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Hoonigan produces a massive amount of rich, immersive content. They also sell custom merch and automotive parts. To increase content consumption and drive ecommerce sales, Hoonigan turned to Guidance. But with an audience that prides itself on a raw, authentic vibe, the solution had to embrace and embody that brand experience to succeed.
Hoonigan is the name of the brand, but it's also much more than that. They define it as "an entire subculture fueled on the shared passion of going fast and breaking things." A Hoonigan is also their coined term for a person who lives that passion out loud. For Hoonigan, the brand is unconditionally, unequivocally, all about identity. It's expressed through media production, racing and motorsports, apparel and product collaborations, and experiential events, aimed at a young, largely male, auto-centric audience.
In 2008, rally driver Ken Block released a video on his YouTube channel with the otherwise unassuming title "Ken Block Gymkhana Practice." What it actually depicted was Block, in a customized 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI, performing maneuvers that truly had to be seen to be believed, including high-speed drifting, 180- and 360-degree spins, and outrageous slaloms through the tightest of spaces and obstacles. As his company Hoonigan describes it now, it was the video that launched an empire.
Hoonigan was formed in 2011 by Block and Brian Scotto, and a decade later the motorsport lifestyle brand has grown exponentially. But their passion for automotive debauchery, and for destroying as many tires in the process as possible, has remained the same. The Gymkhana phenomenon is an especially prominent aspect of Hoonigan's popularity, and in 2018 it was about to get even bigger, with The Gymkhana Files TV show debuting on Amazon Prime.
Hoonigan's existing website wouldn't be able to handle the kind of traffic the new show would drive, so they enlisted Guidance to get them ready for the next level of attention. They had already selected Shopify as their platform of choice, because Shopify's field-tested SaaS model is capable of servicing a high volume of site activity. Additionally, there were opportunities to make great strides with their ecommerce, but carefully. As a lifestyle brand with an intensely dedicated community, the presentation had to be authentic and natural to the experience. If not, the results could be damaging to the brand itself, not just its sales.
Though Shopify had been identified as the platform of choice, the question of whether Shopify Plus was warranted would ultimately be driven not by ecommerce, but by content. The original Gymkhana viral videos, as previously noted, began on YouTube. 550 million views later, YouTube had become Hoonigan's content distribution channel of choice. The Gymkhana series of videos was just one of several dozen themed series Hoonigan had developed.
Their new website would need to seamlessly integrate this rich video content, while still performing all the duties you'd expect an ecommerce site to perform. Hoonigan is also known for its aftermarket automotive customizations, so it would come as no surprise that Shopify Plus would be required for the level of customization it offers.
After choosing Shopify Plus, there were still obstacles to overcome, based on the requirements of the project. Hoonigan produces new video content on a daily basis, and wanted to present their content like a streaming service or on-demand video provider would. That meant organizing content by series, by seasons and end episodes. But Shopify Plus doesn't naturally accommodate dynamic content types across the entirety of a website. And because the Hoonigan team is hyper-focused on content creation, the solution had to support that creation without adding a suffocating amount of manual work on the back end.
Guidance evaluated multiple approaches to meet this need, starting with the capabilities of the Shopify Plus Rich Text Editor itself. It could handle the HTML needed for customization, but would require too much daily time and effort. So Guidance explored the possibilities of theme customization; template development within Shopify's own custom programming language, Liquid; and third-party page builder apps. In the end, Guidance found the key to success with shortcodes.
“We used custom short codes to pull information from out-of-the-box Shopify endpoints to display in multiple areas of the site which significantly reduced site management overhead. We also created custom Chrome extensions to give Hoonigan the opportunity to utilize attributes within the Shopify Backend. All of this is hosted in Shopify, so this reduces the risk of relying on 3rd party hosted apps.”
Hoonigan produces a lot of content in general, but more importantly, they produce a lot of content that can be related to many other pieces of content. When you add the ecommerce aspect to the mix, you reach a new level of interrelationships. Videos, articles, and products must come together in one harmonious mix, so that ecommerce opportunities punctuate the content throughout.
Shortcodes provide Hoonigan content authors the ability to create those mixes on the fly. Shortcodes introduce a syntax similar to HTML, essentially allowing for theme customization without sacrificing the benefits of a WYSIWYG user interface. A content author uses Shopify Plus' Rich Text Editor to draft new content, embeds a shortcode inline, adds a bit of metadata, and contextually relevant content automatically appears when it goes live.
What's really happening under the hood is that Guidance created about three dozen closed shortcodes, each with a very specific purpose. Guidance also developed a custom browser plugin to facilitate the content publication process. The use of specific shortcodes ultimately determines how to embed, retrieve, and assemble the content, and then deliver it within the visual design framework.
