One of the durable content strategies I built into Shopify’s editorial calendar was to produce a new case study every week.
Enter Nick Winkler, an Emmy award-winning investigative journalist I hired to conduct deep, personal interviews that would help us understand that spark that lives in every entrepreneur.
Together, we produced over 100 case studies, but this one was exceptional.
Marshawn Lynch, A.K.A Beast Mode, of the Seattle Seahawks, decided to use Shopify Plus to power his retail experience, after announcing his retirement from the NFL two days after his Superbowl win. He was our first celebrity merchant.
I wanted video, so I evaluated several agencies and landed on Ridge Productions who was able to masterfully capture the energy of the opening day.
Read the case study
Sorry, but you don’t know the Marshawn Lynch we do.
For just a moment, try to forget about the Lynch who was frequently fined for violating the NFL’s media policy…
Or the one reprimanded for making obscene gestures to celebrate touchdowns.
Nope, the Lynch we know, the little boy who grew up in the projects where food on the dinner table was never taken for granted turned future NFL Hall of Famer, is actually a humble gentleman. You see, he gave up a professional football career at the age of 29 to go back to the hood that produced him and give the next generation hope. That’s the guy that just might make a difference.
To really understand Lynch…
Picture a guy in the wee hours of a chilly Oakland morning who is first to arrive at his flagship apparel boutique to be launched later that day. The Marshawn Lynch we’d come to know opens the store along-side his team, assists customers with their selections, and even tidies up at the end of the day.
The Lynch you know may not always sign autographs or smile for cameras.
But the one we know will surprise you. Watch the video and you’ll see what we mean.
The Goodbye Tweet
One big surprise would come just two days after Lynch would open Beast Mode, a boutique apparel store that complements the ecommerce business he built selling branded hoodies, sweats, and shirts he helps design.
But something wasn’t right.
Others could feel it too.
“I was really nervous before the store opening,” says Mitch Grossbach, the CEO of M3/Fashion and Lynch’s business partner tasked with helping grow the Beast Mode brand. “There was just a lot of nail biting. I didn’t know if enough people would show up. It could be embarrassing.”
Turns out those nails were being bitten for the wrong reason.
The grand opening, an event that prompted Oakland’s Mayor to officially proclaim February 5th, 2016 Beast Mode Day, would make history for a variety of reasons. Most notably, it’d be the last time Lynch would be seen in public as an active professional football player. Two days after the launch, Lynch dropped this Twitter bomb on the NFL during Super Bowl 50:
Without saying a word, Lynch had hung up his cleats for good.
He was done with football.
But just getting started in business.
The Birth of Beast Mode
Lynch grew up without a father much of his childhood in a rough part of Oakland with its share of drugs, gangs, and violence.
But Lynch was a beast on the football field.
“That nickname, Beast Mode, was given to him back in grade school,” Grossbach says. “Marshawn could run through a wall and not be fazed.”
The name stuck as Lynch became a high school All-American, attended college at Cal Berkeley, and became a first-round draft pick in the NFL where he’d earn millions of dollars and win a Super Bowl.
The Beast Mode monicker, which described Lynch’s hard charging, tackle-braking, north-south running style began to evolve into something more in 2014 when Lynch launched an ecommerce site selling Beast Mode branded apparel.
“Everyone has another gear,” Grossbach explains. “It’s mostly a mindset, that drives you to perform doing whatever you do beyond even your own expectations”
Beast Mode was slowly becoming a lifestyle brand designed to inspire others to be their best regardless of their past or circumstances.
Toward the end of his career, Lynch began wearing Beast Mode hats, hoodies, and gear to what can only be described as tense or combative media scrums. Little did anyone know at the time, but Lynch was dropping hints about what was to come.
And laying a foundation for an ecommerce future after football.
It was 48-hours before Lynch would call it quits on the gridiron that he started his career as an ecommerce merchant dipping his toes into the physical world of retail. “I just remember worrying how embarrassing it would be if only a handful of people were lined up at opening time” Grossbach recalls.
Not only did they show up, but they did so long before the store would open. By the time Grossbach arrived, a line of people clamoring to be first inside had formed. “There was a woman who was first in line, so I went over and asked how long she had been standing there,” Grossbach recalls. “She told me she had been there since 7 A.M. and wanted to be first because she used to babysit Marshawn as a child.”
The line grew longer and stretched the entire block. Once Lynch cut the ceremonial ribbon and the doors opened, Lynch’s fans rushed inside in Beast Mode and made hundreds of purchases. Shopify Plus was there with multiple cameras and documented the grand opening.
Lynch had successfully opened a store in the middle of Old Oakland. And just as he had throughout his playing days, through his Fam 1st Family Foundation, Lynch will donate a portion of the money he earns from Beast Mode to help Bay area children who haven’t been dealt a fair hand in life.
