Rania Awad first got into online pharmacy sales after seeing a flyer that offered websites for just $100. She soon found out that building a successful e-commerce brand takes a little more than that.
Founded in 2005, Your Chemist Shop was one of the first online pharmacies to appear in Australia. Nearly ten years on, the business has been acquired by the Pharmacy4Less Group and maintains its leading position with a dedication to making products easy to find.
Founded by Rania Awad and stocked via her independent, Maroubra-based pharmacy, Your Chemist Shop may have started as an experiment. For Awad, it in fact turned out to be the beginnings of a career in e-commerce.
“Your Chemist Shop has been growing since 2005 and has since been acquired by the Pharmacy4Less Group in December 2013,” she says. “As a result, I’ve become the Ecommerce Director at the Pharmacy4Less Group, taking charge of their e-commerce strategy.”
The Makings of an E-Commerce Career
When Awad began this journey, her technical knowledge of e-commerce was next to nothing. For this reason she says that the most important skill for any online business manager is to be good a selecting the right talent to work with – and this is especially true when it comes to selecting digital agency partners.
“The idea for Your Chemist Shop started with a leaflet that landed on my desk, which advertised the creation of a website for just $100. I thought it would be something interesting to investigate,” says Awad. “Everything from choosing the right digital agency to understanding how the digital world works became the focus of my work from that point. Finding the right partners to trust was certainly a major challenge in the early days, as I was so reliant on their knowledge of the space.”
Unfortunately, going online for $100 was never going to be realistic and Awad recognises that instead e-commerce must be considered as an ongoing investment.
“If anyone thinks they can just pay a set amount and then forget about it I’d say they certainly have another thing coming.”
Celebrating Winning Partnerships
In all the time she’s now spent working in the industry, Awad says the chief problem still remains; digital agencies can be a mixed bunch and business owners must be extremely cautious when considering taking a new one on board.
As a result, Awad advises that partnerships should be approached in much the same way as a new hire. By taking a thorough stance to vetting prospective agencies, many issues can be avoided.
“I approach these partnerships in the same way that I approach hiring a new employee. I ask for references, I ask to speak with prior clients, I interview them, I ask to look at portfolios and I definitely look at how I get along with their primary contact for our business,” she says. “It’s also critical to consider how their business objectives align with our own to ensure there isn’t a possibility of future conflicts of any kind.”
It was in applying this method that Awad came across Your Chemist Shop’s most successful partnership, which saw the company begin to use SLI Systems‘ on-site search solution in 2010.
“I discovered SLI Systems at a conference I attended around that time. From there I began a discussion with Mark Brixton, who had only just started with SLI at the time and it was really his hard work and dedication that sold the SLI proposition to me.
“Of course, the software is extremely powerful in its capabilities, but Mark also went out of his way to assist the process in showing exactly what the solution could do for Your Chemist Shop. Moreover, the way they roll it out and assist the client-side development team really proved SLI’s worth to me and this is certainly a major reason for our staying with them since then.”
A Partner to Lighten the Load
Now that Your Chemist Shop has been acquired by Pharmacy4Less, SLI’s solution has also been rolled out across the latter brand’s new website as well – all as a result of Awad’s positive experience with them. However, she notes, she wouldn’t be seeing as great a return from the implementation if it weren’t for regular updates, tweaks and optimisation initiatives from her side of the fence.
“The Vanilla implementation of SLI’s solution couldn’t be easier – it’s simply a case of providing a clean data feed from our website as well as inserting some code onto the website. You could take a set and forget approach to it in that sense, but I really don’t think you’ll get the full value of the solution if you do.
“By committing to making occasional tweaks and updates you’ll find you get incrementally increase returns as you optimise to meet the needs of your website’s users. We’re currently experimenting with their product recommendations solutions as well as providing our users a more targeted search experience. However, it still isn’t a large burden for our developers to manage this work. SLI practically spoon-feed the developers everything they need to make it work.”
And the results? SLI Systems continue to grow as a company, taking on new clients and even performing a recent rebrand. However, Awad says her relationship to SLI hasn’t changed in all that time and the results its solution yields make a clear case for the vendor.
While Awad admits deriving a clear picture of ROI is sometimes more easier said then done, she says that tracking on-site search conversions via Google Analytics reveals some obvious trends.
“Anything related to conversions via on-site search have doubled since we implemented SLI and continue to increase each time we optimise further,” she says. “In that sense we couldn’t be happier with them, and that’s another reason why we have continued to work with them throughout this time.”
Hear more from Rania Awad and other industry experts at Power Retail‘s upcoming Blueprint Workshop Events in early October at both Sydney and Melbourne.