The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread disruption in every industry, but it’s also ushered in some unique growth opportunities for merchants.
As the pandemic upended consumers’ lives and work routines, this led to a whole host of new-found needs, with many retailers suddenly finding themselves in demand like never before.
According to BCG, ecommerce sales in late March 2020 were 58% higher than during the same period in 2019 – and this surge shows no signs of easing as we head further into 2021.
A boost in sales is always a welcome development, but can only become lasting if a brand can pivot its fulfillment and distribution strategies to meet increased order volumes head-on.
This is where a strong 3PL partnership can make all the difference to your prospects.
The mission of Rad Power Bikes is simple: To bring affordable, high-quality, and enjoyable e-biking experiences to consumers across the world.
E-bikes first captured founder Mike Radenbaugh’s imagination back in 2007, when he was still a high school student in Northern California. Looking for a more efficient approach to his rugged 16-mile commute to and from school, he overhauled his regular bike with a motor and battery. Before long, his friends and neighbors had begun asking for the same electric makeover. In 2015, he entered into a partnership with longtime friend Ty Collins to bring e-bikes to a larger audience of consumers – and Rad Power Bikes began.
Over the past six years, Rad Power Bikes has grown into the largest e-bike brand in the United States, with offices in Canada and the Netherlands in addition to its Seattle headquarters. Experiencing a year-on-year surge in demand for their products as e-bikes grow into a mainstream product, they have partnered with Whiplash to take advantage of this historic growth opportunity.
With gyms and fitness centers closing and public transportation suspended due to the risk of virus transmission, consumers have been forced to search for new ways to conduct regular activities like exercising and commuting to work – and e-bikes have fast become a one-size-fits-all solution.
Having already experienced increased visibility over the past few years, e-bikes sales began skyrocketing virtually overnight. In its technology predictions for 2020, Deloitte predicted the sale of 130 million e-bikes between 2020 and the end of 2023 – a figure which is no doubt set to be far higher in the wake of the pandemic.
This e-bike boom was a huge opportunity for Rad Power Bikes, but also presented some major logistical challenges for the digitally-native brand.
“Rad Power Bikes has seen massive growth every year since the company was founded, and as demand and interest for ebikes has surged, we needed the ability to scale quickly,” said Mike McBreen, Chief Operating Officer at Rad Power Bikes. “With a Seattle presence and a nationwide operation, Whiplash was a clear choice for a fulfillment partner that allows us to deliver an unrivaled customer experience.”
The need for rapid scaling is a common scenario for growing D2C brands, whose success rests on the effectiveness of their warehousing and order fulfillment strategies. In the case of Rad Power Bikes, they had the added complexity of heavy and bulky product offerings, thus necessitating a fulfillment partner who could formulate a tailored shipping strategy for cost-effective delivery:
“As a digitally-native bike brand, Rad Power Bikes has the challenge of shipping bikes and wagons, which are very large items, to their end consumers in a timely, economical manner,” said Brian Weinstein, Vice President of Business Development at Whiplash. “Whiplash is uniquely positioned to support their rapid growth and to help facilitate positive customer relationships in every region.”
While the D2C model is advantageous for brands, with higher profit margins and direct access to consumer insights, it leaves far less room for error when it comes to the customer experience. To foster brand loyalty, vendors need to provide a seamless end-to-end experience from order placement to delivery – or face high levels of customer churn.
To ensure a coherent, customer-centric expansion for Rad Power Bikes, Whiplash formulated a tiered ‘phase one’ and ‘phase two’ strategy. Paired with the real-time insights of their advanced ecommerce technology, this approach has given Rad increased visibility over their inventory and allowed for much more nimble management of their orders and SKUs – the key to lasting success as a D2C vendor.
Phase one has seen Whiplash streamline Rad Power Bikes fulfillment operation by managing nationwide shipping out of its Sumner, Washington distribution center outside of Seattle, allowing easy access to both the Port of Tacoma and Rad Power Bikes’ global headquarters. Phase two will see the transition to a widespread multi-node fulfillment strategy, selecting distribution centers from 18 possible facilities according to proximity to customer hubs and key transportation networks.
“By drawing on Whiplash’s in-house team of ecommerce and small-parcel specialists, this tailored fulfillment strategy will support Rad Power Bikes’ customers by ensuring that bikes, parts, and accessories arrive as soon as possible, ensuring positive brand outcomes and supporting future growth into new retail channels,” says Weinstein.