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Case Study - Astrak Group

Astrak Group

Astrak Group uses Elastic Path's flexible, API-based architecture to expand to new markets while supporting vast, technical product data and complex pricing requirements.



    Use Cases

    B2B Launch, Multi-Geo, Complex Pricing, Multi-Brand


    Product Experience Manager, Payments


    McKenna Consultants

Unplatforming with Elastic Path means approaching commerce innovation at our pace. We’re moving to powering our commerce across the globe with Elastic Path, but we started with our U.S. business. We’ve been surprised by how fast we can move and love that we weren’t pigeonholed into an all-at-once replatform. We see business results before we make more tech investment – not the other way around.

Stephen Cope CIO, Astrak Group

Expanding into the U.S. market

Stephen Cope, Astrak Group’s CIO, says that before the COVID-19 pandemic, many of Astrak’s customers still placed orders over the phone. But as with other industries, Astrak’s buyers – construction supervisors, parts procurement specialists, farmers – became accustomed to convenient online buying experiences in their personal lives during pandemic lockdowns. Customers’ expectations of fast, convenient online buying led Astrak to launch and expand digital experiences – and also opened up opportunities to expand into new markets and new geographies.

We came into the U.S. market in a standing start – we didn’t have any prior commerce initiatives in the U.S. or much knowledge about the market. We needed a commerce solution that was quick, reliable, and easy-to-use while also supporting vast, technical product data. Elastic Path is the only commerce engine that could give us what we needed to expand into a new market with confidence.

Stephen Cope CIO, Astrak Group

The biggest, most promising market to fuel Astrak Group’s ambition to become the global leader in undercarriage parts was the United States. But launching into the U.S. came with considerations and concerns.

  1. Astrak Group had no prior commerce initiatives in the U.S. and little knowledge about what would or wouldn’t work in the market. Relative to expansion throughout Europe, entering the American market felt like starting from scratch.
  2. Astrak Group’s business requires world-class customer experience and super-fast delivery. That’s because Astrak Group’s products are what Stephen calls “a distress purchase. A machine is broken and the downtime is costing our customers’ money. They need to find a part 100% compatible for their machine, they need to purchase it right away, and they need it in their hands as soon as possible. Next day delivery, overnight shipping, processing orders fast – it’s what our customers need and what we deliver.”
  3. The products that Astrak Group sells have demanding merchandising requirements. For one, parts in the undercarriage industry have different specifications according to the product application, the machine it fits on, and more. To scale into new markets and support vast, technical data, product data has to be decoupled. Also, to avoid SKU explosion, Astrak Group has application-based products – one SKU might fit hundreds of different applications, and each application might have a different specification. So, adding a single product can require adding 100 or more product pages to a storefront.
  4. Expanding into the U.S. would mean merchandising and marketing using the dollar for the first time, introducing multi-geo and multi-currency pricing requirements.
  5. Astrak Group has around 200 employees, and doesn’t have a huge team of commerce-dedicated developers or IT staffers. The company needed a commerce solution that is fast to launch, efficient to manage, and easy to use.
  6. Astrak Group didn’t have the appetite for a full replatform and wanted a future-proof commerce solution that would scale over time and adjust to evolving market demands.

Opting for composable commerce

After weighing its unique requirements and strong commitment to exceptional commerce experiences, Astrak Group opted to power expansion into the U.S. market with a composable commerce solution.

Astrak Group favored composable commerce because it would get a site live in the U.S. fast while delivering on the company’s long term commerce ambitions of flexibility, scalability, and high performance. Composable commerce also enables Astrak Group, which has traditionally used Shopify to sell online, to move beyond the limitations of monolithic platforms, which typically organize product data statically, line-by-line and row-by-row in spreadsheets, making for cumbersome product management and difficulties scaling.

“We’ve been held back by the way typical, out-of-the-box commerce providers handle item data and product data,” says Stephen. “In the undercarriage industry, products have different specifications according to the product application, the machine it fits on, and more. We needed to decouple item product data to improve our customer experience and grow our business in new and existing markets.”

Instead, with composable commerce, Astrak Group can access product management solutions that support decoupled product data, and other best-of-breed components that power extraordinary site experiences. The result is an overall commerce solution that fuels growth instead of stunting it.

