How can smaller businesses build a sustainable online marketing strategy with almost no prior knowledge? Depot2U launched as an online business in 2017. We had the chance to interview Harry Woodman from Depot2U to talk about success factors of their online store and online marketing insights on AI-driven tools for merchants who are just starting to sell online.
When did you start your online business and how did it develop over time?
Depot2U started as an online only business in 2017 as a clearance platform on eBay for surplus agricultural machinery and trade returns. This quickly evolved when we started introducing a specific range of products and spotted a demand for our primary ranges, Electric Bikes and Livestock Shelters. As E-Bikes tend not to perform so well in the winter which is why we introduced Outdoor Shelters. This balance allows us to keep going year-round. We now offer 12 different E-Bikes, 10 different shelters and a range of accompanying products.
It was crucial for us to develop an online presence to build a brand, reputation and trust on multiple channels such as eBay, Amazon, social media and our own website. Our premises in Shrewsbury, Shropshire allows customers to see the products we sell in person and try out any of our Electric Bikes. Our entire operation from product testing, troubleshooting, picking, packing and warehousing takes place here.
We started our German branch Depot2U.de in November 2021. The office in Renchen handles product testing, customer care, warehousing and order fulfilment – very similar to how we do things in the UK.
In contrast, we use the in-built eBay integration provided by ePages, and this helps us to manage incoming orders effectively and forms the start of our multi-channel approach. This was incredibly easy to set up as this was a brand-new eBay account. This is also useful as we can integrate our parcel courier (DPD) with eBay, so order fulfilment for eBay orders is streamlined and efficient.
How big is your team?
At our headquarters in UK, we have a surprisingly small team of 5 with all of us involved in both online and onsite functions including picking and packing, answering the phone, customer support, repairs, graphics, marketing and social media. We all chip in!
How did you start your journey with ePages?
ePages was originally meant to be the webshop solution for Germany only, however after using the online shop for a short while, we realised that this solution ticked all the boxes we desperately needed to expand and grow across the markets we operate in. This heavily influenced our decision to migrate our UK webshop solution to ePages. We previously used our own bespoke ecommerce website which was useful for backend features such as an integration with eBay. This foundation allowed us to efficiently handle the demand but stunted our growth due to a poor user experience, particularly on mobile devices. ePages costs compared work much better for us, as we can spend more time working on content without having to worry about software bugs and further web development to handle the changing dynamics of customer behaviour.
How much time did it take for you to set your ePages shop live?
Getting the ePages shop live took very little time, maybe 2 weeks at maximum. We could have done this much faster by importing a csv file of our products, but decided to take advantage of the additional features and data fields of ePages and re-wrote some of our listings so this took a little time and planning.
Where do you see benefits as a smaller company competing with bigger companies in the ecommerce business?
We have an extensive personal knowledge of the products in our ranges and our small team have all used or experienced all our products firsthand. Being able to quickly respond to questions with accurate and helpful advice is a fundamental part of our core values as web traders.
We also fulfil all our orders ourselves from stock we keep in our own premises which aids in keeping fulfilment quick and efficient.
What are the most important shop features for your business?
Customer experience and accessibility is crucial, so having a responsive website that is easy to use on any device is a must. With website traffic primarily being served on mobile devices and Google fronting a Mobile-First approach, having a website that isn’t responsive or mobile friendly will certainly inhibit growth.
We have seen a significant improvement in our organic search traffic thanks to the well-structured layout and backend function of ePages. This, combined with the responsive layout and mobile friendly user interface has made it much easier to implement multiple Search Engine Optimisation techniques which are showing results.
How did you kick-off your online marketing and paid ads for Depot2U?
Online marketing experience was basic when we first started out, a lot of trial and error was involved. We have utilized the in-built integration to Google Merchant Centre, Analytics and Ads to provide us with accurate data to help make informed business decisions.
We eventually developed a more robust marketing plan once we started seeing measurable success and went heavy on social media marketing. This evolved to better understanding SEO and the benefits of a multi-channel approach. With tools available to us now, we can better understand customer behavior and use more targeted methods.
What ads do you run to boost your visibility and how is your experience with these tools?
We use a mix of Google Performance Max and Facebook ads currently. These have been relatively easy to setup – the integration aspects from ePages being able to produce a list of products directly to Google and Facebook have made this process much easier to setup and maintain. The results of the campaign are inconclusive currently as our ads having been running long enough to give an accurate return on ad spend. Today, we have a rough average daily spend of £10 on each ads platform (Google & Facebook).
What are your plans with your online shop for this year?
We will continue to improve our visibility on search engines and increase our organic traffic by identifying areas of improvement for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
We will also explore utilizing the ePages integration with Amazon to further increase our visibility on other sales channels. We would also like to introduce a blog, add more detailed and informative content for our customers to provide enhanced product support and we hope to make our ePages shop the best performing sales channel in our mix.
What four tips can you recommend to everyone who wants to start selling online now?
- Understand the products you sell, use them, play with them, take them apart and put them back together again. Good product knowledge is essential to providing accurate information to existing and potential customers.
- Go above and beyond to make sure your first few customers are happy and satisfied – every customer is important, but your first few customers are especially important as they have put their trust in you as a new player on the scene. Communicate with your customers at the earliest possible convenience if they have an issue. Satisfaction is often judged on how quickly you engage with their query. Good feedback (especially if public facing) is crucial in showing others that you are worth taking a chance on.
- Do some keyword research before writing out your product descriptions and find out what terminology people use. The difference in how likely your page appears in a search engine result can be as simple as naming a product an ‘E-Bike’, ‘Ebike’ or an ‘Electric Bike’ – all mean the same thing, but one significantly outperforms the others in search volume.
- Last but not least: Start with the best foundations by choosing a mobile friendly e-commerce platform and provide as much detail as you can about the products you want to sell.