The Football Association of Finland migrated to Shopify to reach ambitious growth targets in international eCommerce
Football brings people together globally. For decades Finns have dreamed of the day the men’s national team would make it to championship games. And the day finally came in November 2019. Huuhkajat became the heroes of the nation and the Finnish Football association seized the opportunity by providing fans with team merchandise, preparing for the 2020 European championship games.
Everything starts with a strategy
In the strategy of the Finnish Football Association one objective is “to be the greatest sport on and off the field.” To achieve this, it takes dedication from players as well as the commercial team.
“ Now that Finland is one of the few countries that has a team qualified in all three - UEFA Euro 2020, UEFA Women's Euro 2022 and UEFA Futsal Euro 2022, it tells that on the field we are doing great. The Official Online Store of the Finnish National Team does its part off the field. We want to perform on the same European top-level in ecommerce as our teams do on the field.”
Lauri Latvala, sales manager, Football association of Finland
Covid‐19 and Football: Global Crisis Creates new Business Opportunity
In March 2020 the world closed down, Covid 19 paused everything, ecommerce included. Championship games were postponed.
The football team had shown an example of what perseverance and hard work can accomplish. So the commercial team set a big, international goal for themselves too. This resulted in the decision to make ecommerce a key business for them, not a side project along with everything else. This commitment to ecommerce drove the team forward with a passion. Finland is a small nation, but football is a global family. They identified international opportunities in the large football family and fans.
Migrating from Drupal to Shopify
Pre-pandemic, the eCommerce sales were already rapidly growing. The growth in 2019 was an astonishing 200%, followed by another 100% growth in 2020. The original plan was to make gradual development on the existing ecommerce platform Drupal. With the constant growth, and high expectations for the upcoming European Championship games, the worry for handling drastic traffic peaks increased.
They did a thorough investigation and ended with two possible choices: WooCommerce and Shopify. Finally, the scale turned to migrating to Shopify because of the pressure of a speedy execution and ability to handle massive traffic peaks. In the migration, the Football Association set these goals for their new eCommerce platform:
- Fast launch
- Reliable in user peaks. Even drastic traffic peaks, connected with events need to perform to perfection
- Uncluttered and clear design for customer experience
- Customer experience and user friendliness - for all
- Scalable in every way, in sync with the pace of growth
- Flexibility to add functionalities for the developing expectations of customers all around the world
- Easy maintenance and updating the store, including visuals needs to be easy and such that their team can do it themselves
- Cost efficient
Once Shopify was a clear choice, they started searching for a partner. After research and getting recommendations from their networks, they contacted Woolman and immediately there was a match.
Teamwork makes dreamwork
During the planning phase most value came from co-creating and bouncing off ideas with the Woolman team to achieve goals. The strategy was to keep a clear focus on successfully migrating platforms, designing an uncluttered, nicely flowing user experience and to ensure performance in high traffic peaks. Quick launch was achieved as planned and there was still enough time to make improvements before the European Championship games began. The shop, like the team, was ready for the first championship game.
Football a global language that unites people
Finland - Denmark, Parken Stadium June 17th. The first European Champion game for team Finland Huuhkajat was played in Copenhagen. The game was even and just before the first half of the game everything suddenly changed. Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field and the football world fell silent, waiting to hear news of his condition. Fans in Parken Stadium witnessed the frailty of life. Once news of Christian Eriksen being conscious reached the Stadium football family was united. Finnish fans started a chant “Christian” to which Danish fans responded with “Eriksen”. This shared respect and compassion among fans made it to world news. The game eventually continued, and Huuhkajat won their historic, first game.
Investments on and off the field pay off
Gigantic peak and record breaking sales in the webstore
Game events are the platform for executing extensive marketing campaigns to drive fans to stores. Traffic peaks during games are the goal the eCommerce team strives for. Still, what happened after the Finland-Denmark game, exceeded by far the already high expectations the Football Association had for sales. The webstores flooded with fans from all over the world and sales skyrocketed. Shopify handled the traffic peak beautifully with no hiccups whatsoever.
To understand the scale, the sales from the fan store exceeded the total sales of 2018 in just 24 hours after the first game. What actually happened, was the biggest flash sale The Football Association ever experienced. Overall expectations for growth in 2021 are expected to be in three digits again.
What are the next steps for growth?
In commerce the ever interesting question is - what next.
“First of all, we are going to start analyzing our sales and customer data to gain insight and to drive decision making with data. We see huge potential in the data. As a team, we are committed to experimenting continuously to strive for growth. With experiments we develop our understanding and know-how. And finally, we intend to use Shopify to the maximum and will continue to work hand in hand with Woolman to achieve our ambitious growth vision.”
Lauri Latvala, sales manager, Football association of Finland
Mareena Löfgren, Brand Manager, Woolman Oy