Success Story is a Sourcing Journal feature highlighting innovative solutions across all areas of the supply chain.
Legacy brands too often overlook the impact effective search can have on the online shopping experience, but luxury Italian fashion label Paul&Shark knows this part of e-commerce is pivotal to achieving its wider business goals. As the brand expands its online presence worldwide, Paul&Shark has fully embedded advanced site search within its e-commerce strategy to capitalize on relevant products and enhance the visibility of adjacent items.
“Search is not only search—search is also merchandising in a way,” says Giuseppe Miriello, global digital director for Paul&Shark, a sportswear business operating for nearly 50 years.
In 2021, the brand—known for its iconic water-repellent sweater—integrated search technology from Algolia, an API-driven platform built to create dynamic experiences that help organizations deliver the right product to the right consumer.
Within the first month of using Algolia, Paul&Shark saw overall revenue improve 8.5 percent, while on-site conversion rates jumped 9.6 percent. Use of search during that time increased 38.9 percent—this number was higher for mobile users—and revenue directly resulting from search grew more than 15 percent. The revenue bump is even more notable when accounting for the company’s slight decrease in average order value, as some consumers refine their searches based on price.
Using the platform, Paul&Shark sought to create an intimate customer experience through highly relevant product listings while significantly reducing maintenance requirements for its e-commerce team.
“Looking at it from the brand perspective, it means that we are now able to better gauge the seasonal collections. People are more capable of exploring,” Miriello said. “We mostly make knitwear, hoodies and jackets, so an improved search engine allowed our customers to find all the complementary products that they generally do not discover when searching through categories.”
Upon clicking a product, a shopper can scroll to the bottom of the product page to see “related products” the platform recommends. For example, a shopper who finds black sweatpants will see other options to wear with the pants, including a white organic cotton T-shirt and white leather sneakers.
Miriello came aboard the retailer’s team in 2019 with a tough task: build an online store to serve all of Europe in just five months, before extending it globally within a year. While the Covid-19 pandemic forced Miriello and his team of three to accelerate the process while working remotely, it didn’t hinder the result.
After doubling e-commerce sales in 2020, the e-commerce team also doubled in kind to six. As online orders increased again from 13,000 in 2020 to approximately 20,000 in 2021, Miriello knew the brand needed a platform that could speed up search operations.
Enter Algolia, which says it manages more than 1.5 trillion search queries a year across more than 11,000 companies including Under Armour, Lacoste, Birchbox and payments giant Stripe.
For the Paul&Shark team, Algolia’s API-first solution proved quick to implement and easy to configure across multiple languages and geographies. The retailer deployed Algolia’s search capabilities across the 109 countries it sells into in just two months, with the improved user experience and performance boosting SEO on the company website.
Additionally, the company implemented a visual merchandising tool, which is designed so brands and retailers can promote high-performing products for popular searches, demote low-performing products or substitute related products to searches that don’t yield results.
Miriello and his team developed rules for search and product sorting based on factors such as seasonality, product availability and popularity. This ensured that when a shopper sought a new article of clothing, best-selling seasonal wear with high availability would reside highest on lists and pages.
“We are creating an algorithm that will pass our seasonality index through Algolia,” Miriello told Sourcing Journal. “What is the seasonality index? It’s an index that says how much—on a scale from zero to one—the product matches with the average temperature outside by region. If I’m going to sell a jacket in October, I want to sell a midweight jacket with medium filling power.”
The business made its name on sea-inspired yachting collections and was founded in 1975 by Paolo Dini after an inspirational visit to a small sailmaker’s workshop in Maine. During that visit, Dini found a sail from an old 18th-century vessel that caught his eye: the inscription read “Paul&Shark.” Dini, the eldest son of the owner of a now 100-year-old clothing manufacturer based in Varese, Italy, is the father of current Paul&Shark president and CEO Andrea Dini.
The company has since grown its brick-and-mortar presence to more than 280 boutiques across 73 countries, with the brand hosting its physical locations in more exclusive urban shopping areas such as Via Montenapoleone in Milan and Rue du Faubourg St. Honore’ in Paris.
Looking ahead, the luxury retailer plans to implement auto-completion and AI-based re-ranking to automate more time-consuming manual processes. These actions will further reduce its e-commerce team’s workload, letting them pivot to new opportunities to build value and grow loyalty.
These new features are even more valuable to Paul&Shark given its focus on sustainable, eco-friendly merchandise collections, including its Save the Sea jackets made from recycled polyester filaments and post-consumer plastic bottles or EcoNyl jackets made from regenerated nylon.
“The search environment will offer the possibility to complete a search for ‘blue jacket,’ ‘Save the Sea’ or ‘EcoNyl’ where we post the ecologic material first, so that we can drive searchers toward the more ecologic segment of our collection,” said Miriello. “It gives the brand a lot of power to leverage the premium points of the collection and drive the customer, even if it’s just for added exposure.”