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Keeping it fast and cool. Culture Kings speeds up Search experience with Algolia

The result was great, and solved the problem at the time, which was to have a working search and a fast search. Algolia nailed it. We went from less than 5 percent of people using search to about 15 to 20 percent.

Steve Jiang

Head of Front-end Engineering @ Culture Kings

Summary

Culture Kings of Queensland, Australia, is the epitome of epic brands and a unique in-store shopping experience and cool, fun atmosphere. Maintaining that online is no easy task, and giving customers a top-notch customer experience demands fast and full-featured Search. It turned to Algolia to help fix its broken experience and create a blazing-fast search that satisfies its customers and employees alike.

Culture King
Use case

B2C Ecommerce

Headquarters

Queensland, Australia

Customer since

since 2019

Feature usage

Search API, Dynamic Re-Ranking, Recommend, Rules, Visual Editor, Facets & Filters, A/B Testing

Key results
  • Improved CX; fewer support calls

  • Improved conversions

  • Internal use by multiple departments

  • Easier merchandising

Key numbers
  • Typical results in < 50 ms

  • Average order value up 2.22%

  • Conversions increased 4x at peak seasons

  • Sessions using search increased 0.9%

The challenges

  • 1.

    Cumbersome search platform

  • 2.

    Goal to mirror in-store experience

  • 3.

    Eliminate tedious daily manual syncs

The solution

  • 1.

    Fast and full-featured Search

  • 2.

    Recommend to increase product hype

  • 3.

    A/B Testing for CX optimization

  • 4.

    Rules-based merchandising

The result

  • 1.

    Improved CX; fewer support calls

  • 2.

    Typical results in > 50 ms

  • 3.

    Improved conversions

  • 4.

    Easy to use by multiple departments

Culture Kings is a multi-brand retailer out of Queensland, Australia, focused on premium streetwear, music, and sports, with exclusivity and superiority across a wide range of genres, styles, and cultures. 

Starting as a brick-and-mortar store in The Gold Coast, Queensland, the retailer creates hype for its extensive curated selection of more than 100 leading global brands and its World Exclusive products through events and high-profile celebrity drop-ins. 

To sum up: Culture Kings isn’t just a store, it’s a cool venue frequented by some of the world’s hottest athletes, artists, and influencers. 

It strives to stay ahead in a continuously shifting streetwear market and create serious in-store engagement. 

“It’s not like a normal retail store,” says Steve Jiang, Head of Front-end Engineering for Culture Kings. “Simon (the store’s co-founder) wanted to build it as a destination for shopping. There’s a lot of DJs, there are basketball courts for sharpshooting, and claw machines everywhere where people play to win their dream shoes, limited ‘not-for-sale’ products, or even paid experiences like holidays.” 

“The store is more like a club atmosphere.”

Keeping it cool and engaging online

When you’re known for such an impressive in-store atmosphere, maintaining that experience when taking the store online is a definite challenge. 

Culture Kings has achieved that in its e-commerce business through some outside-the-box-thinking, using techniques like gamification, personalized create-your-own clothing bundles, an influencer feed, and more on their website. 

But part of maintaining its top-notch customer engagement experience is making it easy for its — typically young and early adult — customers to quickly find exactly the epic ensemble they are seeking. Culture Kings found the small, plug-and-play search solution they were using on their Shopify platform was very manual and cumbersome to update with its non-traditional e-commerce features. 

Worse, it was unsophisticated, requiring constant repair and daily manual syncs that took hours with the retailer’s large catalog of products. 

“It got to the point that it became so broken that no one would care about it, and our customer service was constantly getting calls saying, ‘Oh, I found this product while browsing but I can’t search for it,’” Jiang says. 

“It was very frustrating, and the owner wanted to solve it.”

The need for speed

“The result was great, and solved the problem at the time, which was to have a working search and a fast search. Algolia nailed it. We went from less than 5 percent of people using search to about 15 to 20 percent. That’s a huge jump. And we get fewer complaints from the CX team.” Steve Jiang, Head of Front-end Engineering, Culture Kings

Recognizing that fixing search and making it fast would result in fewer furious customers, Culture Kings chose to implement Algolia, primarily based on its blazing fast speed.

Jiang was brought on with the focus of deploying the new search platform and overcoming the challenges caused by the previous solution. Algolia would be used for both searching products and the unique retailer’s many content pages, and to provide a similar look and feel across the website, including search and its collection pages.

The entire implementation took about six months and included building a new front end and creating Culture Kings’ own custom ETL (extract, transform, and load) structure and processes for syncing data between Algolia and Shopify.

Once the backend data structure was complete, the implementation went smoothly, Jiang suggests, thanks to excellent documentation, Algolia’s API-based platform, and its developer-first approach. Algolia was able to fix what was broken and improve the search experience.

Improving customer engagement

The speed of search was so good, Jiang says, that Culture Kings’ in-store sales reps and customer experience team have gravitated to using it for their own searches. While his team hasn’t created an internal tool for search, it has implemented keywords for CX or sales such as product codes. 

“If you walk into the bricks-and-mortar store and need something, you’d never be able to find it as fast as you could online,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of feedback where the customer has — while in the store or being helped by sales on their phone — been able to quickly find what they are looking for online.” 

The e-commerce merchandising team also benefits from having a search platform that’s easy for them to update, while leadership finds it easier to check what is latest and greatest on the site and use analytics to see what improvements can be made in their offerings.

Culture Kings image

Merchandising is using Algolia to boost collections through Rules on the site without having to manually create temporary collections. 

The business uses Algolia A/B Testing to optimize collections and sorting based on different customer journeys; for example, a buyer isn’t necessarily going to shop for sneakers the way they would for jewelry. 

“People use Algolia now for all sorts of things on the business side, just because it’s so easy to find what they want to,” Jiang notes. 

But perhaps the biggest benefit is that experienced by the customers, which can be seen in the increases Culture Kings has seen in its KPIs. Ninety percent of customers are able to get their search results in less than 50 milliseconds; 99 percent in under 100 milliseconds. “I’ve tested many other platforms, and search speed like that is unheard of.”

Culture Kings image 2

Culture Kings sees four times better conversions when using Search

Since implementing Algolia, sessions using search have increased by 0.9 percent year-over-year, but importantly, those sessions are seeing four times better conversions. Average order value for the store has increased by 2.22 percent. 

During Black Friday results were even more telling with revenue up 5.18 percent. Conversions increased by nearly 4x, search exits dropped 2.68 percent and time on the site after using search increased by 9 percent. E-commerce conversions during Black Friday and Christmas increased nearly 15 percent between 2021 and 2022. 

Since implementing Algolia for Search, Culture Kings has adopted Algolia Recommend, moving from Nosto. Again, Jiang points out, Algolia wins out based on the speed of its Recommend offering. “We were constantly getting held back by Nosto, and even though recommendations were buried quite deep, you’d be surprised how many people would scroll down to them and just wait there,” Jiang says.

Culture Kings image

“And for some of our hyped products, we want recommendations to come higher, and that created a significant gap. Having Algolia be able to instantly show recommendations is a blessing.” 

Importantly, Culture Kings has been able to customize the search experience through Algolia to fit its own culture and the needs of their unique e-commerce shop. 

With Algolia Search in place, Jiang’s focus is around the coming launch of Culture Kings’ headless e-commerce platform, intended to improve overall performance to improve conversions and boost organic SEO rankings.

Culture Kings image

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