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Shoe Carnival laces up for headless commerce with best-of-breed search and content solutions from Algolia and Amplience

In today’s competitive climate, it’s more important than ever for retailers to have the tools needed to meet customer expectations. What our customers want today might be different tomorrow, and that’s the level of speed that Algolia provides. Algolia’s efficiency has led to increased conversion rates, higher revenue, and better overall experience.

Courtney Grisham

Director, eCommerce @ Shoe Carnival

Summary

When Shoe Carnival, one of the largest footwear retailers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, decided to adopt headless commerce, it turned to Algolia and Amplience to create an exceptional customer experience while improving team productivity. During Black Friday, the company saw its conversions climb by 4.5% and they climbed higher with additional refinements. Thanks to Algolia and Amplience, the huge shoe retail brand can implement campaign changes lightning-fast at scale, keep up with market and business changes and meet its customers expectations.

Shoe Carnival
Use case

B2C Ecommerce

Headquarters

Evansville, Indiana, USA

Customer since

since 2021

Feature usage

Search API, Dynamic Re-Ranking, Recommend, Insights API, Rules, Visual Editor, Query Suggestions, SFCC Integration, Facets & Filters

Key results
  • Easy configuration without developer involvement

  • Higher revenue and increased conversions

  • Improved customer experience

Key numbers
  • Increased conversion rate by ~4.5% with Dynamic Re-Ranking

The challenges

  • 1.

    Adopt a headless approach with best-in-class solutions

  • 2.

    Slow to make changes due to technical requirements

  • 3.

    Out-of-the-box search capabilities weren’t robust

The solution

  • 1.

    Algolia Search & Discovery for simple, easy-to-use capabilities

  • 2.

    AI-based Dynamic Re-Ranking

  • 3.

    Amplience for content and digital asset management

The result

  • 1.

    Improved customer experience and increased conversions

  • 2.

    Able to implement changes without developer involvement

  • 3.

    Improved productivity (half the time to make changes)

  • 4.

    Refined products by color and pattern to improve search

Shoe Carnival is one of America’s largest family footwear retailers. It boasts an exceptionally convenient shopping experience through its approximately 400 retail locations across 35 states and in Puerto Rico, on its mobile app, and online at www.shoecarnival.com. 

The company takes pride in creating a unique shopping experience, competitive pricing, and a wide selection of both brand and private label women's, men's, and children's shoes, boots, slippers, and athletic shoes. To deliver the value promised by its motto of “Big Brands, Big Savings, Big Fun!”, Shoe Carnival provides customers with daily promotions and new products dropping every month — speed and agility are necessities to achieving its remarkable digital customer experience. 

Like many retailers, online shopping picked up heavily between 2020 and 2021 with the spread of Covid-19; however, once the pandemic passed the company had a new market reality to contend with: namely, smaller customer wallets. 

“Our customers are grappling with inflation and recessionary times,” says Courtney Grisham, Director of E-commerce at Shoe Carnival. “We can’t control it. It’s a reality and we must shift priorities and our strategy, to always be listening and keeping in tune with what our customers are facing and how we can help.” 

This shift in consumer behavior presented a need to be even more focused on promotions and deals, and an even greater focus on value.

Going headless and acting fast

The company had earlier decided to adopt a composable, headless commerce approach. The Salesforce Commerce Cloud customer found its original e-commerce solutions for content and search weren’t robust enough out-of-the-box, so it began investigating MACH (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS and Headless) Alliance member partners that would meet its evolving needs. 

To keep up with market and business changes, the Shoe Carnival team knew they had to be able to act quickly; however, with its outdated content management and search solutions, every change required developer involvement. 

Going headless and acting fast This made it difficult to react quickly to the market to keep up with the fast-moving retail landscape and its changing customer expectations. 

The e-commerce merchandising team knew they needed new tools that would allow them to make changes easily, without making a ticket and going through development. 

Recognizing they were the right fit for their e-commerce technology stack going forward, Shoe Carnival chose to adopt Amplience as the content management system (CMS) and Algolia as the search solution for its new composable e-commerce architecture.

Putting power into the user’s hands

Shoe Carnival implemented Algolia on their e-commerce site and for its merchandising team. They meanwhile expanded their relationship with Amplience, adopting its full Commerce Experience Platform, which brings together an API-first, integrated CMS and DAM (digital asset management) with automated media and experience delivery services. 

Algolia Search & Discovery, combined with Amplience’s experience platform, provided the ease the shoe retailer needed. Now changes could be made fast by business users without any coding required or developer involvement. New search rules, such as pinning specific products to result pages or adjusting how products are listed can be done simply and easily by the merchandising team. 

