How Stronger grew from a local print shop to a tech-enabled, DTC-powerhouse
May 4, 2021
STRONGER is one of the brightest shining stars on the European DTC-scene. Growing fast since day one while being profitable. Starting out by printing patterns on t‑shirts in a small shop in Stockholm, Co‑founders Juri, Joel and Henrik quickly identified a new opportunity for a DTC business. The T‑shirt printing business had taught them how to rapidly take new designs from idea to reality and what technology was needed to drive sales. Fully financed by its own generated cash flow, Stronger has grown to become a Direct‑to‑Consumer powerhouse. Growing from zero to 25 MEUR of annual online revenue in just under 5 years.
With co‑founder Henrik’s background as a programmer, Stronger was a tech‑driven brand from day one. Strongerlabel.com was originally built on the Magento 1 platform and coded by Henrik. However, as Stronger grew, tweaks, hacks and custom solutions were added to the platform, which eventually started taking its toll on both performance and time‑to‑market for new features.
Downtime was common, as was slow loading times during peak seasons and special campaigns. They also had problems in scaling the solution to fit multiple markets, as they were carrying a lot of the old tweaks in the setup. No shame on Magento – the platform served the brand very well during the first few years. Especially considering how fast they grew online. But in order to take the brand to the next level while continuing growing, Stronger needed to completely rethink its e‑commerce architecture – which meant taking a step back and carefully looking into other scalable platform providers.
A thorough platform evaluation
Stronger decided to do an evaluation of a wide range of platforms, which proved to be easier said than done. On one side of the spectrum, they had API‑based composable platforms (such as CommerceTools) with a modular, best‑of‑breed approach to building the tech‑stack and frontend. The composable approach promised flexibility, at the cost of having to build and maintain a large amount of custom code.
On the other side of the spectrum, there was ShopifyPlus – a ready‑to‑use system with a wide selection of templates and integrations. A system with a lot of plugins, but built for the use‑case of a US‑based retailer. The Shopify route promised an out-of-the-box solution with few technical issues to handle. However, that approach comes with limitations: cookie‑cutter integrations only, little flexibility, and a cumbersome, hard‑coded, approach to cross‑border commerce.
Coming from Magento, the team at Stronger was intrigued by the composable approach, which promised similar flexibility as Magento, but with the advantage of a maintained software‑as‑a‑service core platform. However, dealing with a hacky Magento setup and maintaining customizations had taken its toll on the brand's patience, which made them a little hesitant towards going in that direction. On the other hand, they didn’t want to accept the limits of the ShopifyPlus platform. Stronger realized that instead of building business value, they would have to invest their tech‑team's time in building mind‑numbing hacks around the limitations of Shopify and the negative effects on SEO which Shopify’s approach to international sales would cause.
In the midst of the evaluation, Stronger found Centra. A platform that was headless/composable, but with the core features for scaling a DTC brand globally built‑in the platform – a hybrid version of the two extreme sides of the spectra. Centra stood out from other composable platforms by focusing on solving problems for brands with global Direct‑to‑Consumer ambitions.
Key features of the Centra platform included:
- Fully headless. No CMS, no templates. The freedom to build a custom‑designed experience that truly represented the brand
- One store for all markets globally. Automatically adapting based on the visitors Geo‑IP and more
- Open APIs with access to most data in the platform, and a clear commitment to follow an API‑first approach
With the above options in mind, Stronger had found their sweet spot with Centra and teamed up with the digital agency Made People to start the project of completely re‑imagining the e‑commerce architecture and design, which was planned to be rolled out just four months after signing.
Strongerlabel.com ships to the world and is localized with language, content, payment methods and warehouses for 10 selected markets.
Impact: Global presence, higher conversion rates, more orders, and a decrease in costs and administration
After launching the new site in November, just one week prior to Black Friday, Stronger has seen huge improvements in both growth and efficiency. The instant results for November speak for themselves (all results are compared to 2020):
- Increased orders by 167%
- A 172% increase in total revenue
- A 14% increase in mobile conversion
- A 123% increase in total traffic
Stronger are together with Centra continuously rolling out new markets and hope to be live on 20+ local markets by the end of 2021 to reach their 100 MEUR annual revenue goal in 2022.
About CentraCentra is an advanced SaaS e-commerce platform for global fashion and lifestyle brands. With a complete solution for both Direct-to-Consumer and Wholesale E-commerce, Centra helps global brands such as Nudie Jeans, Ideal of Sweden, Stronger, Eton, Sandqvist, Craft Sportswear and 150+ fashion and lifestyle brands drive a global e-commerce to consumers and wholesale buyers. Centra is currently one of the fastest growing e-commerce platforms on the market and a pioneer in the field of composable commerce. The Centra platform consists of two modules: a composable, or “headless” e-commerce platform for global Direct-to-Consumer operations, and a digital showroom for wholesale e-commerce. Centra was founded in 2016 and has grown without any external funding or venture capital. The company is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, and has offices in Wroclaw, Poland and New York, USA.
Read more about Centra here.