Modern Seed Co.

bringing gardening into the ecommerce age

Shopify Plus

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The humble beginnings of this modern seed company sounds straight out of a startup origin story. But this seed and flower bulb seller is not what you’d picture when you think of a typical “tech” company. Once you see their warehouse and website operation, though, you’ll have a different perspective.

Starting in 2009, this merchant began in a garage in California. Their small team moved to Asheville, NC a few years later. Now, they have grown into a much larger warehouse with the staff to support it. They sell thousands of products online across the US. 

When our client reached out to Command C, they were looking to do a highly technical ecommerce site migration. This was especially urgent due to limitations and the increasing cost and complexity of maintaining a legacy system, and because their goal of streamlining operations through transition to a new ERP meant making a decision between migrating to a platform with established integration or continuing to build and maintain their own integration tools long-term. And they wanted this all done before their bigger, busier season. A timely and seamless migration was critical for the company. 

The products (seeds, flower bulbs) presented a unique challenge for migration, along with other topics that came up in the technical discovery phase of the project. Through the discovery process, it was determined that Shopify Plus would be the best platform for their needs.

This project required a strong collaborative effort between Command C and the Client team. Their industry knowledge and deep understanding of their operational and marketing needs was communicated to the Command C team who was able to plan and execute the development of an optimized experience for customers and administrators alike.

Thanks to this project, the merchant’s team has much more control over their website layout, with increased automation driven by consistent product data, and reliable inventory sync. On the operations side, with careful planning, order fulfillment continued without interruption throughout the migration. 

Though the spirit of the site’s original design has been honored by this rebuild, many small improvements and additions work together to create a smoother customer experience as evidenced by the data below which speaks to the success of this migration: 

  • 22%-25% increase in overall ecommerce conversion rate
  • 38% increase in mobile ecommerce conversion rate
  • 13% decrease in the cart abandonment rate
We are thankful not only the work your team has done but also the way they do it. Extremely professional and knowledgeable and we are grateful for this.

– Rick Maggio, Director of Growth

To arrive at the outcome, we had to solve a number of complicated challenges as outlined below.

Challenge: The need to effectively present thousands of products with unique, identifying characteristics to customers

Solution: Collaborate with the Client team to understand the data required to best represent products on the frontend, including how they relate to one another, and how each discrete data point would be used to drive and enhance the customer experience and automate maintenance tasks 

Clearly defined, reliable product data is necessary to create the robust filtering system found on site, and to relay important product details to customers both within categories (PLP) and on individual product pages (PDP). The customer experience on each PDP is driven by characteristics of each individual product. Flower bulb PDPs, for example, present an alternate variant selection grid and specialized delivery information to the customer based entirely on key product data points. This solution required a consolidation of separate product records to represent essentially the same product to a single product record which leverages variants. Additional variants are then available to house multiple size options without the need for artificial kitting, or combination, of existing smaller variants. The entirety of the PDP was intentionally designed from product data outward, in collaboration with the Client team to eliminate customer confusion, increase customer order accuracy and reduce customer support inquiries.

Additional product and collection data has also been defined to allow for hierarchical category structure. The creation of category listing pages (CLPs) that display subcategories based on both product data and collection data, as well as via explicit admin-control gives the merchant the ability to guide users to the correct products and emphasize some products over others with minimal effort.

Going over this structure first helped the many other parts of the project flow smoothly. There was no way this technical migration could have gone well without this advanced product data structure work done first.

Challenge: Recreating the current theme in a brand new platform without drastically changing the customer experience

Solution: While implementing new, modern, clean and modular frontend code, Command C honored the spirit of the redesign, giving customers a near-identical frontend experience with a custom theme

This part of the project was really an enormous success, since work was done early on to establish the parts of the design that the Client team was attached to. This ensured Command C could replicate those designs as closely as possible. Other parts of the theme that were not so dearly held were kept with a consistent design to save development time for other programmatically-heavy aspects of the project. 

