Founded in 1945, Hibbett is one of the oldest names in sporting goods and has evolved from a family-owned brick-and-mortar retailer to a publicly traded company with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.
In 2017, the brand dove head first into digital transformation — and while its foray into online shopping may have been 10 years behind its biggest competitors, Hibbett’s new ecommerce business quickly began to gain traction. With shoe sales comprising approximately 75 percent of its business, growing its footprint in the sneakerhead sphere was crucial to the brand’s continued growth.
As it dove head first into serious digital transformation efforts, Hibbett needed omnichannel capabilities that would give customers a uniquely personalized digital experience while also driving them to brick-and-mortar stores. They also needed an innovative solution to democratizing hyped sneaker launches for fans, whether they were in Los Angeles or Peoria, Illinois.
The first was to do sneaker launches better than all of its competitors by building a reliable and fair raffle system that could also withstand the heavy traffic (and relentless bot attacks) that hyped launches attract.
The second opportunity was no less lofty: to make Hibbett a true omnichannel retailer by creating a smooth, frictionless experience for BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store) and ROPIS (reserve online, pick up in store) that was tailored to each user’s needs and wants.
Raffles for hyped items in general — and sneakers in particular — are overrun with bots and resellers that snatch up the goods and quickly flip them for inflated prices, creating a frenzied sneaker resale market that often puts the latest releases out of reach for regular people. Ensuring that Hibbett didn’t become a prime target for resellers armed with legions of bots would take significant strategic and technical prowess.
Then there was the challenge of giving Hibbett robust omnichannel capabilities. It wasn’t enough to simply give customers the option to buy online and pick up in store. We had to provide a seamless and streamlined experience that had the flexibility to best serve users’ needs in the moment without distracting them from their initial goal (AKA making a purchase).
Here at Heady, it underpins the entire digital product lifecycle as we perform ongoing business analysis at all levels of the organization.
What’s going well? What’s not going so well? Where can we improve and where can we capitalize on our successes? Where are there opportunities for new features or functionalities to advance the Hibbett brand, and how can the latest developments in iOS, Android, and other platforms and technologies be used to their best advantage?
Constant communication and transparency is built into our process, with weekly standups and show-and-tells and our product managers touching base daily for raffle operations. Heady is Hibbett’s mobile product agency of record, but as an enterprise brand with 1,100-plus stores they have several partners that we work closely with to ensure cohesion.
The development and rollout of new features requires close coordination between the app and website teams, as features are rolled out first to the Hibbett website and then to the mobile app to ensure a symmetrical omnichannel experience.
In addition to ongoing app maintenance and enhancements, we’ve recently developed a couple top-secret (for now!) internal apps for Hibbett that will be publicly unveiled in the coming months, revolving around a greater focus on store experiences and giving staff the best tools to provide a top-tier customer experience.
At Heady, we don’t just do what’s asked of us. We proactively seek out new ways to do what’s best for our clients and their business. We build truly custom solutions that solve client needs, and we also serve as the thought partners in how those solutions can meet strategic business goals.
Hibbett wasn’t looking for just a dev shop. They needed an expert technology partner that could understand the big picture of their business, then strategize and execute bespoke solutions that would not only fit their current needs but also accelerate their growth as a respected brand serving the sneakerhead market.
“They’ve successfully built and managed a stable customer-facing raffle system that has proven to be a major driver of revenue.”
Senior Vice President,
Digital Commerce, Hibbett Sports
The sleek and fashion-forward look of the Hibbett app is reflective of Heady’s tailored approach to designing for each client individually. We didn’t just copy their website: We designed uniquely for the app to create an experience that felt familiar but elevated and perfectly tailored to mobile.
We’re currently undertaking a visual refresh to move toward a more sleek, minimal, higher-end experience evolving the design along with the brand while always staying true to Hibbett’s roots and ensuring long-time customers aren’t alienated.
At Heady our design ethos is “Design with, not for.” From the very beginning of our partnership back in 2018, Hibbett has been heavily involved in design and we’ve established a collaborative process that leaves room for creative innovation while staying focused on satisfying business needs.
With a project of this scale, ensuring that everything we design for Hibbett feels cohesive requires systems thinking. That means every aspect of our designs revolves around intentional thinking around the larger Hibbett business plan, including who they are now and who they want to be as a brand. With numerous new features as well as other apps for Hibbett currently in development, it’s essential to keep the entire product ecosystem in mind when we design to ensure consistency across the brand. As we work to evolve the brand visually we maintain a user-centered approach, ensuring that our designs remain familiar to long-time Hibbett customers.
