When it comes to mountain bikes on the international market, Commencal is a major player. They’ve built up their brand’s legendary reputation since 2000 by investing in sports marketing and being present at all major events. Today the brand has a community of over 150,000 fans as well as a powerful and effective sponsoring strategy. 16 years after putting out their first bike model, the Andorran SMB of 50 employees sells more than 15,000 bicycles a year, namely thanks to their e-Commerce business. The brand is present in 50 countries and its 7 e-Commerce websites are connected to Sage business management software in 4 languages and 5 currencies.
The 4 keys to Commencal’s e-Commerce success
Max Commençal knew how to make his mark on the mountain bike market and create a strong community around his brand when it was still unchartered territory. The passionate founder and visionary welcomes us to his offices, worthy of the best start-ups, to reveal the 4 drivers of Commencal’s impressive growth:
- A line of high-end, reliable, powerful and particularly well-made bicycles.
- An advantageous pricing strategy made possible with a direct-to-consumer solution.
- International distribution online available in several languages, several currencies, and using several warehouses throughout Europe, Canada, the USA and Mexico.
- Simple and efficient business management using connectors that link all software used.
Actinic: Right from the beginning of the creation of Commencal’s online shop, the brand was already exporting to many different countries and boasted a significant reputation. What convinced you to sell your products online?
Max Commençal: In 2013 we decided to launch our e-Commerce website and take advantage of our reputation to address our consumers directly. At the time we had about 300 resellers and distributers. But the market was stagnating, maybe even declining, and it was time to question the traditional strategy of brand-distributer-reseller-public.
What’s more, our bikes were becoming increasingly technical and specialised and there were fewer and fewer resellers able to explain in detail our brand’s options and specificities. In general they were mainly interested in their profit margin and were always asking us to lower our prices while increasing their cut.
So, there was the danger of alienating our whole store network, but I thought that by changing nothing we would be taking an even greater risk.
We started by trying to put together a website using an open-source solution, but we quickly decided to contact industry experts.
"Our website has never been down for a minute!"
Actinic: Why did you choose Actinic?
Max Commençal: I personally didn’t want bespoke development. I preferred to go with a company selling ready-made solutions. We chose Actinic on one hand because they were one of the first companies we contacted who were friendly and constructive, and on the other hand because the solution allowed us to connect our websites to our Sage software.
Actinic had a pretty good reputation in terms of performance and uptime, and that was one of my primary criteria for the future of our brand. I have never regretted this choice as, from the beginning, sales have been more than satisfactory and especially as the website has never been down for a minute, whether it’s the English version or the versions in other languages.
"The connector makes running our business possible!"
Actinic: You export products throughout the world, how do you manage a business with 7 e-Commerce websites, shops, distributers and resellers?
Max Commençal: To begin with, our business success relies on the management of a considerable amount of stock and seamless logistics. The bikes are made in Taiwan and Thailand, our warehouses are spread throughout 3 continents and resellers and shops—the ones that are left—are dispersed throughout the world. In addition to our many distribution channels, we also have several types of stock linked to Sage: stock in customs, stock for advertising, marketing, the press and other stock reserved for individuals and shops.
Each time an order is made on the website, the connector updates the stock per warehouse. This means that for the stock in Europe, if you order a bike in England the stock for the Spanish, French and German websites will be updated and synchronised real-time.
At each step of the ordering process, from payment and shipping to preparation, customer and order information are updated for the customer account and synchronised with Sage. Customers can follow their order preparation and track their packages using the tracking number provided. Logistics that’s both powerful and easy to manage as everything is automatic!
The connector makes managing our business possible. Today 75% of our turnover is online and we received over 10,000 orders in 2016.
“We forecast reaching the same performance as in the United States where we doubled our turnover in just a year.”
Actinic: How were you able to expand your business internationally?
Max Commençal: Actinic helped us by offering a complete set of features for expanding our business’ exports. Thanks to the Actinic teams’ work, we launched three new e-Commerce websites in 2016. The German website at the beginning of the year and Canadian and Mexican websites more recently, which brought in significant additional turnover in just a few months. Next year we forecast reaching the same performance as in the United States where we doubled our turnover in just a year. We are also projecting launching a website for Australia and another one for New Zealand.
