Case Study

Hornby Hobbies

New Magento platform for Hornby brings their five brands together, winning over a loyal customer base and smashing their first year revenue targets.

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• Design • UX • Magento Enterprise Development • Multiple International Websites • Pre-Order System • Consultancy •


Hornby may evoke childhood memories of model railway sets, but did you know that the company also own Corgi, Airfix, Scaletrix, and Humbrol Paints? This famous British brand can trace its roots back to 1901, but with such a huge product range their websites were beginning to look tired and outdated. After deciding on a Magento ecommerce platform, their senior team invited us to take part in a project pitch.

We were up against the crème de la crème of Magento agencies – so we went in there ready to impress. We presented an idea for a robust platform that allowed them to manage everything in one place whilst maintaining a consistent look and feel across the different sites. Hornby selected us as their ecommerce partners.

But we still had a massive challenge ahead of us. We needed to bring their website up to date without alienating their more traditional customers. Hornby enthusiasts are very proud and protective of the brand – if a train had a rivet out of place, there would be an uproar on their forums – so it was important to make their existing customers feel part of the website launch and to handle the re-design tactfully

with 98% uplift in sales

Hornby steams ahead

Our approach would be evolution, not revolution. Behind the scenes everything had changed and was totally unrecognisable, but the front end of the website was more about subtle changes rather than a complete re-brand. After the launch, there were mixed reactions on the forums, so we listened to what people had to say and made changes based on this feedback. This was a critical turning point for us.

Before long, Hornby’s existing customers realised that their feedback was valued, and they began to really get behind the new design and take ownership of the website. In the first year after launch, Hornby more than doubled their revenue targets. After a 98% uplift in sales within just 12 months, they are now on course to break their sales targets for the second year running.

We then worked with Hornby to establish their business in the US and helped them develop a long-term roadmap for the next few years. Now that the websites are stable and can cope with the volume of traffic, we’re working on a series of ideas to further improve their processes and strengthen the Hornby community

Sparking massive demand from traditional Hornby enthusiasts

Bespoke Pre Order System

This revolutionised their online business. As well as streamlining their internal processes, we also wanted to explore ways we could improve the lead-time on some of their products. Most of the models and parts are manufactured overseas and can take months to arrive in the UK, so we built a system that gave people the option to pre-order and pay for an item up to 6 months before it was due to launch.

There's huge demand from Hornby regulars to purchase new products as soon as they're released, and this system gave them the chance to be first in the line. We also set up a function to place customers into different groups, so Hornby can control access to the website and pre-orders. This meant they could personalise each user experience by granting access to exclusive content, pre-orders and discounts.

The pre-order function was an incredible success, changing frustration to excitement by generating a buzz around each new product launch. It was also a great way for Hornby to show their appreciation to loyal customers and make them feel special by offering perks just for them. As well as benefitting the community, it also allowed Hornby to take pre-payments that now account for 10-15% of their revenue.

Community driving product selection

New rival to Kickstarter launched

After listening to the Hornby community, we thought it would be a good idea to launch a crowdfunding platform that allowed enthusiasts to revive old models from the back catalogue. Much like Kickstarter, the products only go into production when there is sufficient demand from bidders.

Hornby are proud of their traditional British heritage, so the idea that they could re-issue classics from their past really appealed to them. This process could cost up to £10,000 to make a few hundred models. ‘Kitstarter’ would give them the opportunity to gauge demand and raise the funds before bringing old products back to life - so we developed a new stand-alone crowdfunding site for them.

Traditional customers responded incredibly well to the website. It wasn’t just trains and planes that were back in demand – Hornby fans were soon requesting everything from historical figures like Henry 8th and Oliver Cromwell, to common garden birds such as robins and woodpeckers. Plus it was also a great way to reach a new generation of model enthusiasts through the innovative use of crowdfunding.

Custom Reviews system

By developing an in-house reviews system Hornby now have the ability to use the data for the benefit of the community and customers; filter, sort and search by ratings and reviews. Customers can also review products based on attributes which are in turn product dependent.

The Final word

Richard Fletcher, Head of Digital Strategy

We wanted a platform that would allow use to create and develop innovative functionality that provided both a commercial benefit, but also real and measurable added value to our customers and loyal community base

• Design • UX • Magento 2 Enterprise Development • ERP Integration • Personal Shopper Websites • Strategic Consultancy •
• Design • UX • Magento Enterprise Development • Multiple International Websites • Pre-Order System • Consultancy •