How Migrating from Demandware Saves This Fitness Empire Over $250k a Year

How Migrating from Demandware Saves This Fitness Empire Over $250k a Year

There’s little doubt Odin felt his owner’s toes curl beneath him …

You see, on top of Katrina High’s feet — the Director of Merchandising and Site Experience at a family of health and wellness brands under the umbrella Fit For Life — is where her beautiful boxer rests when she brings him to the office.

But on this day, everything changed. “It was definitely a shock,” High recalls.

Don’t misunderstand; millions in additional market cap were created in May 2016 when a management firm acquired the popular yoga brand and signed a pair of licensing agreements that split hard from soft goods. That one detail meant High’s license managing company would no longer be selling apparel.

“It’s a great deal for each of the partners involved,” High admits. “But the deal definitely had me wondering how we were going to make up for the apparel sales that shifted in the deal.”

How do you make up all of those lost dollars … seemingly overnight?


Thinking about replatforming?

Keep reading to find out how Fit For Life, with the help of Shopify Plus:

  • Increased their conversion rates 70%
  • Launched multiple wholesale channels
  • Drive online-to-offline commerce
  • And save over $250k each year

Or, if you’d like to connect with an ecommerce migration expert …

Chat with us here

“Whoa!” You Pay How Much for Your Ecommerce Platform?

Like most, you’d probably say you’ve never heard of High’s brands.

But if you’ve ever bought a yoga mat, fitness ball, or resistance band to exercise with as millions of people have, you’ve likely purchased from either …

SPRI: a leading manufacturer and distributor of rubberized resistance exercise products for the health and fitness industry

Gaiam: a leading lifestyle brand offering yoga, fitness and wellness products

Gaiam, in particular, has a distribution network that includes 38,000 retail doors, 18,000 stores within stores, and 5,000 category management locations. The products are carried in well-known retailers like Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

“We’re everywhere,” High says.

After the acquisition was announced, Fit For Life — the deal partner now in charge of managing the hard goods for High’s brands — made a startling discovery.

They took one look at our invoice and saw what we were spending on ecommerce and went: ‘Whoa.’

Several hundred thousand dollars a year is what SPRI and Gaiam were spending on Demandware, their ecommerce platform, and — in the end — their move to Shopify Plus added up to over $250,000 in savings a year.

On top of that, the organization also spent big on an in-house team of five developers to maintain their family of sites. Following the acquisition, the development team was cut and High looked to outsource site adjustments and experiments at $125-$200 an hour.

As High explains:

It took forever to get anything done with Demandware. The last time I requested a landing page on Demandware it took four months.

Once a catalog-driven business, High had spent several years building the group’s online presence and ensuring its full assortment of products were online. The incremental sales her efforts earned were noticed and she added a digital marketing manager as well as an influencer marketing manager.

“We had finally caught up online,” High says. “Now we wanted to lead.”

But that simply wasn’t possible with Demandware.

Losing apparel sales following the acquisition meant High and her team would have to be able to move much more quickly and cost-effectively than they could on Demandware.

To make up the lost sales, they’d need the ability to rapidly experiment and introduce new offerings.

“I had so many ideas I just couldn’t do on Demandware because it was too expensive and took too much time,” High says. “It was painful.”

The sales hole looked as if it might swallow High and her team …

Fortunately, High had left her door open and her boxer Odin wandered out.

One Day, Not Four Months, After Migrating from Demandware

Even though she was spending hundreds of thousands a year with Demandware, High says the company’s customer service was nearly non-existent.

“I’d email and never hear back,” she says. “I felt all alone in a tech-heavy environment.”

Combined with the cost and development resources necessary to maintain the sites, High and her team migrated to Shopify Plus.

In addition to replatforming, the company also swapped out its OMS and ERP as well as moved to a new warehouse. All that — including the launch of its new family of sites — in the time it used to take them to create a landing page.

In High’s words:

“Shopify Plus is tried and true. The platform is a proven performer. It’s so nice being able to trust that when you flip the switch nothing is going to break.

“Shopify Plus has been a huge part of our growth.”

And remember the Demandware landing page High waited four months on?

With Shopify Plus and the Shogun application, High says she and her team can build a custom landing page by themselves in one day.

“It’s nice to make changes quickly,” High says. “We now have a sense of freedom and ownership we just didn’t have on Demandware.”