“We opted for composable commerce because we needed a solution that is flexible and scalable,” says Stephen. “We wanted to access integrations with top vendors and use best-of-breed solutions. Most of all, we needed a commerce solution that grew with us instead of holding us back.”

Also central to Astrak Group’s decision to opt for composable commerce was the future-proof nature of composable technology. Stephen says his team didn’t want to launch into a new market, customize for Astrak Group’s business needs, and then be forced to replatform years later. “As technology progresses and our business needs change, we can just swap in and out components – accessing far more revenue-driving power than with another architecture,” Stephen says.

Nobody wants to be in a situation where you’re replatforming every few years to keep up with technology changes and evolving market demands. We wanted a future-proof solution that would prevent us from ever having to replatform again, which is why we turned to composable commerce and Elastic Path.

Stephen Cope CIO, Astrak Group

Selecting Elastic Path as a differentiated, truly composable commerce solution

As Astrak Group looked for a commerce provider, it learned that just because a company calls its platform “composable” doesn’t make it true. In the end, the quest for a truly composable commerce solution led Astrak Group to select Elastic Path.

Astrak Group evaluated BigCommerce and Adobe Commerce (Magento), but didn’t feel that either offered true commerce, or business, flexibility. Magento, in particular, has a retrofitted headless architecture, which makes for design freedom on the frontend but a backend that is essentially monolithic. Stephen says that such an architecture would have been a burden for Astrak’s small team of developers, who would have had to learn new code and technology – greatly delaying the launch of a new site.

Compared to other commerce platforms, like WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and Magento, Elastic Path allowed us to get new experiences live and in front of customers fast. Our in-house team hasn’t had to learn complicated, new technology – we can make changes and get site experiences live in minutes and days instead of weeks and months.

Stephen Cope CIO, Astrak Group

In comparison, Elastic Path’s modular, composable, MACH-based architecture meant sparing Astrak Group’s developers weeks of coding and customizations. Stephen points to Elastic Path’s APIs as pivotal for Astrak Group’s small team of commerce developers.

“The key differentiator with Elastic Path has been the API capabilities. We can make changes to the frontend and backend without disrupting either,” Stephen says.

Also differentiating Elastic Path was the ability for Astrak Group to launch in the U.S. with improved commerce flexibility while maintaining elements of its commerce architecture that were working well and still power the company’s European sites. Astrak Group uses a NetSuite ERP for business management and automation, which is easily integrated with Elastic Path. Astrak Group also uses a software agency, McKenna Consultants, that Elastic Path has partnered with in the past. The result, Stephen says, is that selecting Elastic Path has meant securing high-performing commerce without business and technical disruption.

As we expand into new markets, we consider three principles: security, stability, and speed. We can deliver on all three with Elastic Path at the center of a commerce architecture.

Stephen Cope CIO, Astrak Group

Launching into the U.S. with a commerce site that supports vast, technical product data, multi-geo pricing, and accelerated time to market

Astrak Group has expanded into the U.S. market with EPD Parts, a wear parts supplier with a composable site powered by Elastic Path. The core commerce engine for EPD Parts is Elastic Path Product Experience Manager, a product merchandising, catalog management, and commerce PIM solution. By redesigning underlying data structures including separating product data from pricing data and rethinking catalog management and merchandising capabilities, Elastic Path gives brands, like Astrak Group, complete freedom to design the product experiences their customers expect without custom hacks and expensive development projects

Using Elastic Path, we’ve gone from having no commerce presence in the U.S. to driving a significant amount of revenue in months. With Elastic Path, we see the potential for further growth in this massive growth market as limitless.

Stephen Cope CIO, Astrak Group

Other best-of-breed, hand-selected components in the EPD Parts tech stack include:

  • Elastic Path Payments, a best-in-class payment processing solution powered by Stripe
  • Auth0, an authentication and authorization service
  • Algolia, a site search provider
  • Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager, for web analytics and tag management
  • NetSuite ERP, for business management, automation, and data

Stephen says that Product Experience Manager helps meet three distinct needs for Astrak now and in the future:

  1. Decoupled product data and application-based products: Product Experience Manager supports decoupled product data to maintain product integrity. It also supports application-based products, in which one SKU fits hundreds of different applications.
  2. Complex multi-geo pricing: Expanding into the U.S. and selling across Europe introduces multi-geo and multi-currency pricing requirements. Product Experience Manager allows for relevant, local experiences in every market.
  3. Streamlined work and total scalability: Astrak Group’s developers don’t have to spend hours writing code to build functionalities or manage plugins, instead using APIs to integrate commerce components and bring new experiences to life fast. Per Stephen, “Product Experience Manager’s simple interface has streamlined the way we work. It’s allowed us to scale our daily operations and do merchandising work that serves our customers and sells our parts.”

