Many accelerated their digital plans as a result of the pandemic, but Evoluted’s MD Ash Young went into high gear by launching CarMats.co.uk. unLTD’s Mike Durham had a chat to find out  Ash’s secret to getting on track to hit £1m turnover in a year

Practice what you preach is Ash’s motto. As a man who spends his days running a digital agency advising how to make your mark online – it’s not a phrase to be thrown around.

Ash has a long-running passion for all things e-commerce since studying software engineering at university, and with the extra-time working from home has provided, he decided it was time to put his advice to the test selling car mats online.

Thanks to an earlier venture, Ash had all the car mat know-how, and with data suggesting more people were shopping for them online than ever before to avoid visiting retail stores amid a pandemic, the business made sense.

Ash said: “You need to understand your product inside and out, you don’t need to be passionate about it. I’m not mad about car mats – I’m mad about e-commerce and digital marketing.”

Car mats profitability was key to Ash’s success – there are lots of opportunities to upsell by offering personalisation, few customer returns, and a handful of competitors.

Ash knew entering a crowded market is tough after attempting to sell flowers online in 2016: “What an absolute disaster that was. I hadn’t realised how competitive flowers is as an online business.

“There are so many players prepared to spend a huge amount of money to acquire a customer, and possibly not even make that money back in 12 months.”

Once you’ve identified your product, you have to start thinking about finding a good supplier, choosing a suitable name, and identifying an appropriate platform.

There’s no key to finding the perfect supplier – Ash found his searching on Google. The nuance comes in figuring out who you don’t want. “Are they reliable? Will they deliver the product on time? What happens when a machinist has been on a night out and comes into work absolutely hanging?”

Ash picked a supplier used by prominent high street names, which was a clear sign they had good due diligence and would resolve issues easily – plus he was even able to compare test samples against those in retail.

All his items are made to order, which removes any worries about stock levels, but Ash does note some drawbacks such as lengthy lead times especially when customers are waiting on a replacement if something goes amiss.

When it comes to deciding a name it all depends on what you sell: “I run an agency called Evoluted, and from that name you have no idea what we do, which is fine for an agency… but not for a retailer. I wanted the consumer to look at the site and go, ‘you sell car mats’.”

Ash tracked down the owner of CarMats.co.uk from information on the internet, and bought the domain for £5.5k, and only realises how much of a steal it was now:

“Exact match domain, great branded search capabilities, and it screams trust.”

Trust is an interesting topic when it comes to selling online. Ash usually advises to make sure customers can easily call you to instil buyer confidence, but CarMats.co.uk has flipped that theory on its head: “The thing that surprised me is how happy people are not to talk to you. Most people who ring the sales number actually apologise as they couldn’t put it in an email. I think a lot of companies get more phone calls than they actually need.”

When it comes to finding the best online platform for your business, there doesn’t appear to be any right or wrong answers – Carmats.co.uk is powered by Shopify which Ash stands by for its ease-of-use:

“You have to choose what limitations you can live with. Every platform has some level of drawbacks. At the end of the day, an end-user doesn’t look at a website and say: ‘I’m not going to shop there because the URLs aren’t as nicely formed as they could be’.”

The secret of his fast-track to success has been going slow and steady. “When I first launched the website, I only had the Ford Focus range, so I kept it really small initially rather than going out there spending months populating a website only to realise you have something fundamentally wrong.

“I wasn’t worried about hitting all the marketing channels at once. A lot of clients come to Evoluted wanting SEO, paid ads, social media and email marketing all at once, whereas when I launched, I knew I should just do one channel, smash it and move on.

“A £10k monthly marketing budget split across four channels doesn’t do a great deal, whereas if you put it into one you can potentially get a fantastic return.”

Ash now has more than 1800 different mats for sale with everything from a Vauxhall Astra to a Porsche 911. You’re probably wondering how he managed to scale so fast with another business and a family to look after – the truth is he didn’t.

It takes around 15 minutes to add an item to CarMats. co.uk, meaning it would have taken two months to populate the whole site. Outsourcing set Ash back around £3600 – more than worth it when you consider how rapidly he has developed.

“It’s a bit of an ego thing. I was trying to do the one-man challenge when it would have been a lot less stressful and less painful if I’d got the help in when I first needed it.”

Inspired to give it a go yourself yet? Ash said: “There was a real risk at the start of this of me looking like an idiot – just get it out there and see what happens. It doesn’t need to be perfect, if something goes wrong just correct it, you will only affect a very small number of users. Don’t be afraid to fail.”

Be sure to visit carmats.co.uk to kit out  your vehicle, and head to evoluted.net if you’re looking for digital advice.