From frustration to idea to grant to.... world-wide used crossborder tool?
As a partner of 1 of Europe's largest hockey web shops Hockeygear.eu, online marketing agency Wecommerce has been looking for ways to do smart and cost-effective marketing since we first started working together in 2011. We did not have the mega budgets that some of our competitors in the hockey industry had, so we had to try with good strategies and clever tricks to still gain market share. Also to be able to buy cheaper and thus make enough profit. When price wars became more and more frequent from 2017 onwards, we had to think of what we were going to do to allow Hockeygear to still survive in the market. Continuously going along with the low prices would be disastrous for the profits. One of the alternative solutions was to partly avoid the battle and also focus on the foreign market. Without absurd advertising budgets, but instead trying to focus on higher Google positions. Hockey is not a very big sport in many countries though, so it had to be done in a very cost effective way. For a French webshop with a potential of several tens of thousands of Euros in turnover within a few years, there is not much time and money available for website building and maintenance.
German, English, French and Spanish...but no Flemish shop
We started with a German and English shop because the hockey markets were quite well developed there. Later on we added a Spanish and French shop. We did not start a Belgian one for the time being because it would be too much work to maintain that shop as well. In 2009, the Belgian hockey association only had 23,000 members. With an additional Dutch shop aimed at Flanders, we would only reach a fraction of the number of hockey members we have in the Netherlands (240.000) and therefore it was probably not worth it. However the market in Belgium was growing rapidly, and we as online marketers with a large focus on SEO found it extremely unfortunate that with Hockeygear.eu we actually barely scored in the Google results in Belgium. So it started to itch to do something with it. After all, everything was set up properly for SEO in The Netherlands, and it didn't make much difference in Flanders.
Just copy and maintain too expensive for small market as Flanders
However, each time we came to the conclusion: it is not worthwhile to set up (copy from the Dutch), maintain and host that webshop. That would easily cost ten thousand euros per year, and that's still a considerable investment in a time of price wars, when the margins are not high anyway. However, when we started brainstorming with our then 18-year-old part-time programmer Bas van den Boom in 2019 how we could solve this problem, all sorts of possibilities came rolling out. Van den Boom's programming knowledge was coupled with our online marketing knowledge and experience and the foundation for Clonable was born.
Testing of Clonable
The idea was then tested at a number of webshops under our own management, namely Ippontime.be, Spiruella.be and Hockeygear.be. Also a web shop of one of our customers was added to the list, who also liked the idea. Plotterwinkel.nl already had a Belgian shop, but the maintenance took too much time compared to the orders it generated. When the owner heard about our new method, he was ready to switch. The year 2020 was then dedicated to professionalization, building a simple dashboard for customers and convince customers of our own online marketing agency Wecommerce so we could prove to others with even more data and examples that the tool works and does exactly what it is meant to do: save time for setting up and maintaining a website, attract additional visitors through SEO and enable localization. And not only for Belgium, also for clones from Germany to Austria, or for example from Spain to Argentina.
During a brainstorm in 2021 we got the idea to see if we could make translations possible, and our customers asked us more often if it would be possible to translate the content as well. This way they would be able to expand their webshop even further. This sounds almost too good to be true, but this feature was added in no time. This translation function ensured that Clonable received a lot of attention. After two very successful days at the Webwinkel Vakdagen in Utrecht, where we first introduced Clonable with translation function, we noticed how much interest and demand there was for it. Especially since we also built a function to create a demo site with translation for every website within 5 minutes.
Through Clonable it becomes possible even for small companies to see if they can sell abroad in an efficient and cost effective way. Without having to make major investments, they can then compete with large international companies, which will only serve to increase competition in the world. The days of only selling abroad through monopolies like Amazon are definitely over....
The second half of 2021 must be characterised by further customer growth and expanding the possibilities of the tool. In addition, we are working hard to become better known. An innovation subsidy has already been obtained from the RVO, Clonable has been selected as the 'Most promising Startup 2021', and support for our tool has been expressed by Innovation House De Peel.
The future for international business looks bright....the future is Clonable!
Niels Arts, Bas van Schijndel and Bas van den Boom,