We’re delighted to be joined by Paul Davenport, founder of Plastics4Performance in 2002. The company has grown to become one of the world’s leading motorsport window and accessory brands serving race teams and brands around the world.
Thanks for joining us Paul.
We’ve known each other for well over 20 years, and I think our businesses have pretty much grown together!
I find Plastics4Performance quite exciting as a brand and a company – particularly as you have 2 distinct sides to your business.
How has your e-commerce operation grown over the last 20 years?
Paul: Yeah – probably getting on 23 years now and you did my first website around 2002 at a grand cost of £[not very much – redacted by Leon haha] but it was money well spent as it set the foundations for what is now the biggest company of its kind in the world.
We currently have a web-based retail site and then we have our more trade focused side to the business but everybody finds us through the website or other social media associated with it.
We are now on version 5.5 of our website. Versions 4 & 5 admittedly were done at another company for cost reasons but we had to come back to Door4 (tail between our legs) to sort the mess out and I’m more than happy to say sales have increased over 35% in the last 4 months. A long way on from our original Door4 “Cactushop” although there are many of the original genetics still visible in our latest efforts.
We have definitely become a global business. A growing global business – and the webshop continues to be a major part in the company’s expansion
Do you think that there is a growing market for e-commerce within motorsport?
Absolutely, but it needs to be done right , it’s a technical and a passionate market that you need to be competing in. Your online presence needs to feed the required amount of information to the customer and appeal to their passion as well by producing top quality parts.
Staying on top of the e-commerce game is difficult and when you are, everyone else out there starts to copy you.
We are in a pretty niche market but you can see that all the new players that appear (and disappear) will have used some text, styling, drawing types or other info from our website in their own efforts. In fact we had one company download our entire e-commerce site, rebrand to their own – and run a dupcate website. That ended rather badly for them.
Being a global supplier also has it problems when it comes to e-commerce.
You want customers from the USA so you Americanise some parts of the website.
You want customers from Europe so you try and use words in the relevant languages in your SEO to help customers find their version of your product.
It makes it interesting and a never ending job.
Paul, is there anyone – a brand or a retailer – that you aspire to?
My answer to that would be no, not really. I aspire to simplicity. I like whitespace and minimal fuss. It’s not something easily obtained in business and probably a strange answer.
No – I entirely understand. When you have a growth mentality, you always want to add more, to do more, for more people! So that simplicity can be difficult to embed in your communications.
Whilst e-commerce isn’t the sole channel in your business, has it opened up other opportunities for you?
It most certainly has. It’s the way most people find us but I think the opportunities that have opened are mainly our global export markets.
Once we start to get products out there, people notice our brand more and more. You can bet there’s always someone from an OEM manufacturer that will see our product and contact us directly for B2B enquiries.
We’re having a bit of a boom at the moment supplying a part that we manufactured for cars into the aviation industry. We launched a short video about the product on Youtube with a link back to the site and our sales on that part have risen over 200% the usual yearly amount that we sell.
That attribution can be really hard! You know that the e-commerce marketing has reached the audience, but without an “add to basket” it’s more difficult to work out exactly how. Welcome to B2B Marketing!
It’s fair to say, as you mention, that you’re operating in a niche environment… automotive motorsport doesn’t really cross most consumers daily lives.
Is there ever any wish to find more mainstream applications for your capabilities – or are you comfortable with the specialist role?
Yes, at one point we wanted to do everything. Motorsport, Military, Aviation, Police, Marine but the Motorsport industry just keeps coming and coming for products so everything else has kind of just been put on the back-burner. If it appears on our doorstep and if we want to get involved then we will.
There’s a lot more out there as I mentioned above but we’re sticking to what we know best.
So as an SME, what challenges have you faced staying “up-to-date” with advancements in e-commerce, social media, security and the like?
First answer – you can’t sit back and rest on your laurels!
The way e-commerce and google search is evolving you HAVE to keep up with it all, even if you have a really good but old website as we did with the Magento 1 site, it will get left behind by the newest simple e-commerce sites that utilise the latest search strategies.
Moving on to Social Media, again it has to be done not just to provide free advertising but to strengthen your brand and improve customer confidence. It’s not about slapping anything on there either, your pictures have to be top notch, your text has to have meaning and you have to learn how to ‘work’ it right.
To close – if you could begin your e-commerce journey again with 1 or 2 lessons from what you know now… what would they be?
This is a hard one to answer Leon. The last 6 months, since we moved our website over to Door4 we have learnt many many lessons.
There are plenty of Web design companies out there that can produce a working e-commerce site but there are not many that can really refine something and squeeze every last drop out of it. IF we could rewind back to the start of the project (which we had built at another company) I would do the following:
1- Plan to build the website around what google wants SEO-wise rather than just being a visual thing. LEARN as much as you can about SEO so you can have in-depth conversations with your developers and cover every aspect.
2 – Customer Journey – Focus on how your customers FULLY travel through your e-commerce site.
We originally placed emphasis on the product pages, thinking that they will find the site and what there looking for… then pay and off they go.
To us, finding the way round the site was easy but it would be as we built the system, we didn’t focus on making it really easy for the customers to find what they wanted and we never even looked at the way the checkout made paying so difficult. Now we have had to backtrack to sort these issues out.
Don’t think your customers know as much about your website as you do.
Wise words, thanks very much for your time Paul!
You can visit Plastics4Performance at https://www.plastics4performance.com/
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