Kunitz Shoes is a staple in Edmonton, having opened the doors to their first shoe store way back in 1981 when the Oilers were still respectable. We’ve been working together for over 5 years – and the time had come to build them a new site. The challenge this time? It wasn’t just redesigning and adding eCommerce capabilities – it was adding a world-class eCommerce experience while keeping their considerable inventory in sync with in-store sales across multiple locations. Not so easy.
We worked closely with Kunitz to design and build them a custom eCommerce site off the back of WooCommerce. The site is beautifully designed, and keeps to the Kunitz brand – and in the background, the site is powered by a custom script which syncs ~20,000 SKUs with their inventory system to keep everything up-to-date. Content management is made a breeze through a customized WordPress build, and the enormous site still knocks it out of the park with a 96% PageSpeed Score.
Since the doors opened in 1981, the outstanding service and product selection offered by Kunitz Shoes allowed them to grow into one of Edmonton’s most beloved shoe stores. We had worked with them on the previous iteration of their site – a fairly straightforward WordPress job – but now Everett, one of the owners, came to us wanting to explore the next step: eCommerce.
eCommerce was the logical progression in the growth of the company. Dwane Kunitz – one of the original cofounders – had always said he’d love to be able to sell shoes in his sleep. If we did this properly, we’d be able to help him do that. But it wasn’t as straightforward as it seemed.
Building on the Back of WooCommerce
Together, we explored a variety of potential solutions for Kunitz’ eCommerce needs. When it came down to it, WooCommerce was the best fit – we could use it as a starting point to build upon, it’d allow the client to stay in their comfort zone with regards to content management for all data types, and we wouldn’t be locked in to the restrictive framework some hosted solutions provide. But don’t be fooled – this is no standard WooCommerce build. It’s an extremely customized-to-client-needs eCommerce solution.
One of the most complex customizations? Inventory management.
Keeping 20,000+ SKUs In Sync
For a number of years, Kunitz Shoes has been managing their inventory using a regionally developed software system called MIMS. No API or developer documentation existed for MIMs, so we had to figure out a way to sync online sales with in-store sales in order to keep Kunitz’ inventory items up-to-date. After all, you don’t want a customer to place an order online for a product that is actually out-of-stock, right? Website performance needed to be kept in mind too, as Kunitz’ inventory is well over 20,000 SKUs – syncing that many items is resource intensive.
The end solution involved writing an automated script that imports/exports sales and return data from all locations – multiple physical retail stores as well as online – via CSV. Every 8 hours, this script runs in the background automatically, getting all the updated data and changing availability status of each product variation, per store, in WooCommerce. In turn, we format and export sales & return data from the site so it can sync down to MIMS.
What does this mean? For Everett and his staff at Kunitz Shoes, it’s a set-and-forget tool they don’t need to worry about: inventory is always in sync. For his customers? They’re only shown products that are available to buy. Nice!
Competing on eCommerce Design & User Experience
This project wasn’t all about complex background programming, though. Everyone was in agreement: if Kunitz Shoes was going to move into the online shopping space, we couldn’t go halfway. eCommerce is so ubiquitous now that we couldn’t just throw something up and expect success; instead, we needed to compete on design and user experience.
We did this via a number of notable UI & UX enhancements alongside what you’d commonly expect from an online store. Starting with a dialed-in mobile-first responsive experience, the new Kunitz online store also has the following benefits to users:
- Live product inventory numbers (“2 available”)
- Live product stock status per store (“low availability”)
- Hover zoom on single product photos to see shoe details
- “Click-and-Fit” functionality, allowing users to buy online but have a custom in-store fitting & pickup
- Dynamically loaded image galleries per colour
These are just a few features that, alongside performance optimization, led to an explosive launch and a huge first month in sales.
Performance-Optimizing a Resource-Intensive Website
By now, we all know the importance of performance optimization and flat-out speed when it comes to website design and development. A fast website has positive impacts on search engine optimization; eCommerce conversion rates; bounce rates and much more. Knowing that, we followed all the best practices in the book as per usual: mobile-first development; minification and concatenation; dequeuing unused scripts; and more. Couple that with a LEMP stack on Rackspace and Kunitz Shoes’ new site is blazing.
How good is it? A Pagespeed score of 96% – and the site’s single product page outperforms Amazon’s single product page, including being 75% lighter and using 30% fewer HTTP requests.
Overall, this project is a testament to attention-to-detail and teamwork between agency and client. Everything that went into the site – custom inventory syncing scripts; detailed UX & UI design; performance optimization; and development focused on business processes – add up to a website that is considerably more than it seems on the front end. We’re happy to have worked on it with Everett and his team, and continue to provide managed web services and retainer services – so we can keep helping Dwane sell shoes in his sleep.
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