In nine years I went from starting Tradeplumbing.co.uk at home, to an office with 12 employees receiving regular orders and enquiries from across the UK.
My business is a mix of my family's plumbing history [I used to help my dad in my spare time] and my own studies in IT and ecommerce. My website offers what the domain name suggests -plumbing and heating supplies at trade prices.
The market has changed almost beyond belief since 2004, with competitors popping up all the time. But we forecast that Tradeplumbing.co.uk will grow by 20% in the next two years. I'm constantly looking for ways to make my business better, so here's my top advice to growing a business in a competitive market:
Choose a website system that is EASY to manage. I knew from the start that I needed a website which could be scaled up easily if it had to grow quickly. I'm always developing the site, finding new ways to help and inform customers. If someone comes up with an idea that will help make a customer's life easier, then I'll make it happen - from a wish list basket to customer ratings across all our products.
Keep an eye on what competitors are doing. I'm always looking athow well other businesses are doing and thinking how I could do better. It's easy to get left behind if you're not paying attention, especially online. I want our website to stand out - sometimes that means doing something unusual, like an infographic about DIY. Or it can be as simple as updating the design to give customers a fresh experience.
Understand what's important to customers. I know my customers want excellent service from a business they can trust, as well as great products and good value. It's what all people want and this probably won't change, but the way I need to communicate these values does. A .co.uk website shows I'm a trusted British business. My social media channels, blog and newsletters demonstrate our expertise. One of the ways I've pushed this further is the new live chat box on the website, so visitors can directly ask the customer service team questions while they browse.
Know where you want to be in five years. Mobiles and tablets arebecoming more and more important to all e-commerce websites and so I'm busy looking into an app or mobile responsive website so customers can browse at their convenience. I also want to expand the site and make it even easier for customers to find what they want. Overall, I'm always searching for better ways to provide good quality information and to support my customers in finding the perfect solution for their needs.
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