When the first Christiania Bike was created, Hans, youngest son of Annie and Lars, the founders of the company, was not yet born.
Since Bike #1, (a birthday present from Lars to Annie), the company has moved from a workshop in Christiania, to a barn in Bornholm to a factory which has steadily expanded to the present 3000sqm and 26 employees.
Hans has lived through all the growth and he is now in charge of e-Commerce and web-design. He recently walked around Copenhagen with Carolyn Wells, of WooCommerce, the WordPress plugin that powers the newly designed ChristianiaBikes.com website.
The interview is an enjoyable jaunt through the decades of growth and then focuses on how the e-commerce site is helping customers.
Carolyn: You guys are steeped in history, but you’ve now moved your business online as well. What made you decide to make the step into the world of eCommerce?
Hans: It started actually … What is it, five? Six? Years ago. It was because I was doing my thesis, my bachelors degree, and I wrote my thesis about B2B eCommerce. When I finished it I left it for perhaps half a year or something. And then when I was starting my masters degree I just thought, why not just look at this B2B eCommerce? And that’s what I did. So, that’s actually where it came from – it was because of my study. And then it became a hobby because I thought it was interesting.
Carolyn: Has it changed the way you work with your dealers?
Hans: Definitely. Our dealers think it’s an amazing service – they can order bikes online whenever they want and they can see prices whenever they want. They don’t have to send an email and wait for an answer from us. Whenever they have made an order, they can also see how far it is in the production – they get updates. So there are a lot of benefits.
Carolyn: Have you ever thought about selling directly to retail customers via your own website?
Hans: Yeah, we have thought about it, but it’s not something we want to do right now. I tested it, where you can buy one of our models on our webpage and then, when you went to check out, you could select the dealer who should manage the order. So we are thinking about doing it that way – you can order it online at our website, but then you have to select the dealer who should take care of it.
I think when we talk about eCommerce, there’s this line, about how well a product works being sold in this way. For something like books it is simple, but if it’s a bike or a trike, you want to have a test ride, and it’s also a very big product. So, there’s a lot of shipping costs which plays a huge part. With something like shoes, you can buy them online and if they don’t fit, you can just send them back. If it’s a bike like this, which is shipped on a pallet, that’s a lot of shipping costs. And there’s another consideration, and that is that our products can be customised in so many ways. So if a customer buys a certain product online and customises it – it would be very complicated for us to take it back. So with our product we have complications with selling directly to end users. This local way of doing it, where you have some local dealers who handle everything, that is probably the way to do it, at least for our product.
If you haven’t done yet, check out the new ChristianiaBikes.com website.