YourPbFriend


YourPbFriend screenshot

Summary

  • Developed the #1 most-used paintball trade-in web application of 2015-2016
  • Increased revenue 10x in 2 years by switching to the Shopify platform
  • Identified key areas to successfully improve over competitors
  • Created a used gun rating system to successfully build buyer trust
  • Embedded YouTube content to educate and create value for customers
  • Wrote ecommerce SOPs for training and workflow optimization

I worked as a Web Developer and Digital Marketer for YourPbFriend from 2014-2016. During that time, I helped YourPbFriend.com become the fastest growing online paintball gear retailer — peaking at #2 by sales in 2015-2016 — and the #1 choice for paintball gear trade-ins. This was made possible by focusing on our experience with used paintball markers. I made this competitive advantage central to our business model with tasks including SEO, an in-depth trade-in web application, a robust used gun rating system, and delivery of high-quality product photos and videos. Our trade-in program is emulated by virtually every other online paintball retailer today.

Skills & tools used

Shopify over BigCommerce

In 2014 — after analyzing the ecommerce platform options — we moved from BigCommerce to Shopify because of its larger third-party application marketplace. These applications enabled me to quickly add features with minimal development time so that during my time with the company I successfully developed or implemented the following features:

  • Trade-In Web Application
  • Customer Product Reviews System
  • Live Search Suggestions
  • Facebook Page Widget
  • Product Structured Data
  • Zopim Customer Live Chat
  • Facebook Like Buttons for Product Pages
  • YouTube Video Feed
  • Pre-Order and Custom Order Product Types
  • Holiday Website Themes
  • Product Labels from Product Tags
  • Related Product Recommendations
  • In-Cart Upsells
  • Sales Rep Affiliate Selector
  • Marker Anodization Gallery

In order to add these features, I had to customize our store theme to a high degree.

YPBF Shopify Theme

Responsive YPBF Theme screenshot

When building our Shopify store, I chose a theme that had support for large product catalogs, a responsive design, and a sporty style as a starting place. This allowed me to quickly get to feature additions and deliver on customer needs instead of building from scratch.

Collection page screenshot

Product page screenshot

Collection and product pages were customized to include product reviews and ratings, pre-order agreement forms, social like buttons, structured data, and a product label system.

Social widgets screenshot

Many sitewide improvements were also implemented including social media widgets, live chat, live search suggestions, product recommendations, upsells, and holiday themes.

YouTube feed screenshot

I also created a feed on the homepage to display uploads from the YouTube channel. It promoted the latest YourPbFriend video and a weekly show for used guns. These were populated from two specific playlists and displayed responsively for mobile viewing.

Development Environment

Code Editor screenshot

My development and customization workflow involved the Shopify code editor at first, but eventually a local environment thanks to the Shopify Theme Kit. Modification of the frontend involved the Shopify Liquid templating language, JavaScript, jQuery, and of course HTML and CSS/SASS.

Trade-In Web Application

Trade-In Program screenshot

To fully leverage our paintball gun trading experience, I created a trade-in application for accepting offers from customers. The customers were asked a series of questions regarding the trade offer and were required to upload images of their gear. The deal was assigned a unique trade number and negotiated through a series of email communications.

I built the frontend with Bootstrap and JavaScript and the backend with PHP. The trade form frontend verified that the customer provided all the required information including attaching photos. Once submitted, the backend created a unique trade number/ID, checked all required information was included, and sent emails to both the customer and staff. From there, all negotiation was carried out by email. This workflow was chosen because it was similar to existing practice and did not require extra logins for a communications portal.

Used gun collection screenshot

The success of the trade program was a testament not only to what was offered — top-dollar credit from used gear towards new and other used gear — but also to the quality of the trade-in web application. This was easy to see by the size of YourPbFriend's used gun collection, how quickly that inventory turned over, and the overwhelming number of trade offers received. The program outclassed the competition in trade application experience, credit received, trade volume, product details, and used gun selection. It was so successful that it became integral to the company's business model and is imitated to this day.

Digital Marketing

YourPbFriend digital marketing campaigns primarily utilized website banners, email marketing, retargeting ads — the majority of which I created — and SEO.

Campaigns

YourPbFriend ad samples image

The ads either served products that customers had viewed or promoted the trade program and seasonal deals. I placed them on PbNation, the Google Display Network, and the Facebook (Meta) Ads Network, and I optimized the ad results with A/B testing. However, the latter two ad networks eventually restricted paintball and airsoft advertisements. Because of this, we attempted to only market gear (without guns) as a way around the Google and Facebook restrictions, but ultimately failed.

YourPbFriend banner samples image

YourPbFriend banner samples image

Many campaigns simply targeted customers who visited our website or subscribed to our email marketing. These used the same banners and often advertised new gun releases, special trade-in credit incentives, and sales.

YourPbFriend social media samples image

I also created most of YourPbFriend's social media cover photos and profile pictures, always ensuring that they were compatible with all screen sizes.

SEO

I performed several search engine optimization tasks for YourPbFriend. These included:

  • Sitemap submission
  • Google Search Console and Analytics setup
  • Page load time optimization
  • Keyword targeting
  • Content generation

When selecting the theme to build upon, I made sure it had responsive design and featured structured data so that Google could generate Rich Results for top ranking pages. For keyword targeting and content generation, I set up Google Analytics and worked with the team to identify customer interest and need. This allowed me to optimize existing pages and collections for the keyword phrases paintballers and airsofters were searching. It also allowed me to identify other things they were searching for and create pages for those as well. Due to the success of the business, I did not need to implement a backlink strategy; we were receiving backlinks organically. This is not always the case, so this illustrated how well we filled industry needs.

Used Paintball Gun Rating System

Shortly after the launch of YourPbFriend's trade-in program, a colleague and I realized that there needed to be a standard for appraising a used paintball gun's condition — one that would generate consistent, objective ratings. We knew that if we could accomplish this, buyer trust would increase immensely. So we got to work on creating it.

To generate reliable ratings, we first identified the two major areas of concern when purchasing a used gun: the mechanical condition and the cosmetic condition. From there, we broke down both major areas into their various parts and assigned weighted values to each on a natural number scale of 1–5 (1 being the worst and 5 the best). These included the condition of parts like the barrel, bolt, ASA, feedneck, laser eyes, etc. When each pre-determined sub-area was assigned a value and averaged, it produced an overall rating for the gun on a scale of 1.0–5.0.

After thorough testing, we created a spreadsheet for rapidly generating ratings. Each area of concern had its own description and dropdown from which a rating could be set (e.g., 1—Heavily Scratched to 5—Like New). The spreadsheet streamlined the process of listing used paintball guns and helped produce more objective ratings. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of the rating calculator spreadsheet anymore.

The creation of the used paintball gun rating system and spreadsheet implementation contributed greatly to the success of the trade program. Each used gun listing linked to information about our rating system, and, as a result, we saw a decrease in customer questions regarding used gun listings. We also received praise for our transparency. This improvement contributed to making the YourPbFriend trade program the most successful in the paintball industry.


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