When lifestyle apparel company Forged® learned they'd been given exclusive rights to use all assets from the movie American Sniper, they needed an online store that could handle the traffic generated by the film's immense popularity.
We caught up with Jivaldi's founder James Ivaldi to talk about his experience working with Forged.
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Q: Tell us about Jivaldi.
Back in the late 1990s, I was working in Silicon Valley for a startup called GetThere—just before the “dot-com” bust—and we were acquired by Sabre Corporation. After the acquisition, I was offered a position in management at Sabre or a severance package. I took the latter, viewing it as an opportunity to start my own gig. I had just enough money to last about a year on my own. That was 16 years ago, and our creative juices are still flowing!
As a digital marketing agency, we can deliver a fairly broad spectrum of services from creative, advertising, strategy and of course development. But when all is said and done, our goal is simple: We drive revenue to our clients.
Q: What makes you unique?
Our experience. Among four core team members, we have more than 60 years of marketing experience, mostly in digital. This gives us a clear and simple vision when it comes to understanding business objectives and executing campaigns. The people that work at Jivaldi are very good at what they do and, just as important, we know where to turn (Partners, third-party services) when something falls outside our core expertise. Our ability to scale and maneuver quickly gives us an advantage and enables us to tackle projects of any size.
Q: What’s one of your favourite Shopify projects you’ve worked on?
In 2013, we took a deep look at the key ecommerce players in the industry. At the time, one of our clients, Forged, was growing rapidly and needed to migrate to an ecommerce platform that would enable them to scale efficiently without the overhead of managing servers, code base, and so on. Forged.com has been our favorite project by far, because it was our first ecommerce project with a national, highly visible brand.
As a digital agency focused on driving revenue, one of the first things we must do is help cultivate a strong following for our clients, keeping their customers excited and coming back for more. Forged gives us creative freedom, so seeing the Forged audience grow worldwide validates our capabilities and vision. This is very exciting to be part of on a daily basis.
Q: Where did the inspiration for the shop’s design come from?
Simplicity was our primary goal in piecing Forged.com together. Though we’ve already started the process for a new layout and design in 2015, the simple and responsive layout that Forged uses today has worked quite well. Because of the store’s high volume, keeping an image-centric and grid-focused layout was important, enabling us to focus on usability and opportunities we can glean from monitoring analytics.
Not surprisingly, things become much easier to execute when you are working on a highly visibility campaign. Once we learned that Warner Bros. was granting us exclusive rights to utilize all movie assets for American Sniper, we knew promoting the store would be easier. And it certainly didn’t hurt to have the ability to build a landing page at AmericanSniper.com, which basically funnels right into our shop.
Q: What were the challenges and advantages of working with such a high-profile shop?
Beyond the graphics, being able to draft behind the spend of a juggernaut like Warner Bros. creates an interesting advertising environment. Let’s just say that the Google and Twitter folks were very cooperative and energetic! On any given day, I’m on the phone with some of the top Google and Twitter advertising account managers, speaking to their different departments (Videos, AdWords, Shopping, etc). And what’s really cool is seeing how well they can actually fine-tune campaigns, to reduce spend and increase conversions. It reinforces the notion that, if these advertising networks want to you to be successful, you will be.
Q: Tell us a bit about the design process. What changed along the way?
The client required a site that is easy to update for new marketing campaigns and products, so we had to work on a few variations of product, collections and page layouts that the client can use to easily create new site content.
Much of our creative effort is spent on running campaigns for Forged, so that’s where we focused most. We’re constantly generating creative for social media, video, landing pages and advertising. This is our creative outlet, but naturally we still update the site on a regular basis.
The coolest part, however, is that we started moving into apparel design. What started as a “fill-in” design effort—when Forged needed us in a pinch—has evolved into a more regular role designing apparel. We had lots of fun with this! In 2015, we are turning our attention to designing and producing a couple themes for Forged, as well as a few other Shopify sites we are creating.
Q: What were some of the unique features you implemented into the Forged site?
Although invisible to end users, we also created custom tools for the client to easily review sales performance on a weekly basis in addition to spending much of our time monitoring analytics. Furthermore, we implemented customized weekly emails with analytics reports to help improve decision making.
We also placed strong emphasis on having a mobile-friendly site. The current site is quite normal by today's standards, but that wasn’t the case when we started working on the site. Focusing on mobile was an important bet, as we've seen a strong shift in shopping trends the last year and a half. Currently, upwards of 65% of sales through Forged.com originate from mobile devices.
