Written by Bradlie Houldsworth & Ben Archer on 22/04/20
Yours Clothing is one of the largest retailers of plus size ladies clothing in the world. The business was established in the late ’90s, originally buying and selling ladies clothing from their market-stall in East Anglia. By 2007, Yours had launched their first eCommerce website and began to trade online.
The first e-commerce website was created and developed by a local design agency in Peterborough, but unfortunately, the platform did not match the agile and creative aspirations that founder and managing director, Andrew Killingsworth, had for the online business.
Remarkable.net were commissioned to build a new platform for Yours Clothing in January 2008. Working closely and fully integrating ourselves with the internal team right from the very beginning to help pinpoint the best route to growth for the brand.
Since 2008, Yours have consistently invested in e-commerce technology and strategies, the success to date has been nothing short of remarkable. In 2018, 10 years since the first Remarkable.net site, our team presented and proposed a major 18-month project to continue the success and evolution online using the very latest technologies, we named this ‘Project Zeus’.
In April 2020, the last of the 12 websites which Yours Clothing operate was relaunched onto the new platform, internally nicknamed as ‘Zeus’, and growth has been immediately realised.
The new platform has several key components, which we explore below:
Front-end re-development; with a particular focus on speed improvement
The website speed has increased by 55% – this is the average page load-time decrease we have seen across the site. Meaning that customers are being shown product and content twice as fast as they were previously.
This has been made possible because of the focus the team had on ‘site speed’ throughout the entire project build. Our front-end developers worked tirelessly to create efficient code and adhere to best-practice coding styles so the platform can be updated quickly in the future.
Data & architecture; .NET Core, efficient code and new processes
The tech stack on the new Yours Clothing website has been rebuilt from the ground up with a single focus in mind; to improve site speed. To achieve this aim we started afresh with an empty solution in the .net core framework. This core was chosen as bench tests had proven it to be the fastest framework available in the .net library and it was also the newest at the time, giving us access to a wider range of features. By using .net core we also gained easy access to the inbuilt caching it provides, as well as its helper tags to conditionally modify or add HTML elements from server-side code. We continued to use MVC (Model, View, Controller) as our build patten alongside .net core which instantly splits out the concerns of a project making collaboration easier for our wider team.
Next up was the structure, in order for the new site to scale as well as hitting our primary goal of being quick, we employed a technique where we only got the bare minimum that was required for each page to be functional. This sounds simple and obvious, but the rewards we have seen by utilising it have been massive. Even during build start-up time, the project was very fast.
The final ethos we built the website by was to make sure the first load of any page was quick. Once all the building blocks were in place and the site was running fast, we started to add caching to the data calls, the models, and the views. The result was an initial page load that was quick and subsequent page loads that were instant.
The new platform has given us a clean slate, which has been a breath of fresh air when porting over existing features and logic as it has given us the time needed to re-write them from scratch. This has helped to improve the features and functionality as well as simplify and speed up the code.
Content Management; How Yours have much greater control over sitewide content, easy drag and drop editing, scheduling and versioning
Content Management is a massively important component of any eCommerce website, giving the business users the capability for designing, publishing and remaining in control of the content of their site.
Most modern eCommerce platforms include a basic CMS module for editing the layout and assets of a page, however, our drag-and-drop editor with scheduling and version control allows Yours Clothing to be in control of their website content independently, without the requirement of their Remarkable support team.
Retailing & Merchandising; Editors for Navigation, Filters and Product Ordering
A large part of the project included creating functionality which allowed the trading and merchandising team at Yours Clothing to have better control of their website retailing and trading functions. This included a comprehensive and complex integration with Remarkable.net’s “Vybe” technologies.
The team now have the power to edit their menu/navigation elements and layout, edit access for product facet layout/order/visibility, and ultimately the order of product for each category.
With several hundred product categories and many hundreds of products being added to the website on a daily basis, Yours Clothing required a system they can rely on which includes automation and dynamic retailing, to ensure that product discovery and category conversion-rate remained high.
