GAK is the UK’s leading retailer of musical instruments, based in The North Laines in Brighton and doing half of its business online. Most of its customers are individual musicians, though GAK also supplies the education sector.
GAK prides itself on being one step ahead of customer needs, and providing a rich user experience through all of its sales channels. “Customers’ expectations are increasing all the time,” notes Max McKellar, GAK’s co-Managing Director.
As web browsing has moved from the desktop to mobiles, and strong communities have formed on social media, GAK wanted to be able to reach its customers where they are, and harness all of the latest tools to help them choose and buy its products. This meant providing high-quality images that could be appreciated just as well on mobile devices, video content showing its instruments in action, and the ability to buy in convenient ways – from Paypal and Apple Pay to easy finance options.
The company’s previous systems weren’t flexible enough to meet these needs – for example, not integrating readily with other systems, didn’t support Paypal, or weren’t mobile friendly. GAK had outgrown the platform and needed to rethink its entire front-to-back retail set-up. It didn’t have sufficient control over its existing back-office system either, being tied to a licence fee with costly charges for new development. This was holding back the business, which now wanted to raise its game online and go after new sales opportunities internationally.
Having investigated the off-the-shelf systems available, the company decided it would mean too much of a compromise, so GAK invited two development companies to quote for a new bespoke end-to-end retail system. It chose One Beyond because of its deep ecommerce experience and pragmatic approach to what was possible.
The project was one of the most ambitious One Beyond had ever tackled, especially given the timeframes imposed due to a scheduled break in contract from the incumbent supplier. A team of around twenty worked with GAK on the new system for a year, harnessing the latest Microsoft .NET and Azure technologies to create a highly secure and resilient system. The system includes CloudFlare, a Content Delivery Network for transmitting image data in the fastest way possible. The website regularly attracts thousands of concurrent visitors.
The system is so scalable and flexible we can develop it however we choose.
The added functionality is very powerful. High-quality images and videos enhance GAK’s product pages, while a seamless Paypal and Apple Pay link (via Stripe APIs) make payments effortless and an integrated finance option eases sales of higher value items. “These are powerful sales tools,” Mr McKellar says. GAK can also engage with communities on social media more readily now, tailoring its content to each audience, exploiting share/like features, and connecting to GAK blogs.
One Beyond delivered all of this without having access to GAK’s previous systems, using AI-driven screen capture techniques to extract existing data, and managing the transition seamlessly. As a result of this, and the high impact of the new system, GAK rated One Beyond the maximum five stars in a detailed customer review on Clutch.
The proof of the project’s success was seen immediately in GAK’s financial results. In its first quarter of being live with the new retail system and website, it saw revenues grow by 10% compared to the same period a year earlier.
“One Beyond has given us incredible value for money,” Mr McKellar says. “Most importantly we now have a very powerful business asset – our relationship with One Beyond is such that we own the code, which gives us control over our future without being locked into a licence fee. Meanwhile the system is so scalable and flexible we can develop it however we choose.”
GAK has seen an increase in sales from outside the UK – without actively marketing its products abroad. It sees this as its next business opportunity. GAK wants to exploit the easy adaptability of the new system to develop tailored web front-ends for different audiences, each with its own branding and imagery but linked to the same logistics systems. “This is a project we’re continuing to roll out in phases,” Mr McKellar says.
Nothing is out of bounds now, thanks to the freedom One Beyond has given us.