During an insightful session at the biggest event for technology and innovation – Retail Week’s Tech – Patchworks got the lowdown from Steve Hewitt (CEO) and Chris Perrins (Finance Director) from must-have activewear brand, Gymshark.
The journey for Gymshark started with iPaaS Vendors Founder, Ben Francis, whilst at University. Ben began selling supplements with a drop ship model from his home in Bromsgrove, shortly followed by investing in a printing and sewing machine to create his own online gym clothing brand.
Fast forward five years, and Gymshark is in 131 countries, generating an enviable turnover in excess of £40m and an online presence that most established sports clothing brands are no doubt keeping tabs on.
Black Friday 2015
Steve Hewitt explained that Black Friday 2015 was a crescendo moment for Gymshark. With what seemed an infinite volume of orders, the surge of popularity for the brand became evident. However, the sudden realisation that their systems just weren’t coping to meet this demand also hit home. This not only impacted in a tremendous loss of sales orders not being fulfilled, but the ultimate disaster for Gymshark: disappointing their customers (who they affectionately refer to as part of the Gymshark family).
Behind the scenes, Chris Perrins, with a technology understanding that would test most IT Directors, knew something fundamental had to happen to change their systems going forward. Being such an innovative business that has agility at its core, they needed a limitless technology infrastructure that would never again compromise the Gymshark brand experience.
The first issue identified was that their systems weren’t truly cloud based. Chris explained: “There were file exchanges going all over the place that weren’t hooked into other systems properly. Most painful of all was when problems occurred, we couldn’t define how or who should be resolving them. Hence, I didn’t sleep for 54 hours that Black Friday”.
API’s for agility
This is where API’s came into play. Gymshark knew they needed their software setup to be truly cloud and API driven. Being user-friendly was also key – the brand wanted simplicity for everyone to get the most out of the systems, without the need for developers or IT input.
After changing their systems every year since launch, Gymshark wanted a new infrastructure that wouldn’t need changing, and would have the agility to work with their future plans and expansion into new territories.
Agility is crucial to the Gymshark business model. Steve highlighted: “Part of our success can be attributed to how quickly we can react as a business. It’s integral to our culture, and infectious across the Gymshark community. We don’t want to lose that, no matter how much we grow, which is why it’s integral we work with partners that enable us to do what we do to move the business forward”.
Selecting the right technology set-up
Gymshark selected Patchworks to integrate their existing systems and then help them migrate to platforms including Netsuite, Shopify Plus, Peoplevox and Bleckmann as they grew rapidly.
Chris explained the decision to select this set-up: “I believe systems are best to not be seen or heard. You just want them all to work as one. We now have the right systems and architecture to support the whole business, and by using an API strategy, we just need the API docs from any new application for Patchworks to connect. That’s it!”
From a technology perspective, Gymshark’s record-breaking launch events are no longer a test of nerve for Gymshark’s IT department. The company admits it was a strange feeling on the initial Black Friday, powered by Patchworks. As Chris puts it “Nothing went wrong. We could go home and sleep. That felt unnerving after experiencing the catastrophic Black Friday the year before.”
Gymshark is focused on improving every customer experience with the brand. With 99.97% accuracy rate of orders and customer data synced by Patchworks, they can now be confident they have structured their systems and connections in such a way that they can now focus on growing the company how they intend to, not how their technology permits.