On launching its new website, First Tunnels enjoyed a 20 per cent increase in sales compared to the previous year. Better still, the second year since the launch is on course for a further 20 per cent increase.
Read on to find out how we helped one of our first ever customers to improve traffic, order value and total sales.
First Tunnels was one of eBusiness UK’s first customers, originally calling on us to build their first website back in 1998.
Today, the company is a leading manufacturer of polytunnels, similar to greenhouses but covered in specially designed polythene rather than glass. It counts the NHS, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Alan Titchmarsh among its customers.
The business looked very different two decades ago, however. Managing director Sean Barker had just joined the company and was enthusiastic about the potential of the internet and ecommerce.
He says: “Back then, not many people understood the internet or how it could be used, but I thought we could do something with it.”
The first website commissioned was for a now defunct branch of the business which sold a full range of garden products, from slug pellets to wheelbarrows. eBusinesss UK built an online shop – still a novel idea at the turn of the century – which soon proved very popular.
“That was us dipping our toe into ecommerce,” says Sean. “The products were straightforward and we soon saw that customers were happy to buy from us online.”
Once proven that the model worked, an additional website was built for the tunnels side of the business, a much more complex proposition but more central to the company’s future plans. Again, the business found an eager market and the ecommerce element flourished. First Tunnels was then able to shutter its garden products line to focus on its core product.
First Tunnels looked very different in the year 2000, and so too did the internet.
Although the First Tunnels site was ahead of its time, over the years other ecommerce businesses caught up and in recent years the site began to lack key functionality.
While there were design refreshes and new elements added over the years, these were only additions to the original code.
The website was functional but it wasn’t optimised for mobile browsers, for example, which was effectively turning away anyone using a handheld device, and significantly hindering conversion rates. Neat pieces of code that help boost sales such as Trustpilot reviews, where First Tunnels currently has a 9.7 score, weren’t available.
The previous method, adding to the core coding, was becoming too cumbersome and restrictive to work with. In January 2017, an all-new site was built, designed to meet First Tunnel’s current and future needs.
We built an all-new ecommerce website for First Tunnels from the ground-up, using modern programming languages.
The website is fully optimised, meaning users find the site equally usable whether they’re accessing via a desktop or a handheld device. Not only does this make the site easier to navigate, but the flexibility helps improve Google search rankings, too.
We also designed and built a tool which enables customers to better understand the products they are buying. There are many variables involved in creating the perfect polytunnel, from size and structure to the type of door. eBusiness UK built a configurator which allows a customer to select preferences while a 3D graphic updates to show the user how their combination will look. The price automatically updates, so there are no surprises at checkout.
We also employed a number of user-friendly animations to explain the benefits of polytunnels and how each of the various available features alter the performance and suitability of the products.
All in all, the new website is much more user friendly. It gives users the opportunity to build and cost their perfect polytunnel on the go, removing all elements of guess-work and doubt on their behalf.
The Trustpilot reviews give potential customers confidence in their purchases, and mobile optimisation enables the growing number of site visitors who prefer handheld devices to browse the site with ease.
First Tunnels also employs eBusiness UK on an annual maintenance contract, meaning we’re always available, just a phonecall away, should they have any questions about their site or have any issues which need resolving within a short timeframe.
The launch of the new website had an immediate impact on the fortunes of the business.
The new site registered improved conversion rates and lower bounce rates – meaning customers browse for longer on the site and a larger proportion makes purchases. This soon began to translate into increased average order value and an increased volume of sales.
By the end of the site’s first trading year, company-wide turnover had increased by 20 per cent.
“Sales immediately increased as a direct result of the new website built by eBusiness UK,” said Sean.
Incredibly, the increase in sales was more than a one-time leap. In the second year of the website’s operation, First Tunnels is registering a further 20 per cent increase in turnover over and above the gains made in the previous year.
“We expected the website to generate a modest increase in turnover for its second year, so a second year of 20 per cent growth was beyond our projections,” said Sean. “The new website by eBusiness UK has been key to our continued growth.”