On the creative side of the project, Hoonigan was looking for a visual design that would be as bold and brash as the brand itself. Their audience is 97% male, with 76% between the ages of 18-34, and primarily based in the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, and Germany. Up till then, the site these auto-centric enthusiasts encountered was transactional, not engaging. Despite all the content Hoonigan was producing, the audience was much more likely to go to YouTube to see what they were up to, rather than coming to Hoonigan's own site.
Guidance created a visual design that was edgy, tough, and fun, mirroring the attitude and aesthetic of the Gymkhana video series itself. Black blocks placed behind text make the typography stand out, and are also designed to be legible regardless of the kinds of image or video Hoonigan might choose while populating the site. Their content authors can update text without concern that video running behind it will negatively impact the presentation. By offering a website where the personality of the brand shines through, Hoonigan brought its audience's attention back to their own site, to explore and to shop.
Creating content is a strong suit for Hoonigan. They've produced thousands of videos, but it wasn't easy for fans to find what was new, or to dive deeper into a given show, explore a niche topic, or follow the exploits of a specific Hoonigan racer. Tying that content to relevant products for purchase was an opportunity that needed to be mapped out as part of the content organization process.
Guidance provided a structure that makes it easy for the Hoonigan team to segment their content. New category and episode pages allow them to feature the most recently published content, so site visitors can readily consume these fresh additions. Guidance also crafted the structure for archiving older content, organizing it to make it easier for fans to find what they're looking for, and designing the templates for near-infinite scalability.
For the site navigation, Guidance trifurcated video, articles, and shopping at the top level, while weaving content and product together on the page templates. The result is a significantly improved content discovery and shopping experience.
Clear top navigation items allow users to dive into shopping, articles, or videos with one tap.
The gold sticker is best known as the sign of a job well done in school. For Hoonigan, the job well done happens in races around the world, and after a successful race weekend, they wanted to do something fun for Hoonigan fans. So they tasked Guidance with the creation of a Gold Sticker Program, which rewards shoppers with free gifts with purchase.
The challenge was in the implementation. Hoonigan wanted these free gifts to be a surprise, for them to populate in the cart only at checkout. Shopify, out of the box, doesn't have the functionality to automatically add free gifts, or recognize tiered promotions (for example, adding in different gifts based on different purchase amount thresholds). So Guidance built this custom functionality in Shopify for Hoonigan.
To enable this, Guidance established a Gold Sticker collection of products, then customized a number of default Shopify pages so the Gold Sticker items would not be displayed, and could not be crawled by search engines or appear in the sitemap. The only time they can appear is when Hoonigan activates the Gold Sticker promotion from within their Shopify admin panel. Even then, they're suppressed on the site, and only show up in the cart.
Ecommerce, of course, is more complex than just running an online store. At the enterprise level, you need ERP and shipping solutions, and if you're re-platforming (as Hoonigan was), you need a data migration solution as well. Luckily, Hoonigan was already working with Full Circle as their ERP provider, and Air Parcel Post for shipping. Both vendors had private apps that connected easily to Shopify Plus, which made the re-platforming process easier. And after a smooth data migration to Shopify Plus, the new Hoonigan site was ready to be turned loose.
“Shopify Plus enabled the Hoonigan project by offering an extensive marketplace of apps, allowing for the enhancement of the base platform without a large development undertaking.”
While the new website makes Hoonigan's content focus clear, it also makes ecommerce a natural part of the brand experience. Comparing the holiday seasons immediately before and after the new site went live, Hoonigan saw a 52.17% increase in revenue; a 26.01% increase in conversion rate; a 35.24% increase in the number of transactions; and a 12.51% increase in average order value. Knowing how crucial it would be to blend content and commerce together in an authentic fashion, their sales performance demonstrates the success of the project.
Guidance re-platformed Hoonigan on Shopify Plus prior to their Amazon Prime TV show debut. Customized integrations accommodated Hoonigan's furiously fast content production while weaving product purchase opportunities into the experience.
The migration and redesign also led to rapid increases in revenue, conversion rates, and average order values.
Gold Winner in Entertainment
Silver Winner in Video/Motion Graphics
Silver Winner in Visual Appeal - Aesthetics
Silver Winner in Branding
Hoonigan engaged Guidance for an ecommerce migration project to improve the shopping experience for their gear, and integrate cross-sell opportunities into their content. With a TV show debuting soon on Amazon Prime, time was of the essence.
Hoonigan had already selected Shopify, and tasked Guidance with a mission aligned to their own ideals: going fast and breaking things. For Guidance, the breaking was of boundaries – by creating an aggressive, unorthodox solution on a platform known more for its ecommerce strength.
The new site is an entertainment experience that authentically supports and promotes product purchases. Behind the scenes, customized integrations extend the capabilities of Shopify Plus and allow for consistent, intuitive content management.