With nearly 300 stores across Australia and New Zealand, plus a flourishing online store, Strandbags is a premier destination for consumers to find travel and fashion accessories.
In 2020, during the heart of the pandemic, while many companies were left uncertain about what to do, Strandbags was busy re-inventing its e-commerce capabilities. Strandbags redesigned the online store and its entire e-commerce stack and backend to be more flexible and powerful, to drive online sales, and to work for both online and in-store consumers.
This post is a summary of their digital transformation process as detailed in a couple of different interviews. We participated with Strandbags in a webinar earlier this year to talk about their transformation. Additionally, Paul Erskine, Strandbags’ Head of Digital and Data Delivery, and Stuart Freer, then CTO at Strandbags, participated in an ITNews podcast with Ry Crozier to discuss the project.
Headless commerce and services
Strandbags had felt that their existing platform was too rigid — it was difficult to manage content, add new checkout features, and painful to scale. At the time, they weren’t using a true cloud solution, which meant they had less ability to easily scale on-demand. For example, when it came to Black Friday and other big sales, they had to upgrade to bigger GPUs and test the resilience, then continue the process until they were satisfied.
They wanted a new solution that was cloud-based with elastic scale, and something that would allow for picking best-of-breed services. They wanted to plug in different e-commerce solutions for things like search and discovery, personalization, merchandising, checkout management, digital asset management, and more.
For Strandbags, the platform they finally selected was Shopify Plus, the enterprise edition of Shopify’s industry-leading retail solution that offered even more flexibility and power.
“Shopify was chosen because of its capability, its integration, and because its partner ecosystem is extremely strong.”
Shopify has a huge marketplace of third-party apps and service partners, which enabled Strandbags to try different solutions to round out their e-commerce solution. For search and discovery, they worked with their integration partner, MindArc, to research different solutions and ultimately selected Search.io which has a one-click install for Shopify.
“Search.io are really looking at search in a whole different way," said Paul Erskine at Strandbags. "We want to work with people who have innovation built into their DNA.”
Prior to Search.io, the company had a Lucene-based search search solution which required extensive manual updates for simple optimizations. For example, they had to work out all the possible query synonyms and common misspellings for their products, and manually tag each product to make them easily discoverable. With Search.io, they were able to optimize results without additional staffing.
Through Shopify and Search.io, the Strandbags team now has easier access to content so they can make changes faster to achieve their goals.
They also built a real-time inventory API, called the Stock API, that searches across both warehouses and physical stores to find up-to-the-minute inventory. It helps customers to see what’s available and where, and reduces the company’s costs by intelligently reducing the inventory that needs to be shipped between stores.
Customers are shown which stores have stock they can click-and-collect, as well as warehouse availability of their desired product in near real-time, providing assurance before placing an order.
Search.io has built-in analytics so the team can make better decisions for optimizing the site. For example, the on-site search queries from customers shows what people are searching for, what searches are failing, which search indexes and relevancy are getting the highest CTR, etc.
Results have been promising so far. With built-in features for synonyms, deep metrics, and scale-on-demand, the team is able to spend less time optimizing search and more time working in other areas of the business.
Onward and upward
Going forward, Strandbags will be building out additional recommendations and personalization features. They are also looking to add personalized search to in-store kiosks, and leveraging data from Search.io to help drive additional optimization.
If you’re considering your own digital transformation project, be sure to consider your search options, too. Site search can have a massive impact on both the top and bottom lines.