Pioneer Athletics

About Pioneer Athletics:

Pioneer Athletics is an innovative manufacturer and supplier for the sports turf and athletics industry, and is dedicated to the “essential ingredients” that makes their clients and products successful. What this means is that from a product-level the ingredients used to formulate their products will be chosen specifically to accommodate the needs, requirements, and well-being of their customers and the surrounding communities. From a personal level, that means that they work with the best individuals who will work together to assure that their products and customer service far exceed the expectations of our customers.

As Pioneer continued to grow their online business, they realized that 3DCart (now Shift4 Shop) was not meeting their business’ needs, so they made the switch to Magento initially. Dave Orzechowski, Pioneer Athletics’ Digital Marketing Lead, was one of the key drivers of this project, along with their Adobe Commerce migration. 

As they continued to drive more business online with Magento, Dave realized that they were quickly outgrowing the platform, and needed to start to look at Adobe Commerce.

Here’s what finally pushed them to make the switch.

Why Pioneer Migrated to Adobe Commerce:

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Dave and the team at Pioneer were discussing making the switch to Adobe Commerce from Magento, but, once the pandemic hit, that was temporarily put on the back burner. Dave mentioned: 

“Our business was actually doing pretty well because we’re able to get a lot of product where other companies weren’t able to get products. and so our web sales had grown quite a bit andour CEO had come back to us and said “hey, would you want to look at Adobe Commerce?” We were trying to really update our entire company’s technology (stack) overall.”“Our business was actually doing pretty well because we’re able to get a lot of product where other companies weren’t able to get products. and so our web sales had grown quite a bit andour CEO had come back to us and said “hey, would you want to look at Adobe Commerce?” We were trying to really update our entire company’s technology (stack) overall.”

During this time, the Pioneer team was also moving their ERP system from Microsoft GP to Accumatica (which we’ll go into more detail later), and after more discussions internally, the Pioneer team understood how large of a project this would be for them to undertake on their own. 

“It was quite a big project for us not only in terms of monetary, but also time and everything. So, we needed some hand-holding in certain aspects of it, because we had basically just done it ourselves in the past. When we moved from 3DCart to Magento, we just basically rebuilt the site from scratch and we added some different things.  So, when we moved over to Adobe Commerce it was different, because we already kind of established our site and content marketing, which we didn’t really have prior to maybe four or five years ago.”

Given the scope of their project, and the need to make sure they didn’t lose any momentum from their content marketing, Dave reached out to the Adobe team who introduced them to a few partners.

For Dave, 121eCommerce stood above the rest for one simple reason: we actually listened to their needs.

Why Pioneer Chose 121eCommerce:

Dave mentioned that Adobe had introduced them to several different partners, and unfortunately the experience was not very positive with the other eCommerce agencies:

“Their whole pitch (the other agencies) was to redesign everything with the website, and how expensive it was for all this stuff. They really didn’t listen to what we had really asked for. But then when we talked with 121, there was more of a conversation. We really enjoyed that.

We really liked your sales rep too. He was really down to earth and he actually listened to what we’re asking for. We decided to go with 121 (based on) that. 

Also, we felt like the pricing was good and also just upfront which was a big deal. We would just be paying what we’re expecting based on work done. Not just kind of like we’re gonna do this and this and then you give a lump sum to us. So we like that it was broken down in terms of what was going to be worked on.”

But the good first-impression wasn’t the only reason Pioneer Athletics decided to work with 121; the support from Adobe’s team also proved to be invaluable to them.

Utilizing Adobe’s Pre & Post-Launch Support:

Since Pioneer had been using Magento for several years, they did not want to migrate away from Adobe’s platform, as they had already had processes in place, and overall, really liked the platform itself. The support they got from them before and during their new build was a huge factor as to why they wanted to continue to work with them:

“Having that extra support of not only 121 but also just using Adobe and their support team has been a big factor for us too. Because with (Magento) open source, you’re basically on your own. You have to just look through it differently. I was used to finding information (on open source) and sometimes the information is not correct, or it’s old, or it’s just not what you’re looking for exactly. 

Or, you’re trying to find something else and you’re not sure if this would actually solve your problem. 

But this way (with Adobe Commerce) it’s definitely a lot better in that sense that I don’t have to spend so much time trying to research issues. And if I happen to run into something I have more resources available.”

Having Adobe as a resource was extremely helpful for them, but another key component to their successful site launch was the team at 121.

Why Working with 121eCommerce was different:

Overall, Dave and the Pioneer Athletic team had an amazing experience working with 121eCommerce, and there were some key contributors to their build, including their Product Owner:

Our Product Owner has been great! She really got back to me as soon as she could, and we would talk almost every single day practically. I was able to get updates and was able to kind of determine some stuff and get real time answers to things and make sure that it was on 121’s radar and she was great at making sure that stuff got filtered to where it needed to go.

