Picture framing business goes digital to increase sales and customer spend

The business

Framemakers is a Wiltshire picture framing business with a national reputation and customer base. Based in Marlborough, it also has outlets and galleries in Basingstoke, Cirencester, Hungerford, Newbury and Salisbury.

The company has a 25-year pedigree in bespoke framing, and offers a commercial service – Go Frame It – which makes picture frames for the retail industry, in bulk and for one-off commissions. Customers include Aston Villa FC, BBC, Highclere Estates, British Airways, NatWest, Zanussi and Renault.

All of Go Frame It’s frames are made using mouldings manufactured by the country’s leading suppliers at its Marlborough factory, which is equipped with state-of-the-art computer-controlled machinery, ensuring the highest standard of finish.

The opportunity

The Go Frame It website has helped Framemakers build a strong national client base. Many commercial customers return regularly for the made-to-measure service, comprehensive range of ready-made frames and a portfolio of mounts and accessories to suit any piece of art.

But as director Louise Thatcher explains, there was a growing feeling that the business was not reaping the benefits that should have emerged from its investment in web design, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) and connectivity.

“We began to suspect that we weren’t getting value for money when it came to SEO,” she says. “Our web partner was good at making lots of promises and talking in a technical language that we didn’t understand, and there was a sense of having the wool pulled over our eyes. The site just wasn’t performing and delivering the results we expected”.

“Digital commerce is a minefield and we don’t have the computer skills that someone from a younger generation probably has! But we are quick learners and we realise that Google makes a lot of changes, all the time, to its tools and analytics. When one algorithm changed, for example, we suddenly found  the Go Frame It site dropped from page 1 to page 10 in the rankings. Not surprisingly, we felt that our supplier wasn’t exactly keeping up with developments.”

Other issues such as the supplier’s failure to stick to the company’s pay-per-click budget ( in some week, it was spending more than the revenues generated by search ) meant that when the opportunity arose for an independent review of its digital business strategy, Framemakers was ready to take advantage.

The solution

An initial meeting with a Superfast Business adviser quickly revealed the potential benefits of reassessing the company’s digital strategy in terms of connectivity and web design. The adviser listened closely to Framemakers’ concerns and expectations, and subsequently provided a support plan with recommendations for upgrading the company’s broadband connection and drawing on independent web development expertise.

“We saw immediate benefits from having a high speed internet connection,” says Louise. “It’s given us a platform to build our new website and generally improve the efficiency of the business - all without a dramatic increase in our overheads.

“Another big benefit from our adviser was the recommendation of getting expert web design and SEO advice. We attended a session with 3 other SMEs, looked at each other’s sites, discussed our issues and shared ideas. It was all really useful.”

Louise says the value of this introduction by the Superfast Business adviser to a new level of expertise was tremendous and particularly timely for the company who were looking to grow.. Attending the session was a big step in the right direction.

“We soon realised how naïve we had been in leaving so much up to our previous provider,” she says. “We were just going along with them, saying ‘Yes, yes, yes’, when we should have been saying ‘No, no, no’!”

Business benefits

One of Framemakers’ first decisions in the wake of this specialist advice was to separate web design and SEO from pay-per-click, and use different providers for each element of its strategy – something recommended by the expert.

“The Go Frame It site had been up and running for a year, and it was going well in terms of generating orders – just not enough of them,” says Louise.

“On the design front, we’re working with a new provider to update the website visually and make significant changes to the structure so that when a customer is going through the ordering process, extras such as mounts are automatically recommended. One of our aims is to increase each customer’s spend as well as boosting traffic and visits.”

By moving to a new PPC provider, the company is also benefiting from much richer analysis and feedback on its investment in digital sales and marketing techniques.

“The information our supplier is giving us is having a positive effect on our marketing,” say Louise. For example, they looked at our account and spotted that we do a lot of business in Scotland, and recommended that we push PPC around that. We just didn’t have the same level of detail before.”

What next?

Framemakers’ ultimate goal is to get its PPC strategy to pay for itself – something that it is well on the way to achieving. It also aims to exploit organic listing more effectively.

“We accumulate a lot of customer data through our online sales, and one of the things our provider has suggested is a monthly email shot,” says Louise. “In time, we want to build a schedule so that we can target customers who haven’t placed an order for a while with email campaigns and incentives.

“Taking part in the Superfast Business programme has given us a huge amount of practical knowledge that we didn’t have before.  We’ve been given so much information at every stage, all of which we have been able to follow up. The level of help has been great, and we’re in a strong position to keep on improving our website for the future.”

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