We have the great pleasure of working with customers all over the world. But perhaps the most gratifying part of what we do is accompanying our customers as they grow the businesses they’re passionate about. Skiis & Biikes is the embodiment of this mission.
Skiis & Biikes was started in 1978 in Ontario, Canada by Paul Montgomery. Two years later, a fire burned the business to its foundation. But with the support of the local community and a passion for the sport and his business, Paul persevered. Thirty-five years and more than 200 employees later, the business has become a cornerstone at the bottom of that local hill where Skiis & Bikes got its start.
But much has changed since 1978, and online search has changed the way businesses must operate to remain visible and accessible to potential customers. Paul’s three children, Devin, Gillian, and Alexis, knew that to stay competitive and be successful they had to take the business digital. I had the opportunity to talk with Devin Montgomery about what that endeavor has meant for the company, and how Alexa has helped.
Jennifer: You and your sisters have taken your father’s business, founded in 1978, digital. What has that process been like?
Devin: Taking a strictly brick-and-mortar retailer online has been exciting with a steep learning curve. We wanted to do everything in-house, learn about available tools, [and] then apply them to our style of business. Learning how to still have the customer come first in the online world is different but the principles are the same. Online resources, YouTube, trial-and-error, and two years have produced a great team with big growth.
Jennifer: How has your view on analytics changed during that time?
Devin: In-store analytics stop at sales figures, and you rely on face-to-face feedback. Moving online allowed us to access an entirely new world of data. Everything from traffic behavior, conversion rates, search terms, time on site, organic keywords, and A/B testing has allowed us to make informed decisions, qualify strategy, and justify future efforts.
“Using analytics makes decision making much easier, especially when working with a light marketing budget.”
Jennifer: How do analytics help inform your strategy now?
Devin: We use many KPIs when evaluating our strategy’s performance. First, we look at what our goals are for a quarter or season, then set how we are going to measure success. For example, if we want to attract new customers, we deploy a new ad campaign, event or promotion. Then we can see how much of our traffic to site was from the new customers or returning. We can then see where the new customer segment spent time, how much time, the bounce rate, etc. Using analytics makes decision making much easier, especially when working with a light marketing budget. The outcomes also help inform in-store strategy and give store managers confidence, even if the direction is new or unfamiliar.
Jennifer: Tell us how you use Alexa. How does it integrate with your day-to-day workflow?
Devin: We look at our Alexa Rank daily. We started our new ecommerce website 2 years ago with an Alexa Rank close to 2 million. Every upgrade, every investment, and every new marketing campaign, we saw the rank start to tick up, affirming our direction and giving excitement to the team. We have a whiteboard with our conversion rate, Facebook likes, and Alexa Rank. We update these numbers weekly…then go out for dinner or go-karting if we hit our goal!
Jennifer: And what specific tools do you use that help with your strategy?
Devin: The Alexa Chrome extension is a great, fast reference on where a site ranks. We use this when checking out a new competitor to monitor, brand to carry, or blog to partner with.
We also use the SEO/Site Audit. SEO was a tricky thing for us to evaluate. We kept doing best practice, but didn’t know if we were going in the right direction. The SEO Audit gives us a great report card and a snapshot of high-level problems and wins.
We also look at traffic sources. This helps us look at growing traffic segments and ones we could nurture that our competition has established.
“When you can compare to others in your industry, you can achieve real benchmarking, then make real decisions.”
Jennifer: How has Alexa made an impact on your business?
Devin: Simply, in the past we couldn’t see how well we were doing compared to our competition. If we had an influx of traffic to our site we couldn’t tell if that was because more people were excited about skiing or excited about Skiis & Biikes. It’s one thing to see great traffic to the site, conversion rate, and traffic sources, but when you can compare to others in your industry, you can achieve real benchmarking, then make real decisions.
While Skiis & Biikes is still a relatively small company and competition from new entrants and more established companies is ever present, the company strives to differentiate. Continuing to leverage its specialized knowledge and relationship-based service to grow, its number one mission remains: advocacy for the sports they love. Analytics is helping them get there.
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