The sneaker industry has experienced a huge boom in the past years. Some market observers rightly ask whether the peak has already been reached, or whether growth, collections, collaborations and the number of limited editions are continuing to increase. There is currently no answer to this question, but sneaker stores like Asphaltgold are riding this wave of success with perfection.
Asphaltgold has been one of the best-known German sneaker retailers in the DACH region since 2008 and is actively on the scene with its online store and local store in Darmstadt. This July they relaunched the online store and released its own smartphone app for sneaker limited editions and raffles. In collaboration with the agency OK Future, which developed the strategy, the design as well as the smartphone app, we created an online store with a mobile-first focus that convinces customers with it’s unique shopping experience. In this interview with Larissa Dien, digital project manager at Asphaltgold, and Christian Lortz, founder of OK Future, you can find out how the collaboration went, what role the Latori team played, why the migration to Shopify was so necessary, and what raffles actually are.
Asphaltgold is more than a normal online store for sneakers and streetwear. What makes the brand special?
Larissa Dien: It's quite special that we sell limited-edition sneakers. The segment of online stores that are allowed to receive and sell these shoes is manageable. We have sneakers that not everyone can get because of the number of pieces.
We also put a special focus on the fact that we are not only retailers, but also tell stories, produce high-quality content and have a great demand for aesthetics. We have been part of the sneaker culture since 2008 and we live it. In addition, the charity idea plays a big role for us. We are a retailer that also likes to give back and regularly combines the good cause in marketing activities, e.g. like our Black Friday campaign 2021 or our Heat-for-Need project, where we offer highly sought-after shoes and donate part of the profit from them.
Christian Lortz: Asphaltgold uses the slogan Culture.Aesthetics.Dedication. and aims to be the place for the sneaker community in Europe, to inspire through good content and to deliver an exceptional shopping experience. The collaboration with Nike, Adidas and other major manufacturers is of course based on the fact that Asphaltgold is one of these top stores and manages to activate products.
"We have been part of and living the sneaker culture since 2008."
How does this exclusive collaboration with brands like Nike work?
Larissa Dien: Collaboration with partners like Nike shows up in different ways within several business units. There are touch points in logistics, POS, purchasing and marketing. Collaboration takes place primarily through communication about shipments, release dates, updates on these items, or marketing activations.
Christian Lortz: This relationship between merchant and manufacturer is a special one, especially when it comes to an exclusive premium range.. That's why it's so important that we not only present an excellent store to customers, but also to the biggest players like Nike.
These exclusive limited editions are offered as raffles - what exactly does that mean?
Larissa Dien: A Raffle is the drawing of the right to purchase. If a shoe is very limited or simply extremely in demand, the lot decides who purchases the shoe. If the demand for a shoe is much higher than the actual available stock, a normal drop via the online store would run the risk of bots striking or, in the worst case, the online store not withstanding the many hits at the time of release.
Christian Lortz: Before we used the new store system, we had to announce the coveted shoes for a certain date in the online store. When the release came, the traffic in the store naturally increased and everything exploded - the online store collapsed. An alternative to this was the way via Instagram with raffles: Here, you announce that shoe XY is arriving at this time and that the community should comment with their shoe size. Then 20,000 people comment with their size under that post - including a lot of bots - and you kind of have to pick 30 out of the 20,000 that you have sizes in stock for. Those you write to, send a request for payment, and half of them forget about it again. So that was a huge logistical effort - especially when you have an average of four Raffles a week and there are several thousand people in there every time!
Thus, it quickly became clear that another mechanism was needed - the Asphaltgold Releases-App!
Christian Lortz: Correct! And this app now works in such a way that for each of these Raffles there is a 48h time window in which anyone who is interested can participate. If that person is drawn, they can buy the product. We no longer collect thousands of Instagram comments, but real customers who are willing to pay. In the end, an algorithm draws the winners for whom there are matching sizes in stock and distributes them. This automation is fair, it doesn't crash a server, and there is no manual or personal work needed.
Larissa Dien: To participate in a Raffle, the participant authorizes payment via credit card, Apple Pay or Paypal and the order is placed. On the Raffle Date, as many "Winners" as we have quantities in stock are drawn automatically and randomly. After the draw, the purchase price is automatically collected from the winners and the shoe is shipped. Losers of the Raffle will receive a notification that they unfortunately did not win this time and the pre-authorized amount will of course be released directly. With our Raffle mechanism, we offer a secure and, above all, fair experience via the Releases app.
How many people have already downloaded the app?
Christian Lortz: There are already several 100,000 app downloads. We are also regularly in the top 50 shopping apps in the App Store.
For Asphaltgold, there is now a smartphone app for customers and a Shopify app developed by Latori that connects this mechanism to the store. How did the collaboration come about?
Christian Lortz: The timing was that we advised Asphaltgold and were sure that Shopify was right for the company. We also had good experience in that regard. There was some resentment on the part of Asphaltgold because they had just launched a new store a year and a half ago. But it didn't work the way they thought it would. So here's what we did:
We did a Black Friday promotion as step 1, and redirected Asphaltgold (Magento2 Shop at that time) to Shopify for one day. On that page, we sold a product, a t-shirt, which we also did relatively big PR for, precisely because Asphaltgold did not participate in the Black Friday discount battle and instead made a statement against racism. That was sort of a validation to see that it works with this system. We assumed that we would later migrate to Shopify and used this action as a check.
