Yevgeniy Mordkovich didn’t like what he saw when he looked behind him.
What was that in the distance?
Don’t misunderstand; Mordkovich is crazy about his wife.
But when the pair would set out on long bike rides, their different levels of strength often prevented them from riding alongside one another; one would often fall behind the other.
It was a big problem for two people who desperately wanted to spend more time together while bicycling.
The pair decided to build from scratch an electric bicycle that could provide the burst of power necessary to keep Mordkovich and his wife riding side by side in the event one were to tire and start to fall behind.
Eventually, Mordkovich would partner with his brother Boris, who has a background in alternative transportation, to found EVELO, a maker of premium electric bikes that are thoughtfully designed and masterfully built.
How best to launch an online-only electric bike company in 2012?
By riding one 4,000 miles across the country to prove the bikes can perform.
Here’s the idea in Boris’ own words:
“What if we do the first-ever trans-American electric bike trip on our bikes? By riding around 4,000 miles from New York City to San Francisco, we’d be able to put our bikes through the ultimate, real-world test and ensure that the product can handle anything that our clients will put it through in the future.”
The unconventional launch proved the bikes were high performers.
A company was born.
So too was was a first-of-its-kind distribution model turning heads in the bicycle industry.
Blowing Past Tradition
That cross country bike ride helped Mordkovich perfect EVELO’s bikes.
Five years and thousands of customers later, the company offers consumers two product categories; the first includes four models of electric bicycles:
“The majority of people who buy these bikes skew older,” Jonah Bliss, EVELO’s Director of Community says. “These customers are retirees or people close to retiring who used to ride a bike and want to do so again but feel they need a little more power to hop on and begin exploring.”
The second product the company sells is called Omni Wheel, a specialized wheel that attaches to and turns almost any bicycle into an electric bike. It provides riders of all fitness levels the extra boost of power they might need to tackle hills, difficult terrain, or anything they might encounter outdoors or on their way to work:
“It electrifies any bike,” Bliss says. “The Omni Wheel is something more often purchased by younger consumers who may not be ready for an EVELO electric bike but want a power boost for their current bicycle.”
Interestingly, EVELO competes against a variety of products vying for the attention of the traveling and fitness-minded public:
- Regular bicycles
- Home gyms or workout products
“People purchase from EVELO for very individual reasons,” Bliss points out. “It really depends on what their goal is; getting to work without driving a vehicle, becoming healthier, or reigniting their passion for riding later in life with the security that comes with knowing an instant boost of power is available.”
EVELO’s bikes empower riders by offering two modes:
- Pedal Assist- you pedal and the electric motor detects how much help you need and provides the appropriate amount of power
- Throttle- you ride traditionally or kick your legs to the side and allow the electric motor to do all of the work
NOTE: Bliss tells us the bikes top out around 20-miles per hour, but the really motivated (and fit) can go a bit faster if they pedal hard while the engine is at top speed.
Potentially even more innovative is EVELO’s distribution strategy; it bypasses traditional bike stores and sells directly to consumers online.
“We were the first of our kind to adopt the web-only model of distribution,” Bliss says. “When you sell bikes through chain stores and local shops they often slap a fifty-percent markup on each bike and we wanted to do things differently.”
The model positions EVELO to control the price of its bikes better than others which is a key component of the company’s success.
That’s because premium electric bikes come with a premium price tag.
We Want You to Love It Not Like It
How do you sell a premium electric bike for double the price of some competitors?
You bridge the digital and physical worlds by creating a robust experience that proves without a doubt the value of an EVELO bike. “If a person is going to plunk down thousands of dollars for a bike,” Bliss says. “We want them to love it not like it.”
Here’s how EVELO engineers that love:
The EVELO Ambassador Network
The Ambassador Network includes EVELO diehards scattered all over the country willing to temporarily loan their electric bikes to prospects and allow them to ride before making a purchase decision.
“Whatever town you’re in we’ll try to connect you with the nearest ambassador,” Bliss explains. “Instead of our marketing spiel consumers can actually talk with EVELO bike owners, ask questions, and discuss the bikes frankly before committing to a purchase.”
Not only does the ambassador network offer prospects an opportunity to make a more informed purchase decision, but it also allows the ambassadors willing to occasionally share their bikes and perspective a chance to earn $200 commissions from EVELO that can help offset the cost of their bike.
The Ten-Day Free Trial
Test it before buying.
EVELO further de-risks the purchase decision by offering customers a ten-day free home trial of their EVELO ebike. If for any reason a customer is not in love with their EVELO bike they can return it within ten days of purchase and receive a refund or exchange it for a different model no questions asked.
“It’s an amazing guarantee,” Bliss says. “Customer happiness is paramount for us, and we want people to choose EVELO because we’re the best, so we have a responsibility to prove that.”
But EVELO doesn’t abandon customers at the conclusion of the ten-day free trial. Along with its ebikes, the company also delivers peace of mind with an 18-month warranty.
It’s a combination of promises that alleviates the fear of not being able to test a bike at a local shop as well as pay a premium of which customers are taking note:
In addition to de-risking the purchasing decision, EVELO is powered by Shopify Plus, an enterprise level ecommerce platform for high volume merchants. EVELO has been with Shopify since its launch and upgraded to Plus in 2014, so it could scale on demand and keep up with the breakneck growth it’s experiencing:
- Sales have doubled every year
- The company is on track to exceed $3 million in revenue this year
“Shopify is powerful, and we’re really happy with it,” Bliss says. “Shopify helps us prove our value to customers which is ultra important for a premium brand.”
Importantly, EVELO notes the ease with which Shopify Plus integrates with third-party applications and systems. Specifically, EVELO uses Klaviyo, an email marketing platform built for ecommerce merchants, as one of its marketing lynch pins. “We’re glad we switched to Klaviyo,” Bliss says. “It lets us see how much money we’re making from each mailing, which is extremely informative.”
Speaking of money…
EVELO is largely powered by remote employees that communicates via Slack, a messaging app for teams, and another of EVELO’s key Shopify integrations. “Every time we make a sale we’re all pinged in Slack,” Bliss says with a smile. “Everyone on my team, no matter where they are, gets to celebrate because we can all see we’re making money.”
And if EVELO’s secret plan for the future comes to fruition…
Those Slack pings may soon be nonstop.
Powerful & Sexy
Besides a promise to respond to all email within 24-hours, here’s proof the company’s effort to alleviate the issues associated with selling ebikes directly is resonating; customers who purchase EVELO bikes rarely return them. “The return rate is extremely low,” Bliss says.
It’s a telling metric, but soon the company will have another on which to focus; repeat customers. The company is working on new electric bicycle models, but Bliss hints the world probably has no idea what EVELO has in store for it.
“Our bikes are great right now, but they look like electric bikes,” he says. “The new bikes are going to be more powerful and sexier. We want to change people’s perceptions of electric bikes, and we’re going to do that by changing the look and performance of the bike.”
Expect a splash sometime in 2017.
For now, though, the team at EVELO is not only basking in the glow of entrepreneurial success but also the realization it’s having an impact on the world.
“We’re all pleasantly surprised at how big this has become,” Bliss admits. “These bikes are helping older people experience the outdoors again and become healthier. We’re actually helping make people’s lives better which is the most important part of this.”
Seems as though Yevgeniy Mordkovich’s desire to be closer to his wife on long bike rides…
Is empowering others to go farther than they ever dreamed.