Bringing Two Warehouses Online

The development team has four career paths that provide Pro Athlete, Inc. with a level of eCommerce capabilities and strengths that are second to none. The paths include database administration, programming, quality assurance, user interface design, and most include experience levels from 1 to 6. Over the past two years, I have been growing each career path on the development team, both in size and definition. With that increase in size and capability, the development team has engineered some amazing things. Let me define what I mean by engineered. I mean implemented or created from the ground-up, which are two different activities but with equal importance. They created the wildly successful 3.0 sites, implemented increased search speed, and integrated with Microsoft Dynamics Navision.

After we built each 3.0 site, we went back and researched where we went wrong and where we went right using our internal debrief process with customer service and operations. Every time we began a new site, our main intention was to simplify the process of buying a bat or glove online, so we focused on what the customers were asking for: better find-ability filters, more product media, better glove/bat coaches, and a simplified ordering process. Our measure for success was conversion rate, but we looked at many detailed metrics so we could fine-tune the overall solution. Homepage
Batwarehouse  Baseball   Softball Bats Of All Varieties  Bat Resources  Bat Catalog  Plus More Homepage
BallGloveWarehouse Baseball   Softball Gloves Of All Varieties  Glove Resources  Glove Catalog  Plus More

Having the success measures defined and our customers' feedback reviewed, the development team made some deliberate design decisions. The entire front page was completely redesigned with the customer in mind. The banners on the front page offer a welcoming consistency that most eCommerce sites have, and we've added a dedicated closeout bat/glove section. Through research, we found that customers came to know as the leader in closeout baseball bats and as the leader in closeout baseball gloves, so we amplified this by adding a dedicated link to the main navigation bar.

Many improvements came with the 3.0 sites, but for and we wanted to go even further. For example, once the customer selects a broad product grouping for bats or gloves from the homepage or hits a landing page from a search engine, a set of detailed filter navigation becomes available. Our glove and bat coach is ready for those that are new to buying bats and gloves and makes it easy for customers through the process of selection. The product detail page is chocked full of customer generated content from questions and answers to detailed customer reviews. If the customer cannot find what they are looking for, we offer an advanced chat system and have our phone number located conveniently at the top of the page. Finally, once the customer adds a bat or glove to their cart, the checkout process can be completed with Google Checkout, PayPal, or the customer may complete the process using our simplified one-page checkout. Checkout
BatWarehouse  Checkout
BallGloveWarehouse Glove Coach
BallGloveWarehouse  Glove Coach

There is a certain tolerance level customers have to website speed issues. We've all heard that if it's slow, they will leave. I know I do. Since we sell a product that hundreds of others sell, and is mapped to a certain price, we certainly need to be aware of how our speed is affecting sales and conversions. The new 3.0 sites were heavy with functionality and that required the development team to compress, cache, and consolidate to meet the demands of our growing user base. One of the largest optimizations was made to search, filtering, and product results. The development team added an in-memory solution that serves up data much faster and results in a better, more enjoyable surfing experience.

Unique to eCommerce, but not to us, is selling out of a product when we don't have it. We do not believe in having virtual shelves filled with air. Pro Athlete, Inc. could not guarantee our shipping dates if we did not stock everything in-house, so when a product size or sku is sold out, we determine that after the sale happens, and update our product page with the newer list of options available. Conversely, when we receive replenished stock for any sku the product page is updated with the new, larger list of options available. This required special programming and testing with the Virtual CFO and our Navision implementation partners. Now that Navision is well-integrated with Pro Athlete, Inc. from a functional and operational standpoint, there are other granules, or third-party programs, we can install to assist with our specific needs going forward.

Overall, we are well-positioned to meet the growing demands of our customers and internal staff.