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Building A New Website During The Great Bicycle Shortage Of 2020 & 2021

Colin Reis

Colin Reis- Manager of Digital Engagement

In January of this year Cane Creek launched a new website – a project that eight months prior was shut down due to the pandemic.  The first two weeks of April 2020 were… uncertain. We shut down operations for the first time since Cane Creek opened its doors, and we all went home. We didn’t know what was going to happen to our business, or if we were going to have jobs to come back to after we got back from the shutdown. Suddenly we had bigger things to worry about than deciding if we were going to switch eCommerce platforms.

We were in desperate need of a new website – we felt our old website was not representative of Cane Creek, and it also lacked technical support and any sort of design flexibility. I was tired of telling our CEO we can’t do this or that because of our site’s limitations. Cane Creek specializes in making world-class bike parts, and we have about 45 employees total with a small marketing department. Up until this point we’d been designing, supporting, and managing our website entirely ourselves.  We all “wear a lot of hats” at Cane Creek, but you can only have so many fedoras in the closet… It was clear we needed to join forces with an agency that could provide us with ongoing support, security, and a better-looking website with the flexibility to do whatever we wanted.

Our team spent months vetting multiple digital agencies to build our new site.  We had come so far as narrowing it down to one – an agency out of Massachusetts – and we even had plans to sign a contract with them.  But then the pandemic hit and we needed to hold on to every asset we had. A new website was non-essential to keep our business running, so we broke up with the agency out of Massachusetts, and put the new website plans on lockdown.  

Fast forward two months and our webstore sales were better than they ever had been.  We were selling everything and anything that was on the shelf, and we were scrambling to keep up with the incoming volume – this was not only the case with us but industry-wide. Most of our local bike shops (and we have many in the Asheville area) had sold out of bikes and had already accrued a waiting list – the beginning of The Great Bicycle Shortage of 2020 & 2021.  Who would have thought a health pandemic would be the catalyst to reignite the cycling industry? 

With the boom of incoming volume and sales, whispers of the new website started circulating in our Google Hangouts at work. The project was back on – it was everything I could do to not jump up in sweatpants that I definitely didn’t wear every day while working remotely.

Most websites are built upon a content management system, which manages all of your site’s content, and if you have a webstore then your site needs eCommerce functionality so you can accept payment for the items you sell. By the time we decided to pursue a new website, we were so tired of our current system that we wanted to burn it to the ground.  We wanted to start completely fresh with a whole new content management system and new eCommerce platform, but like many outcomes or consequences that have come from this pandemic, we changed our approach. 

During our discovery process, we were vetting a company out of Greenville, SC – Beck Digital – only an hour away from our headquarters. Their suggestion was to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but instead to keep some of the infrastructure we had already built with our current site, and incorporate a piece of software that would give us the creative freedom and flexibility that we had been lusting after. Though burning our site to the ground and starting fresh would have been satisfying, this approach seemed much more viable to our team than it had before. 

Right at the height of the mini-boom, during the time we needed our website most, we ran into a problem. I don’t want to go into too many details, let’s just say the problem would have ground our newfound webstore activity to a halt. We called Beck and they quickly responded and worked on the issue until it was resolved.  After their quick response and solution, it was crystal clear that these were our guys.

During the next seven months, we built our highly improved website.  Beck migrated our site to their servers, duplicated it to a staging platform (which is basically a test website), and we started making changes.  We changed the top-level navigation, the infrastructure of the product pages, we improved the overall look and aesthetic, we changed the product images (there were a lot), we added alt text and metadata, and we added a heck of a lot of new content – I’m sure there’s more but I don’t want to lose you.  All the while in the real world, orders continued to outpace the supply, and lead times for bikes and bike parts got longer. 

If you visit any cycling company’s website to buy something or any other outdoor industry company’s website, you’ll see a lot of out-of-stock or available on backorder notices on products.  It won’t always be like this, but for the time being, this is the new normal. Things change and so we must adapt to get the job done, hell I’m even considering running a KMC chain on my Eagle drivetrain! 

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