Technology is constantly pulling individuals and organisations along with it as advances are made on a weekly, even daily, basis in varying areas of a business’ operations, and it’s up to businesses and the professionals running them to ensure they stay on track and take a proactive approach to technology use.
One business that acts proactively is Official Club Exchange of the Confederation of Professional Golf, Golfbidder, so we spoke to Managing Director, Liam Robb, about how the company ensures it is leading the way when it comes to integrating technology to their ever-expanding business…
How does Golfbidder utilise technology?
Perhaps our most unique piece of technology is our pricing calibration system, which our developers wrote in-house over a period of years. It gives the buying team here, headed up by John Brooke, real-time access to product availability, conversion rates, product profitability and stock turn across thousands of golf club models in varying conditions – enabling us to give the best price possible for old equipment to club pros.
We also have an automated system that tracks the price online sellers are charging for clubs so that our older models don’t end up looking too expensive – it is a constant process which is essentially about supply and demand – our buy and sell prices just reflect the market out there at any given time – and reflect it not just at model level – but at SPEC LEVEL.
So if you take a driver for example – that has various permutations of loft, flex, shaft type etc, then add in left or right hand, men’s or women’s, then condition ratings for head, shaft and grip – and there could be 100 different prices for one model! You could only manage this in the volumes we do with some very good software.
Then the fact that we are constantly using the software means that it is learning and becoming better and better all the time as more data is gathered. We have data from all the way back to when the business began so using algorithms created by our developers we can ensure pros are getting the fairest and most accurate price and we make the appropriate margin on each club.
On the distribution side, when we take an order on the phone, that automatically creates a purchase order which gets emailed to the pro – and it also triggers a next-day collection of the clubs via UPS – so the whole process is very smooth. We process payment for the clubs as soon as they arrive here.
Our aim is to make life as easy as possible for the club pros selling to us – they need to be able to deal with us with as little hassle as possible so that they can get on with running their businesses. The organisational benefits we can give – for example, removing the inconvenience of individually promoting, selling and distributing clubs themselves – will hopefully achieve that goal.
How are Golfbidder’s customers changing the way they use technology and how has this affected the business?
The biggest change recently is the use of mobile – a significant number of customers now transact on mobile devices – which presents technical challenges for the web developers. A few years ago, retailers would create apps for use on smartphones, but there are now so many different devices – phones and tablets with different screen resolutions – that making your website responsive is the way most people are going now. Essentially you have one website, but it is optimised and resizes depending on which device it is being viewed on.
How important is it for Golfbidder as a business to keep up with changes/innovations in all aspects of technology within the business?
Very! The example of optimising your website for mobile use as noted above being just one example. The online market is changing all the time and you need a good (and normally expensive!) development team to keep abreast of things.
One of the ways we’ve done this is through the use of analytics software such as Google Analytics – previously this type of software would have cost a huge sum of money but now it is readily available for free so businesses should be making use of it!
We’ve used the data from there to establish exactly the information we gave about mobile device use – we can see exactly how users are interacting with our website and what device they do it on. We’re also using it to tell us what the conversion of visitors to customers is by tracking consumer journeys from beginning to end on the site, which tells us key areas to improve and what news things can be introduced to increase that rate.
What is the biggest change in technology that has affected Golfbidder?
Believe it or not, the internet! When we launched at the end of 1997 the internet didn’t exist. I just had a shop and the idea was that if things went well I’d open some more. But the internet changed everything. I launched a simple one page website, which lacked traffic at first, but after some help from an SEO guy we started getting 10 emails a day from various parts of the country asking whether we had a particular club in stock – and then we started sending clubs out. The whole business model changed.
Any simple tips for professionals/national bodies to use when thinking about technology in all aspects of their businesses?
Also, I think if you are going to adopt Social Media – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc – then you need to do it well. It sounds obvious but a lot of people don’t do it well. It requires quite a bit of thought to write something that people are actually interested in – and that often means having dedicated people involved doing it or are trained in the best ways of using it. And you need to be very clear about what the purpose of doing it is and whether the time, effort and cost involved is actually worth it for your organisation.
Social Media has so many benefits for us, from excellent engagement rates which lead to great conversion rates directly from specific platforms, to a huge amount of awareness (e.g. 2 million+ views on YouTube), which mean it certainly is worth doing it, which means you can justify throwing resource at.