It was run by a husband and wife team from their home and most of the furniture was shipped straight from manufacturers directly to customers.
This was quite a few years ago, probably around 2005, so ecommerce was still a fairly new endeavour at that time.
Their site was basic, they had no ecommerce platform at all and had manually built each page by hand, this lead to many issues for them.
For example, payments were handled through Paypal, this meant they had to manually insert a Paypal ‘buy now’ button on every product they sold, pricing had to be manually entered into the code of each button separately, not an easy thing to maintain over the long term.
Another issue was managing customers and orders, the only notification they received when an order was placed was the standard Paypal payment email.
Once this arrived they printed it off and manually wrote down the details in an order book, next an email was composed and sent to the customer confirming the order, this was also printed off.
All printed emails were then filed in a filing cabinet.
Emails were then sent to the suppliers to place the order, manually again, and then you’ve guessed it, this email was printed and placed in the file.
When I arrived I couldn’t believe how much work it took them just to take an order, I asked the obvious question ‘Why don’t you move across to an ecommerce platform?’ the answer was that they were too scared of losing their search engine rankings!
Now on the face of it this could seem a reasonable answer, their thinking was that if they lost their search rankings then it wouldn’t matter how they took orders because they wouldn’t have any.
The problem for them was this was not the right decision.
They were drowning in paperwork, getting stressed out and customer service was suffering because of it.
Their SEO concerns were valid in some respect however with some planning and a bit of on-going care the rankings would be maintained, at worst there might be short period of fluctuating positions but it would have been sorted within a few weeks.
They should have bitten the bullet and moved across but they didn’t.
I didn’t end up carrying out much work for the couple, we parted on good terms though and I wished them all the best for the future.
Periodically afterwards I’d check on their site, just out of curiosity more than anything else. They never seemed to move across to a platform and I always imagined they were still buried in paperwork.
To be honest I kind of forgot about them for a few years however I recently fired up their website. I was pretty shocked to find that the site was gone and in its place was a landing page advertising the domain name for sale at SEDO.
I checked back the WayBackWhenMachine and from what I could tell they never moved to an all in one platform.
I’m not saying that this was the reason for the business failing however it certainly couldn’t have helped.
Their lack of a proper ecommerce platform will have restricted their growth prospects. Imagine if they had invested all that time they wasted messing around with paper systems and updating their manually built site into working on building their business, they could have been so much further down the line.
This is a sad story with a cautionary message behind it.
Yes, they should have moved to a proper platform but that’s not the real thing to takeaway, they should have had the ability to step back from the day to day running of their business and make the right decisions to enable them to move forward.
Unfortunately they lacked this vision and I think they paid the price.
Don’t make the same mistake, business is hard and full of tough decisions, but you need to make them and have the ability to see the long term gain over the short term pain.
If you have an on-going problem that is sucking up your time then you must deal with it, it will be worth it in the long run.
(Image Credit: mattwi1s0n)