Challenge: Need a unique plant finder tool to aid customers in identifying the right plant based on hundreds of variables

Solution: Command C was able to utilize the advanced product data work done earlier to create both a stand-alone search and a “fit-quiz” style guided experience with an entrypoint on the homepage

This part of the site is extremely useful for visitors looking for the right plant or seed based on things they know or can identify about their environment. This includes attributes like: 

  • Light requirement
  • Growing conditions
  • Water needs
  • Plant height
  • Hardiness zone
  • And dozens more.  

Because these attributes are defined for every product, the advanced product data work done early in the project provided the foundation for building a plant-finder that returns relevant and reliable results for every use case.

Challenge: The transition to GA4 and migration of other tracking and analytics tools, ensuring that the impact of the replatform, marketing efforts and customer behavior over time could be easily and consistently measured 

Solution: Establish an extremely robust data layer for Google Tag Manager, helping lay the groundwork for the transition to GA4

An off-the-shelf app can be a great way to save development time and empower merchants to complete everyday tasks without developer intervention. In this case, however, it turned out the potential analytics app identified early in project discovery was not going to meet their more complex DataLayer or event tracking needs without customization. Command C helped establish, implement and test a DataLayer that maintained existing attributes and events under the new product structure and site UX, appropriately integrating with Google Analytics via GTM, looking ahead to a seamless transition to GA4.  . Universal Analytics will be decommissioned by Google in favor of GA4in July of 2023.

Challenge: Product pages with multiple add to cart, different mobile/desktop experiences, and a season-aware product variant selector need to accurately communicate availability and set shipment/delivery expectations

Solution: Command C created a custom product page to deal with the special challenges of this product type including the ability to add multiple quantities and multiple sizes to the cart at the same time

New for this build are product pages that are “season aware”, taking full advantage of the transition to a product variant structure that more accurately reflects the true nature of the data Furthermore, seasonal availability often overlaps and each PDP must communicate shipment and delivery expectations to customers, while accurately representing inventory availability/purchaseability and sale pricing. 

Prior iterations of the site leveraged completely separate PDPs for season-specific products, resulting in duplication of product data and, with little opportunity for automation, increased administrative effort as well. 

Challenge: Three additional sub-brands were not part of the initial project, but needed to be migrated from outdated, disparate and difficult-to-maintain platforms to Shopify, where an experienced team would be able to manage them long-term

Solution: Leverage the strictly defined product data structure, highly customized frontend tooling, and the flexibility of the native Shopify platform to efficiently migrate three additional sub-brands.

Armed with a deep understanding of native Shopify capabilities and a clearly defined list of needs for each brand, the client approached Command C to aid in the transition of each brand, one at a time, to Shopify. Each store has a list of unique needs, but shares product data structure and DataLayer and leverages many of the same Apps and theme components behind the scenes. The technical discovery that kicked off the primary site build along with all of the information documented during development of the primary store means that each store, though different on the surface, is able to benefit from foundational improvements to the others now and in the future.

Command C established a development and deployment workflow that clearly defines shared features and allows for future enhancements to be deployed across multiple instances in an efficient, reliable manner.

At the conclusion of this transition, the merchant is now well-positioned to grow with ease. Wink!

Visiting the site, you might now have a new appreciation for the work that goes into an ecommerce store with meticulously-defined product data and unique shipment and availability needs, such as flower seeds and bulbs. The behind-the-scenes work helps make the magic on the site work seamlessly, where customers don’t even notice all the moving parts going on to make their plant-search quick and easy. 

Thanks to this migration the site has already seen a 38% increase in ecommerce conversion rate. For a technical migration, not only was Command C able to transition the site onto Shopify Plus in a timely manner, but also enhance the customer experience, resulting in a huge conversion uplift. 

  • Technical Discovery
  • Ecommerce Platform Migrations & Builds
  • Ecommerce Project Rescue and Ongoing Support
    Ongoing Support