How we helped increase conversions by 51%. A case study.

Background is a purveyor of quality outdoor gear, specializing in sun protection and sun hats. Founded in 1992, they created their first breakthrough product shortly after and have been providing the world with hats ever since.

The Problem

When Sunday Afternoons came to us, they were using a Magento installation to run their e-commerce site. This in itself is a bit of a nightmare (because Magento; #BeAfraid). To make matters worse, Magento was separated from their ERP system, and mostly ran siloed from their order processing department. What that meant was:

  • inventory levels were not updated without running a PHP script to synchronize the product database
  • orders did not automatically transfer from Magento to their order management system
  • data specialist were needed to double-enter, or triple-enter, data between the systems
  • user information was constantly at odds between the systems
  • users were not able to login and see phone orders via their online account
  • we struggled to maintain the site due to the complex nature
  • we struggled to maintain the server due to the high resource costs of the codebase

… the list goes on

The Solve

Our solution was to build an e-commerce front-end which did NOT have its own e-commerce backend, but rather relied on data pulled directly from their ERP system. In other words: create a user-friendly shopping experience frontend for their ERP system, so there is no middleman.

The Approach

At the time of this build, the best-fit solution for this build was WordPress. This is due to their need for a high level of customization through the CMS, as well as a maintainable codebase (as WordPress is “doable” by most any web developer; as opposed to Magento which is very specialized).

There are downsides to WordPress, however. Some of which are:

  • security issues
  • keeping up with updates
  • page speed issues

To remedy these issues, we partnered with a hosting provider which specializes in filling those gaps: FlyWheel. They keep the system up-to-date automatically, manage the caching layer, and promise “we work hard to make sure your sites are always safe and secure… plus we’ll clean up malware for free”. SOLD!

From there, it was a pretty straight-forward build… except for all the e-comm bits.

E-commerce is always more complicated than expected. There are so many nuances to each business and how they operate, that when you build a custom solution you really have to spend mega-man-hours making sure everything is perfect. There are things like:

  • shipping methods
  • payment methods
  • user accounts
  • order history
  • email notifications
  • product filtering
  • variable products
  • coupon codes and discounts
  • product imagery
  • shopping cart

Not to mention that we were interfacing directly with data from their ERP system: ERPs are not known for their user-friendly nature and APIs.

The Outcome

After months and months of development, and months and months of testing and iteration, we finished with a product we were all proud of.  Data integration is as seamless as possible, the codebase is manageable, contained, and maintainable, and the direct integration of WordPress with their ERP was a success.

The new site is also selling better than the old one.  Looking YoY in January:

Conversions are up 51% with the largest improvements in mobile (+211%) and tablet (+64%) — due to:

  • responsive design — this really shows in the disproportional conversion increases in mobile & tablet devices
  • improved site speed — +26%
  • improved product data architecture resulting in better site navigation
  • increased marketing efforts

What’s Next?

As with all projects, we would do some things differently the next time. The largest change that would take place is moving away from WordPress and utilizing the strengths of newer frameworks that have since come available. Most notably: OctoberCMS. We believe with this migration we could achieve much faster page load times and more Object-Oriented code, thereby making it faster and cheaper to update and maintain in the future. This would also relieve us from relying on a managed WordPress host and would put more server control in our court.

We would also focus more efforts on utilizing further PageSpeed optimizations, including research on integrating PWA.

The Wrap-up

We are proud of the new, and look forward to a continued partnership with Sunday Afternoons to tweak their online presence in ways that help them meet their business goals.


If your web site is in need of some help, we’d love to talk to you about it.  You can get ahold of us at or 503-243-1700

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