More than saving time and taking the load off the company’s developers, the new search platform is helping Shoe Carnival achieve its future-forward merchandising goals and be faster to market with game-changing improvements. 

“We had all these big ideas, and we could never seem to get them in front of the customer just because of our previous tech stack,” Grisham says. 

From a content perspective, because template limitations meant changes would take two to three weeks, the company would only perform a homepage refresh annually to avoid disruption. Amplience allows campaign changes to be made in an instance. And, from a search perspective, changes are similarly speedy and simple to perform for business users thanks to Algolia’s easy-to-use visual editor.

A Black Friday conversion boost

 Seasonality — and responding to seasonal changes — is vital to merchandising. The speed at which the team can implement changes using Algolia and Amplience is helping Shoe Carnival do just that.

For example, when summer rolls around the merchandising team can easily lead with sandals or running shoes, while pushing back boots from results. “Even those kinds of changes used to require more teams to be involved. Now, we just see a need, we see what the customer is asking for, and we quickly react to it,” Grisham says. 

Similarly, peak campaign times, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Back-to-School demand extra focus. 

Through these simple changes, the company increased the overall conversion rate on product listing page by about 4.5 percent. Meanwhile, it improved productivity by eliminating manual time and letting AI algorithms do the work, freeing up the merchandising team to focus on other impactful activities. 

In addition, Shoe Carnival was able to use Dynamic Re-Ranking to boost a key style that was released just days before Black Friday. As expected, this helped the product take off, and it sold out in only two days, generating impressive revenue.

Bringing colorful results

Algolia is helping Shoe Carnival meet its unique merchandising needs, by helping customers find exactly what they are looking for. 

In 2023, the company used Algolia to split its entire catalog out at the color level. Previously, all colors were rolled up to the style level, making it difficult to display colors on product listing pages. Due to how the company’s catalog is configured on the back end, breaking products down by color would’ve been impossible if not for Algolia. 

“This was really important to us because, with shoes, it’s all about the color you want, and the pattern that you want,” Grisham says. Prior to using Algolia to split products out by color, customers would see small swatches on product listing pages, which she says they might miss if scrolling fast.

Shoe Carnival image 1

Again, Algolia’s ease and speed around making changes were assets. Grisham notes: “By utilizing Algolia to move that ability to the front end instead of having to go into the back end and the catalog—which would have been a technical headache—we were able to figure it out in a matter of a day, test it, and ‘boom’ it’s live.” 

After the change, Shoe Carnival saw an immediate increase to overall conversions by about 3.5 percent.

Shoe Carnival image 2

Increasing productivity and experiences

Algolia and Amplience are allowing Shoe Carnival to make game-changing improvements at scale as quickly as the fast-moving retail brand needs. Productivity has doubled, as changes to content and search can be made in a fraction of the time, since they require far less manual work and overnight feeds can be implemented with zero delay. 

Amplience Commerce Experience Platform is allowing the company to execute content and campaigns with immediacy. “You blink and it’s on the site,” Grisham says. It’s also providing the ability to easily schedule future content changes. 

Amplience Content Hub provides merchandisers with a “perfect,” organized repository of all the assets it needs for promotions without having to request them from the creative department. Amplience’s media optimization and automated delivery services, let Shoe Carnival serve rich content at each stage of the buyer journey.

Shoe Carnival image 3

Meanwhile, the insights from Algolia analytics are giving the company more granular control over its campaigns and helping them to make smarter data-driven decisions to improve customer experiences. Sorting rules can also be scheduled, to pin or boost products during dates for campaigns or sales. This use of automation results in fewer calendar notifications and far less manual work. 

“They’ve certainly had a ton of impact on our KPIs and business goals,” Grisham says “We’ve made some changes around landing page experiences as we’ve learned from our customers what experiences are really resonating with them and converting the best.”

Shoe Carnival image

The future: AI and Personalization

With all the improvements already made, what’s the future hold for Shoe Carnival? 

“The future is asking, ‘How do we utilize more AI in the experience and with our tools?’ Things like Algolia predictive search, or generative AI with Amplience. How can we immerse these tools with AI and have them come along for the journey?” 

Personalization will also be key, she notes, to making an authentic, personalized experience across all the company’s brands. Grisham, a member of Algolia’s Customer Advisory Board, praises the company’s approach of listening closely to its customers. She sees both companies playing a major part in Shoe Carnival’s roadmap moving forward. 

“I think we’ve really just tapped and scratched the surface and, in the future, there’s so much more we can do together.”

Shoe Carnival image

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