Established in 1978, Euro Car Parts (ECP) eventually grew into the United Kingdom’s leading distributor of automobile parts. Owned today by LKQ, a Fortune 500 Company, ECP supplies components for over 4,000 vehicles and boasts revenues more than three times that of their nearest competitor.
Despite their resounding success, when ECP came to Net Solutions several years before their merger with LKQ, they largely remained a brick-and-mortar business. The business generated from the website accounted for only about £100,000 in annual revenue.
ECP’s long-time owner, Sukhpal Singh Ahluwalia, was personally involved in selecting a tech partner because he knew their online channel was weak, and they needed a solid e-commerce strategy. To compete, the ECP e-commerce site needed a tech team to address the following issues:
Simply put, the website had serious problems. It was not running properly due to broken scripts, and it did not support mobile browsing. This was a pressing need, and after an extensive search, Mr. Singh gave Net Solutions the green light to address these challenges.
The way the team demonstrated ownership of the problems with the website, documented everything, and offered solutions to get it going as quickly as possible, we knew we had done the right thing in choosing Net Solutions. Everyone in the team thinks and behaves as our extension, not an outsourced development resource.
The website needed an extensive overhaul, and at this point, ECP hired Net Solutions to target the most urgent issues first. Net Solutions would eventually go on to optimize a range of features to create a powerful, state-of-the-art e-commerce website once they’d proven their expertise to ECP, but they were initially hired to stop the bleeding.
The immediate concern was that the existing eCommerce site was dated, did not support mobile browsers, was slow, and many scripts connecting the site with other systems had stopped working, thus disabling some important features. With this in mind, Net Solutions’ team members rolled up their sleeves and got to work, beginning with the following enhancements.
Technical and Design Repair: The first order of business for Net Solutions was to fix the website, both in terms of its UI and its technical abilities. This meant making the site compatible with mobile devices, improving its functionality, and redesigning the User Interface (UI).
Net Solutions rewrote large swaths of code to fix critical, non-functioning scripts and support new features. They also re-established the catalog/inventory sync to make ordering parts more efficient.
Before these changes, ECP’s sales were falling quickly due to website errors. Thanks to these repairs to the back-end scripts, website sales bounced back since Net Solutions had solved the problems caused by the out-of-sync product and inventory statuses.
Custom Delivery via UPS: Since UPS shipped during the day, customers either had to be available at home to receive the products or, due to work schedules, get those products delivered over the weekend.
To solve this problem, Net Solutions integrated custom delivery options for UPS packages, allowing customers to pick up shipments at local partner retailers rather than waiting for delivery over the weekends.
Country-specific Websites: Following the LKQ acquisition, ECP expanded to France and Germany. The new management, recognizing that Net Solutions’ ongoing work had produced powerful results, hired them to create the individual, country-specific websites.
ECP wanted the new website to go live quickly, so they used the UK’s website as a template, “re-skinning” it for the two new markets. They then further enhanced the German site to include multilingual options that catered to the country’s diverse population.
With two sites built using the UK site’s codebase, and further expansion into the European market on the way, Net Solutions recognized that a multitude of separate codebases would eventually become problematic to maintain. As such, they suggested a unified approach that would have involved rebuilding the platform to not only support additional websites but be highly configurable for various situations and requirements as well.
At this point, ECP preferred a simpler approach and had Net Solutions jerry-rig the existing code and infrastructure to support additional websites. After some time, ECP came to recognize the value in Net Solution’s original suggestion. They eventually greenlighted the implementation of three websites on an extended code base, with the main code providing the functionality.
Click & Collect: The Net Solutions team implemented a "Click & Collect" feature—allowing customers to order online and pick up products from preferred, specific locations. At the time, none of ECP’s competitors offered their clients this option, helping ECP lead the pack and capture greater market share.
The Click & Collect feature turned out to be a game-changer, as it came to account for 70% of online sales just four years after ECP introduced it to their customers.
