WrestlingMart Pins a Perfect Launch on Pantheon

How the sporting goods retailer streamlined their dev workflow

Summary

Since its inception in 2002, WrestlingMart has been committed to providing the sport of wrestling with unbeatable customer service and top quality products. As the world’s largest wrestling retail store prepared to launch a new website, CTO David Applegate needed a professional platform that could help manage a remote dev agency and perform during peak season traffic spikes.

WrestlingMart’s requirement was clear. They needed to launch an updated version of their website that could handle the traffic spikes that happen every October-December, a time where peak holiday shopping and wrestling season coincide. Their site had previously gone down for three days during this hectic time, and CTO David Applegate couldn’t risk that sort of business loss again. They used Pantheon to launch their new site and ended up with a far better workflow than they ever expected.

I don’t want to think about hosting, that’s not where our company dwells. Pantheon allows us to focus on the business. No one wants to be the guy focused on configuring infrastructure components.

David Applegate, CTO

Before Pantheon

Before Pantheon, WrestlingMart was using AspDotNetStorefront, a framework geared specifically towards ecommerce websites, on a basic hosting provider. It became clear that this wasn’t the best solution as they struggled to keep up with traffic, which often spiked to four or five times the normal levels during peak season.

“There were a lot of little headaches that culminated in our site going down for three days straight during the busy season, ultimately losing our company thousands of dollars a day,” Applegate explains. “You simply cannot afford downtime as an ecommerce business.”

So when newly-hired Applegate set out to relaunch the site from scratch, he knew WrestlingMart needed a new solution that would solve their previous hosting woes and scale for the future.

Deciding on Pantheon

Applegate didn’t want to continue using a low-cost hosting provider he couldn’t rely on, and needed a lot of value within his budget. He stumbled across Pantheon while researching different options and found that Pantheon’s workflow and DevOps automation more than made up for the upgrade in pricing.

“Pantheon said, ‘We don’t want to touch your code, but we know Drupal very well. If you have any headaches or concerns, we’ll guide you in the right direction and provide thoughtful suggestions,’” Applegate said “You can’t beat that.”

Applegate knew it was important to have technologies such as Varnish and New Relic, but also knew how time consuming it could be to configure them himself, one by one. Pantheon’s all-in-one platform would integrate these technologies seamlessly, allowing Applegate’s team to focus on business.

A Smooth Launch on a Scalable Platform

As they prepped for launch, Applegate was confident that the tools they now had would allow them to test and optimize properly before going live. They used Pantheon’s identical dev, test, and live environments to ensure anything pushed to production would not hurt performance on launch day.

I wish I could say we had one big stressful moment before launch. But after we migrated, there were no hiccups. I think this speaks for itself.

Pantheon’s dedicated launch team worked with WrestlingMart to make sure all of the necessary checks were covered—things like scheduling backups, caching optimization, and load testing. Around launch time, Applegate had a team of five developers, all of which received hands-on training from the Pantheon customer success team.

Enabling a Remote Team

Development work for the new WrestlingMart site began six months before Applegate found Pantheon. Their agency, based remotely in India, needed a solution that would simplify their workflow while also providing Applegate with peace of mind while working with a distributed team.

Four to five developers in India were working on the WrestlingMart site at a time. The workflow wasn’t great—developing in local environments and lack of proper version control made it hard for them to avoid overriding code, pushing changes to production that introduced risk to performance and uptime. Applegate was happy with their development work, but workflow and infrastructure was a consistent roadblock.

In the beginning of the project, Applegate was sold more on the value and infrastructure of Pantheon. But once he saw a difference in productivity and organization from the new workflow, he was certain he’d made a good call for the future of WrestlingMart’s online presence.

The Benefits of an All-In-One Platform

What Would Have Been DevOps

Before, Applegate was managing servers himself. It wasn’t a good use of his time nor something he wanted to deal with. Now, sysadmin tasks are nobody’s problem. They’re automated by the platform, freeing up the whole team to do development and strategic work.

Best-Practices and Workflow

Having best-practices baked into the Pantheon platform enables Applegate’s team to adopt them automatically, and ultimately saves time. He doesn’t have to hunt down his developers to ask they’ve double-checked caching settings or scheduled backups because these things are included in a status check built right into the dashboard.

Although Applegate didn’t choose Pantheon for the workflow, it ended up being the most useful feature for his remote, distributed team. “Pantheon’s workflow made the launch process incredibly quick and easy,” he said. “My developers have a smoother workflow and dev, test, and live environments ensure code pushes don’t cause problems in production.”

Cloud Environments for Each Feature Branch

Applegate’s team uses Multidev on Pantheon to spin up different developments environments to drive larger feature rollouts, safely testing code and pulling the latest content from the live environment down to dev to prevent losing changes.

Results

After redesign and relaunch, WrestlingMart saw conversion rates increase eight times their previous levels. Site speed is consistently 2.5 seconds a page, without any peaks or valleys, down from 4-5 seconds pre-launch. Now, Applegate’s team is able to focus on detailed configurations—such as customizations for wrestling gear—instead of infrastructure. Their agency in India can focus on what they’re best at. Everyone wins.

“We had significant conversion rate increases after Pantheon thanks to site speed,” Applegate said. “It’s comforting to know that spikes and traffic growth aren’t a problem. Pantheon will grow with us so we won’t find ourselves wasting two weeks installing new servers down the road.”

Advice to Other Retailers

“I would’ve launched sooner and smaller,” Applegate said. “Pantheon allows such quick iterations, we probably could’ve launched two months sooner knowing we could do this so often.”

Applegate also suggests that other retailers focus on what drives value to customers when deciding whether to use a website management platform. “In the past, we spent so much time on things that didn’t create value,” He explains. “Customers don’t inherently benefit from Varnish, but they do from an asset they see, a product they buy, etc. Now our company can spend time on those things, thanks to Pantheon.”

Benefits

  • Peace of mind during heavy seasonality
  • Less time spent on infrastructure allows team to focus on new projects
  • Baked-in best practices
  • A smoother workflow thanks to Dev-Test-Live
  • Cloud environments for each feature branch with Multidev
  • Improved site site to 2.5 seconds/page
  • Increased conversion rates