Luxury travelwrap company seeks global expansion online

The Travelwrap Company was launched in 2007 to create luxury knitted Scottish cashmere wraps in a range of colours and designs. Since then the product range has grown to incorporate new colours and the My Little Travelwrap range for children and babies.

The company spent a year locating the right mill in Scotland and now works with a mill known for creating some of the finest cashmere in the world, using only the best long haired yarn from the underbelly of the goat.

Ethical trading and high quality manufacturing are essential to the business and this mill is involved in programmes to prevent over-intensive grazing of pastures used by cashmere goats and have worked with the same herdsmen for 200 years.

The Travelwrap Company has won several awards including Luxury Gift of the Year from the UK Gift Association and Best New Business in the UK, and they wanted to use these awards as a platform from which to start exporting their luxury products to global markets, starting in Europe.

More than a third of The Travelwrap Company’s turnover is now from export, with a significant increase in international sales in the last year. And all of this is from a company with a team of just three people.

Founder Niamh Barker said: “These days, with our ever-shrinking world of the internet, you can offer something that is the best in the world and sell it all over the world,” highlighting her enthusiasm at the prospect of selling her luxury travelwraps to customers overseas through her web site.

Transforming the UK e-commerce website

Grow Global’s Sarah Carroll conducted an Export Communications Review (ECR) on behalf of DIT to analyse The Travelwrap Company’s existing e-commerce web site to find ways to make it more suitable for international customers and boost international sales.

Sarah looked in detail at how the web site was structured from a technical point of view and made suggestions as to how it could be updated to reflect best practice. She checked the existing e-commerce system and its elements – languages, currencies, payment gateways, delivery options and more – to make it more appealing and tailored to international customers.

The ECR highlighted the importance of understanding the way your international customers buy. For example, while the website can sell in pounds, dollars and euros, the majority of customers buy in pounds. It was also found that German customers prefer not to pay by credit card, so the web site was adapted for payment by direct bank transfer and PayPal to accommodate this.

Open to Export’s article on selling online internationally gives more information for finding your best way of conducting your e-commerce.

Searching for The Travelwrap Company

More importantly, Sarah checked to see if the web site was appearing in local versions of Google around the world. Niamh said: “It was a revelation to me that we were not appearing in the search results for Google in our target markets like Australia – we were essentially invisible on some parts of the web.”

Understanding how to optimise a web site for international trade so it is truly visible in overseas markets was a critical turning point for Niamh. The web site now has pages targeted at Australia, the USA, Germany, France, Poland and Japan.

Other elements that the ECR focused on included developing the Travelwrap web site to make it truly multilingual to communicate with customers in their own languages, localising the website and creating international content. Niamh was given a comprehensive list of changes to make to the web site to help make it more appealing to the international customers she wanted to target.

After meeting with Sarah, Niamh said: “I was tremendously impressed with Sarah’s breadth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all the layers involved in getting a business to successfully export … just watch this space!”

This article on international SEO gives further information.

Boosting sales from international markets

Within the first few weeks of implementing the initial changes to their web site as advised by Sarah, The Travelwrap Company had almost instant success in terms of receiving orders from Australia, as the web site started to appear in the Australian version of Google.

After new French and German pages were created, the website still struggled to attract interest from France and Germany. The products being sold were new and didn’t have their own vocabulary. Sarah identified that the words used in the local language to search for ‘travelwrap’ didn’t really exist in French and German.

To attract customers from these markets, The Travelwrap Company needed to find the exact keywords that people in those countries would be typing in to Google to find the Travelwrap website. This showed them how important it is to delve into the language of the countries you are targeting.

Tackling the first market

The next step was to target new markets one by one, starting with Germany. It was decided that Niamh would target each new market with a two-pronged online and offline approach, as the best results could be achieved with a combination of the two methods.

In addition to setting up pages in German on the web site, she found a German-speaking PR company to help her identify German e-marketplaces to sell through, to build brand awareness for The Travelwrap Company, along with securing publicity in German Cosmopolitan and a variety of German travel web sites.

Sarah’s work with The Travelwrap Company prompted them to identify the keywords that would be used by potential German customers. They found that while there was no such concept as a travelwrap in Germany, the term ‘poncho’ would be most suitable.

Niamh is delighted to be receiving eight times more traffic from Germany than a year ago, and while the German market is still very much a work in progress for The Travelwrap Company, sales are regular each month, suggesting that the changes are already working.

There is still some work to be done on some of the German keywords, and once this has been addressed the next aim will be to research the next target markets, including France, Japan and Poland, and to find the appropriate keywords in each language.

Other considerations for translating your website can be found in this 10 step guide.

And now?

Niamh said: “It can be like walking through treacle getting everything set up, but you just have to keep going, following the advice step by step and getting everything in place. Eventually you can see the starting line and the potential return. In 2012 we were making a loss and only one year later, we were turning in a healthy profit due to both wholesale and online export sales and now 35 per cent of our business is export.”

Take a look at the Travelwrap Company’s web site.

Sectors: Wholesale & Retail
Countries: Australia and Germany
Topics: Advertising, Direct Selling, Promotion, and Sales & Marketing
Export Action Plan