Same Day Delivery: Another high-impact feature with high-visibility was same-day delivery, which made a splash in the auto parts industry. Net Solutions’ technical expertise helped make this possible by tightly integrating stock levels with stock visibility and logistics systems, triggering processes for packing-and-delivery of a product from the nearest location to the customer.
Better Delivery Options Across the Board: The complex nature of the auto parts industry meant ECP’s competitors struggled to provide the same range of delivery options. The changes Net Solutions implemented allowed users to precisely configure delivery options for each item in their shopping carts.
Improved Site Speed: ECP’s page-load speed was impacting both user behavior and search engine ranking. Net Solutions analyzed the speed bottlenecks and attacked the problem on all fronts. To improve site speed, they:
Faster, Enhanced Search Capabilities: The website’s search feature was very slow, likely costing ECP sales. Since customers are often ready to buy when they search for a specific item, an effective onsite search is at the heart of a solid e-commerce strategy.
With this in mind, Net Solutions redesigned the search experience and added new features like auto-suggest, search history, filtering, search by product ID, search by brand name, etc. They also redesigned the ranking algorithms to prioritize the display of selected products. The search feature redesign greatly improved product findability, which significantly boosted sales.
Warehouse Automation: As the orders picked up, Net Solutions automated many critical warehousing systems and processes with additional enhancements. The automation brought down error rates in addition to speeding up general processes, significantly reducing operational costs.
Just-in-time Label Printing: A key warehouse automation was just-in-time label printing, which took into consideration the different labeling requirements for different types of products (e.g., labels for heavy products, labels for fragile products) along with the different rules for each shipping company. Just-in-time labeling printing allowed ECP to print to the delivery specifications of each agency, for each package, just before the package was ready for shipping.
Search Engine Compatibility: For any retailer to succeed, users need to be able to find them by searching for their products. Since ECP sells highly specific products, which customers track down by first entering their car’s make and model in the website’s search feature. This meant that 90% of ECP’s products were buried deep within the website, often listed dynamically. As such, Google and other search engine web crawlers failed to index most of these products.
To address this issue, Net Solutions modified the website to make it more crawler friendly. This resulted in effective indexing of all product pages in Google and other search engines, boosting ECP’s search engine ranking. They also added metadata, enabling products to display within enhanced search results in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Google traffic increased many times over, and it led to a corresponding increase in order volumes.
Creating a Single Order Processing System: ECP sold auto parts through various marketplaces (e.g., eBay, Amazon), and orders were increasing. Since they were using a manual system to place those orders once they received them, they were losing countless hours of productivity trying to manage the system, and the task was becoming more and more tedious.
To streamline the ordering process for external marketplaces, Net Solutions developed a single order processing system that kept track of sales, orders, inventory, and fulfillment for purchases across all business-to-consumer websites and marketplaces. They did this by setting up a centralized system that integrated APIs from each marketplace.
This not only greatly simplified order management, it meant that the central hub could now provide an overview of consolidated sales figures.
Eliminating Order Delays: As sales grew, order processing slowed because the system wasn’t designed for such a large volume of transactions. Customer support teams manually processed every order individually, and this had a cascading effect on delivery time.
To solve this problem, Net Solutions implemented the following changes:
These changes resulted in faster deliveries and increased customer satisfaction.
Third-party API Uptime Monitoring: Since ECP’s website is a complex system that relies heavily on third-party APIs, any API downtime would directly impact sales. For example, the order placement journey was hampered whenever the stock level API went down.
To address this problem, Net Solutions developed a system to monitor third-party API uptime. The system notified key stakeholders any time an API stopped working, setting the stage for a quick response.
After a successful rollout, Net Solutions further enhanced the system by allowing it to switch to a functioning API when a given API went down. It would then revert to the original API as soon it became available again. This resulted in minimal downtown, reducing revenue losses by a large factor.
Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): While the traffic on the website had been increasing, conversion rates were not keeping pace. To address issues that might impact conversion rates, such as back-and-forth navigation, high bounce rates from key landing pages, low dwell time, and others, Net Solutions began running A/B tests where experiments could be performed on sample traffic, which was filtered from real traffic. Net Solutions used what they learned to increase conversions and roll out changes to the entire site.
Revamping the Code: Net Solutions’ engagement with ECP stretched more than a decade and continues to this day. As the company continued to expand and strengthen its position throughout the UK and mainland Europe, the existing code began to show its age. After all, it was more than 15 years old.
Each time ECP introduced a new feature, Net Solutions pushed for the serious code overhaul they’d recommended in the beginning. Eventually, ECP saw the value and decided to greenlight the project.
Net Solutions came up with a future-proof plan based on where ECP was and where they wanted to be in the years to come. The new CMS would be a highly dynamic, configurable, bespoke platform that could run all ECP’s online properties, not just now, but well into the future.
The new platform supported a highly dynamic configuration engine, which meant that ECP could launch a new site in less than 30 minutes, simply by selecting the desired features, products, etc.
Finally, because the sites were on a single platform, business units could receive reports and data relevant to them, with the headquarters receiving clean, high-level summaries.
Net Solutions delivered the new system incredibly fast—in just under three business quarters—while continuing to support and maintain existing properties. After the launch, they migrated all of ECP’s properties, along with completely refreshed designs, within 6 months.
The ECP flagship website has a responsive design that is scalable and can be modified sleekly. It not only enables ECP to respond quickly to meet consumer demand and handles user surge gracefully, but it was also cost-effective.
Throughout the long-term engagement, the Net Solutions team continually tested the platform for performance bottlenecks, using their findings to optimize the back-end, improving the speed and reliability of the many websites powered by the platform.
As the website became more popular, the number of visitors increased, so Net Solutions took steps to ensure high loads would not slow down the site for visitors or, even worse, cause the server to become unresponsive. Specifically, Net Solutions performed extensive load testing on the website to identify bottlenecks in high-load situations. They made tweaks to the database schema and changes to the server infrastructure configurations. This ensured confidence in the site’s high availability.
Net Solutions’ team also worked with the ECP team to identify bottlenecks in user journeys and fixed back-end issues. Their work involved:
Each of these enhancements had a visible impact on the speed and reliability of the features available to website visitors.
Most recently, the Net Solutions team worked with ECP to integrate Cara, a garage management tool, into their system. This software equipped the eCommerce sites with an additional delivery option called "Fit It For Me," which connected a customer with a participating garage, set up an appointment, and ensured delivery to the garage just-in-time for installation.
For more than a decade, Net Solutions has proven itself an invaluable partner for ECP, taking the organization from an e-commerce dabbler to an innovative leader. In the process, they have helped ECP protect their market share and allowed them to experience continued dominance in the car parts industry.
After implementing the lion’s share of these changes, ECP quadrupled their orders within four years. And recently, the IRUK Top500 Report called out Euro Car Parts for the excellent customer service they provide to their digital shoppers. The following year, IRUK Top500 added ECP to their prestigious Top 50 List—a testament to their success as an online retailer.
Net Solutions helped ECP achieve these honors and boost overalls sales by taking a deeply consultative approach. Using an Agile development model, Net Solutions worked hand-in-hand with ECP to study the impact of every change they made and to each feature.
The relationship also included multiple visits from Net Solutions’ senior staff (e.g., Business Analysts, Project Managers) to ECP’s United Kingdom office, providing an intimate understanding of the challenges that ECP faced and the options available for fixing them. It also involved visits from ECP execs to Net Solutions’ headquarters in Chandigarh, India.
In the end, ECP’s willingness to explore new solutions, combined with Net Solutions’ tenacity and innovative problem-solving skills, transformed Euro Car Parts from a primarily brick-and-mortar retailer to the e-commerce powerhouse they are today.
Net Solutions has been working with ECP for over a decade. They work as a strategic partner to build various versions of platforms. The current bespoke platform was launched four years ago and is the third wave of transformation, instrumental in achieving our business objectives.