underutilised. The business is very ROI driven, as a result, A/B testing of digital marketing assets and campaigns must be an integral part of the ecommerce development
Targeting a New Audience
We at Magentity knew content was going to play an important part in attracting a new audience. Whilst we recognised the majority of furniture purchases will still be made in store as customers want to see, feel and experience furniture before buying, we knew engaging content and easy to use website would play a key part in encouraging a younger audience to not only buy online but also visit a store for more considered purchases such as sofas and beds.
Omni Channel Experience
As part of the demerger with the Co-Operative group AHF had stated to update it’s in-store EPOS system, a process which took two years to complete. They wanted an integrated off and online stock management system as part of the new ecommerce drive. Other popular in-store offers such as finance options also had to be integrated online. Both AHF and Magentity knew creating a seamless on and offline experience for customers was essential.
Vast Inventory Management
AHF stocks in excess of 40, 000 different products. The challenge for us, was not only setting up, managing the volume of products and delivering online speed performance but also guaranteeing the online stock management was linked to off line stores.
The site needed a fresher look and feel to appeal to the younger customer segment. This was achieved by creating a bespoke design versus using a template or doing a template modification.
To create a more engaging site, we added more content to the home page that is focussed more on inspiration for the home and also included blogs and social sharing. As a result, the engagement on site (including dwell time, reduction in bounce rate, and page views) has improved by 15-20% since the site has gone live. The aesthetic changes to the site have been deliberately gradual as not to alienate the existing customer base.
AHF had to carefully manage resources, the most cost effective way forward offering a greater ROI would be to upgrade the existing Magento site. The old site had numerous extensions and plugins that were not compatible with the new site. We checked each extension and upgraded or re-wrote code to ensure they would work with new site. Part of this process was to also make sure email marketing integrations with MailChimp were correctly configured. We used our go to Magemonkey Magento Plugin, by Ebizmarts (which is FREE – crazy i know), to ensure this was configured how we wanted. In addition, we also used the Aheadworks Market Segmentation Suite plugin, to give the AHF digital team greater ability to query their customers and create a more personalised communication strategy with them.
To minimise disruption to existing customers, the site upgrade was completed by creating a duplicate site on a staging server until it was ready to launch. To improve site performance, maintenance and security, Magentity recommended AHF migrate the site to a dedicated server with Magento hosting specialists, Sonassi.
Countdown to Launch
When the new site was ready to be migrated from the staging server to Sonassi, Magentity in collaboration with AHF had to transfer their very large existing database. The upgraded Magento site was migrated to Sonassi. A holding page went up so Magentity could start on a combination of automatic and manual configurations and upgrades. Once that was completed the new upgraded site went live. The site migration, database transfer and final configuration process took 2 working day to complete.
although still very early to tell one of the most visible results over the last 203 weeks since the site has been live is the clear improvements in site engagement, with the site bounce rate falling by nearly 20% (up nearly 30% on mobile) and dwell time increasing by over 15%. More importantly, sales are up 24% as well in the period with Organic traffic sales up 51%. So the signs are good for the new look AHF site.
Phase Two Plans
AHF and Magentity are already planning phase two development which will include an omnichannel focussed customer loyalty schemes,using Sweet Tooth Rewards, for use on and offline as well as more analytical updates and plugins for customer insights.
If you would like to find out how Magentity can grow your ecommerce business, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.