Building an e-commerce storefront as engaging as the in-store experience, with visual storytelling and the ability to update product pages quickly with new rich content.
"Sanity lets us say yes to our creative ideas. I'm so used to hearing ‘no, that's not possible on this platform.’ Not anymore! It's an awesome feeling and has really opened up how we think about engaging with our customers."
AETHER is a prestige clothing brand for well-traveled men and women that offers high-style outerwear, knits, and footwear that stand up to the elements of adventure.
Unique Product Detail Pages (PDPs) can be built in a single day instead of taking weeks.
More tangible visual content helps customers feel like they’re getting an in-store experience, spurring purchases and increased engagement with product lines.
The ability to execute creative campaign ideas, like a choose-your-own-adventure holiday gift guide, is quick and easy to set up with minimal engineering support required.
AETHER Apparel started in 2009 as a menswear collection that was high on style and tough enough to stand up to the demands of an active outdoor lifestyle. Today, AETHER is a go-to for active men and women around the U.S. with showrooms in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Aspen, as well as a roaming retail store, AETHER Stream, created with French designer Thierry Gaugain.
When the company decided to build a new online store, they wanted their digital storefront to reflect the physical store experience: building a sense of community around the AETHER ethos, which embodies a love of the outdoors, travel, and looking good while adventuring. This required a new level of visual storytelling and a modern, extensible content platform.
AETHER partnered with digital consultancy Commerce-UI, the tech wizards behind the composable commerce systems for iconic brands like Liftfoils and Oura Ring, to build a new online store that would not just sell products, but deepen the community feel of the brand.
"When we decided to redesign our e-commerce website, we very carefully looked for a dev agency that cared as much about technical capabilities as they did about design. This is truly a rare combination of talents, but we found it with the Commerce-UI team," said Evan Backes, AETHER’s digital art director.
AETHER wanted to be free to experiment with the online store in the same way they do with their physical showrooms, allowing customers to get as close to touching, feeling, and experiencing the product as possible. To do this, they needed a platform that would help them move fast and execute creative ideas easily.
The Commerce-UI team recommended Sanity for the project because of its extensibility and flexible approach to telling stories with rich content.
Sanity also integrated directly with headless Shopify so the commerce platform automatically stayed in sync with the presentation layer. This gave Commerce-UI all the benefits of a headless CMS, with the ability to build compelling visual content and distribute it on any channel, and the power of Shopify’s seamless purchasing experience for customers.
“The out-of-the-box integration between Sanity and Shopify was one of the most important layers of the project, and it worked flawlessly,” said Michal Wolczecki-Klim, CTO of Commerce-UI.
Sanity also connected with other tools like Mux to show off visuals and video of those products. With AETHER’s founders having roots in Hollywood, video is native to the brand and something they can now tap into more deeply with Sanity.
Sanity nailed the small things that had big impacts on team velocity too. Commerce-UI developed a tailor-made system for live previews on top of Sanity’s native preview function, and unlike with other platforms AETHER had used, it worked perfectly. The ability to preview content in production before it went live improved team collaboration and expedited the creative process. Time-consuming edits like cropping images to fit with new content campaigns are also a thing of the past; with Sanity, those changes can be made quickly and easily in the Sanity Studio. Not having to context switch to another design tool to make those changes was a major boon to the AETHER team that helped them move even faster.
“Sanity provides a great balance between developers and editors, elevating the user experience for everyone and not just the technical teams,” said Wesierski.
To engage with their customers the way AETHER envisioned, it wasn’t enough to rely on static, templated pages for the online store. With a brand focused on showcasing the unique value proposition for each individual product in-store, the digital solution had to enable the same level of visual storytelling.
The AETHER team had an ambitious goal for each product detail page (PDP) to be unique and rich with content. Almost every PDP on their site has a vast amount of editorial data, images, and videos. At the time, creating a unique story for a single product page would take weeks to build, and with a few hundred products in total, AETHER had to be judicious about which campaigns were worth this investment from developers.
Now, with Sanity, AETHER is able to build a unique PDP for a product within a day. With a self-serve system for creating PDPs with live previews, the content and marketing teams can launch new products and update their landing pages without asking the development team for help. This includes adding more feature-rich technical information for product pages, including metadata such as weather and temperature considerations for outerwear, and improving size charts with garment-specific data.
For its recently launched Ojai rain boot, which became one of the company’s top sellers almost instantly, AETHER built its unique product page in a single day. The product page showcased videos of the boot in the wild on adventures and high-res photos so detailed you could practically feel the suede nap and breathe in the new leather smell.
The impact of being able to create these immersive shopping experiences quickly has already had a significant positive impact on AETHER’s bottom line. Since implementing Sanity just a few months ago in September 2022, AETHER has already seen impressive improvements in website performance across the board, with revenue up by 11% year-over-year since launch.
“We are seeing increased time on page, time per session, conversion rates, average order value – pretty much every metric you can think of,” said Ashley Brooks, AETHER’s digital and e-commerce operations manager.
The increased freedom to build with Sanity has opened up new paths to creativity and connection with customers. For the first time in its history, AETHER built a holiday gift guide themed by choose-your-own-adventure activities, anchored with rich imagery and video content. A new initiative, AETHER VIP, brings loyal customers into the fold as the company builds new products and gives them privileged access to campaigns before they’re released to the public. Sanity enables this through a unique site experience for customers logged in with VIP status, showing new products to VIP users before they go live on the main site.
As AETHER grows, Commerce-UI and Sanity are empowering the company to explore new ways to tell the stories that matter to its community, connect shoppers to the brand, and build lasting loyalty.