Through ideation sessions, design reviews and frequent check-ins, we work closely with Hibbett to create the best possible designs. When it comes to designing for new features, our process typically begins with meeting with their internal design team. Robust user research is part of Hibbett’s ongoing strategy for growth, the results of which they pass along to us, enabling us to devise strategies and design solutions that implement their findings.
Our team then presents their proposed designs to Hibbett’s product managers for feedback and direction on any further iterations. Next, we ensure the desired design is feasible from both a technical and resourcing standpoint before granting final approval to move ahead with a particular design.
One important component of Heady’s design process involves versions vs. variations. While versions are an iteration on the same thing (e.g., different ways of presenting a carousel), a variation is a totally new take on how to address something (e.g., not a carousel at all but a completely different way of displaying the desired information).
Focusing on variations over versions allows us to enter a new dimension of creativity that’s sometimes lacking in technical design processes. It’s easy enough to design around Hibbett’s requirements, but instead we strive to think outside the box with creative design solutions that visually solve problems. Exploring iterations that may not be “the one” can nevertheless help us expand our design thinking and stumble on new ideas that we wouldn’t have otherwise discovered, ensuring that the Hibbett app always feels fresh and innovative.
Namely, accommodating a huge amount of traffic due to demand for hyped sneaker launches, as well as safeguarding against sophisticated bots in order to ensure the raffles are fair for all. The stability and smooth operation of the Launch Raffle was critical to the Hibbett Sports brand.
We’re dedicated to helping partners find the right tool and building quality custom integrations to ensure they all work together seamlessly. The Launch Raffle in particular involves numerous integrations between different product databases, inventory sources, and Hibbett’s payment processor.
This is an AI-enabled recommendation engine that we used to design a useful tool for sneakerheads to gain insight into market demand, an in-app feature called “Trending For You”. It’s designed to suggest more items a user will like based on what they’re browsing and buying as well as what’s “hot” with other users. Our Hibbett product recommendation system was the first beta use case of Einstein AI for mobile. Salesforce highlighted the success of our integration at its Dreamforce conference, calling it a top 2019 mobile innovation.
Stylitics is a visual outfitting and styling solution that powers an outfit recommendation engine to create outfits based on Hibbett’s inventory. Looking at a pair of flashy red and white Jordan 1s? The mobile app will suggest a head-to-toe look to style your footwear of choice to perfection, from a stylish pair of sweatpants to a matching fitted cap.
Ensuring shoes make it into the hands of deserving sneaker enthusiasts and not resellers requires a robust process to tell robots from humans. With Heady's integrations and support, Hibbett is able to employ leading bot mitigation technology and leverage insights from custom analytics to determine who's a person and who's a robot. We help Hibbett to analyze suspicious activity but also to verify users' identities to avoid blocking valued customers. Hibbett and Heady care about and serve people; robots don't need sneakers.
Heady built a custom Launch Raffle for Hibbett that makes hyped sneaker launches fairer and more accessible, distinguishing the brand from its biggest competitors and solidifying its reputation as a respected name in the sneakerhead community.
It’s all supported by a powerful custom solution that gives Hibbett the capabilities and autonomy to manage its own day-to-day raffle operations, from entrant registration to comprehensive reporting that serves as an additional layer of protection from any would-be bad actors.
Shoppers looking to upgrade their look can discover on-trend shoes, match them with a head-to-toe outfit, and search local store inventory for same-day pickup, all right inside the app.
Hibbett | City Gear now offers a fully omnichannel shopping experience: Users can buy online, reserve items to be picked up (or just tried on) in-store, or simply log on to see what’s new and hot in the sneaker world.
Omnichannel communication capabilities means they can choose to interact with Hibbett through email, text, or push notifications, ensuring the brand reaches customers where it’s most convenient for them.
Even more critically, Hibbett is now widely perceived as the most fair retailer for hyped sneaker launches. As a way to measure our success in this, we monitor popular reseller platforms and can say with confidence that the biggest resellers are no longer targeting Hibbett.
Staying true to our commitment to long-term client relationships, we’re just getting started: Now in our sixth year of partnership with Hibbett, we’ve recently developed two internal apps that will enable store associates to serve customers better than ever. Stay tuned for more as Hibbett continues to make leaps and bounds in the athletic apparel and sneakers world, and Heady gives them the tools to do it.