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eSpares expands with hosting from TelecityGroup.
Online spare parts retailer outsources website hosting to support continued growth, as consumers follow trend to ‘repair not replace’
“We made the decision to move to a hosted environment for extra resilience. It also offloads concerns about power supplies and network connectivity, and the cost benefit of moving to TelecityGroup has been huge,”
Systems Director, eSpares
eSpares is the UK's leading spare parts retailer, enabling millions of people to find spare parts, accessories and consumables for all the electrical appliances in the home and garden. The company sells over 300,000 products from more than 500 manufacturers through its website, with six million unique users visiting the website per year.
The company has grown rapidly as consumers increasingly look for the most cost-effective option for home improvements, and repair household appliances rather than replace them. eSpares has seen over 50 per cent annual growth over the last four years, but this success has also brought its own challenges. The company originally used an off-the-shelf ecommerce solution to run the stock operation and website, but in 2005 it became apparent that it lacked the scale to support the growth plans of the business.
Keeping up to speed
In order to support the company’s continued expansion, eSpares needed to improve the customer experience of the website and increase the site’s resilience and sophistication to cope with significant peaks in traffic. Customers can drive huge peaks in traffic at specific times of the year; for example recent coverage of eSpares on the BBC’s Working Lunch programme led to a spike in website traffic of over 150 per cent of normal levels. Ensuring a smooth and easy experience during these times in essential, but the off-the-shelf solution would not have delivered the support eSpares required.
Jason Duffett, Systems Director for eSpares explains: “The performance issues with the website were becoming a constant headache; providing a real-time view of stock orders was difficult and time consuming, and it didn’t have the capacity to cope with large volumes in traffic. Customer experience has a big impact on the sales conversion rate, so reviewing the infrastructure and resilience of the website therefore became a priority.”
With over 36 per cent of consumers looking to purchase items online rather than the high street , providing an attractive and easy-to-use website is important. As part of the ongoing upgrades, eSpares wanted to add functionality, such as intelligent search and multimedia features, to provide shoppers with as much information as possible to encourage them to purchase items. It was important for eSpares to take into the account the impact this would have on the infrastructure.
eSpares decided to outsource the hosting and management of its website to guarantee the constant availability of the site in 2005. Duffett explains: “We need a tier one provider with a proven track record of supporting ecommerce sites in terms of availability, connectivity, security and reliability. TelecityGroup meets all of these requirements, as well as having extremely professional onsite engineers with the ability to meet our stringent SLAs.”
eSpares houses its servers in one of TelecityGroup’s London data centres. In addition, the Group manages the main database servers, load balancer, as well as connectivity to ensure resilient performance. By removing the performance management, the eSpares IT team is able to focus on enhancing the website’s usability and maintaining the bespoke software behind the purchasing system.
In addition to the customer-facing website, eSpares uses a number of back-office systems which are now hosted and managed with TelecityGroup. These include warehouse systems, stock control software, CRM software, content management software and the call centre software. By outsourcing the management of these systems the performance is improved, giving eSpares a more accurate view of current stock levels and improving overall business efficiency.
No spare part left unturned.
As the consumer trend to ‘repair not replace’ continues to grow alongside the popularity of online shopping, eSpares is looking forward to more growth over the coming years. Following the upgrades supported by TelecityGroup, the website has more intelligent functionality to attract and retain customers, becoming an essential resource for people looking to replace household appliance spare parts. The new infrastructure has the scalability and flexibility to continue to support the additional content and peaks in traffic, and TelecityGroup’s expertise will continue to be essential in enabling this growth.
Duffett concludes: “The inflexibility and administration problems caused by the disparate systems we used previously would have made it almost impossible for us to sustain any sort of substantial growth. Since outsourcing our infrastructure to TelecityGroup we have been able to successfully lay a platform for future growth, enabling us to focus on continually improving the customer experience.”