Shannon Ahern from Varsity Spirit Fashion and Greg Schaller from Perficient spoke at IBM Amplify 2015 about how Varsity Spirit Fashion achieved a 100% adoption rate internally and transformed their business. Varsity Spirit Fashion outfits more than 1 million athletes.
Previously Varsity Spirit’s 300 person sales team faced several challenges including a huge catalog offering. However, customers could not really visualize their uniforms from just the catalog images. The reps had no tools to create customized visuals of proposed uniforms, except for paper based, ad hoc tools.
In a customized, made to order business, orders are not returnable and customers become unhappy when the final product doesn’t meet what they expected. To create a better experience for the customer and the sales rep, Varsity decided to develop a Varsity Design Studio based on IBM Commerce and Adobe Scene 7 that the sales team could use to really present a customized visual for the customer.
Now the Visual Design Studio allows the sales rep to show exactly what each uniform would look like when customized for each customer. Every component of the wardrobe can be displayed and customized through Visual Design Studio. Sales reps can use this technology to pre-package design ideas that can then be used to market to customers who may not need a fully customized solution.
70% of the business comes between March and June, so reps are using Design Studio as a consultation tool during the sales process. The Visual Design Studio interfaces to Varsity’s order management system which eliminates mistakes when ordering the custom products. The studio is also integrated with Salesforce.com and pulls customer data, including color schemes that have been identified. All of this integration makes it easier for the sales reps to deliver a personalized design to each customer.
Shannon has said this tool has been amazing in helping the sales rep sell and upsell customers. The response to the tool was so positive that Varsity created a lightweight version of the studio for use by the customers on the Varsity web site. This light version doesn’t have all the functions available to the sales reps, but helps the customers get started with an order or explore the various options.
In terms of technology, Perficient helped Varsity implement WebSphere Commerce, WebSphere Application Server, DB2. Adobe Scene 7 was implemented to vignette all the images to provide the color options, striping options etc. All of these systems were implemented following Perficient’s best practices to make sure Varsity had a first class implementation. Perficient also provides managed services to support the installation at Varsity.
Greg shared some challenges they had to overcome:
- Photography process required Varsity to establish lots of standards and processes to make sure images were usable in the Design Studio
- Need to introduce new styles quickly and efficiently
- Adoption to overcome resistance and get feedback from the sales rep during the change
- Training hundreds of sales reps
- Pushed the limits of the Scene7 rendering server engine
- Integration to back-end Order Management Services
- Performance of rendering all the customizations
For business results, Shannon shared the following:
- 100% adoption by sales team even when they added new workfor the sales rep
- Increased Order Volume and Order Size due to the visualization and accessories
- Using images in plants to ensure accuracy in the manufacturing process
- Increased efficiency in sales process by closing sales quicker
- Reduced return rates
- Reduced custom silhouette requests – things that don’t show up in the standard catalog
One quote from a sales rep:
I can’t tell you what a game changer the studio was for me! The look on a coaches face when they see their vision come to life is amazing.