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Sorority Specialties: Catering to Gen Z’s ecommerce expectations

Why they won

Atmosol was a finalist for the Innovation Award for Agency Innovation for their work on Sorority Specialities.

For using APIs to cater to Gen Z online expectations.

Business stats

  • Founder: Lewis & Eve

  • Who submitted (and is quoted below): Jamie Huffer, Partner

  • Year founded: 1996

  • Headquartered: Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Ecommerce vertical: Apparel & Jewelry

  • Agency used: Atmosol

  • Website

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • Instagram

Business outcomes of the innovation

  • +500% increase in conversions

  • 25% decrease in bounce rate

  • +200% increase in time spent on site

What they do

Sorority Specialties is a husband-and-wife run company that has been in business for over 20 years and sells licensed sorority merchandise to selected national sororities.

The founder, Lewis, started the company with a retail store at the UCLA campus after graduating the University of Maryland, where he was an Alpha Epsilon Pi. Several years later with the birth of the internet, they closed the retail store and have been online ever since.

The challenge behind the innovation

Selling in a seasonal B2C market with B2B purchasing habits at different times of the year involves an “outside-the-box” approach.

Lewis knew he needed a user-friendly interface on the front-end and the back-end, coupled with a robust ordering and reporting system if he was going to scale up for the back-to-school and holiday seasons.

Lewis originally had six Magento websites for each individual sorority, leaving him with a lack of centralized reporting and order processing capabilities. On top of that, his frustrations grew as he struggled to navigate the technical components of Magento’s back-end.

With little time to spare between his selling cycles, Lewis knew he had to come up with a quick-win solution.

During the summer off-season, he decided to overhaul his website and migrate to BigCommerce. Lewis recognized he had to solve a major pain point for both himself and his customers by offering what ecommerce consumers crave: an effortless user-experience.

Both the front-end and back-end of the user and seller experiences needed deep customization.

Lewis knew that discerning college students and their parents wanted the best brand for the lowest price, but that image still matters.

Presenting a relatable brand that stood out, while having simple online ordering, would appeal across generations. Not to mention that bulk orders and individual orders could be tracked to optimize future marketing and promotional campaigns.

Now, instead of managing six separate, complicated websites, Lewis would have a modern, updated central selling web portal, while also aggregating sales, orders and analytics data in one convenient, custom reporting system.

How they make it work

We created a fully functional website, referred to as the private application, that communicates with the BigCommerce stores via APIs.

The app shows the data relevant to the store that you’re logged in to it, then attaches webhooks using the BigCommerce Webhook API, which tells the app when a product or order has changed.

If the app finds a product that is changed or created, it reaches out using the APIs to pull in data, then stores it internally. It also processes product custom fields to make them easier to report.

An administrator of the BigCommerce store can go to the app and view the royalty report from the stored data which can be filtered by order date or sorority, and can also be exported as a CSV.

We also created a custom integration to the 3PL fulfillment center. The existing 3PLGo integration couldn’t run the integration. So, for orders that included bulk pricing discounts on the order, products were put into a holding pattern which notified the store administrator when they were placed. The administrator decided whether to send the order to 3PL or to handle the fulfillment manually.

Every 30 minutes, the app goes over the list of orders and sorts them. If they had bulk pricing discounts, the order was set to On-Hold status and the administrator was notified by email. If there were no bulk pricing discounts, the order was sent to the 3PL system via an XML API call, and the status of the order inside the private app would update the status.

Another process ran every 30 minutes to check if shipment information was added to sent orders, using an XML API call out to 3PL. If the order had shipment information, the process pulled it into the private app data, stored it, created a shipment associated with the original order, including the tracking information from 3PL.

For orders needing special attention, the app gave tables to display orders, sync status and manual attention orders, including bulk orders and orders that had an error when syncing.

Final word

Between September 2016 and September 2017, Lewis’ BigCommerce aggregate store collectively increased sales conversions by 300-500% during peak seasons.

During the same time, after migrating from Magento, his new BigCommerce site had a search capability that decreased the bounce rate by 25%, from 30% down to 5%.

Additionally, the average time spent on site increased by 200%, from 3 minutes to nearly 6 minutes.

Tracey Wallace avatar

Tracey is the Director of Marketing at MarketerHire, the marketplace for fast-growth B2B and DTC brands looking for high-quality, pre-vetted freelance marketing talent. She is also the founder of Doris Sleep and was previously the Head of Marketing at Eterneva, both fast-growth DTC brands marketplaces like MarketerHire aim to help. Before that, she was the Global Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce, where she launched the company’s first online conference (pre-pandemic, nonetheless!), wrote books on How to Sell on Amazon, and worked closely with both ecommerce entrepreneurs and executives at Fortune 1,000 companies to help them scale strategically and profitably. She is a fifth generation Texan, the granddaughter of a depression-era baby turned WWII fighter jet pilot turned self-made millionaire, and wifed up to the truest of heroes, a pediatric trauma nurse, who keeps any of Tracey’s own complaints about business, marketing, or just a seemingly lousy day in perspective.