“Selling online is hard work. There’s a lot to learn and not everything works the way you expect. There’s no single magic bullet. You always need to keep experimenting to work out the best approaches that produce sales. Then keep the ones that make profit and move past those that don’t”

Sarah Haran

During one of the most disruptive periods for business SarahHaran.com has managed to demonstrate how a small Scottish brand-owner has not only managed to keep her business trading but has actually managed to increase the sales of her luxury handbags using ecommerce to sell directly to her customers.

In October 2019 Sarah was looking for ways to accelerate sales growth. A new grant was being made available by Scottish Enterprise to help businesses cope with the disruption caused by Brexit. At the same time, Sarah found out about the newly formed Institute of Ecommerce and put the two things together in the hope that help, training and guidance would assist with offsetting the double market downturn from both Brexit as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the following few months a series of consultations were made including:

  1. Reviewing the sarahharan.com Shopify website to provide recommendations designed to sharpen the key marketing messages communicated by both the text and the imagery.
  2. Reviewing goals within Google Analytics to better focus on sales-led activities.
  3. Introducing and assisting with user testing through UserTesting.com to test two user profiles
  4. Reconfiguring Google Merchant Centre and programming the necessary Google shopping feeds.
  5. Experimenting with Pay-Per-Click adword advertising
  6. Experimenting with Remarketing adverts
  7. Providing training around both paid marketing and Amazon marketplace adoption.
  8. Providing advanced Google Analytics training to help SarahHaran.com better understand how different marketing channels contribute to sales performance.

In addition to these activities, Sarah undertook her own feedback process to gain better insight into what her own customers thought of her website and how it might be improved. Also, Sarah set-up a customer loyalty club which has again helped broaden the product appeal.

How did all these different activities combine to impact sales. “We’ve grown our sales through an exceptionally tough period with the support of our customer base through our #bagsofjoy online club says Sarah, an achievement I would never have expected.  One of the great things about ecommerce is that you have the tools to help figure out what has helped and what hasn’t. These tools remove the guesswork from business decision making and help empower business owners to better understand where growth comes from. On the basis of the Google Analytics, the activity that, for the least effort, had the biggest overall impact was the user testing and feedback work. “Business owners are often too close to their own products to see what is obvious to your customers,” said Sarah. The result of these activities has meant that the website conversion ratio (the number of website visitors compared to the number of sales made) has improved.

Various experiments were run with Google adwords but the low brand search volume meant that it was difficult to gain traction. A second experiment was set-up to leverage those customers who initially visited using social media but then had not converted to sales. This approach used remarketing adverts so that those who had once visited kept getting reminded of the brand and the products when visiting third party sites. A key lesson from the remarketing experiment was the high complexity of customer behaviour in the sales funnel. With an unfamiliar brand, customers need reassurance before purchasing. People visit and then come back several times before eventually buying.

The consultancy work was organised by the Institute of Ecommerce and carried out by Laura Blair, John McSloy and Peter Mowforth all from the Ecommerce Services company INDEZ.

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