I feel like I was able to be heard in a better way. The communication was solid between us just using Slack and stuff was a big help, because it really allowed me to go day-to-day, hour-to-hour, or whatever it would take to figure out some questions.

And when it came to issues, Dave felt like the 121 team helped them tackle them effectively: 

“I might have had issues we were experiencing, then our Product Owner would go ahead and create a ticket. Then I would have access and see that ticket, too. Having the visibility of the tickets where I can see where the devs have been working on it and the user acceptance testing folks have been working on it and what they’ve found in different things was huge I think and just to know how things are going, and allowing me to give updates.”

And it wasn’t just on the build and for support! The 121 team also helped them with other feedback, and projects as well:

121 has been so helpful in implementing the needed stuff like patches and version updates, but also just giving (us) advice. Like I mentioned with the ERP system, it’s quite a big project, and you have been helpful with that, and just advice in the sense of what’s best-practice here, and that’s been great to have that resource.

With the support of the 121 and Adobe teams, Pioneer was able to get their site launched successfully.

Launching Their Adobe

Commerce Site:

For the scope of their project, it took Pioneer about 12 months to launch their new site, and along the way, there were a few hurdles to overcome that 121 helped them with. After finding difficulties with their Microsoft GP ERP, and their connection with Adobe Commerce being “really hard,” Pioneer added moving from that ERP system to Accumatica to their list of needs, as this was already decided prior to the issues with Microsoft GP.

“Accumatica, is much better and much easier to connect, and we’ve had more success with that working.

It ended up working out in a funny way because our busy season is basically from the end of March through the summer. Summertime is our busy season, which is kind of opposite of a lot of other eCommerce developers because of people buying for their high schools or their clubs or whatever. 

It ended up working out in a weird way because we launched in November, which is actually a not very busy time for us. So it was actually in a way worked out. We didn’t have to launch right during our busy season, and have any potential issues there though. It was pretty seamless.”

With the launch of their new site, one of their previous pain points, poor product recommendations would also be addressed by using AI for better product recommendations for their customers.

“Accumatica, is much better and much easier to connect, and we’ve had more success with that working.

It ended up working out in a funny way because our busy season is basically from the end of March through the summer. Summertime is our busy season, which is kind of opposite of a lot of other eCommerce developers because of people buying for their high schools or their clubs or whatever. 

It ended up working out in a weird way because we launched in November, which is actually a not very busy time for us. So it was actually in a way worked out. We didn’t have to launch right during our busy season, and have any potential issues there though. It was pretty seamless.”

Using AI for Product Recommendations & Search:

You know this would eventually come up.

With the explosion of AI-technologies in the eCommerce space, Pioneer couldn’t pass up the opportunity to start incorporating this into their new site to better improve the overall user experience of their website. The extension, Live Search, which is also out-of-the-box for Adobe Commerce, has allowed Dave to be able to better-customize the product recommendations for customers on the site.

I would always get people asking me, “hey, I tried this and all these weird things are coming up.” This is not exactly like at all what I’m looking for and it never really works exactly how we want it to work. 

It (Live Search) is so much better, because you can boost products, and you can decrease the visibility of products. This is huge for us, because some of our product names might not correlate with what somebody’s searching for.

If they want a natural grass paint rather than a synthetic turf paint, but the (product) names of the actual paints don’t have natural or synthetic in their titles, it was always a hard time figuring out what it should display in. 

With Live Search, I can go in there and manually say, “no, I want to boost these things that are coming up,” and it lets you preview what is going to display. It’s awesome, because you can really make a determination of how you want products to display and what order you want the products to display, which is a big deal for us. So that’s been a huge Improvement overall for us.

Another benefit for Pioneer, was the category merchandising feature. It allowed them to take templates of their most-viewed products, products that were previously viewed, or trending products that can be applied to the category pages themselves. It allows them to move products, and customize their category pages rather than having the standard, static, order.

The boost in the user experience wasn’t the only benefit for Dave.

With Live Search, it also provides the revenue generated from each search. Dave mentioned:

“There is no real way you could kind of find the data. You could kind of dig deep into maybe Google analytics and make some broad determinations, but from that it wasn’t like “this is what they searched, and how much revenue you got.” It makes it much easier to understand and gives you that idea of what is actually working.”

Another key element to their success, and another new revenue-driver was the integration of Dotdigital, and how it helped Pioneer create more comprehensive marketing campaigns.

Integrating Dotdigital to Adobe Commerce:

Dotdigital has been a key to Pioneer’s marketing efforts, and initially they made the switch away from iContact roughly five to six years ago. One of the key benefits Dave mentioned was that the auto-campaigns made a huge impact for them:

We like that you can set up the different auto-campaigns and stuff that makes a big difference. Just to automatically send out these campaigns is one of the things we’ve used in the last few years. It’s been really successful for us! 

