SINGAPORE - When a user types the word "pet" into a Web search engine, chances are that "pet lovers" will show up as a suggested search term at the top.
Click on the term and the website of Pet Lovers Centre (PLC) will likely emerge as the top result.
This came about after PLC recently overhauled its online presence, with the aim of improving its customers' online shopping experience.
Finding a brick-and-mortar PLC store is easy - the company is the largest pet store chain in the region, with 60 outlets in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
But finding the chain's online store was not so easy in the past.
Its website had a low search engine optimisation ranking, which meant that it would not show up in the first page of results when people searched for "pets" or other related keywords.
When customers did visit the website, they often griped that its interface and functionality were outmoded. Content on the site was cumbersome to update and not user-friendly.
For example, customers looking to redeem their accumulated loyalty points had to download a form, fill it up and send it to the company by snail mail.
Even PLC's staff were having difficulties responding to customers' queries online. Exasperated customers often had to go to the physical stores to seek answers.
PLC realised that it could not allow its primitive website to derail the strong growth that it was enjoying in the offline space, said chief executive David Ng.
"We were at a point where we were on a roll where growth was concerned," he said.
Prodded into action, PLC revamped its website with support from Spring Singapore's Capability Development Grant.
"The grant was well-suited to our needs, as it could be used to develop our IT capabilities, specifically our online store, which was exactly what we needed, to progress to our next phase of growth," Mr Ng said.
Today, customers can easily make online purchases and redeem membership points, and interact with fellow pet lovers via a forum on PLC's website.
As a result, Mr Ng said, traffic to the website has shot up threefold and online sales have increased by 54 per cent since the revamp in May 2011.
The remodelled website has helped the company foster greater brand loyalty, better engage its customers and gain deeper insight into their needs, said Mr Ng.
With a fully functional website in place, the company is ready to push for further growth at home and abroad.
PLC aims to open five more stores between now and the third quarter of next year, and position itself as a household name in pet care across Asia-Pacific.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.