Dowlis Inspired Branding

The new system has enabled Dowlis to grow from 80 to over 200 transactional stores, and increase order volume massively.

The Client

Dowlis is one the longest-running Promotional Merchandise companies in the UK, and has grown its USA business enormously over the past ten years. The team wins and retains contracts with internationally recognised brands, providing everything from workwear to marketing giveaways to running popup stores at trade shows on behalf of particular clients.

The Problem

Dowlis builds a branded, custom website for each client, because for each client there’s a range of branded merchandise – from work uniforms to marketing giveaways.

The Dowlis team had around 80 such websites on a platform that’s nearly 20 years old, created before the iPhone existed. Their sales team found that new clients were demanding more from their merchandise stores, newer e-Commerce features like GDPR compliance and security features, and their technical team were struggling to make the old system meet those demands.

On top of these issues, each new website (even just for a client tender) had a monthly cost and a transaction cost – so as Dowlis grew its client base, the costs mounted quickly.

The legacy system had one big advantage – it was built specifically for the promotional merchandise industry, and over the years, had amassed a huge range of features tailored to that industry, such as product customisation, and “Punchout” (a method of linking your store directly into the client’s intranet).

The Solution

Like going from “renting rooms” to “owning the hotel”, Dowlis went from paying for individual websites to owning the entire system. There are now:

  • 10 languages
  • 200+ individually-branded transactional websites
  • 400+ single page stores for campaigns
  • 1000’s of orders per month
  • 20,000+ active products
  • 100,000+ end user accounts registered
  • £millions in online sales each year

The system includes every required feature from the old system plus a lot of new features, allowing the in-house teams to create, style and configure new stores without any external costs.

The system is made up of several Magento servers, using powerful and cost-effective servers from Digital Ocean, which can each host hundreds of stores. For very large clients, with public-facing websites, it’s been possible to create a dedicated server with its own integrations and its own connections.


E-Commerce systems need to be connected to various systems. In this case, we connected it to:

  • In-house software (AIM Smarter / Promoserve) for order, stock and product updates
  • Two different warehouse management systems for order fulfilment
  • Shopify and Square point-of-sale systems for in-person trade shows
  • Bespoke client systems such as employee rewards
  • Punchout systems such as SAP Ariba, Coupa, and Workday
  • Single Sign-On systems such as Microsoft Entra ID, Okta and OneLogin

“Punchout” and “Single Sign-On” using Punchout Hub

Dowlis wins and retains a lot of large, international clients, who typically require integration with their internal systems using one of these technologies. GetJohn’s “Punchout Hub” software handles all of this, and seamlessly integrates with Magento and other platforms. This provides one place where these client connections can be managed and monitored.

The Implementation

A project like this is an interruption to day-to-day business – because it can’t be built in isolation and then suddenly presented to the staff. To start delivering results quickly, John worked with Dowlis’ technical team to identify over 200 important features of the old system, and which of the branded stores used those features.

We combined this with a list of which stores were costing the most, and that created a priority list.

We then worked steadily through implementing each feature of the old system, and as features were delivered, more of the old stores could be moved over. To help with this process, we created some tools to help move stores – for example, methods for transferring users and a tool to quickly configure new stores. This empowered the Dowlis IT staff to move most stores without needing the GetJohn team.

As the system grew and new clients arrived with their individual requirements, our team of developers helped to create bespoke integrations, add new custom features, and even integrate off-the-shelf modules which saved a lot of development time.

The system evolved over several years, with new servers, new features and new integrations constantly being added – for example, a tool which allowed single-page forms to be quickly created for specific promotions.

It’s currently supported through a support and maintenance agreement which includes reporting and tracking, which gives Dowlis staff the reassurance that support is always available, and gives Dowlis management control of and insight into the costs.

Supporting our clients software developers and IT staff is also really important – in this case, we’ve provided training and support to help the team get the most out of the system, and worked closely with them to specify new features.

The Benefits

The new system has enabled Dowlis to grow from 80 to over 200 transactional stores, and increase order volume massively. It has allowed Dowlis to take on bigger clients with higher expectations. One unexpected benefit was that clients recognised Magento as a leader in enterprise-grade e-commerce, which helped with the sales process.

Features like gift cards and employee rewards have been really popular with USA clients, and the ability to easily support multiple languages helped win a contract with a well-known online meeting provider. Another killer feature was fully automated connections to third party warehouse management software, meaning that orders can be taken and shipped with no interaction from the sales team – allowing them to focus on custom orders and strategic activity.

The monthly cost of adding a simple website was reduced to almost zero, and the in-house team can quickly create new stores for demos and contract tenders – shortening the time it takes to prepare for a sales pitch.

Since building the system, Dowlis has achieved ISO 27001 (Information Security) certification, and can more easily answer compliance questions from new clients, thanks to owning the solution, with GDPR-friendly features and a host of security and reliability features.

The Feedback

Dowlis Inspired Branding

Promotional Products

Transitioning to our new e-commerce platform has been a game-changer for Dowlis, marking a significant evolution in our approach to delivering promotional merchandise solutions. This strategic shift has not only expanded our capabilities but has also enhanced our operational efficiency, allowing us to seamlessly manage an ever-growing number of transactional websites while controlling costs and improving service delivery. We’re now equipped to meet the sophisticated demands of our international clientele with greater agility and precision, ensuring that each client experience is as unique and impactful as the brands we serve. Owning our technology stack has empowered us to innovate continuously, maintain high standards of security and compliance, and drive growth in our business. It’s a testament to our commitment to excellence and our relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction.

David Lynn

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