The Vybe Merchandising module includes functionality for adding/editing/scheduling adverts into PLP (product-list-pages), so that other categories/promotions/products can be advertised across the site. The core functionality sits within the retailing/product-merchandising feature, which has both manual and automated product ordering. This is managed by using an unlimited and custom set of ‘balance factors’, allowing the retailer to create their own product sorting algorithms.
On-site Search; Powerful control with ‘searchandising’ capabilities
We redesigned the Site Search experience and integrated the “Vybe” Search module, which has a complex algorithm based on Elastic data structures and advanced logic.
Yours Clothing has seen an increase in the usage of their on-site search function since the publish of Zeus on their 12 sites, yet now the retailer has greater visibility on the performance and better control of product discovery and result relevancy.
Yours Clothing have a wide range of functions they can apply to each individual search phrase or query-type, including simple redirects, synonym matching, fuzzy/misspell matching and stop word settings.
The Site Search conversion rate has seen a 30% improvement since the launch of the platform across all of Yours Clothing’s sites.
Omni-Channel Management; Coordinating International domains & Marketplaces
Yours clothing has 12 different international websites as well as a menswear brand and 4 different marketplaces. Pushing products, promotions, and updates to each of the different domains and marketplaces can be a very time-consuming task. As such, one of the big focuses of the new admin was to make all tasks as easy and streamlined as possible as a central management hub for all domains and marketplaces. Our new admin helps bring together all departments within the business within a single end-to-end architecture.
With the new admin, all relevant areas now have filters for both brands and marketplaces making it much easier to visualise data and performance for these areas. Having this information in one place is invaluable as it drastically speeds up the process of reviewing performance.
We have also made it much easier to add specific data for individual marketplaces. For instance, Amazon and eBay both have separate tabs when uploading product data so information can be optimised for every specific instance of these third party platforms. These areas also allow for additional information to be added to products for these marketplaces. Each channel has very specific fields that need to be filled in when uploading products to them, including specific variations to international channels.
We also have site tabs which enables us to quickly add/ remove products to different domains as well as alter the translated-on page content and SEO data. We use a proprietary system that lists all data that requires translation for each domain by priority, so the human translation teams can quickly and easily identify what content needs to be worked on when text is changed or new products are added.
Custom Admin; New dashboards, Stronger reporting, Quicker product enrichment…
The new, custom admin has also been re-created from the ground up in .NET Core MVC compared to old admin which was written in Web Forms. This alone has drastically reduced load times which has helped to increase business efficiency. Re-writing the admin from scratch allowed us the same benefits as redeveloping the website; we have not just added new features but improved existing functionality and have simplified and optimised the code base from top to bottom.
The new admin pushes data front and foremost to ensure users are as informed as possible on each site(s) performance and live traffic/order flow at a quick glance. This includes information on each site specific technical metrics, which admin operations are switched on, also including system uptime checks for external service provides such as payment gateways/ delivery services and more. You can customise the dashboard to include reports on whatever data you would like, but as standard we have YoY & WoW sales targets by hour, as well as a growth performance indicator. This new dashboard feature has been very popular as it can personalised to a user’s business role, only giving them the data that concerns them.
Key areas that have improved include product enrichment:
Within this area of the website you can manage everything to do with your products including the look and feel of the product page on the website as well as the on-page SEO and product data. You can also enrich the product page, add media including video and images, changes/ add the product to promotions, categories and collections as well as add/ remove the product to different websites and marketing channels.
We have introduced a refined wizard process for product enrichment which together with the reduced load times drastically increases the speed it takes to enrich new products. All data input is done using a simple browser based editors as well as drop-down boxes to keep things as quick and simple as possible.
One of the big updates to the admin has been around the reports generated.
We have a wide range of custom reports as standard giving quick insight into key areas around the business and can create custom reports on request. All reports can be edited to show different date ranges as well as websites and domains. We have much more real-time reports with the new admin as well as faster report generation due to the new tech stack being used and a higher degree of accuracy.