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Case Study: eHome e-Commerce Website

Sun, 04/08/2013 - 10:54

Overview

Display of eHome's home pageeHome is an online store launched by the Herholdt Group and built on the Drupal Commerce framework.

Established in 1930 in the Eastern Cape the Herholdt Group sells household goods from four bricks and mortar outlets located in the province. The owners were keen to expand the business but were reluctant to move from their Eastern Cape base or invest the R14 million needed to build an outlet and stock it with a full inventory.

The online store operates on a drop box basis where orders received on the site are relayed directly to suppliers who dispatch to the end customer. By eliminating the costs of physical infrastructure and inventory, the online model has lower operating costs than traditional stores as staff expenses, warehousing and inventory costs are reduced. This allows cost savings that can be passed onto the customer.

Concept

As this was an early stage foray into ecommerce, the Herholdt brief to Rogerwilco was to build a functional, low cost ecommerce site that focused on providing the visitor with relevant information and delivered an easy-to-use shopping experience.

The intention being that once the site had proven itself, it would be rebuilt to incorporate more fun and interactive elements.

Execution

Design / look and feel

In line with the requirement for ease of use, the site’s design incorporates striking banners making full use of colour while pushing key messages around price and free shipping.

Content and user experience

Display of eHome's home page on mobile and tabletResponsive design ensures that visitors have a comfortable browsing experience regardless of the device they are using to access the site. The current month’s specials are highlighted on the home page, while top navigation and a persistent site-wide menu allow visitors quick access to other product categories. Items can be viewed by type and by brand / manufacturer. At a product level, zoom functionality allows visitors to look at close-up elements of products.

Manufacturer supplied specs were rewritten to make product more inviting and to provide for better search engine optimisation while reducing the potential of duplicate content issues. Related content is displayed on each pages and the site has a clean look and feel to enhance the product focus with few distractions.

A simple check-out process allows visitors to buy product without taking them through an unnecessary registration process. Once an order has been submitted, the visitor will be sent a username and password allowing them to log into the site to see the progress of their order.

The current month’s specials are highlighted on the home page, while top navigation and a persistent site-wide menu allow visitors quick access to other product categories. Items can be viewed by type and by brand / manufacturer.

Technology and Innovation

Drupal was chosen as the technology as the open source platform offered core functional components at a much more cost effective level than could be achieved with a custom site design and build.

The content management framework allows eHome’s internal marketing team to add or remove products and content. Editors also have the ability to relate the content manually. This means that on a specific page they can steer the user to follow the desired path through the website. Enhanced editor features allow them to generate, place and update sidebar elements such as the images and 'call to action' buttons.

While the initial iteration of the site focused on creating a simple user experience with minimal clutter, the second round build of the site will incorporate broader social media interaction, customer reviews, ratings, most viewed and purchased products alongside related content.

By reviewing user activity using Crazy Egg and Google Analytics we were able to enhance the visitor experience. In the first three months since launch, this led to a process of iteration where content was repositioned and menu items were changed and copy was tweaked to enhance conversion. The outcomes from this can be seen in the changes to visitor behaviour and sales results.

Results

Very few ecommerce sites are able to recover their entire investment and make a gross profit inside eight months of trading. One of the reasons eHome achieved this was the site received qualiity traffic and committed buyers. The average value per sale achieved through the website (approx. R6 700) is higher than that achieved in any of their physical stores.

The success of the digital channel has allowed Herholdts to spend less on marketing eHome (where 1% of turnover is allocated to marketing) than it does for its physical stores which spend up to 2.5% of turnover on marketing.

Traffic growth is entirely due to organic search where a strong presence in the search engine return pages coupled to compelling meta descriptions featuring rich snippet mark-ups showing product specifications and prices with a phone number has driven click through.

"For the last three months, eHome’s turnover has been almost the same as a physical store’s, and it gives us better margin on product than we see in traditional stores. Our start up investment was a fraction of the cost of building and equipping a new store and we spend a smaller percentage of marketing on digital than we do on traditional. Rogerwilco is a valuable long term strategic partner. They’ve helped us prove concept and now we’re ready to really invest in e-commerce." - Pieter Herholdt