What do Yeovil and Yakutat have in common? The answer is specialist vehicle leaser Seaton Automotive, a division of Douglas Seaton Ltd that has supplied cars to customers in the south-west for 83 years.
So on launching seatonautomotives.co.uk last May, MD Edward Seaton was surprised to receive the first online order from Yakutat in Alaska. Fortunately, the customer wanted a car on his return to Scotland, which Seaton was happy to supply. Yet he admits that attracting custom from so far afield was not intentional. 'We were a bit dinosaur-like about getting a web site, but the Alaskan order showed us what could be done,' says Seaton.
The web site reflects the values of an established family business, serving as a starting point rather than facilitating orders online. 'Our service is designed to get people talking to us, not to replace the people element,' explains Seaton. 'It suits the sort of customer who wants what we've got to offer.' This approach has been successful. 'It's remarkable how many hits we've been getting,' he enthuses. 'We were lucky to be late onto the online train, as the web site is better than it would have been two or three years ago.' And with half of new business now coming via the site and turnover up by a third to pounds 8 million, being slow off the mark hasn't put the brakes on Seaton's success.