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How do you make an award-winning eCommerce website?

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Aaron May

Reading time: 3 minutes

blubolt client Sarah Raven have much cause for celebration after taking home a duo of awards in the 2015 ECMOD Direct Commerce Magazine Awards in London. Having received a nomination alongside 36 other retail companies, they were awarded trophies on the night for Annual Sales of up to £5 million B2C and Best Overall Website.

Sarah Raven wins Best Overall Website at Direct Commerce Awards 2015

Jim McDowell, Commercial Director of Sarah Raven, said of the award; “We were thrilled to be awarded best overall website at this years DCA awards. We already know our customers love the site, but it is very pleasing to get an award like this from our peers in the industry. The website has been a great team effort between the online team here at Sarah Raven, and the team at blubolt, whose design and technical know-how made everything possible.”

The double win is a huge achievement for the Sarah Raven brand, who only launched their latest site in July 2014. Just under a year later, www.sarahraven.com has been named as the Best Overall Website in one of the commerce industry’s most respected awards ceremonies. It’s been an incredible journey for the Sarah Raven brand, and blubolt is proud to be a part of that success story.

How to create an award-winning online shop

Creating the now award-winning Sarah Raven eCommerce presence was no small task, with a mixture of innovation, best-practice solutions and the bluCommerce bespoke eCommerce platform combining to form the web presence they have today. Sarah Raven herself was at the heart of everything we did, with an aim to making her website more personable and creating a greater sense of connection between the reader and the brand – something that had in no small part contributed to the brand’s past success.

Personifying the Sarah Raven brand and injecting personality through Sarah's Top 10s

What Sarah Raven have is a highly-personable web presence that doesn’t simply sell to its web audience, it hand-holds and educates them throughout the gardening process. What that achieves is a level of brand loyalty that many companies could only hope to achieve. Where you have brand loyalty, you also have the need to understand the fan base and ensure the transition between sites is as smooth and easy as possible for the existing audience. Sarah’s voice and branding had to take centre stage, so we worked closely together in order to create a stronger brand image that unified the entire online presence.

We took a lot of cues from visitor data to help us make decisions about navigation, site layout and third-party integration. Exit links and short-stay traffic behaviour were measured against the long-stay visitors and account holders to give a good overview of how people used the sites and where they dropped off. Throughout every step, credence was placed not only on converting the present audience but maintaining the new audience through a single strategy that improved the user experience on all platforms.

When you have a highly-visual product base, you can really benefit from the use of photos to boost the appeal of your site. With a product group like seeds, plants and gardening accessories, it’s also beneficial to show your customer base exactly what to do to recreate that look in your home space. Sarah Raven is not just a sales presence, she’s an educator and therefore the site not only needed to be bold and bright, it had to be packed with helpful information.

Sarah Raven - chart that mimics what you'd see on the back of a seed packet

Balancing info with visuals to avoid clutter was one of our key focus points. A prime example is the seasonal chart included on each product page, it allows visitors to see when the seeds should be sewn, when they can venture outdoors and finally, when the bloom or harvest will occur. We also included the data in text for accessibility audio playback and to provide helpful SEO product cues. By using a simple chart to display the dates, vital information is communicated in a format that is easier to understand than reading instructions, this in turn reduces the need for customer service interaction and helps visitors make informed buying decisions.

There’s a lot more info to be found throughout the site and when it came to product pages, we segregated content into tabbed sections in order to retain white space. A plethora of information, advice and how-to guides is available to those who need it without distracting those who don’t.

Behind the fascia of the Sarah Raven site is some impressive technological application and innovation. blubolt’s own bluCommerce platform provides the hosting and bare bones of the site. Presently available for licence only to agency clients, our bespoke platform offers up some of the most innovative website features a big-earning business could hope for. A mix of third-party services and custom programming serves up the perfect balance between best-practice solutions and customisable site elements. Speed, efficiency and intuitive browsing feature top of the agenda, ensuring a great user experience which has been reflected in the site stats.

In marketing terms, the site came on leaps and bounds. Visual merchandising with intelligent cross-selling options transformed the recommended products and dead space like 404 pages, providing valuable conversion cues that are influenced by visitor behaviour. An added emphasis on social sharing and digital interaction boosted valuable information pages, product sharing and subscriptions to newsletters and social channels. Finally, a shorter route to conversion helped to boost sales across all platforms.

The full recipe for the Sarah Raven success is an agency secret, but we can tell you this. A successful eCommerce site doesn’t hinge on one single set of solutions. It takes a mix of best practice, audience cues, product cues, branding and technological innovation to create this award-winning solution. If you’re missing any of those key elements in your site, you’re also missing out on sales.

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