In the meantime, we started thinking about and designing the app. That was in November 2020 and the app finally went live in March. We were already using Shopify, but only for this app. That means the normal webshop was still running on the infrastructure we had before. On 07.07.2021, the complete store went live on Shopify Plus.
How did the collaboration work and what requirements did the Latori team have to consider?
Christian Lortz: We spoke to Latori for the first time in July or August 2020 and started planning. Then came Black Friday and then the first development phase where Latori developed the backend in Shopify. Then in March of this year, the smartphone app that Shopify uses to pull all the information through it went live. We developed the app to run on your iPhone and your Android phone. The Latori team took care of the Shopify system, the Shopify backend app and the migration.
Larissa Dien: The Raffle mechanism is an interaction. When we draw who the winner is, we go into the Raffle backend app and draw the winners there. It's kind of the equivalent of the app on your phone.
When it came to the requirements for the new store, a stable store system was our top priority.
Christian Lortz: The key factor was the robustness of the entire infrastructure and the scalability in the event of traffic peaks. What is also very good for us now is the possibility of being able to drive developments forward more easily in the future. In terms of features, we mainly needed the standard functions, proper filtering, a reliable search, and the quick checkout was also important to us. In addition, there is a special feature: we show shoes that are not yet available for purchase. There's a separate category where you can see what's coming soon. Basically, you have product detail pages for products that are not yet purchasable. So the community can find out about what's coming.
Larissa Dien: So just with the filtering, there were some specifics that were important to us. We have - I would call it gender-inclusive filters. If we have a women's shoe also in larger sizes, it's important to us that this shoe also appears when the "Men" filter is selected. We would like to orient ourselves here not only to the manufacturer's specification and say this is a women's shoe, it will only be displayed to women. We make it more dependent on the size.
Mobile is also extremely important to us. Over 80% of our customers access the store via mobile. That's why we've taken a mobile-first approach to design and think every optimization we do in the store is mobile-first, or app-first.
What benefits did Shopify bring to Asphaltgold?
Christian Lortz: Before, when we wanted to add a new feature, it took forever because of the complexity of the system. Now on Shopify, we can swap app A for app B and try things out. Also, the store can now withstand any traffic peaks well and people don't leave the checkout process with frustration because the store crashes.
Larissa Dien: We already noticed that during a test run shortly before the official launch. There were no customer service requests. In the old store, check-out problems were daily business or products were purchasable that shouldn't have been. This has become much more controlled, saves us time and is of course a more awesome experience for our customers
You can just tell that Shopify is a Software-as-a-Service solution and not a pure store system. We can do a lot ourselves, but always have Latori's support behind us. The team also acts in an advisory capacity when we have new ideas and ask if they can recommend an app, they tell us if we can implement functions ourselves or what Shopify offers out of the box. That's the big advantage for us, the ease of use and that we can try out and optimize a lot easily. Shopify is constantly changing and there is always something happening. Now also with Shopify 2.0, there will be even more in-house options in perspective, so merchants like us are less dependent on third-party apps and can implement things in-house.
Latori allows us to work independently, supports us and doesn't make us dependent on them. They give us the tools and knowledge so we can implement smaller things ourselves.
"That's the support you want from an agency, to not be dependent, but enabled."
What was the feedback like after the store went live?
Larissa Dien: We received positive feedback from customers. We use a tool to measure customer satisfaction. We've improved quite a bit in that area. We have an NPS of 88, compared to around 70 before. The comments were almost entirely positive, and there were compliments on the design, but also on the functionality.
What about the future of Asphaltgold?
Larissa Dien: Asphaltgold will open up new markets and grow - but never lose touch with the community. We are constantly expanding the product portfolio and will also increase and grow in the area of our own products, so that Asphaltgold is increasingly perceived as a strong brand that people like to carry to the outside world.
We are also actively developing the webshop and stepping on the gas in the app area. We still want to do a lot in terms of personalization and make the shopping experience more personalized and appealing to customers.
Those who know Asphaltgold may also be familiar with our Fitting Room. That's an app where you enter your size from a shoe model and it's put in relation to other sizes or shoe models to see how those shoes turn out. In the future, we want to integrate the Fitting Room into the app and the store.
“Latori is, of course, supporting us in the further development of this.”
Christian Lortz: For many people, the idea of sustainability is becoming even more important when it comes to sneakers. This is also an area where Asphaltgold will position itself even more strongly in the future.
Larissa Dien: Two years ago, we already integrated a product feature that provides information on whether a shoe is completely vegan, at least free of leather, or made from mostly recycled materials. Here, our PIM team sometimes has to research very carefully, because even the manufacturers are not always completely transparent. But we want to convey precisely this transparency to our customers. The topic of sustainability is important for us and the customers, which is why we also offer brands like Veja or include more and more recycled collections in the range.
You also want to migrate to Shopify or need a suitable app for your online store? Contact our team today!