We use the same operating plan for all countries. We duplicate our business model; an e-Commerce website and a showroom per country (or per continent). For example in Canada we decided to open our showroom in new offices in Squamish next to Whistler, a very high altitude mountain biking site.
- The first step to creating a new website is duplicating the website design, which is easy to do.Each time we do a design overhaul or we set up a promotional offer, we are able to use the same design easily. We then adapt the offer to each country by offering products suited to the market.
- The second step is selecting the currency and applying the appropriate taxes for the country concerned. Actinic provides us with an advanced VAT system that allows us to adapt a product’s VAT according to its category, the location it’s being delivered to and the shipping method. You can imagine the number of possible tax rates for a product catalogue. We manage our pricing system and tax rates using Sage.
- The third step is connecting the e-Commerce website to the bank and payment methods chosen for our clients. When we were establishing Commencal’s presence in the USA, Authorize.net technology, developed by Actinic, allowed us to connect our website to our American bank. We processed our first orders within the first few days the website was live.
Can you explain to us what makes your website effective no matter what country use it for?
Max Commençal: A true mountain bike brand is first and foremost built around a community of demanding athletes and people passionate about bikes. Every 2 years we call on the Actinic Graphics Studio to completely overhaul our website design. This year our designers and Actinic’s designers worked together to highlight product information and the community aspect of the site. We wanted our new design to give an accurate image of our philosophy.
Actinic started by structuring the homepage around our product image. Our visitors can view clips, visit our new Showroom and new facilities in Andorra as well as get news from the team and riders. Today over 150,000 subscribers follow us on social networks.
The user-friendliness of the website was also completely redesigned by Tania, who manages our projects at Actinic, to support customers and offer them a simple and reassuring shopping experience:
- Product pages completely reflect the quality of our range and offer online shoppers all the information necessary to reassure them and encourage them to confirm their high average shopping carts.
- New pages with tutorials, guides and technical details have been created to offer precise, comprehensive and organised information.
- A powerful and user-friendly bike configurator was developed by Sébastien, our technical contact at Actinic. Online shoppers can completely design their own mountain bike starting with the frame. They then choose the shock absorbers, grips, wheels, breaks and all of the bike’s parts. We want to offer our customers a tool worthy of their expertise that gives them the freedom to put together the bike that’s best for them. Customers can also assemble incomplete bikes, if for example they already have some parts. The configurator is also synchronised with Sage. This saves our teams a lot of time.
“With Actinic, we have a quality partner on our side!”
Actinic: After optimising the customer experience on your websites, what are your projects for 2017?
Max Commençal: We need to keep thinking and working in order to constantly offer new and innovative things! Every year 4 collections are produced as limited and special editions. Competitions and the release of new parts govern our bicycle production.
A significant part of our budget is dedicated to sports marketing which allows us to constantly strengthen our product strategy. As part of our team 2 videographers and 1 photographer travel the world following riders and competitions, world championships and cups to feed all of our communication and diffusion channels. Today photos and videos are the best way to talk about our products. Our international opportunities offer us incredible prospects for continuing to export the brand. We are very optimistic about the impact of the launch of our new websites!
In 2017 we will adopt several technical innovations. The first will be to innovate the mobile version of our website, making it more easily accessible for smartphones or tablets. We are also going to strengthen our brand community through tutorials and new bricks and mortar shops. Each product release will be supported by a maximum amount of information. The goal is to ensure that our website and sales channels are constantly evolving. And to reach this goal, I have to admit that with Actinic we have a quality partner on our side.
Recently I asked them to seriously think about doing a Chinese version…they looked at each other strangely…but they haven’t said no yet.
- The security of the solution.
We can relax under any circumstances even during spikes in traffic such as Black Friday when tens of thousands of shoppers browse our websites.
- Contact with Actinic’s teams is shockingly simple.
I’ve worked with Tania and Leslie for years, they are both available and always listen to our requirements. The support adapts to each step that we make in the development of our business.
- The flexibility of the solution.
The solution allows us to adapt and add as many features as we want simply and easily.