The coronavirus pandemic kicked up online shoe retailer SnipesUSA.com’s web traffic to a new level. Or as Jenna Posner, vice president of digital, says, Snipes is strapped to an invisible rocket ship.
“Sneakers are just on fire,” Posner says.
Besides footwear, Snipes also sells comfortable athletic clothing, ideal for at-home consumers, such as sweatshirts, sweatpants and T-shirts. In addition to selling products in an in-demand product category, Snipes also doubled down on its marketing spend at a time when many apparel retailers pulled back. That allowed Snipes to acquire customers more cheaply than normal and have “really strong returns on those investments,” Posner says without revealing more.
Also in the past year, Snipes hired well-known musical artist DJ Khaled as chief creative officer and signed contracts to sponsor basketball teams the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, all of which helped increase brand awareness and buzz.
Plus, with stores closed during the pandemic—including the roughly 100 U.S. Snipes stores—shoppers had to go online if they wanted to purchase “the hottest shoes on the planet,” such as limited releases of Air Jordans and Yeeyz shoes, Posner says. All of these factors together drove SnipesUSA.com’s traffic up 300% year over year on average during the past few months, Posner says.
SnipesUSA.com invests in website speed
With more shoppers on its site, Posner is pleased the retailer decided to invest in its ecommerce site’s performance in the past year. That’s especially true because SnipesUSA.com was considering not investing any more in its aging ecommerce platform, as it is in the middle of re-platforming to Salesforce Commerce Cloud Platform.
“We were caught between a rock and a hard place,” Posner says. “We were on Magento 1, which we know is near end of life, and we had this time period of having to determine if we were going to keep investing in our (lackluster experience) versus investing in the future.”
But until the new platform goes live—a process likely to take several months to more than a year—Snipes still needs to provide shoppers with an enjoyable shopping experience. “We had closed the door on most iterations of the current environment, knowing we were going to throw it out, but speed was still very important,” Posner says.
The retailer found performance optimization vendor Yottaa at a Salesforce Connections conference in June 2019 and learned that it could plug into Yottaa’s system now and easily integrate the Yottaa technology into its new platform when it’s ready to deploy.
After about a month-long implementation period, Snipes tested the service for two months, saw immediate results and finalized the contract at the end of September 2019.
During the pilot and after the launch, SnipesUSA.com’s page-loading speed decreased by 30% and its average conversion rate doubled to about 2% from roughly 1%, Posner says. The retailer is happy with the results, she says.
“Speed wins,” Posner says. “There is such a direct correlation between speed and conversion. When you’re trying to prioritize and implement, it’s such an internal juggle between short-term and long-term wins, and if you can implement something that makes an impact immediately, those are the ones that get immediately rushed to the top. This is one of those things.”
Many retailers agree. 44% of retailers said improving site-loading time was important to improving conversion rates, according to a Digital Commerce 360 survey of 105 retailers in February 2020.
Prioritizing web page content
One of the benefits of using Yottaa is that it can prioritize elements on a web page so that they load in a certain order, Posner says. For example, SnipesUSA.com wants product images to load first and have non-consumer-facing integrations, such as Google and Facebook tracking pixels, load toward the end. Or, it can prioritize content that appears at the top of the page to load first and then load the content that a consumer has to scroll to see. Or it can load a still image of a video first, and then all of the video content. This way, a consumer can see and begin interacting with a page immediately, even if it is not fully loaded.
With roughly 28 third-party integrations to load on a product detail page, prioritization is important. Plus, Snipes can change the loading order on different pages, if, for example, it wants localized inventory to load before customer reviews on certain pages.
How much Yottaa costs depends on how much traffic comes to the site. Because SnipesUSA.com’s traffic surged during the pandemic, its costs were much higher than expected. Luckily, the retailer was able to renegotiate its contract to move into a pricing tier that made sense for its overall traffic level, Posner says. Posner would not reveal how much the service costs, only that it is less than $100,000 annually.
Handling sharp increases in traffic
Another site performance challenge SnipesUSA.com regularly deals with is a spike in traffic when there is a hot sneaker release. When that happens, Snipes uses technology from Queue-it that places excess traffic into a virtual waiting room, so the site is not overloaded with traffic. The tool prevents the ecommerce site from crashing and helps ensure that the retailer does not take more orders for the limited-quantity sneakers than it can fulfill.
Snipes has used Queue-it for several years and plans to continue using it when it migrates to the Salesforce platform, where it can unlock more of its benefits, Posner says. For example, right now, Snipes can only implement the waiting room across its entire site. This means consumers who may not be shopping for the limited-release sneakers must wait to access the site during a high-traffic period. On the new platform, Snipes will be able to put the virtual waiting room in place only for certain products, Posner says.