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In 1958, a soon-to-be-legendary brick-and-mortar opened its humble doors in Washington, DC: Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center. Today, Chuck Levin’s is the single largest independently owned retail music store in the U.S. –– and its brand name alone connotates exceptional customer service and dedication to musicians around the world.
Yet, this success and brand recognition was once in peril –– and it was the internet age to blame. While the physical store continued to modestly grow year-over-year revenue, its online store suffered from a poorly conceived ecommerce platform that generated slow performance, poor aesthetic and a lack of a truly scalable ecosystem that catered to the regular needs of commerce –– things including shipping, taxes and more.
This underperforming online store affected the brand through low consumer shopping confidence which hindered checkout conversions and created –– at best –– an underwhelming brand experience. Worse, not only did consumers not want to shop online, they weren’t compelled to come in store based on their poor experience of Chuck Levin’s online.
In 2014, Chuck Levin’s set out to change the fate of their online presence and provide a cohesive, end-to-end experience that would address its online channel’s largest pain points: flat sales, low conversions and poor consumer shopping confidence. The details of this now successful shift were the main topic of conversation at an event in Toronto, Ontario on June 16, where the multiple agencies involved in creating the current Chuck Levin’s experience spoke to the benefits of SaaS for an enterprise brand.
How Chuck Levin’s went about migrating their store, addressing huge pain points and ultimately creating a digital presence that reflects their unparalleled reputation is outlined below.
Photo: Current Chuck Levin’s website
A Rock-Solid Platform That Delivers
First, Chuck Levin’s needed a scalable and flexible ecommerce platform. In the industry, scalable means one really big thing: that the platform has undergone full diligence in testing its API for merchantability [the ability to upload massive amounts of SKUs] and connectivity [the ability to easily integrate properly with third-party applications and partners]. Once a platform has proven this to be true, it becomes the backbone of a company’s website –– no matter how large that company grows.
Equally important, however, are a quality, responsive and technically adept support team, and a commitment to an impressive 99.99% of uptime SLA [service level agreement].
In short, this means that the platform will always be up and always be fast. For Chuck Levin’s, Bigcommerce was the first-in-class choice, with a data proof point of 100% uptime during the busiest online shopping days in history to date: Black Friday/Cyber Monday of 2014.
With this platform in place, Chuck Levin’s connected a legacy ERP system (i.e. Inventory Management and Accounting platform) to their product management tool, effectively creating a sophisticated publication engine that powered the automatic creation of products online in record time.
Design Experts That Execute
Photo: Jasper Studios
When it came to design, Jackson Wynne was the design partner of record. Their brand consultants rose to the challenge of taking this legacy brand and modernizing its identity while paying respectful homage to a very near-and-dear sentiment amongst its key stakeholders, many of whom have been with the company for decades.
Jackson Wynne is credited with not only producing a gorgeous responsive theme and executing a clean, highly-usable product grid and detail pages, but also with producing quality print collateral material (i.e. business cards, t-shirts, letterhead, stickers, etc.) and generating a creative brand guide that provided direction for the Chuck Levin’s internal design team.
In essence, they overhauled a brand 50 years in the making –– and did it by figuring out how to measure the pulse of both the passionate employees and customers who made Chuck Levin’s what it is.
On-site Search Functionality That Increases Customer Satisfaction
Product grids and auto complete on-site search capability are essential tools in the ecommerce arsenal for bringing a world-class online shopping experience to customers. Given Chuck Levin’s already customer-centric brand and reputation, it was critical they find a partner to provide extensive on-site search and product functionalities –– and they found that partner in Nextopia. Nextopia is a well-known and respected enterprise ecommerce brand, working with many of Internet Retailer’s top 500 e-tailers annually. What makes their service so reliable is a robust, tried-and-true API and uptime performance record that’s second to none.
For enterprise brands like Chuck Levin’s and the dozens of other online stores utilizing Nextopia, uptime and performance integrity are essential to creating a reliable solution and keeping customers shopping with confidence.
Nextopia’s advanced faceting capability allows customers to find products quickly and intuitively, and was essential in helping Chuck Levin’s deal with one of their previously large pain points: sales conversion rate.
By setting up and maintaining a fast, user-friendly product navigation and search experience, Chuck Levin’s is able to get the right products in front of the customers searching for them, every single time. For brands serving niche segments, on-site search functionality is crucial –– and is one of the only ways to capture an audience in the purchase level of the conversion funnel. Doing so will easily increase conversions given that you are providing online shoppers convenient and quick access to the items they need.
To be fair, Nextopia’s search capabilities are an add-on feature and only supplement the already built-in product faceting and search auto-complete capabilities that Chuck Levin’s ecommerce platform, Bigcommerce, provides.
Detailed Product Photography That Mimics the In-Store Experience
Photo: Jasper Studios
Product photography is a critical element to success for any online store. Shoppers want to be sure that the product they see online will be the one they have delivered. And, with specialty items, shoppers want to be able to see the details and get a sense of the item in a similar way to how they would be able to do so in-store. HD and 360° product photography is how you do this.
Chuck Levin’s partnered up with Ortery Technologies, a company well known to be capable of producing 14,000 quality HD product photos and 3D panoramic views on a single piece of equipment. To maintain Chuck Levin’s’ customer-centric reputation, this photography partnership was key.
Ortery worked to enable photo automation on the new Chuck Levin’s site, bringing rich media to their product catalog without extensive work on maintenance for the Chuck Levin’s team themselves.
The Results Speak for Themselves –– 3x Increase in Sales
In just three short months after the new Chuck Levin’s site launch, their online store achieved a 5x increase in conversions and a 3x projected annual increase in gross sales.
With the combination of professional partners including Jasper Studios, Bigcommerce, Nextopia, Ortery Technologies and Jackson Wynne, the teams were able to bring a respectable enterprise solution to market (not including prototyping time) in only six short weeks, easily the fastest integration time my own team here at Jasper Studios has ever encountered with any other platform.
With the blending of these partnerships, consumer shopping confidence was effectively restored. Not only could customers now readily find what they were after, new high quality imagery and robust search capability was absolutely critical in helping turn browsers to buyers –– and these aspects are also bringing more foot traffic into the Chuck Levin’s brick-and-mortar as well.
For example, shoppers have been calling into the physical store, commenting about how they saw a beautiful, new Paul Reed Smith electric guitar in full panoramic detail, and indicated that they wanted to come into the store to try it out. In all, unlike the previous site, Chucks Levin’s online is increasing revenue both digitally and in-store.
Now that is truly an enterprise-grade success: multi-channel benefit from a smart executed online strategy.
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