Inheriting a project
SixBySix were approached by The Paint Shed in November 2019 with a view to advising on their existing Magento 2 project.
As part of a detailed technical audit we identified several key areas for improvement around security, performance, stability and user experience.
Having delivered and discussed key items from the audit we were appointed as the new partner agency and both parties quickly agreed an initial programme of work.
This initially involved upgrading Magento 2 and all third party extensions to the latest versions, in depth code reviews to clean up legacy work, and updating the entire codebase to be compatible with the latest version of PHP7.
Thereafter we worked on securing the environment and resolving the most egregious performance and usability issues.
Finally, we migrated the store to a better performing and more scalable hosting environment at Sonassi*.
COVID-19 lockdown challenges
This preparation work and the migration to a new hosting solution proved very timely. The Paint Shed website had regularly experienced downtime on a relatively low volume of orders prior to our involvement, and so by removing downtime issues altogether and achieving acceptable page load times, we could start focusing on growing the store and eventually preparing for peak.
Indeed, almost as soon as the COVID-19 lockdown† was announced in March 2020 we had to prepare the store and the environment to support an additional 600 orders per day due to a massive surge in traffic.
While clearly an exciting opportunity, this unprecedented uplift in orders presented very significant problems for The Paint Shed’s merchandising and fulfillment teams to the extent that the business owners were planning a total closure of their online store.
SixBySix resolved to find a workable solution to allow the merchant to keep trading; we did this by:
- Eliciting and analysing the key problems faced by the business fulfilling high order volumes.
- Proposing key features (see below) to reduce significant administrative overhead for merchandising and to automate picking and fulfilment decisions based on building and interpreting real-time reports of each warehouse’s sales capacity per brand.
- Quickly prototyping, releasing and improving the integration of these new features into the website checkout process with direct feedback each day as the orders increased.
To reduce a bottleneck with key, repetitive administrative tasks we implemented advanced stock and brand reporting. This greatly reduced the daily burden on an already busy eCommerce team.
Immediate access to live, accurate and detailed data allowed the merchandising team to make instant fulfilment decisions rather than being delayed by cumbersome processes of exporting and manually reviewing several data sets.
Customer stock notifications
In order to keep customers always up to date on product availability and order lead times we implemented a number of customer-friendly features such as out of stock messages, off-site notifications and custom wishlist functionality.
Automated warehouse reporting
In addition to the advanced reporting we also helped simplify the increasingly complex sales logistics through automated reporting on each warehouse’s sales capacity. Our addition of advanced real-time reports allowed the merchandising team for the first time to make more sophisticated picking and fulfilment decisions based on each warehouse's live capacity per brand, and so allowed a more efficient end-to-end fulfilment process rather than simply capping total units available to the web store.
Configurable checkout throttling
We also integrated the automated warehouse reporting into the website checkout to allow automatic and configurable throttling on the number of orders based on warehouse availability per brand.
Within just seven weeks we saw an increase in online sales to the order of 1,070% or ~£1.7M compared to the same seven week period of the previous year and an increase of 1.6M compared to the seven weeks immediately prior.
Whilst we didn't build the original website, we are continuing to work with The Paint Shed to provide cost efficient improvements to the performance and usability of the inherited project.
For example, the ongoing performance improvements we have implemented have improved the average page load time by over 350% from over 7 seconds to below 2 seconds.
The Paint Shed has continued to see a sustained YoY increase in revenue following the lockdown relaxation and we are continuing to work closely with them to deliver the following new features in the coming months:
- An end-to-end Sage integration
- Integration of Clerk.IO Search
- Further speed improvements
- A new checkout process
- And, finally, a full Magento 2 re-design of the store's frontend
A few words from The Paint Shed
"Six by Six were appointed in November 2019 to provide ongoing support and development of our Magento 2 website. Their efforts have ensured that the website was technically sound and robust enough to deal with the extremely high levels of demand that The Paint Shed’s website experienced during the COVID-19 period which was critical for the business. Furthermore, Six by Six have been very responsive by making recommendations and implementing solutions that has helped us manage high levels of demands more effectively."
Teri MacInnes, Ecommerce Manager at The Paint Shed.
* Sonassi has been an increasingly helpful hosting partner on a number of projects.
We’ve found the hybrid model of MageStack a good compromise between dedicated and cloud with easy auto-scaling via overflow servers.
The infrastructure, uptime and performance have always been fairly solid, however, the support service and server admin panels for managing the infrastructure directly have improved significantly in our recent experience. Further details are available directly at https://www.sonassi.com/magento-hosting
† At the outset it has to be acknowledged that publishing marketing related material during the COVID-19 lockdown necessarily feels uncomfortable.
The impact of COVID-19 has clearly been devastating for communities throughout the world first and foremost and challenging on an unprecedented scale for businesses. It’s hoped that this case study is seen chiefly as a success for a merchant and partner agency using ingenuity to navigate these challenging times.