E-commerce case study: Studio F/X

6-minute read

Vancouver‑based Studio F/X, sells professional and special effects make‑up to local artists, performers and other cosmetics buffs. As more movies and TV shows began filming in the area, crews turned to Studio F/X as a faster, easier and more cost‑effective make‑up supplier than one from outside the country.

Studio F/X owner, Carla Antrobus, saw an opportunity. Why not make her products available to make‑up enthusiasts and Canadian film producers outside Vancouver? She built a new e‑commerce website so her products could be purchased online.

The only hitch in the plan was that the new website failed to generate sales.

“If you build it, they will come,” right? Well, not exactly—building a site is only half the battle.

Understanding the problem

Carla had just invested in a brand new website. Understandably, the last thing she wanted was to scrap it and start over. But, she knew she had to do something because the new site wasn’t meeting her goal of supplementing her in‑store sales.

Carla asked BDC for help. We examined FX Studio’s website from a business perspective, instead of looking solely at the technical issues. This analysis helped Carla understand that her website, just like her store, had to be:

  1. Easy for potential customers to find
  2. Easy for them to purchase products from

With those goals in mind, Carla was ready to find out what changes needed to be made to her site.

Taking small steps toward success

Here are some of the main issues that were hampering the “findability” of Carla’s website:

  1. Content is king—Carla discovered that her website needed more relevant content that contained widely searched keywords in her market. Her website was not ranking well in search results because it did not contain the words consumers were searching for. She learned which keywords, both generic and product specific, she needed to add to her site so that Studio F/X could be found. Carla created new and more keyword‑rich content and added it to the site.
  2. Tagging was lagging—Carla also found out that the webpages on her site were not properly tagged with titles, descriptions and headings. These are used by search engines to pick up and display information from your site to web surfers. To do so, the tags must be properly formatted, accurately reflect your business and contain relevant keywords. Carla got the tags fixed.

Here are some of the main reasons customers didn’t purchase products from Carla’s website:

  1. Being friendly pays off—Have you ever walked into a store where the salespeople were surly and unhelpful? Well, visitors to your online store can experience the same kind of frustration if your website isn’t user friendly. Carla learned that her site’s pages were taking too long to load, which not only annoys visitors but also affected her search engine rankings. She needed to compress the images on her site and increase her server speed to address this issue.
  2. Show me the goods—She also learned that her star products weren’t easily accessible (sometimes taking five clicks to reach). This was causing many visitors to abandon the hunt. Carla had to do a better job of guiding visitors to key products. She needed to add products to her website’s homepage, along with clickable banners, calls to action, categories and descriptions.

In addition to improving her website’s findability and user friendliness, Carla came out of her project with some additional takeaways:

  1. Learn from your competition—You might think there’s no point in comparing yourself to larger competitors with deeper pockets. Think again. There are plenty of tips and best practices you can pick up from others in your field. Not to mention the fact that it’s good to know where your website ranks compared to theirs. Carla learned that most of her competitors were driving traffic to their sites from social media and links on other sites (industry experts, beauty blogs, best‑product articles, etc. that mention you with a link to your site). Carla decided to start submitting her website to relevant web directories, news and partner websites, as well as build a social media strategy.
  2. Make adjustments instead of starting over—If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But do it incrementally. Small corrections can go a long way to turning things around. Take small steps toward your goal instead of trying to make it in one giant leap. This approach allows you to see the results of certain modifications before implementing new ones.

The results

These are just a few of the opportunities BDC Advisory Services pointed out to Carla. But they’re a great starting point for anyone looking to improve their site.

A business owner needs to understand how specific actions will achieve very clear business objectives. In Carla’s case, our recommendations were specifically geared toward helping customers find her site and helping them purchase products once they got there. Once she knew what to do and why, Carla worked with her web agency to get it done.

So how did the adjustments work out? The proof is in the pudding. The following data from her website confirm the impact of the changes.

The website is easier to find:

  • 100% increase in new visitors coming from Internet searches
  • More traffic driven by keywords related to star products
  • Overall traffic to the site almost doubled

The website facilitates buying:

  • 140% increase in e-commerce conversions
  • Over 300% increase in the number of transactions
  • Online revenues up more than 200%

The next steps

Carla is thrilled with the results from her first round of website changes. But her journey has just begun. Now that her website is set up properly, she should invest in some online marketing to drive more traffic there.

Here are some recommendations from BDC Advisory Services:

  1. Use social media—Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other services, social media is a great way to reach your target customers, create buzz, build brand loyalty and even recruit employees. Social media is here to stay and there is every reason to embrace it.
  2. Develop an email marketing plan—Email can be highly effective for bringing existing and prospective customers to your site. But first, make sure to get their permission to email them. Having an email calendar with seasonal promotions, new product launches and recommendations generates interest and brings people to your website.
  3. Implement analytics—It’s important to measure how your website is performing. By looking at how visitors use the site you can learn a lot of useful information to make improvements. Run regular, detailed reports to help you determine where to invest more and where to invest less.
  4. Be mobile friendly—More people are surfing the web from their smart phones and tablets. Ensure your site is easy to view and navigate on mobile devices.

And, remember, you don’t need to do it all at once! The first step is to find out why your site isn’t performing. Then, you can decide what needs to be addressed right away and what can wait.

Like Studio F/X, you’ll find that focusing on a few critical changes can lead to big results!

For more advice on online marketing and e-commerce, download our free guides.

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