While we love talking with our clients about site search and navigation, it’s also a nice break to see our clients in action. Last week, I caught up with Steve Elkins, Co-Owner with his wife Kathy, of WEBS, one of the largest independent retailers of yarn in the country.

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Elkins was attending Stitches West 2013, one of the largest yarn and crochet shows that features classes and sessions as well as a market for knitting and crochet enthusiasts to buy skeins of yarn in thousands of colors, weights and varieties.

WEBS is a family-owned business that Elkins’ mother started in their basement in 1974. Since then, it has grown to be the largest brick and mortar yarn retailer in the United States. When Elkins took over the business in 2002, he began working to improve the web business. In 2007, WEBS brought on SLI Systems to manage the search for their eCommerce site, www.yarn.com.

For knitters that live in the Northeast, making pilgrimages to their 16,000 square foot store in Northampton, MA is not uncommon. “Some people will go two, maybe three hours out of their way to visit the store,” said Elkins, who said the store has been likened as a Mecca for knitters.

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But for customers throughout the country who don’t have access to such a wide variety of products, they can access the huge inventory and wide selection that WEBS offers through www.yarn.com. They have a separate, larger warehouse to handle all shipping for the eCommerce business.

Elkins estimated that WEBS stocks roughly 400,000 units of yarn at any given time. With huge varieties, weights and colors to stock and sell, sorting through those products can be confusing for customers. SLI’s search and refinements have figured strongly in helping customers search a product or material, such as angora, and then refine the large selection down by brand, fiber, weight or price range.

“We tend to carry products you won’t find in the larger chain stores,” he said, such as hand-dyed yarns, a larger selection of wool yarns, discontinued and close out items and their own line of products.

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They’re continuing to develop their online business, starting with redesigning their site with responsive web design, to ensure that the site works well across a variety of mobile devices. He said they are also looking at smaller tweaks to improve the overall usability and site features.

Additionally, Elkins added, SLI’s reports help him stay up-to-date such as trending keywords to indicate popular products and other important analytics. SLI’s customer service team keeps him informed about new features that he can implement to continually improve the online shopping experience. As a longtime customer, he said the personalized service SLI has given through the years and the effectiveness of the search has made the choice easy.

“We have stayed with SLI for so long because it works,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”



3 thoughts to “Customer Profile: Steve Elkins from WEBS

  • Andrew Grieve

    It’s good to put a face to the website. 🙂

  • Charity R

    Great article. I am a huge WEBS fan of course. Site search is a major discussion currently where I work and has been in the past. From a user experience it is very key to understand the behavior SEM/SEO side and look at participation. Many companies do not realize the value of using those analytics to see whats working and whats not from a customer base. Yay WEBS <3

  • Linda Courtney

    I’ve been buying from WEBS since about 1981. They are absolutely the BEST in the fiber world! And Steve – I can’t believe how much you are looking like your dad these days!

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