Online retailer web design case study

Learn about how this small retailer went online and carved out her own successful niche market.

Elizabeth runs a small business making hand-made childrens toys and selling them to local businesses and at the markets.  To take her products from a hobby to a profitable business, she decided to get a website and sell them online.  Her brand was virtually unknown so she wanted to use her website to create a niche market and build up her database.  She also wanted to use the website to expand her wholesale network of other businesses selling her products.

Stage 1 - Website presence

Elizabeth's website was designed to reflect the creative, fun nature of her products with lots of bright colours and images.  The design was backed up by sophisticated shopping cart software that professionally displayed Elizabeth's products and was simple for customers to navigate.  It also had special functionlity to allow Elizabeth to manage her wholesalers - different wholesalers could access different prices and then easily order her products online. 

The following features were used on the website to drive traffic through the sales process and increase conversions:

  • Testimonials - to build trust with new customers, Elizabeth had testimonials from happy customers on her website.  The testimonials were given more credibility with a picture of the person and the product they purchased.  Elizabeth also used the testimonials to overcome typical objections to online shopping by making sure they mentioned fast shipping, secure shopping etc.
  • Promo boxes - Elizabeth wanted to sell her products from page one of her website, so had multiple promo boxes built into the site design that she could edit them herself for new promotions or products.  She always had a 'toy of the week' and used the boxes to promote shipping specials, competitions and special offers.  This ensured visitors to her website were compelled to take action as soon as they arrived.
  • Data capture - not all customers buy on their first visit so Elizabeth knew it was essential to capture their details another way to add them to her database.  People won't give out their details without getting anything in return, so Elizabeth offered the opportunity to sign up to a VIP club and get 5% off all purchases.  This strategy helped her build a very large database.
  • Affiliate program - Elizabeth also ran an affiliates program to give commissions to any of her alliances that sent customers to her website.  She set up alliances with bloggers and other children's products businesses and each affiliate had their own code that was tracked through the website so she could easily monitor their referrals and commissions.

Stage 2 - Driving traffic to the website

Elizabeth's main marketing strategy was Google AdWords and search engine optimisation because she knew her market was a niche and she could build a strong presence on a limited budget.  She did extensive keyword research and brainstorming to determine the best keywords for her website and used these with AdWords and also throughout her site to increase her organic ranking.  As a result, she received about 70% of her traffic from search engines alone.

Because the online craft and children's products community is very large, Elizabeth came up with some unique strategies for driving traffic to her website through this group.  She sent her products out to influential bloggers and writers in that niche and asked them to review them - generating some great SEO backlinks for her site plus giving her brand credibility that money can't buy. 

She also set up alliances with many of these bloggers and websites and was able to negotiate great deals with many - in exchange for free or discounted advertising space on their website, they became affiliates and would get a commission on any sales that came from their website.

Stage 3 - Regular communication

Elizabeth made great use of the large database she was building through her website.  She implemented the following email marketing strategies:

  • One month follow up email - Elizabeth set up a automated email to go out to customers a month after their purchase, asking them if they are enjoying the product.  The email directed customers to a form on the website where they could submit a picture of themselves or their child with their product and a testimonial to be rewarded with free shipping on their next purchase.  With this system, Elizabeth collected several testimonials per week and also increased repeat purchases.
  • Monthly newsletter - to keep in touch with her clients, Elizabeth sends a monthly newsletter. It includes featured products and special deals, quirky news stories, recipes, plus personal touches such as stories about Elizabeth's children or pictures of new products she is working on.  This helps add to the community feel of Elizabeth's brand and directs customers back to the website to make repeat purchases.
  • Birthday ecards - Elizabeth also used database marketing to send animated birthday ecards to her contacts which built customer loyalty and kept her brand top of mind.

Tools used

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