Tech from the retailers’ perspective

Specialising in performance sportswear and sports equipment, Activinstinct is one of the fastest growing online sports retailers in the UK. Since 2006, turnover has grown from £2.1 million to £11 million and the business is aiming to double in size by 2013. Despite all the dire predictions about consumer confidence, it’s just enjoyed its most successful Christmas yet, with a 70 per cent rise in sales on 2010, and chief executive Michael Thornhill is positive about the next 12 months.

“There are many factors I can point to for this continuing growth,” says Thornhill. “But what has been absolutely crucial for our commercial success this year was our decision to move to a new hosting provider.”

Thornhill knows all too well that as an online retailer, no website means no business. “In the past, we’d had several problems with our site’s availability so we made a decision not to carry on working with a company that merely saw itself as a ‘provider’. We needed a hosting company that would align itself with our business needs, along with giving us the right level of support.”

The choice to move meant that as Activinstinct approached Christmas it knew that it didn’t have to worry about the website going down.

“We now use network infrastructure provided by Iomart Hosting, including hardware and operating systems, which gives us the flexibility to quickly scale with additional bandwidth requirements beyond our standard traffic patterns.”

The other important factor in all this is the data Activinistinct collects. “Without information about our customers, their preferences, their geographical location, their age and their interests, we have nothing to work with. The better the picture we have of our customers, the better we can serve them.” Using a MySQL to collect information about customer purchases and their preferences, the business can then segment that information and send emails or offers that correspond to consumers’ actual spending habits.

Expansion plans

Looking ahead, Activinstinct wants to expand globally. In 2011, it successfully launched in France, which is now responsible for almost 25 per cent of turnover. “For 2012, our aim is to have similar success in Germany,” says Thornhill. “Despite the problems of the Eurozone we believe that our technology, customer experience and operational sophistication will translate well.” Over the next three or four years Thornhill says Activinstinct will be looking at other international markets.

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