Case study: Rebranding and new website transforms niche B2B Chinese company into a digital success story
Niche companies can be tricky but rewarding to design for – with no set industry standards or other companies to take inspiration from its basically a clean slate. The story of PEL really goes to show what can be achieved through good design, iterations and good client communication.
PEL, established in 2004, is an eyewear testing and inspection service company operating out of Shenzhen, China. As with many industrial or service companies in this area, the majority of their clientele are Chinese companies producing products in China on the behalf of Western brands (with varying degrees of success). PEL previously found all of their business through the network of their GM, Zenobia Chan, who is a seasoned expert in the eyewear industry and has many contacts. Unfortunately, this was not scalable after a certain point and Zenobia often did not have enough time to respond to leads or search for new business.
PEL did have an English website from 2011-2016, however, it wasn’t ranking for any keywords and had barely seen any use. The old website had no blog, very very little content, no trust signals and didn’t give the visitors the information they were looking for – especially given the highly consultative nature of the sales process for their services.
Below: The old website design before moving to HubSpot in 2017.
While records from the internal analytics of the website showed really good traffic, upwards of 50k visits a month, it was quickly found out to be almost entirely spam. The website was infected with some viruses and was constantly bombarded by IP's from Russia and China of which none converted. Simon Zeng, the sales representative at PEL, estimates that only 1-2 leads came through the website each month, and possibly only 2 or 3 leads were ever converted into customers during the total duration of this website’s life.
PEL was in the need of help from a marketing agency that understood the requirements and needs of western companies but also wanted to find a local partner who could meet in-person to discuss strategy and performance. Oxygen was selected to build the PEL website and begin a marketing retainer in early 2017.
It was a hard decision to make for PEL to move onto the HubSpot CMS and the marketing platform. Chinese companies are especially sensitive to software pricing and management at PEL were initially hesitant to spend so much when the company was still small and have some trouble with finding a budget for marketing. Eventually, after seeing the success of some of Oxygen’s other quality-control based clients, they were persuaded and we began the conceptualisation of the new brand and what was required for the new website. It would be a fresh start for PEL, with new branding, a new URL, and new services to showcase on their new website.
Below left: old vs new logo
After starting the design conceptualisation process, we immediately hit our first barrier. There was no stock photography for eyewear inspection or quality control available online. The few images available online were deemed ‘not relevant enough’ by the client and we had to quickly come up with another solution. As one of the Oxygen offices is based in Shenzhen, China and we frequently cross the border, our team decided to take this challenge head-on and do the photography at the laboratory ourselves (with no extra charge to the client). Our team spent a day in the laboratory, learning about the different tests and procedures, and photographing PEL employees while they worked. Luckily, the photos turned out great, and we were able to start shaping PEL’s professional image with photos of real people actually doing their jobs (something which many websites today can’t say).
Below: Images taken at the PEL laboratory by the Oxygen team.
Our content team began to meet with the GM, Zenobia Chan, frequently and juiced her for all the information we could on the latest procedures and which certifications and regulations mattered for creating more trust signals on the website. What was previously one page of some bullet points of their services quickly became a large drop-down menu of individual pages with information on search service. Zenobia also helped us to overcome the language barrier, as many of the tests and equipment were almost impossible for our staff to try and translate as the language was very technical.
The new website and branding immediately elevated PEL, making them look like a professional, English-speaking, and most importantly, trustworthy service provider for eyewear testing and inspection in China.
The new design showcases PEL’s experience, qualifications and trustworthiness by using real images of their processes and employees whenever possible. Unlike competitors who use generic stock images, this website stands out as authentic – something which is critical in this industry. We even used a real video of some of the PEL laboratory equipment in action for the home page of the website, pioneering a look and feel which has now been emulated by competitors.
The new clean and modern design is full of CTA’s for various different stages of the buyer’s journey. By utilising the inbound methodology when creating content we have been able to successfully generate over 931 new leads through the website alone since we started the project in 2017.
O2O using the website
The website acted as an inspiration for the rebranding of the rest of the company, which has lead to new brochures and new booth designs helping PEL to grow offline as well as online.
Below: New print brochure design used for trade shows.
Below: New PEL branding being used for booth design at a trade show in Milan 2019.
It was down to Oxygen to help find creative ways to utilise the power of the HubSpot CMS and PEL’s new website to help with events and provide more sales opportunities for our client. By creating landing pages offering free 15-minute consultations (using the HubSpot meeting tool) we then promoted these events by email, social media, advertising and pop-ups on the website. These landing pages were super successful, helping Zenobia to book time with high-value leads who wanted to learn more about her business. PEL closed new business as a result of these meetings, including a lead who had remained undecided until they were able to book a meeting and speak with Zenobia in-person. To learn more about how this converted leads into customers, please see our other case study here.
Performance of the new design
It took not only our entire team of design, marketing and sales experts to develop these custom solutions but also the faith of our client in our ability to deliver. Utilising the powerful features of the CMS, marketing and sales of HubSpot enabled us to create a customised approach tailored perfectly to the requirements of our niche client. This combined with constant content and design updates, utilising A/B testing and frequent SEO improvements meant that we were slowly able to scale the ranks of Google.
Below: Old organic keywords in 2017, 34X increase in keyword ranking over 2 years.
Bold: New organic keywords in 2019.
“Our old website cannot compare to the present one. In terms of leads, before, every month, we would get 1 or 2 leads each month from the website. Now it’s around 10x more.” - Zenobia Chan, GM
PEL are now the proud owners of many top spots on Google including several difficult keywords related to their core service offering such as ‘eyewear in China’ and ‘blue light blocking’ making them one of the go-to resources for many professionals in the industry. To learn more about our inbound marketing results for PEL please see our case study here.
Left: Example of conversions on a single ebook offer for PEL.
Previous estimates of conversions before the new website launched were less than 0.1% according to sales because of the sheer amount of spam traffic they were receiving. Some of the landing pages on the website promoting content offers now have over 30% conversion rate for visitors to contacts.
Zenobia estimates that their inspection services have grown over 200% since starting with Oxygen, and that on-top of generating a positive ROI, their new reputation and new professional image have been "immeasurable" for their business.
“At PEL we have limited resources and our client base are from Western countries. So in order for them to know about us, we need to be present digitally. With a digital presence, we can explore and reach out to more than the we could have with trade shows alone.” - Zenobia Chan, GM
“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery”
The initial road to visibility for PEL was steep and we were happy to achieve the growth we had within the first 18 months. However, with marketing the job is never truly finished. Within one year of launching the new website, we noticed that competitors had begun to copy our approach to the point where many of their pages were almost identical to PEL’s. Clearly, management at other companies had seen something they liked and had noticed PEL’s growth trajectory.
|Below: New competitor website emulating the PEL layout.|
Future of design with PEL
To compete with other competitors and keep the PEL brand both fresh and at the top of Google – we’re renewing our design efforts in 2019 with new website pages, new offers and new videos. The branding for our social promotion and advertising elements will also be shifting to be more modern, with brighter greens and vector graphic illustrations.
Below: Example of the new video promotional content for PEL.
We’re also pleased to announce that we have recently enabled a chatbot on the PEL website to qualify leads and offer custom engagement with leads. We hope in Q3 this year to also launch PEL’s new automatic quotation system which will be integrated into the PEL chatbot using HubSpot and Pandadoc. Want to follow PEL’s success on LinkedIn? You can follow the company here, or their very knowledgable GM, Zenobia Chan, here.
Could your company do with a new website? Speak with one of marketing experts to find out how we can help.