Maintaining a profitable after-market sales infrastructure

The world-wide web is becoming an increasingly important sales channel for many companies retailing products to consumers and businesses. While it potentially opens the market to a wider range of customers, there are risks with this channel to be considered. One risk in particular relates to website performance, which can have a direct effect on business profitability, especially given the level of complexity required to serve the many different combinations of customer countries, languages and product markets.

We were contacted by Epson Europe, a leading printer manufacturer, to help them understand and make improvements to their online sales of printing consumables. When one of their printers is installed, driver software is loaded onto the user’s computer. This allows printing to take place, but also detects when ink levels are running low, popping up a window allowing the user to order new supplies direct from a website run by the manufacturer.

With an international customer base, the sales websites were federated across a range of servers around the globe, set up to cover different models, languages and so on. Our client had realised that they were seeing a great disparity in consumables sales between countries, printer models/ranges and so on. Across the industry, back-end sales of printer consumables and other supplies make an important contribution to overall customer profitability, so this was identified as a major concern.

To help our client identify problems in order to tackle them and improve sales, we created a tool that monitored website performance across all these websites, emulating the action the printer driver performed when ink was low. Performance – errors, timing and so on – was captured in a central database, allowing network bottlenecks, server issues and other problems to be identified and dealt with quickly. It also allowed patterns to be spotted, such as particular problem times of day, network issues and so on. We developed a simple and intuitive web user interface which highlighted areas of possible concern, allowing a user quickly to drill in and explore the underlying detail.

Providing a bird’s eye view of the performance of their web sales servers, and the ability to “zoom in” to the underlying detail to address problems that may arise, our tool put our client in the best position to maximise their sale of consumables direct to customers.