How we turned a gap in the market into a thriving online business

A wooden crate with stones spelling out TURKEY on a beach looking out to sea

 

Getting Personal started with one clever personalised calendar and grew into a multi-million pound ecommerce business. Rachel Miller talks to Giles Harridge to find out the secrets behind their success

If you've ever struggled to find a personal gift, you'll understand the frustration that inspired the creation of Getting Personal. The brainchild of Giles Harridge and John Smith, Getting Personal offers a wide range of gifts including some unusual and highly personalised products such as calendars, cards, mugs and more.

When it was started in 2005, the company consisted of two founders plus "someone to make the tea". Getting Personal grew rapidly from these humble beginnings and was eventually bought by The Card Factory Group in 2011.

The idea for Getting Personal was borne out of frustration at the lack of interesting corporate gifts. Giles and John, who were doing consultancy work together, decided to come up with their own product. It was a personalised calendar featuring the name of the recipient included within a photograph - as pebbles on a beach or in the Hollywood walk of fame.

Friends, colleagues and family loved it, so Giles and John built a website to sell it to a wider audience. With one product in two versions (desk calendar and wall calendar), they set up for business in November.

Positive PR

Knowing that the actual product got such a positive reaction, they sent samples to the media in a bid for some positive PR. They really hit the jackpot when ITV's This Morning featured their calendar just weeks after they had launched. "We got a great response," says Giles. "Phil and Fern showed the personalised calendar to camera and orders came flying in."

As the new year began, Giles and John came up with a new romantic theme for a Valentine's calendar. And they opened up new opportunities by producing calendars that could start in any month enabling them to sell calendars all year round. "We sold even more calendars around Valentine's Day than we had over the first Christmas," says Giles.

Rapid online growth

On the back of that confident start, Getting Personal expanded, adding new products to the range including more personalised products such as champagne and greetings cards, as well as fun and quirky items. Turnover rose steadily year on year and eventually they were bought out.

Clever marketing is one reason why Getting Personal thrived. As well as PR, Giles and John devoted a lot of time ensuring the Getting Personal website ranked highly on  search engines. "We've always knew how important search engine optimisation was," says Giles.

At the same time, public relations was a key element of their marketing strategy. "We constantly tried to get coverage in the media, from local and national press to TV - it really made a lot of difference." A couple of years after launch, Getting Personal was awarded the prestigious Manchester Evening News Young Business of the Year.

Customer service

Customer service has also been a fundamental part of the Getting Personal approach. Even now, customer reviews are published on the site and the business has an average feefo rating of 4.4/5.

"It's not just about getting traffic to the website, it's also about getting conversions," says Giles. "We worked hard to make our web experience simple and enjoyable, but the customer needs confidence and reviews provide that. The site also makes it easy for customers to contact them. It is possible to check your order status online, read the answers to frequently asked questions, ask a question or simply call them up.

Thanks to its innovative products and high levels of customer service, positive word-of-mouth recommendation helped the business grow rapidly. "We know that people came to us because they saw one of our calendars elsewhere. Our products showed thought and delivered the wow factor. We made it really easy for people to buy a thoughtful and unusual present."

Ecommerce content edited by Chloe Thomas of eCommerce MasterPlan.

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