Photo: Bergspezl

20. October 2021

Bergspezl is expanding into the online world

Large online retailers make life difficult for brick-and-mortar retailers. To compete in the fiercely contested market, they must also be present online. That is why Bergspezl, a mountain sports and bike retailer from Salzburg, has not only launched an online shop, but also digitized all sales processes – from ordering to shipping and returns. With approximately twenty employees

Since February 2021, customers can purchase products from the mountain sports specialist online as well. “Bergspezl pursues a holistic sales strategy: we are both online and offline,” says CEO Stefan Scherholz. In addition to the existing four branches, more will be added throughout Austria. “Bergspezl’s online strategy is actually a logistics strategy,” adds Stefan Scherholz. What does this mean? Launching an online shop is just the beginning of e-commerce. The real effort lies in the processes behind it.

Distributed warehouses save costs

Stefan Scherholz wanted to make the move to the online world seamless. This means that everything from ordering, payment, commissioning, logistics to returns is done digitally. The online shop is connected to the ERP system. The special thing about Bergspezl is that there is no central warehouse, but the inventory is sourced from the branches. When a customer places an order, the shop system helps select the branch with the most stock of the product for shipping. The product is then shipped from that branch. The Bergspezl team scans the product with a smartphone and subtracts it from the inventory of the branch. The product and shipping data are automatically transmitted to the shipping partner for faster and easier collection of the product. Returns to the branch are also handled digitally.

This system, with its decentralized warehouses and seamless digital process, saves significant logistics costs. The distributed warehouses also benefit Bergspezl in terms of availability. “Otherwise, I would have to have all the goods I already have in-store in an extra warehouse,” says Stefan Scherholz. This would be an additional burden, especially since many suppliers are currently facing delivery difficulties due to the pandemic.

Bergspezl received support from external partners in implementing the e-commerce system. For example, the interface to logistics had to be programmed. The retailer received DigiCommerce, the e-commerce promotion of the state of Salzburg, for this purpose. Innovation Salzburg supported them with the submission. “The submission with Innovation Salzburg went smoothly. We were able to bill the programming of the logistics interface through the funding,” says Stefan Scherholz.

Challenges on the way to the online world

Part of the online strategy also includes online advertising. “We are not yet very well-known in Austria because we have only a few stores. And even online, for example in Google rankings, one has to compete against other online retailers,” explains Stefan Scherholz.

He underestimated the path to a functioning e-commerce system. The interfaces to the ERP system are very complex. The Bergspezl team also faced many challenges that they had not expected. “For example, there are no standardized product photos in the sports industry. Each manufacturer provides photos in a different format or even refers to their printed catalog. This doesn’t make designing an appealing online shop any easier,” Stefan Scherholz tells about the obstacles.

Despite all the challenges, the conclusion is positive. However, how it will affect the revenue remains to be seen. Bergspezl has a plan for the next two to three years in which the online shop will be continuously improved and online marketing will be carried out. “We are still in the learning curve,” says Stefan Scherholz.

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Romana Schwab

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