We fielded many customization requests before and after launching the store. Therefore, we had to create close ties with the Shopify staff to ensure that everything was working seamlessly. Much of our development work focused on integration with back-end software, such as ShipStation.
Q: What tools did you find most useful when creating the website?
From a developer standpoint, we couldn’t live without Chrome DevTools. Its HTML and CSS inspection tools are essential to test and debug many HTML issues, as well as test our CSS and play with the layout and style directly on the browser.
Photoshop is naturally our go-to application to create all graphics on the site.
Todoist is essential to keep an organized project. We keep and update a simple list of tasks ordered by priority, which helps greatly in keeping the development and design process in scope.
Q: What integrations did you use with the site?
We developed several smaller integrations including a small photo gallery in each product page, which is integrated with Instagram. Customers can tag their photos wearing Forged merchandise and they'll be showcased on the site.
We’re also in the middle of a big Zendesk integration for Forged. This is a pretty powerful customer service solution that is going to work quite well. They are also a great organization to work with. Additionally, we are also rolling out a solution from SkuVault to streamline the fulfillment process.
Another integration that site visitors won't see is ShipStation. They have a Shopify app that makes it simple to configure and easy to connect to Shopify. Even though it was a relatively basic integration, we can't highlight this enough, as it has been critical to the success of Forged.com.
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Q: What makes this shop unique?
The store itself is pretty straight-forward. What makes Forged and the site unique is that we are able to tie in national campaigns with the store. In addition to American Sniper, we ran official apparel for Lone Survivor through this store. We also run an annual CrossFit event through Forged called The Murph Challenge, which takes place throughout the U.S. on Memorial Day. That will be our next big push and will once again test our ability to keep up in a fast-paced environment!
Q: What’s your favourite feature on the site?
Probably the Instagram moderation tool we created. At the time we launched, we integrated an Instagram feature (mentioned above) where users can tag photos of themselves wearing a Forged t-shirt. We really liked this feature, and only a few other sites—Black Milk Clothing being one of them—had this at the time. Now it’s more widely used. We noticed that some competitors would tag their shirts so their gear would appear on Forged.com. In response, we created a little Instagram moderation tool that helped us clear these out!
Q: What was the most difficult part about creating this shop?
Forged is a clothing company that is growing at an incredible rate, which meant the requests and challenges at the start of the project were very different than the requirements just one month later. Perhaps the most difficult part of the shop creation was the speed at which we needed to design and develop. On more than one occasion, we’ve needed to launch a new product (and accompanying campaign) in under 48 hours. We think we’ve done a pretty good job of executing these ‘Friday night campaigns’ as we call them. :)
That’s precisely one of the reasons we chose Shopify, which enables us to develop solutions very quickly while still providing enough flexibility to change the shop “look and feel” without changing the core components (such as the entire checkout process).
Q: What did you learn while creating this website?
The website creation process has been greatly simplified over the past couple of years. We literally can have a new ecommerce shop up and running in a couple of hours. The key to making this happen in a real-world environment is to educate the client on the benefit of launching ‘now,’ and making adjustments after launch. Using progressive enhancement and tying in a Lean Startup approach gives us the ability to do some pretty cool things in a short period of time. That is, if clients are willing to listen. :)
The web has evolved in a way so that agencies and clients no longer need to start from scratch when creating a site. For Jivaldi, this allows us to easily move into a consulting role, given our experience. Also, by minimizing the scope of an initial site build, we can focus more on post-launch services that maximize the site’s performance and, most importantly, deliver a return on investment.
We also continue to recognize the importance of social tools in today's ecommerce world. We adapt all our creative elements towards different social media networks, ensuring that the campaign graphics we are using on the site will also be available for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Our results are reflected in the loyal fan base Forged enjoys across its social media sites.
Q: What impact did Oscar night have on the store?
Even though American Sniper only won one of six nominations, the movie had an overwhelming impact on the store and sales remain strong. With this success, Forged has been able to donate over one million dollars in the last six months alone to the Kyle Estate as well as the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, headed by Chris's wife Taya Kyle. With this influx of new orders and customers, Forged has been able to grow, add employees, and extend its fulfillment infrastructure well beyond what it was prior to this campaign. And without question, Shopify has been a critical component to this success.
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