“Here’s a guy who doesn’t need to do this, doesn’t have to work this hard,” Grossbach says. “He’s a beacon for hope and change in a place that’s not always easy to live for children, and Marshawn has never forgotten that.”
When the Digital & Physical Worlds Merge
“It was just a banner day,” Grossbach says of the store launch. “It was pandemonium, and really emotional for all of us to be a part of something so special.”
It was also an experiment in next-generation commerce.
The impact a physical store might have on Lynch’s ecommerce business could break a couple of different ways: would the physical store cannibalize online sales or might the store act as a physical entry point into a digital world people might otherwise not enter?
The days following the launch would tell the tale. While Grossbach is keeping Beast Mode’s overall sales figures close to the vest, he is sharing a handful of metrics that provide ecommerce merchants insight into what can happen when the digital combines with the physical.
- Grossbach says in the thirty days that include the store launch:
- Ecommerce and store sales combined are in the 6 figures
- Sales increased 310% compared to the same period last year
- Online sales spiked after the physical store opened
- More than two thousand orders have been placed
- Online engagement has increased 150% since the physical store opened
“Our unique visitors are growing significantly as well,” Grossbach says. Grossbach believes the two stores are creating synergies from which each is benefiting and is confident the data suggests the physical and digital stores are complementing one another.
“The channels are working well together and enhancing one another,” he says. “We had no idea our online sales would spike like they did after we opened the Oakland store, so it’s no coincidence that the channels are having a positive impact on one another.”
Grossbach cited four potential reasons why the two stores are working so well together:
- Sold Out– many of the people who stood in line outside the physical store weren’t able to purchase what they wanted when they got inside; the store ran out of many styles in particular sizes. People leaving empty handed were encouraged by store associates to check online to get what they wanted. The staff’s access to both the online and in-store inventory via Shopify Plus was immensely helpful in these circumstances.
- Publicity– the store launch garnered major media coverage, especially in Seattle where Lynch played professionally, which may have contributed the the spike in online sales.
- Retirement– Lynch’s announcement following the launch may have caused fans to feel a bit nostalgic and prompted online purchases out of concern Lynch may also retire from the fashion business as well. Naturally — this is certainly not the case!
- Curiosity– customers experiencing Beast Mode apparel for the first time in the physical store may have become curious and gone online to learn more only to find the ecommerce store carries a wider selection of merchandise.
Turns out there’s one more variable contributing to the success; an invisible secret weapon that Grossbach suggests exemplifies the Beast Mode brand.
Shopify Plus is Always in Beast Mode
“By now you know I worry a lot,” Grossbach says only half kidding. “But we were really concerned we wouldn’t be able to check people out.”
The concerns Grossbach had were founded:
- There’s no permanent WiFi at the physical store, so we were using portable hot-spots.
- Beast Mode lacked experience accepting payments in a physical environment
- The team had just three point of sale iPads to handle an estimated 1,000 customers
That’s why Shopify Plus, an enterprise level ecommerce platform for high volume merchants, sent a team to Oakland to ensure Lynch and the Beast Mode team had the resources necessary to launch. “Shopify handled the wave, no problem,” Grossbach says. “Thankfully, it all went so well. We’re really happy with how it turned out.”
Not only does the Shopify Plus POS system Lynch used during the launch allow merchants to sell anywhere, but the centralized reporting also positions merchants see both physical and digital sales in real-time. “The real value for me is being able to log in and see it all on one dashboard,” Grossbach says. “I can track inventory for each of the stores, look for correlations between the two, and even track sales by sales associate.”
The company upgraded to Shopify Plus in 2014 and has logged a record number of orders during major events ever since:
- The 2014 Super Bowl Lynch’s Seahawks won
- The 2015 Black Friday sales event
- The 2016 flagship store opening
We have a rock solid solution,” Grossbach says. “Shopify Plus is absolutely in beast mode, and I trust it in any scenario.
A Beast Mode Future
Expect Lynch to spot holes in the market just as he did on the football field and blast through them full throttle. “Marshawn is going to experiment with categories outside apparel, but you’ll have to wait until April for the official announcement,” Grossbach teases.
Beyond new product categories, the early success Lynch has had with the physical store in Oakland has prompted him to plan one for Seattle. Just like the original, Lynch plans to turn future stores into mini-community centers by incorporating programs and activities.
“He just wants to make these stores places youth can come and find fulfillment and enjoyment without any pressure to buy a thing,” Grossbach says.
Both of those qualities were on display at the end of launch day in Oakland. In a private moment with employees, Lynch plucked a dollar bill from the cash register, took out a pen, and asked each employee to sign it. Here was one of the greatest all time football players, a future Hall of Famer, asking his staffers for their autographs.
“It was an emotional day because very seldom in life do you get to be a part of something that special,” Grossbach recalls. “I felt a sense of pride like I’ve never felt before. I have so much admiration for Marshawn. I felt privileged that he’s given me the opportunity to help him with this journey.”
That’s the Marshawn Lynch we know.
Now you do too.