Kayak fishing is a rapidly growing subcategory of one of the most popular hobbies in Europe, fishing. This traditional pastime is not only a source of food, but also a very popular sport. In the UK, there are more active fishing licences than participants in Sunday league Soccer! In Spain, over a million people have a licence to fish. Within the sport of fishing, kayak fishing is one of the fastest growing categories in many countries. This is where the story of Galaxy Kayaks begins.
The beginning of a new online shop
In 2012, Stephen Sweeney was searching for a life change. That search led him to a chance encounter with a friend and the owner of Galaxy Kayaks (a UK company started in 2007) that inspired him to launch Galaxy Kayaks in Spain. Together they would eventually join to form Galaxy Kayaks EU.
Galaxy Kayaks was launched when kayak fishing was just becoming a popular sport. However, it was evident that many of the fishing kayaks on the market either didn't offer a good standard of quality or were expensive. Traditionally, kayaks were sold through speciality retail outlets, which meant middlemen and high mark-ups: the average kayak priced over €1000. There was clearly a gap in the market for affordable fishing kayaks that could be sold directly to the consumer.
Putting the pieces together, Stephen found the perfect solution: create an online business and website sells a specialized brand of quality fishing kayaks sold at affordable prices through a PrestaShop based website that evolved into www.galaxykayaks.eu.
Galaxy Kayaks aimed to break this tradition by manufacturing, importing and selling quality kayaks that could be purchased for under €500 and delivered straight to a customer's door. With this goal, Stephen had a vision to expand the brand throughout Europe and spearhead it to the top of the EU market. Stephen shares, “The idea came from my passion for the outdoors, for fishing, and my desire to find a business that would fit in with my lifestyle.”
Breaking down cultural barriers in ecommerce
Launching a fully international business is no easy feat. The number one priority was to establish a solid website from which to sell the products. We selected a model that designates a subdomain to each country, thus enabling the company to work in small flexible teams controlling their own online shops, whilst gaining the benefits of SEO by sharing a domain.
“I have been fortunate enough to have always run my own businesses; the most recent being within the restaurant industry where I ran a portfolio of fifteen restaurants. From my experience with franchising, I saw an opportunity in the kayak market to operate a similar style business model internationally (online).” Says Stephen.
A major step, finding a ecommerce platform that supported the model. The main aim was to appoint a platform that could offer a lot of flexibility and yet at the same time would not incur a huge amount of initial investment. The PrestaShop community was also a big attraction because it showcased the platform’s adaptability. Plus, there were countless modules available, enabling our company to design a platform with capabilities specific to our business. After much analysis and research, PrestaShop was selected for Galaxy Kayaks EU.
The international model is carried throughout the business, including their diverse marketing strategies. Strategies differ greatly due to cultural differences and society, therefore promotions vary across Europe. In Spain, for example, Galaxy Kayaks EU generates more sales for ´Three Kings´´ holiday (the 6th of January) than for Christmas. Aside from promotions, giving each country each country’s team full control over their own markets makes product and stock management easy. There are also many obvious language and cultural barriers automatically tacked by this model.
Engaging with the community
A key reason for the growth seen by Galaxy Kayaks EU in the market is not only the quality of the products but also proximity to the market both on and offline. Working in smaller teams that focuses on each national market allowed them to develop closer client relationships. The rise in social media makes this easier but the biggest drive has been the ability to engage with clients through the use of content.
Fishermen love to photograph and take videos of their catches. They are also incredibly passionate about what they do and this lends itself to a community that loves to share and discuss content. Each country has their own preference to social media outlets. We found that in France they focus on dedicated forums, and in Spain it’s mainly on Facebook.
From a business perspective, by using the Blog available on Prestashop, large amounts of traffic can be driven to the website by writing about specific topics and sharing them through our social media channels. These articles, if well written and related to active promotions, can be an excellent tool for generating sales.
Not to mention, some clients truly immerse themselves into the business itself. Client feedback from expert kayak fishermen assists our experts in the development of future models of Galaxy Kayaks EU. By being very approachable and directly asking clients for their feedback, we’ve created a passionate and committed client base.
We’ve also nurtured closer ties to the kayak fishing community by having a physical presence offline by becoming official sponsors of major local and national events, such as the Spanish national kayak fishing championships. This helps to put faces to names and build strong and binding relationships, bridging gaps experienced by companies solely based in the digital world.
By using these community-building strategies, the Galaxy Kayaks EU social media following has grown by over 800% in a year. With daily web traffic increasing by 500% and sales are up across the board, a large proportion of this comes down to increased engagement with the community. However, their success doesn’t stop there.
Since launching, the brand has grown significantly and Galaxy Kayaks EU is now available in Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, and Scandinavia. Galaxy Kayaks EU has seen outstanding growth and now have a annual group turnover of more than €2m. When asked about his success, Stephan says, “If you love what you do the passion will take you that extra step you need to succeed in business.”