Astrak Group’s expansion into the U.S. has garnered strong early results:

  • The EPD Parts site went live in five months, with site improvements and changes going live days or weeks faster than Stephen and his team originally expected.
  • EPD Parts is projected to drive £1 million in revenue in its first year.
  • EPD Parts already supports 40,000 product pages, with the infrastructure to support hundreds of thousands in coming years.
  • The EPD Parts site boasts strong site performance, including a 99 Google Lighthouse speed score and a 1.79s registered speed index, per Elastic Path’s Storefront Grader™. The lower speed index the better, and 1.79s is well below 3.4s or less industry benchmark, and even further below the 9.42s speed index registered on a different Astrak Group storefront powered by Shopify.

Best of all, the EPD Parts site is intuitive, user friendly, and guarantees a strong buying experience. For example, an EPD Parts customer in the market for a Sprocket doesn’t have to comb through dozens of product pages. Instead, they click on their machine type, machine manufacturer, and machine series.

Then, the buyer chooses their machine model.

Ultimately, the buyer is directed to a product page featuring the correct specifications. Note that the product page includes a CTA to view all the parts and service items in the buyer’s machine, creating more opportunities to increase cart value, drive AOV, and boost revenue.

Buyers can also complete this process in reverse, selecting their machine type, manufacturer, and series to get a visual list of all their machine’s parts. Either way, EPD Parts buyers experience effective product discovery and accurate product data and information so they get the right part fast.

Using U.S. expansion to test and make gradual commerce improvements

Along with impressive metrics and site experiences, Astrak Group has used U.S. expansion to cultivate a culture of testing, experimentation, and gradual, iterative commerce improvements.

Stephen says that his team tweaks the EPD Parts site on a weekly basis, reflecting new discoveries about consumer behavior in the U.S. market.

An emphasis on testing and gradual improvement to a commerce solution is typical of composable commerce, as the modular components and decoupled frontend and backend make experimentation easier – changing the way commerce teams work.

Every week we’re making new discoveries in the U.S. market and observing how consumers are behaving on the website. For us, success will come by making gradual, iterative improvements based on how U.S. consumers engage with our sites and what’s driving sales. Those real-time adjustments will add up to increased market share, improved conversion, and increased revenue.

Stephen Cope CIO, Astrak Group

Ambitions of D2C-level experiences for B2B buyers across the globe

For Astrak Group, U.S. expansion is a jumping off point for global commerce ambitions – and EPD Parts is only the first site to be powered by Elastic Path.

Stephen says that after the positive experience with EPD Parts, Astrak Group now plans to move all existing commerce sites to Elastic Path, targeting full migration in early 2025. Alongside that initiative is an effort to create a B2B2C reseller dealer network in which Astrak sells its parts to dealers across the globe, which would be powered by Elastic Path as well.

For B2B and B2B2C initiatives, learnings from EPD Parts will inform decisions about commerce sites. The overall goal is to deliver D2C-level commerce to undercarriage parts buyers that have traditionally experienced clunky, unimpressive digital commerce.

Every buyer wants and deserves an exceptional online shopping experience. Just because we’re a B2B seller doesn’t mean we shouldn’t offer D2C-level experiences. Elastic Path is the only commerce solution that allows us to deliver the customizable, personalized, easy-to-use interface that customers experience on D2C channels like Amazon.

Stephen Cope CIO, Astrak Group

An example of a D2C-level experience on Astrak Group’s wishlist is a “My Garage” feature in which customers can log all the machines they own. When customers need new parts, they click on their machine, and the parts that fit their model auto populate.

However Astrak Group pursues further commerce innovation, they’re committed to doing it with Elastic Path, in large part because of the value of Elastic Path’s customer success team.

​​“Any time we’ve had an issue with development or questions about what to do next, we’ve been able to turn to Elastic Path and get answers fast. To us, Elastic Path customer support means total trust and real-time solutions. It’s the best customer service I’ve experienced or could imagine.”

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