First Pitch: How Thinking Differently Delivered an Innovative Digital Experience for Reebok

Discover how Alex Vasquez and his team at DigiSavvy architected a brand new ecommerce solution for Reebok — selling out shoes in a matter of hours by relying on Pantheon’s WebOps Platform and  leveraging crowdfunding, ecommerce, and open source tools. 

“All they wanted to do was flip the fashion industry’s production model on its head. No big deal.”

- Alex Vasquez, Principal and Co-Founder of DigiSavvy

When Alex Vasquez, the Principal and Co-Founder of DigiSavvy and a Pantheon Hero, was approached by Reebok to flip the fashion industry’s production model on its head, he rolled up his sleeves and took on the challenge. Alex was able to lean on his experience using Pantheon’s WebOps Platform to maintain the project’s critical dependencies, promote collaboration, and seamlessly integrate into the development processes of his team — all helping to reduce the crippling anxiety of tackling an uncharted project of this magnitude. 

"All they wanted to do was flip the fashion industry's production model on its head. No big deal," Alex said during his Keynote presentation at Pantheon's recent WebOps Summit

It’s not every day that a major player in the fashion industry approaches a small agency and asks them to completely rethink their approach to selling products online. This was the perfect opportunity for DigiSavvy to create an innovative solution and brand new digital experience for a client of Reebok’s stature and, in doing so, bolster their own reputation as a leader in this newfound space. 

Dealing with the unprecedented nature of this project under a relatively short timeline, it was imperative of Alex to think outside of the box. Collaboration was especially important, seeing DigiSavvy is an all-remote team of just ten people, in six time zones scattered around the globe. Think: Small agency working on a large scale. 

Architecting a Solution Never Seen Before

Typically, the fashion industry is notorious for creating excess waste. To combat this trend, Alex and his team created a solution that allows the legendary footwear brand to gauge interest in a new shoe design with a limited run that's crowdfunded online, before releasing it to the general public. This way, Reebok cuts down on consumer waste by only selling shoes that are highly desired by dedicated customers. 

Known as First Pitch by Reebok, DigiSavvy’s solution combines the best attributes of crowdfunding and ecommerce. Each new shoe proposal is released for up to 30 days, where it has to reach a minimum threshold of 500 pairs sold. If that goal is reached, Reebok closes the campaign and gets to work, creating the new shoe and delivering it to those early supporters first. If not, the design is scraped for the next one and early supporters are refunded. Think of this as a way for Reebok to properly vet new shoe designs, before they release them to the general public on a larger scale. 

Crowdfunding + Ecommerce Integration

The solution proposed by Alex and his team seems simple enough, right? Well, not exactly. Reebok’s team looked at a number of solutions on the market (e.g. Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, etc.) but found them limited in both scope and functionality, unless they wanted to shell out for a custom solution. Ultimately, Reebok wanted a crowdfunding platform that was flexible enough for their needs and one that seamlessly integrated with popular ecommerce platforms and content management systems. 

This is where Alex’s expertise and background as founder of IgnitionDeck comes into play. IgnitionDeck is a popular crowdfunding platform that runs on WordPress, allowing brands, artists, and entrepreneurs the ability to create crowdfunded campaigns — all without locking them down to a single WordPress theme. In other words, it’s highly customizable, which is exactly what Reebok desired for this project, and ultimately won Alex the gig. 

After solving the crowdfunding piece, Alex and his team had to find an ecommerce platform that ran on WordPress and seamlessly integrated with IgnitionDeck. After proposing a few solutions, they landed on WooCommerce as their open-source ecommerce platform — seeing it runs on WordPress and integrates nicely with IgnitionDeck’s crowdfunding capabilities. 

Pantheon as a Stable Backbone for the Project

After figuring out the crowdfunding and ecommerce pieces of this project, Alex’s main concerns remained in finding a secure, stable WebOps platform for the First Pitch site, along with one that would seamlessly integrate with his development practices and facilitate collaboration. Since Alex had forged a relationship with Pantheon over the past four years, he knew these areas of concern were easily addressed by using Pantheon’s WebOps Platform, plus he trusted it to perform with his reputation (and contract) on the line. 

“Having Pantheon as the backbone of what we’re building and delivering for our clients is always a huge win. It’s something that gives me peace of mind.” 

- Alex on using Pantheon’s WebOps Platform for his client’s sites 

Pantheon’s ability to meet unexpected surges in web traffic worked brilliantly for a crowdfunded site, where daily web traffic is highly unpredictable, especially when new releases bring in swarms of unanticipated visitors — often all at once. 

In addition, Alex cites Pantheon’s Multidev environment as crucial to allowing his developers the ability to collaborate on new features, then easily merge their changes back into the main codebase — ensuring everything operates smoothly, as well as preventing headaches along the way. Not only that, but Pantheon’s ability to seamlessly integrate into his established development practices was another major win, which you’ll find in the following section where we discuss his team’s use of Branch CI to push deployments. 

Using Branch CI to Push Deployments 

Alex and his team leaned heavily on Branch CI for two main areas of development: 

  1. Handling deployments to their Pantheon dev site.

  2. Running tasks that built their assets, before deploying to Pantheon.

Branch CI is both easy to set up and has native integration with Pantheon — making it a no-brainer for this project. In fact, the founder of Branch CI worked with our developers here at Pantheon to seamlessly bring this continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) tool into your Pantheon workflow

“You could use CircleCI or some other solution to run through these tests, changes, and deployments, but given our really aggressive timeline, using Branch CI was a no-brainer.”

- Alex on using Branch CI in the development process

Another benefit to this approach? It allowed Alex and his team to deploy on every push, along with catching errors early on by marking the commit as failed, so he could see where things went wrong without wasting precious time.

Other Nifty Tools Used Along the Way

WPack provides front-end tooling for a Wordpress theme or plugin development. It’s really simple and easy to set up, depending on what your needs are. Alex’s team has struggled with Grunt and Gulp over the past few years, so using WPack was an easy choice. 

Stop User Enumeration was used for security purposes. This plugin detects and prevents hackers from scanning your site for user names. 

Elementor was used by Alex and his team for website layout building tasks, as it’s one of the most popular drag-and-drop page builders for WordPress. 

Checkout for WooCommerce optimized the checkout experience by eradicating unnecessary form fields and intuitively directing users to the checkout from corresponding product pages.  

Blaze Meter for load testing. This tool ensured the site could handle a large influx of web traffic without lengthy load times turning visitors away when a new campaign was launched. 

Success for the Streetwear Icon

The first shoe launched on First Pitch by Reebok sold out in just a few hours! Not only that, but the site handled the initial peak of web traffic without crashing — proving Pantheon’s ability as a WebOps Platform to maintain critical dependencies when it matters most. 

First Pitch by Reebok has experienced three successful campaigns, totaling over $60k in annual revenue, with more campaigns to come as new shoe designs are released. Not only has this proven Alex and his team’s proof of concept as successful, but it’s inspired Reebok’s parent company Adidas to consider implementing this innovative crowdfunding solution moving forward with their latest footwear designs.

Alex Vasquez is a Pantheon Hero. To hear more from Alex about this First Pitch by Reebok project, watch his Keynote presentation from our recent WebOps Summit. 

Hero image by Grailify via Unsplash

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Topics Agency Partners, Ecommerce, WebOps, WordPress