A rigid ecommerce-centric platform required coding to add or update content, forcing content management responsibilities into the hands of engineers.
Reliance on engineering slowed production timeliness, limiting creativity and opportunities to experiment and iterate in pursuit of a more optimized customer experience.
Upcoming celebrity endorsements likely to spike viral traffic and plans to scale to new markets required more reliable delivery features.
An easy-to-use composable content platform enables Hydrow designers, marketers, and product managers to add, edit, and update content in minutes or add entirely new pages and modules.
A fast content production process frees time and resources to focus on optimization including building more granular customer segments, A/B testing new content, and using data to inform changes to content and layout.
The cloud-native platform with its edge-caching services and reliable content delivery network provides elasticity, supporting high traffic and positioning the company to scale to new markets.
"We're using Contentful to bring intentional storytelling to members and prospects in a way that allows us to measure its performance and iterate on those findings."
“Contentful is giving us agility in terms of being able to just very nimbly author and deliver content at speed and at scale.”
“We now have the ability to blend in and orchestrate content, alongside all of the other experiences — commerce, class bookings — driven by APIs.”
An overcast sky hangs on the horizon as if balancing on the blue-green waves below. Water laps at the bow of your boat gently, then with force as you move your oar more rhythmically. Confounded by how capable you feel and calmed by repetition, you remember why you love rowing and wish you could find the time and place to do so more often.
Hydrow is granting this wish. Its at-home rowing machines and live-action and pre-recorded workouts make rowing accessible from any place at any time, seemingly transporting users to the virtual seas.
“When members receive their Hydrows and use them for the first time, there’s an ‘Oh, wow’ moment. As they engage during athlete-guided workouts, they have a sense that they are part of something bigger. That joy, that community, is something we want to share with as many people as possible,” Reuben Kabel, Senior Vice President of Engineering at Hydrow, said.
But, before customers buy the product, they must buy into the idea of it — how to use it, how it will impact their lives, and who they will become when they log on for that live-streamed rowing, yoga, or strength class. Communicating this effectively requires well-crafted content housed on an attractive, modern website — which Hydrow has been able to create and easily maintain using Contentful.
Navigating choppy content operations
Shortly after the company was founded in 2017, it began using Shopify to support its digital commerce and marketing needs. But, by 2022, Hydrow had grown in popularity and offerings. As team members came up with ideas for new content to keep customers in their ecosystem, they began to feel the editorial limitations of an ecommerce-centric tool, which they had been using for almost everything.
The platform’s rigid templates required extensive code to change out content and design — which meant tasks normally in the realm of marketing became the responsibility of engineers. This rigidity and technical reliance forced production timelines weeks, if not months, into the future, hindering creativity and responsiveness to marketplace changes, customer feedback, and data.
Hydrow didn’t want to give up its Shopify ecommerce platform entirely but it did want more capabilities and speed regarding its content management, creation, and publication. With Contentful, Hydrow discovered the two aren't mutually exclusive.
Charting the course toward a new content platform
Although Hydrow was able to identify that its marketing site needed more robust content management features, it had little insight into alternatives. The company brought in Wunderman Thompson Commerce and Technology to consult and provide implementation support once a new tool was selected.
“Customers want rich experiences and we want to be able to quickly deliver them from both the technical and the content production sides of things,” Kabel added.
The agency recommended the Contentful Composable Content Platform for its editor-friendly interface, extreme flexibility, delivery speed, and reliability. The latter two factors were becoming more and more important for Hydrow with celebrity collaborations on the books — meaning increased potential for viral-induced traffic spikes — and the holidays approaching.
Pleased with the platform’s specifications, Hydrow and Wunderman Thompson Commerce and Technology began the re-platform in spring 2022, with the formal relaunch slotted later that year in the fall. There was no room for error or time to waste as a celebrity was slated to announce their ambassadorship later that month, opening the door to heavy traffic.
Collaborating as a crew and solo
Just one week after implementation, a good portion of Hydrow’s team felt comfortable with the new tool and saw changes in content production timelines immediately. Before Contentful, it took Hydrow’s digital team three weeks to make content edits and months to launch new pages. Today, those same processes take just ten minutes and a few hours, respectively.
“Our designers, product managers, and marketers have different roles and responsibilities but they were able to pick up the platform very quickly with little to no technical experience,” Kabel said.
Design can easily set up new pages to improve the visual appeal of the site. Marketing can create attractive advertisements, offers, and content — like its growing blog and new athlete profiles — to inspire and engage. And, with Shopify easily integrated from the Contentful Marketplace, the Ecommerce and Product teams have more freedom in how they position products and don’t have to move between platforms to connect listings.
Despite contributions from diverse teams, Hydrow has been able to achieve consistency across its site. Contentful’s approach to content, which lies in composability, is responsible for this. Similar to atomic design, it utilizes content models and content types that templatize the content Hydrow creates, covering just the right balance of structure and freedom.
In instances where cross-functional workflows are happening, Hydrow has integrated Slack to provide updates and notifications on content publishing.
Driving speed and reliability
Hydrow’s autonomy and agility were essential for meeting the impending re-platforming deadline. When one well-known media personality and socialite broke the news that she was the new Hydrow ambassador across social media on Oct. 28, Hydrow’s marketing site speed remained the same despite an immediate surge in site visitors. Since re-platforming, site performance has increased across the board — 34% on web and 50% on mobile.
“That level of elasticity, the ability to handle those surges, it really goes unmatched,” Kabel emphasized.
The cloud-native platform and edge-caching services play a key role in delivery and reliability. They’ve eliminated site outages and require very little management — a huge positive as the company scales to serve new markets outside of the U.S. and UK.
Sprinting toward a better customer experience
With content and delivery easily managed, Hydrow has been able to invest more time and resources into optimization. It uses data and A/B tests to develop more granular audience segments and experiment to discover what types of content are the most effective in converting them. According to Kabel, this is an “always-on” project — which he hopes will lay the groundwork for future personalization efforts.
“We're proud of what we’ve done so far and we’re excited to layer onto that digital experience with more testing to improve core metrics and the overall experience,” Kabel concluded.