What if people hated you just because you were sick?
If it weren’t bad enough having a debilitating disease that can permanently damage your skin, limbs, and eyes, consider what it might also be like if your family abandoned you and those closest to you turned their backs because of your disease.
Even worse, imagine being removed from your home and forced to live far away as an outcast with others afflicted with the same disease.
Sounds like a movie or work of fiction, huh?
For the 130,000 people in India who are diagnosed with leprosy each year- it’s a reality.
In parts of the world, including India, people diagnosed with leprosy are rejected and shunned by society and wind up living in leprosy colonies.
It’s something that so bothered the founders of Pavers Shoes, a UK-based family footwear business now in its fifth decade in operation, they felt compelled to do something to make life better for the lepers isolated in colonies that are often characterized by overcrowding, poverty, and poor sanitation.
“It’s a project we’re really proud of,” says Simon Collins, the ecommerce chief at Pavers.
Image via: Nippon Foundation
Pavers, which sells footwear predominantly to women over the age of forty, donates a portion of its profits to help fund the Shoe Van- and many other charitable causes and organizations- which travels to leper colonies and provides footwear to people who seemingly have been forgotten due to their suffering.
“The people in the van measure the lepers’ feet and actually make the shoes in the van overnight,” Collins says. “It makes a real difference in the lives of the lepers- especially the children.”
The thought of living in a leprosy colony likely puts things in perspective for us all…
However, creatively overcoming the problems Pavers recently encountered online is one reason it’s in a position to generously help India’s lepers.
The Stealth Experiment
That’s the tongue-in-cheek name Pavers gives its loyal customers who have been purchasing footwear from the company since Catherine Pavers founded it in 1971 with a small loan and a burning desire to offer everyone the perfect style for their feet.
Today, Pavers is still a family business with Catherine at the helm, her sons in leadership roles, and a grandson learning the trade as well. What started with a single store in the UK has grown to a footwear empire boasting of 120 locations that mostly cater to consumers in the UK and Ireland.
While Pavers does sell globally, ecommerce accounts for just a sliver of its overall revenue. To grow online sales, Collins initially chose Magento as the company’s ecommerce platform and quickly realized how time consuming that choice would prove.
It took ten months to launch on Magento.
“We needed a heavily customized site but it was still very rigid,” Collins says. “It just wasn’t flexible enough to do what we needed it to do.”
For instance, Collins says integrating Pavers’ homegrown ERP system was costly, time consuming, and often not effective. The company had to rely on an agency to make changes and often ran out of budget, which meant Pavers routinely went without some of the features it desired.
“We needed to launch our sale but couldn’t guarantee our site could handle it,” Collins says. “Over time we lost confidence in the Magento site.”
Pavers spent a bit more than three years on Magento…
But towards the end, Collins had an idea for a secret test that might yield the solution for which Pavers yearned.
“It really was a stealth test,” Collins says. “It was a very different approach than we had taken in the past.”
Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and months on an ecommerce site he wasn’t even sure would meet Pavers’ needs, Collins secretly launched a test site under a separate domain and powered by a competing platform.
The results not only shocked Collins…
But better positioned the company to continue its many charitable endeavors like those in India’s leprosy colonies.
It Seems Like Madness
It was 1999 when Collins launched Pavers’ first site…
Years later, the results of his recent stealth experiment were so promising, he decided to replatform the Pavers ecommerce site for the fifth and hopefully last time in the company’s online history. The company migrated from Magento to Shopify Plus, an enterprise ecommerce solution for high volume merchants who desire a flexible platform and can be customized quickly.
“The move from Magento to Shopify Plus is turning out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,” Collins says.
For instance, Collins and his team built their Shopify store themselves, thus saving six-figures on design and development costs. “Being able to do it ourselves resulted in significant cost savings,” he says. “We don’t need an agency anymore and we’re able to react much more quickly when we need to.”
The results since switching from Magento to Shopify Plus?
A side by side comparison, according to Collins, looks like this:
- Mobile conversion rates have doubled since migrating to Plus
- Abandoned cart rates are down significantly since migrating to Plus
- Revenue growth is up double digits year over year since migrating to Plus
“The significant improvement in mobile conversions is a nice bloody surprise,” Collins says with a laugh.
So how did Pavers do it, and is it possible you might replicate the company’s results?
In addition to the Shopify Mobile SDK integration that allows Pavers to create a mobile-first checkout, Collins credits a dramatically improved customer experience powered by a handful of applications for accelerating conversions and sales:
- Power Tools Filter Menu- a tool that allows shoppers to find what they want easier and faster by offering navigation menus that allow consumers to filter items of interest by color, size, price or a myriad other variants
- Nosto- an application that analyzes user browsing and buying behavior to make personalized purchase recommendations in real time, positioning merchants to cross sell, upsell, and increase customer lifetime value
- Judge Me- an embedded reviews application that not only allows merchants to easily and cost-effectively generate customer reviews on their sites, but also sends review requests after each order is fulfilled
“The reviews app costs us three percent of what we spent to get reviews on Magento,” Collins says. “This is by far the smoothest migration I’ve ever experienced.”
All this took place despite replatforming during the holiday shopping season. “It might seem like madness but our peak selling season is in the spring and summer,” Collins says.
The cost savings and speed with which Pavers can now add features and make site adjustments has significantly improved the brand’s online sales channel performance…
Even better though, are the lyrical ballads Pavers often receives.
Poems Of Praise
The pictures of smiling customers and thank you notes are nice…
But it’s the poems that Pavers receives from happy customers the company seems to relish the most. “People send us poems out of the blue,” Collins says. “It’s really nice and means a lot to a family business.”
Here’s a handwritten card the company recently received:
The poems may be arriving more frequently in the future…
Thanks in part to Shopify, Pavers expects to squeeze out additional efficiencies and double its online sales in the near future. The company plans to reinvest the money it’s saving since switching to Plus to better tie all of Pavers’ sales channels together so customers can enjoy the same experience regardless of whether it’s in store, online, or via the television channel the company broadcasts in the U.K.
Collins suggests merchants on competing platforms who are unsure about switching to Plus do what he did; launch a stealth Shopify test site to do real world research and find out for sure whether the platform can better meet your needs and budget before switching.
If you’re like Pavers and no longer hamstrung by technology, you’ll better position your company to direct its time and treasure toward what really matters- growing online sales and putting smiles on the faces of those the world has forgotten like the lepers Pavers cares for in India.