Cozy and chic textiles retailer Barefoot Dreams’ marketing manager Katie Johns reveals why the company recently re-platformed—and the gains the business achieved with its new site.

Barefoot Dreams crafts and sells buttery soft (and pricey) blankets, loungewear and other home textiles that are lauded by celebrities ranging from the Kardashians to Chrissy Teigen. But its ecommerce platform was anything but high-end, Katie Johns, marketing manager, explains in Digital Commerce 360’s latest Ecommerce Platforms Report that covers the B2B and B2C platform landscape today.

Founded 26 years ago, the retailer now sells online at BarefootDreams.com, through stores such as Dillard’s and Nordstrom’s and their accompanying ecommerce sites, and through one store in Malibu, California, which it opened in June 2020. Johns says its old site wasn’t cutting it anymore for many reasons. The retailer needed a site with robust functionality worthy of its luxury products—where throw blankets start at around $150.

Its old site, which was custom built in 2012 on the old PHP general-purpose scripting language, was holding it back from adding merchandising features. It would crash with spikes in traffic such as during big promotions or after celebrity endorsements, and caused other headaches, Johns says.

“We wanted to have ratings and reviews, back-in-stock notifications and improve the site speed,” Johns says.

But perhaps the biggest flaw in the rigid PHP platform was that it didn’t sync with Barefoot Dreams’ enterprise resource planning inventory software. And that led the retailer to oversell and accept online orders for products it didn’t have in stock. Johns says that was immensely frustrating, not only for customers but for Barefoot Dreams as well.

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“We were constantly overselling,” Johns says. “We were tentative to do promotions on big sales days like Black Friday, and we’d not participate in promotions that more modern sites could,” she says. On typical sales days, Barefoot avoided overselling by having staff “babysit” the inventory—watching the numbers and manually changing availability. “That was just not the best use of our time,” she says.

The PHP site also didn’t offer robust analytics that Barefoot Dreams wanted to get its hands on to better personalize the site for individual shoppers and understand consumer behavior. It also wasn’t mobile optimized. And, it couldn’t handle sudden spikes in traffic.

“A Chrissy Teigen tweet or a mention on the ‘Today’ show could crash the site,” Johns says. To make any change to the site, the retailer had to put in a request with a PHP contractor skilled in the programming language. In-house staff wasn’t able to make modifications on their own, Johns says.

In 2020, Barefoot Dreams had had enough of its rigid platform. And, in November of last year, after about six months of work, including building out the user experience and design, Barefoot Dreams launched its new ecommerce site on Shopify Plus, using headless commerce functionality from Nacelle.

Nacelle works with ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and their various plugins that extend the an online store ‘s functionality, such as Klaviyo for email marketing.

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The key difference between headless commerce and traditional online stores is that with headless, the front-end shopping interface consumers’ see is separated from the back-end data and systems. This allows merchants to update their customer-facing store without back-end coding or system updates. And similarly, they can update their back-end functionality without disrupting their front-end customer experience. The main advantages of headless commerce are easier customization and a faster site.  In Barefoot Dreams’ case, the retailer moved to the software as a service ecommerce platform Shopify Plus and layered in headless functionality from Nacelle.

With traditional ecommerce platforms the front-end and back-end systems are tightly intertwined. To add a new feature or customize these systems, such as adding ratings and reviews or analytics, a retailer must manipulate the underlying codebase. This can be expensive, time consuming and make the platform more complex and fragile over time. Because the front and back ends of these platforms are connected, if one part goes awry, it can create a domino effect. Constantly customizing a monolithic platform can impact things like site speed, the way pages are displayed and produce other unintended consequences.

Nacelle also uses progressive web app or PWA functionality. Built using web technologies such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, Nacelle uses advanced PWA functionality that loads an entire site at once when a visitor first arrives. Unlike traditional websites, there’s no delay created by the back-and-forth of data between browser and web server each time a shopper moves to a new page. This creates a smooth, app-like experience and fast page loads.

With the re-platform and redesign, consumers can now more easily explore Barefoot’s some 350 SKUs. For example, they can view products by fabric softness and style such as coziest chic, or color, size, product type and price. Barefoot also switched to a more robust email service provider, Klaviyo, which is a plugin it added via Shopify. Similarly, it added Yotpo, a Shopify plugin for ratings and reviews, and Gorgias for customer service chatbots. The site now also syncs with inventory to ensure shoppers can’t purchase out-of-stock products, is faster, mobile optimized and offers reporting and analytics. Since moving to headless, Barefoot Dreams can now add such features and functionality more easily and without modifying the underlying code or needing help from a custom developer.

Since its new site launch in November 2020, Barefoot Dreams’ page load speeds increased 34.5% compared to a month earlier, average page views per visit increased 403%, bounce rates fell 18% and conversions increased 64%. Additionally, ecommerce sales increased 200% in November 2020 compared with a year earlier.

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“My team is especially happy with how flexible the merchandising is,” Johns says. “We can set up a whole new module with new imagery and text.” Barefoot also just added video to its Our Story page and plans to add more videos throughout the site on its fabrics and product detail pages.

The case study above is an excerpt from The 2021 Ecommerce Platforms Report. The report is now available as a downloadable PDF for $399. It is also included in our Gold and Platinum memberships, which provide deep discounts on a package of all Digital Commerce 360 ecommerce reports published in the current and previous years, plus access to certain Digital Commerce 360 databases of America’s Top 500 and Top 1000 web merchants.

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