Commercial Motor Gets an Agile Website Makeover


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Article ImageCompany: Commercialmotor.com

Shopping for a new vehicle is never easy, and Commercial Motor knows that. The magazine, along with its website, is part of Road Transport Media, publisher of Motor Transport and Truck & Driver magazines. The company also produces the Motor Transport Awards. On commercialmotor.com, buyers can search a database for the latest commercial vehicles, and dealers can advertise their inventory.

(commercialmotor.com)

Business Challenge

Commercialmotor.com launched in 2011, as a mix of editorial content and classified ads. But by 2015, the site was showing its age, no longer able to keep up with customer expectations or the publication’s needs. Not only was the content siloed in two separate CMSs, but the supplier of its classified platform was no longer developing the platform. Unable to grow or develop the site in any significant way, Commercial Motor decided it was time for an overhaul.

Vendor of Choice: Inviqa/Drupal

Inviqa describes itself as a technology partner and consultancy that helps brands “meet strategic goals through digital services and solutions.” Specializing in ecommerce, content management, and custom software development, Inviqa aims to provide end-to-end support for customers’ digital journeys. Conversely, Drupal is an open source CMS “with the flexibility to build great websites or push beyond the browser.”

(inviqa.com; drupal.org)

 

The Problem In-Depth

It’s a problem anyone who has had a website for more than a few years knows well. You do your best to choose the right vendor for your needs. But before you know it, your needs have changed, you’ve outgrown the platform you’ve chosen, and it can’t evolve rapidly enough to keep up with the demands of your users. Commercialmotor.com found itself in much the same situation.

The editorial content for the site was being handled by a CMS that “never took off,” according to James Clark, product manager at Commercialmotor.com. Meanwhile, its classifieds were hosted on a proprietary SaaS system. Clark says, “The supplier was no longer actively developing their classified platform.” This meant no new features were forthcoming, and it was difficult to make changes to the site. Additionally, the separate platforms resulted in siloed data.

The website worked, but it was unable to grow to meet user demands or to keep up with the competition. Autotrader, which sets the standards high in terms of user expectations, is Commercialmotor.com’s main competitor, and continuing to stagnate was simply not an option. It was time for a new CMS, and Commercialmotor.com needed help building out its new site.    

 

The Solution

The company had undertaken a smaller site overhaul, revamping its Van Advisor site with the help of Inviqa. Clark says that when Commercialmotor.com started looking to relaunch, Inviqa was immediately at the top of the list of companies to work with.

Clark had a matrix of criteria to evaluate proposals by:

  • Price
  • Timescale
  • Understanding of the brief

Inviqa was in the top three choices. Ultimately, Clark says, “Although they weren’t classifieds experts, their strengths in other areas … like understanding of the brief” won Inviqa the job. Richard Jones, CTO of Inviqa, says the company is “into the concept of open source, having built proprietary CMSs in the past.” While the free price tag was a draw in the beginning, Jones says the company eventually realized the true benefit of open source platforms is “the ability to adapt to the client.” You can build custom extensions and modules tailored to each customer’s needs or—especially when talking about a solution such as Drupal with an active community of developers—draw on the extensive existing add-ons.

The main hurdle that Inviqa needs to clear when working with open source solutions is convincing the clients. “Some people think they aren’t as secure” as proprietary models, says Jones. He disputes this, however, saying that because there are so many eyes on open source platforms, they end up being more secure in the long run.

Selling the idea of using an open source system to Clark and his team wasn’t too tough, because Commercial Motor already had experience with this kind of software. Ultimately, Inviqa won the contract in August 2015. There was a discovery stage that lasted into September, and that’s when things got agile.

 

The Outcome

Agile web development (AWD) is defined by a willingness to learn as you go. Companies and developers roll out small chunks of a new website, get feedback, make changes, and then move on. That’s how Inviqa and Commercialmotor.com approached their joint venture, which was powered by Drupal.

“We had six sprints with a break over Christmas,” says Clark. (A “sprint,” if you’re not in the know, is the agile way of saying “iteration.”) “As a client, we were quite new to working in this agile way,” Clark adds. But all the scrums, stand-ups, and ceremonies amount to close communication between the developer and the client and an iterative approach that assures the team never gets so deep into the project that it can’t make a change nimbly and before it’s spent a lot of money on a part of the site that just doesn’t work. Jones says, “The agile process is more about close communication.”

“From our point of view, it felt very collaborative,” says Clark. The Commercial Motor team was able to be involved in all of the ceremonies—a sort of debriefing session at the end of each sprint—and was able to change directions or drop features as needed. For instance, Clark points to a feature on the old website that allowed a self-serve functionality, letting private sellers pay for their classified ads with a credit card. “We decided to launch without that feature,” Clark says. Some people on the team were shocked by this, but “when we looked at it, the number of sales that came from self-serve was very small and most revenue came from large dealers who had managed accounts with us.” In other words, the company learned it didn’t need to include an old feature in the new website just because it was what people were used to.

By the end of April 2016, commercialmotor.com was fully launched and better than ever. Now that the entire site was on the Drupal platform, it meant that everything was simplified. Employees only needed to learn one system. The site is mobile responsive—a basic requirement—and the Drupal CMS is making it easier to implement site improvements. Perhaps most importantly, the traffic on the site has continued to grow. This new, more flexible CMS helped Commercialmotor.com achieve a 90% rise in page views and a 20% rise in revenue in the first year. When we spoke in late 2017, Clark said October had broken a new record, with 1.1 million page views. Business also improved for truck sellers. For instance, the site generated 651 phone calls for sellers in March 2016, but in October of the same year, sellers saw 1,640 calls.

You can’t argue with those results—an agile, open source approach to revamping its website worked for Commercial Motor.


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