Case Study - Chain Reaction Cycles | Export Technologies

Case Study: Chain Reaction Cycles

Building The World's Leading Online Bike Store

Key Facts

  • 10+ year working relationship
  • 69% year-on-year growth rate
  • > £750m sales transacted through Export Technologies’ platform

Chain Reaction Cycles is the world’s leading online bike retailer.
Founded as a family-run shop in Northern Ireland in 1984, the company now has over 600 employees, £170m in online turnover, and sales in more than 180 countries.

Image: CRC Screenshot

Entering The Online Race

Having established a small bricks and mortar business and increased revenue through burgeoning mail order demand for specialist bike parts, CRC found themselves at the start of the new millennium facing a rising challenge: how to compete online.

“Some of our rivals had started to get websites but most were difficult to use and did not seem up to the job,” says Michael, ecommerce Director of CRC. “We believed that a website should be about the content and products. Users should be able to easily find what they are looking for and they should never be lost in the site.”

Faced with this challenge, Michael and Chris, Head of Sales, approached Export Technologies.

At that time there were only a few ecommerce providers in the market and no set standards for how to build a profitable online presence. We realised that CRC presented a great opportunity to innovate and build something that could really make money.

With a shared focus on growth and innovation, we agreed a business model that still underpins the way Export Technologies works today. Instead of charging for licensing or platform rental, CRC opted for a revenue share. By adopting this model, CRC were able to access a technology they might not have otherwise been able to afford. This also ensured that our focus was directly aligned with theirs – on driving profitable sales.

We began work on the CRC website and it went live in September 2000. The impact on CRC’s business was immediate, with over £110k total online revenue generated in the first 6 months. By focusing on optimising the website to improve conversion rates, CRC achieved 15% month on month growth in their first year of retailing online.

By April 2002, CRC’s online revenue had broken £100k per month.

With average growth rates at over 20% quarter on quarter, by April 2004, the site hit £500k in monthly sales.

CRC hit a landmark £1m in online revenue in August 2005, and ended December with 75% growth on the previous calendar year.

Explosion Of International Business

Spurred on by increased sales in the UK and abroad using the IRP’s multi-language and multi-currency functionality, sales grew by over 42% in 2006. By January 2007, CRC had reached £2m in monthly sales online.

When the Euro began to strengthen against the pound in 2007, CRC was uniquely positioned to capitalise on increased overseas demand as a result of the IRP’s in-built functionality. Driven by this rising demand, international sales had grown to over one third of total online revenue by the end of 2007.

Having proven the IRP’s capability to process international sales, the Export Technologies team once again considered ways to drive traffic – but this time from a global audience. Google proved to be an under-utilised channel. Export Technologies sought to optimise this by using the IRP’s built-in translation engine to bid on a wider range of keywords across multiple languages.

By March 2008 that figure was £3m, growing to £5m by August of the same year. By the end of 2008, foreign transactions were making up more than 50% of online sales and total sales had grown by over 200% in the previous two years. Average order value began to rise, driven by international average order values of over double the UK average.

Image: CRC on the IRP

Becoming The World’s Leading Bike Store Online

From 2008 to 2012, CRC tripled its online revenue, finally reaching over £170m in annual turnover by the end of 2012. Roughly two thirds of these sales came from outside the UK.

CRC Online Sales Graph

With over 2 million customers served and a compound annual growth rate of 69% over 12 years, CRC had fulfilled its early promise and become one of the top 10 online retailers in the UK and the world’s leading online bike store.

Codifying a Winning Formula

The experience of working closely with one company through over ten years’ of sustained, profitable, international growth has endowed Export Technologies with a wealth of expertise.

Our methodology is simple: Traffic x Conversion Rate x Average Order Value = SALES – this holds true in all markets. However, what we have learned from growing Chain Reaction Cycles’ online business is not just what to do, but when to do it – both in the technology and in digital marketing. We are uniquely positioned to capture and increase revenue at a key point when businesses have the greatest online growth potential.