Featured Shop: Evo Roofing
Monday, 5 August 2013 | Cate
Evo Roofing Ltd is an online roofing merchant providing roofing products to anyone within the UK Mainland. We are fortunate to be one of just a few pioneering websites within our sector working to help bridge the gap between the roofing industry and the general public.
What were your reasons for starting an online shop?
Our parent company has been in the Roofing industry for about seven years now and has made a reputation within East Anglia for their exceptional customer service. My job, as the Online Sales Manager, was to expand the business out of East Anglia and into a nationwide distributor of roofing products. After two years of development the website has finally had its official launch and has a product range of 30,000+ products at any given time. We have also become the largest online seller of roofing materials within the UK.
What were your reasons for choosing Bluepark?
I’ve used Bluepark Solutions for a number of websites in the past but it started with my next door neighbour, when I was still living with my parents. He ran an online party supplies website and used to talk very highly of the system and its many features. Subsequently, when my mum decided she wanted to start a business selling garden supplies online Bluepark was her first choice and, being the nerdy child I was, I got stuck straight into helping her set up.
That was my first experience of using the system and, as far as I am aware, Bluepark had only been around for a short while at that point. I could see straight away that it was a good ecommerce system that offered a lot more than any of the previous systems I had used. I had used around seven different systems at that stage, some free and some paid for.
After helping her for a couple of years, I did a couple of weeks voluntary work on my neighbours website which gave me a different perspective of the system and showed me that it could be manipulated to a much greater degree than I had originally thought. In my books this is exactly what you need from an ecommerce package - flexibility.
After completing the work with my neighbour I was then asked to come and work for Evo Roofing Ltd to set up an online platform for them to expand their business through. I toyed with the idea of using some of the free ecommerce systems I’d used in the past to begin with but after some extensive research into everything that was on offer at the time, and even now, Bluepark was certainly the right choice.
I have never had any regrets with using Bluepark and this is coming from someone that has had to deal with varying business sizes. We started with around 200 products and, over the course of two years, we are now selling over 30,000+ at any given time. Bluepark has very comfortably dealt with our rapid growth and, with Rich and the team pumping out new features on a regular basis, there has been no shortage of new ideas to help us maintain our competitive edge.
Did you design your site yourself or did you use an external designer?
The entire website has been designed by me and Alex over the course of about a year and a half. I think that one of the most important things within any business is keeping things in-house. As soon as you start outsourcing you lose the company vision and experience. When I made the initial design it, of course, looked very amateur but it was an important learning curve for me and, because we were selling at the same time as designing/building the website's custom infrastructure, we were able to listen and understand what our customers wanted. Over time, as our design skills improved, we were able to build a website that not only looked the way we had always imagined but it was also highly effective at informing and selling to our customer base.
I feel strongly that if we had outsourced this work we would be left with something that looked great but wasn’t what our customers wanted and that fine balance is what you need to be successful across any industry online.
This being said, if you are short on time, external designers may well be useful to get you kick started but it is still important to understand your website so you can meet your customers' ever changing requirements.
How did you find the process of setting up your site on Bluepark?
Quite simply, it was very exciting.
Bluepark is great for every level of business in every type of industry and it’s not just for computer geeks, even people with little to no experience of selling online are able to get products listed within a couple of minutes.
As previously mentioned, our core website was developed over a period of nearly two years, and I see no end to the development and growth for the future.
As my colleagues and I have plenty of experience with ecommerce and general website design we found the system to be extremely helpful. Now all we need to do is look at our website and think ‘This would look cool if we could put that there’, and 9 times out of 10 it can be implemented within a couple of minutes. These ideas can range from a simple additional image right through to a custom homepage design with dynamic features.
Our website was, and will likely continue to be, very experimental during its development stages and we have tried and tested every single feature that Bluepark has to offer. Rich is a great developer and we are proud to say that a couple of the current Bluepark features were implemented to the core packages as a result of them being used and tested within our website. It started small with things like Google+ links and the social buttons on product pages and progressively got more complex with things like forms on product pages which were added earlier this year. If ever we have any questions, no matter how ridiculous, there is always someone to call and the answer is usually sat there waiting. The fact that new ideas are so openly welcomed is also a huge advantage, all too often you find ecommerce systems that aren’t built on what their users need for their clients, but Rich and the team at Bluepark acknowledge everything that is suggested and help develop their system based on our needs, not their wants.
Have you seen your online business grow since moving?
The official launch of our website only happened June 1st 2013 as previous to this we had spent a great deal of time making sure the core foundations of the website were correctly set up and were also ready for any amount of expansion we may face over the coming years. Our version of the Bluepark system that we are currently running works effortlessly with our product ranges and has helped our customers no end. As a result of this we have seen business increase in the past two months like it never has before!
During our development stages we were constantly changing the look and feel of the website, as well as a lot of the back end processes. This allowed us to manipulate the system to meet our every requirement and also help increase the number of customers and ultimately increase our conversion rates but, of course, this had its down sides when it came to Google. As a tip for people that plan to work on their website at the same time as selling, just bear in mind that the Google indexing process takes 180 days to complete a full cycle and any major changes made to a single page restarts this indexing process, so just be careful!
Do you have any advice for anyone starting an online business?
The main advice I can offer to anyone starting an online business is that this will take time. I, like many other people, thought that success would be quick and easy, especially given the lack of competition when we first started but you will be surprised by how long it actually takes before you get a firm footing and start to make real progress. I don’t say this to put people off as going online is something all companies will have to do eventually, but I would advise people that it isn’t something that is going to happen overnight.
The most useful advice we can offer people that have just started is to make sure you use as much analytical information as possible. Google Analytics is a great program and is currently free to use. The more information you can acquire about your customers behaviour through your website the better you can understand their needs, this will ultimately allow you to build your website around them. I would highly recommend setting up conversion tracking as soon as you are able, which Bluepark makes incredibly easy to do, as this allows you to track orders from start to finish, shows you which are the most effective sources of traffic and also allows you to see which areas of your website may still need improving.
I think the key to any business, online or not, is to listen to your customers and offer them exactly what they want. If you are able to look after your customers, then in the long run they will look after your business.
We would love to feature your online shop next month. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.