Industry Insights

Wilson Serves Up a Game-Changing Customer Experience

  • Company: Wilson Sporting Goods Co.
  • Founded in: 1913
  • Industry: Sports Equipment Manufacturer
  • Employees: 1,945
  • Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
  • President: Mike Dowse (since 2013)
  • Campaign Video: Nothing Without It
  • Revenue: $769.7M
  • Parent Company: Amer Sports
  • Website: www.wilson.com

Originally founded to find unique ways of using slaughterhouse byproducts such as tennis racket strings, violin strings, surgical sutures, and baseball shoes, Wilson Sporting Goods has since established a rich, 106-year history as the world's leading manufacturer of ball sports equipment and is the official ball of the NFL. In fact, Wilson has supplied game balls for every Super Bowl since the beginning. Today, Wilson continues on as one of the most recognized names in the industry; inventing, designing, and engineering game-changing products using state-of-the-art technology as well as input from a 10,000-member advisory staff comprised of top youth, college, amateur, and professional athletes and organizations from around the world.

In the summer of 2015, the Wilson brand was about to be reintroduced to the world. The marketing team at Wilson­­—in partnership with its creative agency, Phenomenon — had developed a multi-channel marketing campaign known as #MYWILSON, which highlights the unique relationship that athletes at all levels have with their equipment. The campaign was going to involve a significant online and offline investment by Wilson, with an entirely new branding effort that had been developed. Unfortunately, the centerpiece of the Wilson online environment, wilson.com, was in the middle of a rebuild and re-platform project that would not be complete for many months. Unless an alternative plan was conceived, customers engaging with the campaign would not have a complete experience once they arrived at the wilson.com website. Consequently, Wilson asked open source digital experience company Acquia and digital agency Bounteous (formally HS2 Solutions) to lead a Drupal and Magento integration to provide Wilson customers with more engaging shopping experiences.

Knowing that time was of the essence, Bounteous proposed a solution that would allow the delivery of a new look and feel for key areas of the Wilson website, but not derail the re-platform project. A major obstacle was that each of Wilson's brands (Wilson, Louisville Slugger, ATEC, and Demarini) were built using a different content management system (CMS) resulting in four different websites with four different CMS platforms. Interestingly enough, all four were leveraging Magento as the eCommerce platform.

The Wilson project came to life with a unique approach of merging the capabilities of Drupal as the CMS and Magento as the eCommerce engine to deliver a robust shopping and brand experience. This architecture supports wilson.com and other brands globally today. The glue between the two systems is the connector. It uses what Bounteous calls a "Blended Solution." Drupal in combination with the caching tool Varnish, handles the display of all of the pages except for the Account and Shopping Cart pages where the content is called directly from Magento, allowing each system to do what it does best. This gave Bounteous the flexibility to get fancy with content that integrates with product data on all of the page types.

Bounteous worked closely with the Wilson technology team to develop a seamless way to integrate the new branding with its existing eCommerce infrastructure. In just over one month, Bounteous stood up an entirely new responsive platform that integrated with the legacy eCommerce infrastructure but implemented a completely new visual design and user experience. Users arriving at wilson.com could not only see the new branding, but also become active participants in the #MYWILSON campaign. Users could submit their own videos and photos using Wilson equipment and then be featured in a quilt that was generated in real-time from moderated social networking channels.

Snap-Shot Results:

  • Content-driven eCommerce solution in an “experiential” way
  • Unique fusion of Drupal and Magento created a first-of-its-kind shopping experience
  • Created an online catalog purchase experience without needing support from development

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Seth Dobbs, Bounteous VP of Engineering, and Christopher Rogers, Director PR & Corporate Communications at Acquia for this case study article. The insights I gathered from my discussions with Seth and Christopher provided me with a much deeper appreciation for how Bounteous and Acquia worked with the platforms as the foundation for Wilson’s digital transformation.

with Christopher Rogers & Seth Dobbs:

What was it like working with Wilson Sporting Goods' agency of record, Phenomenon?

Seth Dobbs – As with all projects, we enjoy collaborating with the multiple parties involved and helping to steer various specialties and capabilities for the betterment of a project’s overall goals. Wilson has always created a spirit of collaboration among all partners, encouraging the typical walls and silos to be broken down, fostering a collaborative tenor across the project, and helping us more easily access the necessary information and team members to bring a project of this size and complexity to fruition.

What platforms were used to deploy the Wilson Sporting Goods project?

Christopher Rogers – Drupal 8, Acquia Cloud, and Magento

What hurdles did you overcome and/or what were the lessons learned by Bounteous during the planning, implementation and deployment stages?

Seth Dobbs – Wilson has an unparalleled product offering, and a loyal customer base to match. The digital experience needed to more closely reflect that relationship and start fortifying the emotional connections between player and equipment. Rather than creating a platform allowing customers to learn more about and acquire the products they love, Wilson wanted to create user experience that also acknowledged the narrative connections of their products—the passionate community that relies on them—creating a more resonant experience for customers to engage with the products by featuring content that resonates, intrigues, and inspires players of all teams.

