Customization, Demandware Commerce, and the Future of Wolverine Brands
“We realized that we had different code bases and web platforms for each individual organization within our portfolio, and that wasn’t a scalable or sustainable approach to our business,” said Adrian Stevens, VP of Global eCommerce at Wolverine Worldwide. “At the same time, our CEO wanted to shift Wolverine’s mindset from being a wholesaler to working much more closely with our customers. As close as we are with our retailers, nobody gets our customers better than we do, and we wanted to create a more personalized direct-to-consumer experience across our portfolio of brands.”
To achieve these goals, Wolverine Worldwide embarked on an 18-month journey to update and replatform all of their global digital properties on the Demandware Commerce Cloud, while simultaneously offering customizable products across several of their key brands. By transitioning to Demandware and basing all of their customization experiences on Fluid’s Configure 3.0 software, Wolverine built the framework for scalable, rapidly replicable direct-to-consumer eCommerce businesses that could support the needs of a diverse portfolio of global brands.
“For Wolverine, it was all about stability and scale. In late 2013 they had 16 brands that they needed to launch online within two years, and many of these needed global transactional capability,” said Matt Hart, customer success director at Demandware. “Wolverine accelerated their implementation with Demandware by making some great foundational decisions that enabled them to launch individually but segment in a way that was really efficient.”
So efficient, in fact, that within 18 months Wolverine replatformed their entire brand portfolio to Demandware, including more than 70 websites and 40 mobile sites across 13 countries and five currencies. However, this achievement was only part of the story. While individual brands in their lineup had experimented with custom product offerings in the past, the replatforming empowered Wolverine to scale these experiences to multiple brands which will drive Wolverine’s direct-to-consumer business and form the foundation of their business going forward.
“One of the big trends is that more and more consumers want to be recognized and catered to as individuals, and that’s where customization plays a critical role, and why we partnered with Fluid,” said Stevens. “We wanted a partner with deep experience, and the fact that Fluid has a portfolio across the retail landscape was very interesting to us. That, coupled with Fluid’s design capabilities and their cutting edge technologies in some of the most exciting elements in customization, made it a great partnership.”
Wolverine views customization as a way to bring additional eCommerce business back in house, as they alone possess the production and design capacities for custom products, as well as a unique understanding their customers. Scalability, and the ability to leverage customization across all its brands again played a role. While all of its customization experiences leverage Configure 3.0 software as their base platform, each maintains the unique flavor and “feel” of their individual brands.
“Having solid technology behind our customization offerings was essential; we needed a platform to create compelling, fantastic experiences on both desktop and mobile that reflected each brand’s DNA while also being easily scalable to the other brands in our portfolio,” said Adrian Stevens, VP of Global eCommerce at Wolverine Brands, the parent company of Chaco. “In the end, it’s all about giving people a reason to shop our sites. Offering unique, compelling experiences like customization is essential for brand survival in today’s market, and it’s so critical to have synergy between the brand’s story and the eCommerce experience.”
Within the Wolverine portfolio, Chaco holds the distinction of not only being the first to go live with custom products, but also being the first to launch both their Demandware replatform and customization experiences simultaneously.
Called MyChaco, Chaco’s customization platform lets users choose from five base styles for their sandals and then personalize nine different dimensions of color, material and sole choices. Once the user is happy with their design, the customized sandals are made in the USA at the Chaco factory in Rockford, Michigan, and shipped for free within 8 days. The platform is available on both desktop and mobile devices, and as customers play with the different elements they watch their design come to life in real time, visualized in photorealistic quality with 3D texture mapping.
MyChaco launched in September 2015, following which Wolverine unveiled customization capability with Keds and Sperry.
“Custom is part of a portfolio of activities that answer the question of why someone shop our sites as opposed to a retailer, with the key lesson being you have to make it easy and interesting to shop,” said Stevens. “Custom elements are driving significant revenue for our brands that offer them; Chaco, for example, has a very mature custom business that accounts for between 20-30 percent of their eCommerce revenue, and since transitioning to Fluid’s platform we’ve seen a year-over-year increase that we’re very happy about.”
Sperry’s customization centers on their iconic Top-Sider boat shoe, in keeping with the brand’s heritage of all things sea and water (they even offer a Shark Tattoo as a customization option!) Keds, on the other hand, focuses on their deep personal connection to their customers, which they have since deepened by unveiling the Keds Custom Studio, a tool that turns Keds’ fans into designers who can create and personalize their own shoes. Keds’ customization platform went live in December 2015, following a limited beta test with some of their most loyal customers, which generated rave reviews.
“We were very focused on weaving the feel of the Keds brand into our customization experience, making the customer truly feel like they’re a designer and an integral part of the creative design experience,” said Emily Culp, chief marketing officer at Keds. “Keds is about female empowerment and supporting generations of strong women who are in charge of their own destiny, and in that spirit we’re handing over the design reigns to our fans and offering custom products, which creates something within our brand that resonates with that mission.”
Customization now plays a key role in Wolverines’ roadmap. They plan to bring customization omnichannel beginning with an in-store offering from Sperry, and Wolverine hopes to use customization as a learning laboratory to generate real time customer preference feedback that can be used to inform their standard production line.
“Customization creates a unique opportunity to establish a conversation with your customers, so my hope is that our custom offerings can be used as a “test vehicle” to learn our customer’s preferences and inform even our mainline products,” said Stevens. “By offering custom, instead of saying ‘here is what we have for you,’ you can now ask ‘what would you like,’ and if we as an organization can listen to our customers who are voting with their wallets, there is huge potential there.”
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