Can you tell me a bit about your companies?
We sell economics workbooks, resources, animated cartoons and an online learning platform to schools and teachers, mainly in New Zealand. I'm an economics teacher and started the business in 1999 after a student told me he did not want to do my work in class because it wasn't published. I said I would get it organised and signed a contract with a publisher three days later.
Since then we have produced 40 titles, including some self-published, and we've sold more than 200,000 books. We have also developed our elearneconomics online learning platform that complements the learning process. When we started all sales were made via post and fax; today 90% of orders are done online, with very few via post.
The team is made up of myself, my wife and business partner Sue, and a loyal team of contractors who have worked with us in various aspects of the business.
Why did you start selling your products and services online?
We had a website that informed schools about our products and services but we realised this would need to evolve into a website that allowed schools and teachers to order online because of development with the internet and the greater use of computers in schools and at home. About eight or nine years ago we introduced an ecommerce functionality to the site that allowed us to automate the ordering process so people could do business with us more easily.
Around that same time we also started to develop our online learning platform, which operates on a software as a service model. We knew that online education and learning was the future and we wanted to remain at the forefront of new technology and not play catch up.
Developing any new product takes time, energy, money and a commitment to see things through. We have worked with a friend of ours, Gavin Lovegrove, who has designed and built both our websites. We also have the ability to go into the sites and change lots of things for ourselves, which makes a big difference.
How has your ecommerce offering developed since then?
We have recently built the fourth version of the e-learning website incorporating what we have learnt from listening to feedback from students and teachers. More schools now have computers and bring-your-own-device policies, so we are seeing a shift towards schools and teachers using our online resource.
People are looking for online options for convenience. For us, it's another pathway for selling products and there's also the speed and ease of making a sale.
What are some of the strategies that have worked well for you in terms of driving people to buy your products and services online?
We visit schools and teachers and show them how to best use the resources on our website, and this has been a good way of getting schools to buy in and grow our sales.
Having a long-standing reputation along with a good product that works, also helps, and using good search functionality and domain names means we are easily found through a number of different searches.
Coming up in Small Business: The use of cloud computing is also on the rise in small businesses. If you've got a good story to tell about how you've used cloud computing to make a difference in your operation, drop me a note: email@example.com.