Working in Agile pods, Bounteous’ experience design and technology teams worked alongside Wilson’s eCommerce, digital, and marketing teams to meld marketing and technology to create an experience platform based on experiential commerce that combines storytelling with the ability to merchandise and sell products. The innovative use of technologies was awarded best eCommerce Experience by Acquia, but moreover, the platform was constructed in such a way that empowered content authors within the Wilson organization to leverage patterns and templates to market and merchandise their products in new ways.

Why were Drupal, Magento and Acquia Cloud platforms considered such a good fit for the Wilson Sporting Goods project?

Christopher Rogers – Wilson approached Acquia and Bounteous to lead a Drupal and Magento integration that would offer Wilson customers a more engaging shopping experience. Our Professional Services team helped Wilson marry the abilities of Drupal as the CMS, and Magento as the eCommerce engine. These were seamlessly integrated with Wilson’s preferred product information management, and customer relationship management tools. For the first time, Wilson had the ability to manage all of its technical systems under one platform on Acquia Cloud.

What customizations/extensions were needed to meet the projects requirements that could not be solved out-of-box with Drupal or Magento? PIM? CRM?‚Äč

Seth Dobbs – While the integration of Drupal and Magento offered an eCommerce shift for the brand overall, and set the foundation for growth and operational efficiencies, it also solved a problem that Wilson was facing—trying to penetrate deeper into the team market without having to invest heavily in a sales force. As a continuation on the wilson.com’s successes, Wilson wanted to expand the platform and allow customers to directly design apparel and make them available to their teams.

Enter Wilson Team Shop. Prior to its launch, field reps were trying to sell configurable uniforms and equipment, and successfully creating something useful without visuals was a major hindrance to driving this market forward. By creating an online Team Shop, Wilson is able to provide simple and powerful customization into the hands of end users. This means that Wilson is now able to quickly scale in a market, without have to significantly increase their sales force.

Wilson knew that this was going to be a challenge in that they had already developed multiple jersey customizers that either demanded too much from users, fell short of a cohesive customer experience, or simply didn’t work. But Bounteous’ combination of experience design and technology skills were engaged to build a scalable jersey customizer that could meet all of the needs of this new line of business.
 

 

The Platform

While the integration of Drupal and Magento offered an ecommerce shift for the brand overall and set the foundation for growth and operational efficiencies, it also solved a problem that Wilson was facing – trying to penetrate deeper into the team market without having to invest heavily in a sales force.

  • Drupal Verson 8.0
  • Magento Version 2.3
  • Varnish Cache Version 6.1
 

The Team

Bounteous helped Wilson develop a user experience that included a unique Team Shop setup that allows coaches to specify a team’s catalogue, design parameters and identity, and the ability for players, and fans to also login to their own Team Shop page to purchase gear.

  • UX and Creative Design
  • Analytics and Insight
  • eCommerce, Website and Mobile Development
 

The Results

The new Wilson Team Shop is a great example of well executed experience-driven commerce providing a unique experience for coaches and parents. Team Shop is an ongoing effort to help the Wilson brand address the challenge of supplying entire teams with customized equipment

10% & 44%Web & Mobile Revenue Growth
3%Average Session Duration Increase
14% & 39% Web & Mobile Conversion Improvement

On the heels of Wilsons’ 100th year in business, Bounteous and Wilson launched the first-of-its-kind shopping experience that brought its products together with the athletes and warriors they outfit. Wilson leveraged the Drupal and Magento platforms to deliver an experiential commerce experience that integrated the two—and both content and product—to drive an increase in sales conversion.

This new platform gives Wilson, and the entire family of brands, the ability to quickly launch and support multiple marketing campaigns with tight deadlines. Wilson now has the ability to easily generate buzz about a new product, allow for pre-ordering, and ultimately release a product into the store without the need for code releases or platform updates. With the design of the new CMS, Wilson has found efficiencies in creating new content for the web and incorporating it into their global design workflow. “Wilson’s iconic brand excels in the world of sports, and today you will be immersed in the world of Wilson at every touchpoint and throughout the buying journey. The brand experience blends world-class professional athletics seamlessly with individual enthusiasts in order to create a lasting bond with customers. Wilson is a shining example of powerful content for commerce initiative that wraps a brand deep in visual storytelling”, states Joe Wykes, Acquia SVP.

Wilson’s site architecture now supports purchasing power and fan culture, which is reflected in their additional revenue—the results of increased, continuous user engagement. Rolling out new branding strategies is simple; from the latest Louisville Slugger, to athlete profiles, to a full homepage relaunch, Wilson continues to connect with the people behind their products.

Additionally, Bounteous and Wilson won the Commerce Platform Site of the Year Award at Acquia Engage 2017. The new wilson.com platform was one of four finalists in this category, and CMS Connected’s very own tech reporter,  Laura Myers, was one of three judges selected for the event.

 
Gary Eisenstein

Gary Eisenstein

Gary has been working in the IT industry since 1993 and is the Principal Analyst at CMS-Connected, and the Founder and President of Falcon-Software. If you would like advice on how to evaluate a "best-fit" digital experience solution for your organization, Gary can be reached at gary.eisenstein@cms-connected.com.

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