Sales & Marketing

5 things I wish I'd known before taking my company online

5 min read

20 May 2014

Phil Harker, MD of clothing alternation firm Quickstitch, looks at the five things he wish he'd known before turning his 22-store business into an online business. Here are his lessons.

My business, clothing alteration and repair company Quickstitch, was first established in Newcastle city centre in 1983 and went on to open 22 stores across the UK in the next two decades. 

However, like many UK businesses faced with the demand to be more efficient and cost effective, we have since withdrawn from the high street in favour of an online presence.

It hasn’t always been an easy ride. Here are the five most significant things I’ve learnt since taking my company online.

1. Have a flexible home page

Making the jump to online definitely taught us the importance of having a flexible home page, specifically with the option to alter imagery and add content. 

When we launched the site we created the home page with fixed points of entry being men’s and women’s clothing. 

As time has gone on and we have invested in the SEO, we have become a slave to the imagery and photos on the home page and in effect cannot change the initial impression of our online shop window.

On the one hand it gives the site a sense of reliability and permanence, but perhaps doesn’t intrigue customers to explore new services that are often up loaded. 

Looking back, it would have perhaps been a better idea to bear the idea of future change in mind when we were creating the site.

2. The importance of targeted traffic

It’s one thing to create a great site that works well, but it’s a dark art to get people to actually visit it and invest in you as a company and purchase your services. 

Especially for a business like ours, with an existing customer base on the high street, it’s easy to think that your customers will follow you from the store to the site; this isn’t necessarily the case and it’s only through actually experiencing this process that you understand how hard it is to build up site traffic. 

Making a great site and sitting back in wait for customers isn’t enough – you’ll have to work extremely hard to bring business to our new online doorstep. It’s still something we continue to work on every day

3. Design is key 

Design is key when it comes to making a site and visual impressions definitely count. 

We shopped around for web developers before taking the company online and ended up going for a higher end developer as we knew our service was honed and market ready.

But, we needed the customers to embrace us from the beginning and trust us as soon as they landed on our home page. This can only be done through honesty and simplicity, but great design helps.

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4. Keep things simple

It’s easy in the early stages to throw out all your best and wildest ideas and see if there is a market for it. 

Being creative is great and shows you’re in the right business, but you need to make your ideas easy to digest. Customers want reliability and value over creativity. 

Once you’ve mastered the basics on earned their trust, then you can start to put your new ideas into practice.

5. Never stop tweaking and adjusting

Being totally honest, the day we went live was a real downer. You’ve done so much work, and put so much time and energy into the project and your hopes are so high; but in reality, that’s only the beginning of a long process. 

There’s no point in putting 110 per cent into the concept and then sitting back expecting it to flourish of its own accord. You need to adapt to what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly. Going live is step one. That’s where the work begins.

Phil Harker is managing director of Quickstitch.