The reminders to order paint is kind of like our bread and butter. 

We’ve expanded past paint in the last few years with more sports accessories and stuff like that. But, paint has always been like our main product. 

So you send out emails based on when somebody orders and it will automatically send it to them so far in advance when they might have to reorder again, so that’s helped a lot with just engaging our customers. That’s part of the reason we really like Dotdigital is that we were able to do that and kind of go through their campaign creation.  

It was intuitive to use, and you can drag and drop and move things and move blocks and stuff. That was good to be able to figure out, and how to really target those people, because that was definitely something that was lacking in our email marketing, and it’s been really successful. 

It’s been our best producer of sales that we get from that.

Outside of the auto-campaigns, utilizing their site’s customer data has been super impactful for Pioneer. By setting up abandoned cart emails and welcome emails, Dave felt that they have been able to better keep their customers engaged, and also re-engage them if they need to reorder products, or abandon their cart.

The third huge value-add for Pioneer has been the usage of Dotdigital’s forms as well. By using these forms, they have been able to embed them on specific landing pages, and have them better-qualify the leads that are being sent to their sales reps in the field. Rather than using a general contact form like in the past, this has been a huge improvement from the operations side of their business.

To date, by utilizing Dotdigital, they have been able to generate $80K in revenue in the last 12 months. For Dave, being able to drill deeper into the revenue that was generated on a campaign-level was another added benefit for Dotdigital:

It kind of gives you all that information right there at your fingertips right within that campaign, and then you can also drill out and go through and find stuff throughout. Different date ranges give you a larger overview of how many emails you’ve sent, and that’s including the ones like the welcome emails or the autoresponder or the ones about reordering your paint and stuff. So it gives a nice overview and also allows you to drill down and kind of see each campaign individually and how that’s performing.

With their site performing at a high-level, and the overall increase in revenue, it has allowed Dave to focus on more projects that can help Pioneer grow their business further.

Pioneer Athletics’ Future Projects:

One of the biggest projects Dave has on deck next is connecting their new site with their ERP system, but in a way to create a customer portal on Adobe Commerce. While they will be using Accumatica in the meantime, it allows their customers to pay on their account on purchase orders. The ultimate goal is to have their entire customers’ order history (whether online or in-person), to be housed in one location. They would also like to tie this into reminders for purchasing more products, or other recommendations to help increase their sales.

In addition to the ERP and customer portal, Dave wants to expand the teams usage of AI-search for their site, along with the product recommendations:

We’re hoping that people are going to be able to utilize our live search and the product recommendations and some of the AI stuff and also customer segmentation that’s allowed with that B2B functionality which kind of touches on the customer portal. So we’re really just hoping to utilize the whole gamut of what Adobe Commerce offers compared to Magento which is your basic eCommerce development. 

And also just keeping everything up to date and version updates and stuff. I obviously know the release schedule from Adobe. Is nice that they give you throughout the year, so now you can kind of plan out. how many updates you’re gonna probably have to do and everything and extension updates and whatnot.

Another project they have lined up is customer segmentation:

We’re gonna be trying out more customer segmentation. I’ve already implemented a lot of the AI stuff in terms of product recommendations and live search and the category merchandising which is the part of life search and it’s AI stuff for the categories. But it’ll be really interesting to see how that all works when we get a lot more people visiting the site and a lot more people using it and seeing how that user experience can really be enhanced and kind of become a better website overall for the customers and just the easier thing to implement just like it aligns better with our goals of what we’re trying to accomplish rather than it was before where we’re kind of limited in a certain ways.

All of these items are great, but the million dollar question is, “what is the overall business impact for Pioneer?” 

Overall, it’s been very positive!

Adobe Commerce’s Business Impact:

When we asked Dave what the overall business impact of the new site was, he mentioned that it’s been a very positive impact. He also mentioned:

We’re really looking forward to once we get into the busy season and also obviously once we get our ERP system connected it will be a big help too with just the overall entire company. 

But we’re looking forward to when we get into the busy season seeing how it performs, because it is a little hard to completely determine now, because it is our slower period. Even now, we’re starting to get more orders from people. 

We have so many more opportunities; I’m really excited about utilizing these tools! We couldn’t really implement too many things because it probably wouldn’t have been conducive with the open source environment and we might have run into more issues than it was then was worth the actual implementation.

So far, they have seen around a 40-50% increase in organic sessions on their important landing pages since they have launched. 

We are extremely excited about Pioneer Athletics’ success, and are looking forward to seeing them continue to grow even further into their busy season!  

– This interview was edited (slightly) for brevity and clarity.

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