$5+ billion JB Hi-Fi didn’t just need a new website—it wanted a partner in commerce for the long term
Replatforming, Growth and scale, Multi-channel and omnichannel
There are few brands of its size and scope that are more relevant, more trusted, and more obsessed with the customer experience than JB Hi-Fi. With over AU$5 billion in revenue and almost 200 stores across the country, the company is Australia’s largest consumer electronics retailer.
In 2018, JB Hi-Fi found itself at a crossroads. Yes, it needed a new website, but what it truly wanted was a partner in commerce that would allow it to grow larger, redefine what was possible for its long-term business, and ensure the company could be resilient under any set of global circumstances. In this Shopify Plus case study, we show how JB Hi-Fi has enjoyed:
- Record-breaking sales, thanks to nearly double the traffic online during Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM)—all without site performance issues
- Average page load time decreased by more than 15%
- Not having to do “anything at all” to meet and serve a consistent online rush during COVID-19 in 2020
For the longest time, every holiday season was a vital trading period for JB Hi-Fi.
Outwardly, the business was a rocketship—from fiscal year ending June 2015 to fiscal year ending June 2019, sales from JB Hi-Fi Australia had grown from AU$3.7 billion to AU$4.7 billion. These were major returns, and its growth in ecommerce was even more pronounced, having tripled over the same period.
But inside the 2019 fiscal year, as the holidays approached, a familiar sense of trepidation returned to the team. “We have seen high-profile retailers’ websites go down,” says Chris Lang, JB Hi-Fi’s general manager of engineering. “The whole country knows about it. It’s bad for customers, and it’s bad for the brand. We would do anything to avoid that.”
During BFCM, the sheer volume of customers trying to create new online accounts in order to checkout with JB Hi-Fi triggered a locking issue. For a period of about two hours during a critical, high-demand shopping day, very few visitors could actually buy anything. Black Friday, for JB Hi-Fi, had gone black.
If it was not precisely the final straw, it was close. “We felt we had stretched the existing platform as much as we could,” says Lang.
The time had come for one of Australia’s largest and most famous retailers to seek a tech solution that would not merely get it through the holidays. JB Hi-Fi sought a partner it felt comfortable would match its organizational culture and ambition, and would help it pursue a greater goal of unified commerce—flexibility and consistency across its online and offline channels—for the long haul.
No matter what the world threw at it.
The reason to migrate was not just to get through the next Christmas. Given how important the channel is and its role in the future growth of the company, there was a desire to seek a long-term partner organization for ecommerce that would fit the culture of our organization for longevity.
Page’s team desired a platform that could enable the tech direction JB Hi-Fi wished to take its entire commerce strategy—to anchor multiple interconnected business systems that would create greater harmony between its online business and an iconic retail network.
JB Hi-Fi chose Shopify Plus to move forward with as its commerce partner. “If you’ve got to get to unified commerce in a complex organization, you need the ecosystem of APIs that facilitate that,” Lang says. “Shopify Plus plays a crucial role in that, and not just for traditional ecommerce. There’s enormous potential for digital commerce in a multichannel concept.”
The company tapped Shopify Plus Solutions Partner The Working Party to help guide what was to be no simple migration. Indeed, according to The Working Party, this was no “lift and shift” of a website. JB Hi-Fi had invested heavily in re-architecturing its systems with a consistent API framework, and so Shopify Plus had to align not only in ecommerce but to support more than 200 dispatch locations and JB Hi-Fi’s famed and popular fulfillment options, like one-hour click and collect.
These were seismic considerations, and not lost among them was the need for stability and a platform that would load as quickly as possible for its customers. JB Hi-Fi launched its site on Shopify Plus in Sept. 2019. Another holiday season was coming, which would have once brought with it a renewed anxiety for the company’s tech team.
The first real test of this new partnership was approaching fast.
I love the fact that JB Hi-Fi is on Shopify Plus, because the requirements for JB Hi-Fi have been a stretch for Shopify Plus. It has absolutely pushed the platform and forced Shopify Plus to do better. The more merchants like us that come onto the platform, the better the platform will become.
For the first time, the holiday season was no problem for JB Hi-Fi.
In terms of both overall sales and performance, the company had its best-ever BFCM, with nearly twice the traffic rushing in online than had the year before. “We had record numbers of visitations, and the individual performance metrics of everyone coming to the site was flat,” Lang says. “It didn’t change the individual page load speed for a user—that didn’t alter, irrespective of how many users were coming to the site. That’s huge as an outward-facing confidence in the brand.”
Since, JB Hi-Fi has grown even faster. The average page load time on its site has now decreased more than 15% compared to the same time a year earlier on its previous platform. JB Hi-Fi has also been able to redeploy the efforts of three staff members, whose job was once to act as reliability engineers to monitor and manage its site.
Stability, speed, and ease of use were one thing. Another was how JB Hi-Fi’s other operations were performing. When Page began at the company, in 2015, the average time a click and collect order took to be processed, packed, and ready for pickup was up to 14 hours. Now, JB Hi-Fi has grown so efficient, Page says, that 95% of those orders are ready within an hour, and many customers find their orders are ready to pick up 5–10 minutes after they were placed.
“Every item of stock you see on the website is physically in a store,” says Page. “It’s not an alternative online warehouse somewhere. It’s not just interconnected, it’s a reflection of what’s going on in bricks and mortar. We’re able to look up the stock availability in real time via API, specific to a store location.”
The success and adoption of click and collect has bolstered a holistic shopping experience JB Hi-Fi always hoped for. So long as its tech infrastructure holds and provides the right customer experience, whether shoppers are buying online, purchasing through click and collect, or simply browsing on the web and then buying in store is of no great concern to the company.
“We don’t really mind whether or not you’ve taken the deal in store or online,” says Lang. “It’s not a competition. As long as we’re making more sales and following the customer where they prefer to convert, that’s okay.”
JB Hi-Fi has larger ambitions, especially online. “We’re three steps in a thousand-mile journey,” Page says of where his company is in its ecommerce timeline today. But a new partnership has come to reflect a new era of stability, strategy, and possibility as the retailer pursues even greater success in unified commerce.
When, in early 2020, COVID-19 compromised the retail volume its network of stores might have otherwise seen, the company was well positioned to adapt. Its new online channel was already in place, ready to pick up the slack and handle a steady rush—all with no action required on JB Hi-Fi’s part. “Our long-term confidence in Shopify Plus is there,” Page says.
With COVID-19, we now see a new elevated online sales pattern consistently—all day, every day. With Shopify Plus, we have not had to do anything at all to stay relevant and available for our customers.
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