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An Inside Look at an Online Catalog Makeover

A sporting goods site puts the emphasis on content and wins big.
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Carlsbad, Calif.-based Sklz had an online catalog conundrum. The athletic equipment manufacturer needed a way to differentiate itself from the rest of the field. So, in March 2011, the company, which sells its products through sporting goods retailers around the U.S., decided to relaunch its site with a new spin--and a new skin, heavy on text and video content. The goal? To become a destination site for athletes and trainers.

The fix: Since March, Sklz has created videos for 83 of the products it sells. And thanks to the redesign, its site has become a complete online training center for athletes--one that is accessible as a stand-alone and via links through the website of mega-retailer Dick's Sporting Goods, as well as through Sklz opted to host its own site rather than integrating it into the Dick's sites because the team wanted to retain the flexibility to rapidly add new video content as it was developed.

Sklz also went for the extra point by integrating QR codes into all of its product packaging. The codes link to training videos that give customers quick access to more information and instruction related to each product.

"Our content helps the athlete," says John Sarkisian, CEO of Sklz. "We introduce video on how to use the product and how to train with it, because these days we all learn through video."

The results: The company spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in site redevelopment and video production, and "it's been absolutely worth it," says Greg Shoman, vice president of marketing.

Video views since the relaunch total more than 340,000. Third-quarter weekly retail metrics reports from Dick's Sporting Goods show Sklz sales at 140 percent over the previous year, far exceeding Sklz's own projections. Performance training tools are showing a 41 percent greater sell-through than originally expected, and, according to Shoman, QR codes on product packaging are helping fuel that increase.

"It was never that the [sales] numbers weren't good enough; it was really a question of what was the long-term strategy, not a quick payoff to an online sale," Shoman says. "The most important thing is we're trying to create relationships with athletes. Our goal is to get them to turn to us if they want to improve their game."

A second opinion: Despite the numbers, Kristina Halvorson, founder of Minneapolis-based content strategy firm Brain Traffic, says she would have taken a different route. She believes a more effective solution for Sklz would have been to integrate its content into the Dick's Sporting Goods website so shoppers could stay on the retail site rather than going between the retail and training sites. Such back-and-forth sacrifices what should be a "cohesive shopping experience," she says.

While using expert content to establish authority and trust at the point of sale is relatively common these days, Halvorson does give a hat tip to the content itself, for the production value and the solid information provided to a targeted audience: "I am very impressed by the high quality of Sklz's content and think [Dick's Sporting Goods] made a good decision to license content from them."

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