Level Nine Sports, a fast-growing e-commerce company, provides outdoor enthusiasts with affordable ski, snowboard, and biking gear. They’re valued for their passion and knowledge of the perfect equipment at the best prices on the market and outstanding customer service.
CHALLENGE: Going headless with a replatform to Bigcommerce
Magento 1.0 had been hosting Level Nine Sports’ e-commerce website for a while, but the version was being sunset. The company had to move to Magento Enterprise or choose a different platform. Nick, head of IT, explains that running on Magento 1.0 presented constant challenges, so they were also looking at other options.
“We wanted to get away from having to support the architecture to run Magento 1.0,” Nick says. “It’s just older technology where the caching system and the indexing are hard to contend with. The site would often go down. Every few months there would be an unexpected, decent sized outage. That was a big problem. We constantly had to do security patches to support the infrastructure. That’s the primary reason we wanted to get away from it.”
Nick says they were looking mainly at two options: Magento Enterprise or BigCommerce. If the latter choice, a cloud-based e-commerce SaaS platform with unlimited integration potential, they’d have to deploy a new website operating on a completely different technology than was used to run applications.
But for a large online retail company with complex back-office operations, a full website overhaul in terms of migrating apps from an internal database to going headless on a platform driven by APIs is a big undertaking.
Naturally, this kind of operation requires a lot of thought from choosing the right platform and finding the best exterior team to help with development. The decision and approval process can be slow, but an important catalyst sped it up:
“Finally, we ran into an issue where we weren’t going to be able to accept payment,” Nick recalls. “There was a TLS (Transport Layer Security) update that made Magento 1.0 not an option anymore. For a short amount of time, we didn’t know if we were going to be able to accept credit cards. I’d been meaning to get away from the platform for a long time, but suddenly we were in danger of not being able to do the transactions we needed. At that point, it was the final issue for me, period.”
With around 2000 orders a day coming into Level Nine Sports’ site, this blockage prompted an urgent decision.
“We ended up going with BigCommerce,” Nick continues. “As a SaaS based eCommerce head for us, they offered more flexibility than other options. The biggest upsides were that it was a modern platform, and we wouldn’t have to deal with the infrastructure. Of course that’s something we would get from other SaaS ecom solutions, but BigCommerce seemed to be the most robust.”
The challenge then was to build a sturdy architecture that ensured seamless integration of Level Nine Sports’ workflows and middleware. In other words:
“We had to keep the business functioning while we had to move everything into hosted applications in AWS,” says Nick
No easy feat, and one that needed to be supported by an external team of developers.
SOLUTION: Mira Commerce’s Team of Experts
To get the process started, Level Nine Sports’ sought a partner that could provide a particular kind of co-development relationship, with a knack for communication and an engineering edge. With multiple complex integrations to oversee, choosing the right solution provider was essential.
Mira Commerce showed up to be a fitting match.
“We were looking at companies that had some engineering wits about them,” Nick says. “Within talking with Mira Commerce, it seemed pretty clear that they were the best candidate to go for, especially in terms of custom development, which was important for us. One of the main reasons I wanted to go with them was also the communication level with the people doing the work. If you’re running the dev shop for an e-commerce company, you have to make sure your request is being understood by the end guy doing the development, or you’re going to waste a ton of hours and money.”
Mira Commerce helped with the initial template development. Architecturally, all the custom apps would be powered by Amazon’s Amplify. (See application architecture map)
Optimal order management being the crux of an e-commerce company’s success, everything had to work flawlessly. Standards were high, especially as Level Nine displays a history of delivering high-quality customer service and receives thousands of daily orders.
The team developed custom applications to facilitate business processes that interact with the website, to help run the warehouse and facilitate processes that put orders together for the shipments to get out the door in time.
Ski Mount Forms
A core business function for Level Nine Sports’ is the ski mount form for the customer to fill out online. Developers at Mira Commerce ensured this was correctly implemented and run via AWS’ Amplify. The warehouse uses the same application to mount the skis based on the information provided by the customer on the site’s form.
They also added many different filtration possibilities for Level Nine Sports’ to filter and manage orders however they want.
Bulk Order Status Change
One of the requirements was to implement the bulk order status change. This allows Level Nine Sports to change statuses of the selected orders in one click, which is an enormous time saver for administrators that receive many daily orders, and also essential in making sure all the shipments are done in time.
High-performing mobile version
On top of all that, they created a whole different design and considerably improved the mobile version of the site.
“Speed is the number one factor for the new mobile version’s high performance. We also have a much better UI and menu system for mobile,” Nick says.
During the order process, user experience remains impeccable, and the applications are fast and reactive. The developers made sure APIs were properly configured to ensure functional bulk processing of the orders.
Nick expressed his satisfaction with the collaboration, despite the challenges such an endeavor typically presents:
“We appreciated working directly with the Ukraine team during the buildout, the direct communication, team support, and dedication Slava gave us. This was a big project. He and everyone stepped up to get it over the line and deployed. Slava is the reason we launched, he was dedicated as if it was his own site.”
Mira Commerce’s team’s success is due in no small part to the hard work of its players, but also their dependability and level of commitment. As Nick recalls:
“When we were in the heat of trying to get the site done, they were very motivated to get everything that we had scoped out within the bill to launch with. We did our best to get most of what we wanted. And so that, to me, is thanks to the direct interaction with the developer. Co-development is key for our partnership and Mira Commerce has been good with us about this. When the rubber meets the road and we had to get it done, they stepped up and helped us get through some tough problems that were definitely not anticipated.”
RESULTS: Improved conversion rate and better work experience at Level Nine Sports
For Nick, the greatest benefit is not having to constantly check up on the infrastructure and worry about it crashing. The amount of unnecessary work and time spent fixing and patching is now replaced with time to continue improving the current infrastructure.
He explains that although the changes weren’t massive, the new programs did improve some processes:
“One area that is enhanced is our customer service,” he says, “They have more visibility now. We’ve given the warehouse more flexibility with these applications at a very granular level. The bigger upside with operating on custom apps now is that the development time has gotten shorter to take feature requests, as the applications have had time to harden so to speak.”
Nick also believes transitioning to BigCommerce was about future-proofing their website, and is confident about their choice.
“BigCommerce will improve over time and release new features. We don’t have to deal with patches or server problems, and the code is also more modern. We believe it was the best choice for our business. We have the option to go headless, and that’s where I want to take our site. This is good for our future to compete with other online retailers. I don’t regret the decision to move to BigCommerce over Magento the slightest. It was harder, but worth it.”
After the new site was deployed, Level Nine Sports saw a spike in sales. The conversion rate improved everywhere, but increased mobile conversions saw the highest ROI. Nick discloses that Google core vitals are much better, and overall Google site performance metrics improved.
He explains that the main factors for these results are increased speed, and mobile optimization.
“Once we got the website worked out,” he says, “we realized one big upside: sales increased. Not just a little bit. It was pretty significant. The conversion rate had spiked and didn’t go down. That’s due to the platform, the speed, the performance, the new design… So clearly, Mira Commerce was a big factor in the success of that.”