A new e-commerce site delivering value to the public sector online.


Public sector

Project type


Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO) is the UK’s largest public sector purchasing organisation. It supplies schools, further education, government authorities and departments and charities with day-to-day practical products.

A fresher shopping experience.

YPO needed to create a new look site and online shop. With over 27,000 products and 100 contracts available on the YPO store, constantly evolving to meet the needs of the customer, this was a big project.

We started to work on a solution to ensure YPO had a specification that answered their brief. Despite there being similar off-the-shelf solutions that would have been sufficient, YPO needed the ability to customise the site with ease. Giving them the flexibility to adapt as their requirements would develop.

Pushing the boundaries.

The project aims included reducing the number of fax orders, increasing geographic reach, increasing turnover and increasing market share. To achieve this was to ensure products could be displayed to customers based on what their permissions let them buy. So the site personalises the products available using a rules-based permissions system.

The amount of information the store needed to deal with was vast. Ensuring entry of this data, and that the site was flexible and fast, is challenging. To do this we integrated a middleware called Scribe. Scribe gave us the ability to fulfil the brief by building a bespoke system to extract the relevant information at the right time.

We also needed to create a single template used to sell pretty much anything, including goods, services and training. The resulting form was a clever piece of software development, automatically selecting and filtering information — depending on the product and description — from two separate databases.

An interconnected system.

The site needed to be scalable and fast with large numbers of products to manage. All this information needed to be delivered in an accessible way. The new software gives the team at YPO the power to manage this via the executive dashboard. Keeping them reactive and flexible when it comes to the customer's needs. So as soon as a product enters the YPO catalogue, it appears on the website.

We developed an integration service in Sitecore to pull the data from the data warehouse into the CMS. This includes the full YPO product catalogue, the wishlists of users from the previous website and all user account details. This database also includes order transaction details created by YPO customers. Product search is implemented using SOLR/Sitecore 7. This includes autocomplete, search suggestions, stemming, n-gram rules to search product titles and descriptions. Hierarchical facet generation drives users quickly to the products of their choice.

Showcasing a product range to a wider audience.

The primary end user of this site is public sector workers likely to be using desktop. So making the site responsive wasn’t a priority. Instead, the focus was making sure we created a fixed screen layout that focussed on showcasing the products and descriptions in the best possible way.

The experience for users of both the back and front end of the YPO website in this respect is improved. It’s much easier to use. We also wanted to increase visits and sales to users who weren’t familiar with the brand. Non-brand terms are performing much better since building the site for SEO. Organic visitors are up 414%, and the conversion rate for these visitors is up by over 300%.


Since site launch, Ypo.co.uk had one of its busiest ever weeks taking over £1 million in orders. Visitor numbers are up 29% with a 21% increase in unique users. Sessions are up by 62%, whereas user session length is up 50% with bounce rate is down 33%.

On the UK Customer Service Index, YPO rank at 87% — above the UK average and just 1% behind Amazon and John Lewis and 3% above Boots and Next. Customer confidence has also risen sharply, reflected by the 15% increase in order value. The site has since received a Sitecore Site of the Year award in 2014 in the ROI category. 

Organic visits




Products and services used


    User experience

    User research



    Visual design


    Interaction development