Regarding the assortment shift following the acquisition, High says she and her team used Plus and its ecosystem to backfill the shift in three ways:

1. Visual Navigation Landing Page

Instead of landing on a page with standard product image tiles similar to competitor sites, Gaiam offers users a unique experience with its visual navigation. For example, users landing on the company’s yoga page are treated to a rich visual representation of each category:

Including design, Gaiam’s visual navigation was created in just two weeks and implemented in June of 2017. Since then …

Gaiam reports a 70% increase in conversion rates resulting in significant sales lifts.
  • Revenue for its Yoga Category has increased 6%
  • Revenue for its Active Sitting Category has increased 16%

“Those are incremental sales and we’re thrilled with the performance,” High says. “The visual navigation allows us to use the deep library of content we have to lift sales.”

2. Wholesale Growth

SPRI has always been a wholesale based business.

But with more than 15,000 accounts, many of them large like Hilton Hotels, the process had become unmanageable as it required an entire team to manually take and enter wholesale orders.

That’s why the Plus wholesale ecommerce channel — which allows merchants to use their existing stores to offer high-volume buyers a self-service storefront — has freed SPRI to be proactive in its marketing and begin selling direct to consumers.

Similarly, the wholesale channel has positioned Gaiam to better target mom-and-pop wholesale customers and provide promotional content, like marketing signage, that these customers can erect in their gyms and yoga studios to increase sales.

Since launching wholesale on Shopify Plus …

  • SPRI account sign-ups have increased 6%, with wholesale now accounting for 47% of the brand’s total ecommerce sales
  • Gaiam account sign-ups have increased 22%, with wholesale now accounting for 18% of the brand’s total ecommerce sales

“Wholesale is a big focus for us,” High says. “We see a real opportunity for growth and the channel is lifting our average order value.”

3. New Brands

When High’s boxer Odin sneaks out and heads for the product development department, he does so for good reason.

Fit for Life is developing new sub-brands like PetWell, a revolutionary and veterinarian-recommended line of pet massage tools. Turns out Odin had been sneaking out of High’s office to act as a guinea pig as the development team worked to perfect the five-SKU line of massagers.

He loves getting massages,” High says with a laugh. “It’s really the only reason he wants to come to work with me.

Expect Fit for Life to introduce additional new sub-brands now that it can quickly and cost-effectively adjust and add to its site.

Even more important, the new brands, wholesale success, and visual navigation that improved conversion rates combined to ameliorate the massive sales shift following the acquisition.

“We lost apparel which was a big part of our business but sales didn’t dip,” High says proudly. “We backfilled the hole with the money we saved replatforming and poured it into new initiatives. It’s an achievement we are extremely proud of.”

Making Brick & Mortar Better

That 70% lift in conversions that the visual navigation yielded …

It’s not just a revenue lift for Gaiam but also potentially lucrative for the brand’s retail partners like Target.

Each quarter High audits its brick-and-mortar retailers, hands out report cards, and offers training sessions aimed at helping partners optimize their ecommerce channels to increase sales:

  • Ensure each product has variant SKUs, rather than separate SKUs, so its sales history and product reviews are attached and move it up the page
  • Ensure each attribute is placed in the right category — all yoga mats are included in the yoga mat category rather than fitness mat category— to improve the customer search experience

“They are begging us for data,” High says. “We take what we’ve learned and offer it to our partners which is obviously good for us but it also helps them make incremental sales.”

Beyond Demandware and On the Lookout for a New Guinea Pig

Expect High and her team to play an even larger role in helping retailers lift sales as Fit For Life introduces additional new brands, acquires the rights to manage other well-known brands, and expands Gaiam’s dominance in active sitting by bringing ergonomic products into the workplace.

It’s a future undoubtedly full of challenge, but one High approaches with confidence after working hard to backfill that enormous gap in sales.

However, with product development now focused on newer initiatives and expanding its line of pet massagers, the team will likely have to find a new guinea pig.

“Odin has already had his massage today so he’s completely asleep,” High says. “He has his own bed here and sleeps on one of the meditation cushions we sell.” 

About the Author

Nick Winkler is a contributor to the Shopify Plus blog and founder of The Winkler Group, a strategic communications firm that provides content marketing services to the world's best-known brands, businesses, and marketers. Get more from Nick here.