Empress Mills had been using Actinic Catalog to power its online shop, which although functional was quite limited. Developing something slick hadn’t been a priority for this low-key sideline to their main business. Building a more sophisticated store on a more suitable e-commerce platform offered customers the experience they were looking for – and it became unstoppable. Empress Mills’ benefited from a system they could use to manage their product data and expose it to their audiences. The scale of the new website delivered massive SEO benefits – and Empress Mills’ achieved a 403% increase in sales over four years. This prepared the way for further expansion of the entire business.
When people began calling in at Empress Mills’ reception asking for hobby supplies, owners Charles & Christine Driver saw an opportunity and opened a small shop attached to their warehouse. When customers from further afield phoned to ask about mail order, they launched a mail order service using a simple e-commerce catalogue for taking orders. Growing online demand, backed by market research, encouraged them to look into investing more strategically in the digital side of their business.
This family-owned company, manufacturers of first-class sewing threads and haberdashery, has always embraced progress. How else could a cotton mill have lasted close to a century? So they were keen to invest in technology that would support the business as it grew into its potential over the next few years.
To see what would be possible, we worked through their challenges and plans and assessed technologies that could potentially do this. One key challenge was that their existing basic catalogue site allowed customers to make orders and payments but it wasn’t a slick customer journey and, for Empress, it was labour-intensive process. Also, the previous website didn’t support the business as a whole, in that it couldn’t mitigate any challenges to growth. It was important, therefore, that we also helped Empress think about what they might need in ten years, too.
WooCommerce (e-commerce plug-in for WordPress) was the ideal platform for Empress’ mid-term plans. It would allow them to grow the business in a controlled way and had the integrations they needed for payment systems, shipping and business rules. WooCommerce gave flexibility for Empress to publish different types of content, which would support their marketing activities. We arrived on a solution of building two websites – retail and wholesale/trade. These would serve Empress’ diverse customer base well for the next three to four years.
Client outcomes & beyond
Since we launched their first e-commerce platform in 2014, Empress Mills has achieved a sales increase of 403% (in the first year we saw a 210% lift on sales alone). This has prepared the way for further expansion of the entire business.
Overall, Empress Mills’ WooCommerce website has experienced a 1,000% total increase in traffic (2014-2018). Over the past three years, sales have increased threefold. The WooCommerce platform gave customers the experience they expected. The structure and content delivered on the site and supported the email marketing strategy and created a strong search engine presence, ensuring visibility and growth. We built Empress a system to manage their product data and expose it to their audiences, a website big enough to deliver massive SEO benefits too.
The WooCommerce website has been successful but Empress Mills now needs a new site to continue to deliver on its growth plans. This is currently being built in Magento 2 – more on this soon.