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“FACT-Finder’s indexing times are unbelievable” – Best Practice: Ulla Popken

As an omni-channel player, Popken Fashion Group sells the fashion range of its four own-brands; Ulla Popken, GINA LAURA, Studio Untold and JP1880 international, in several hundred branches and, increasingly, via the internet. The group’s eCommerce was previously supported by an outdated search solution – however, this was increasingly reaching its limits given the rapid growth of the Popken Fashion Group. A new and more powerful search tool was quickly identified following a comparative test: since May 2016 FACT-Finder has been providing the group and its 12 shops both with better results and – first and foremost – with a drastic reduction in indexing time…

The previous search did not scale

The fact that the search function is the “heartbeat” of any online shop was something that was very clear to the management at Ulla Popken right from the start. So in 2008 they opted for a reputable solution that, to begin with, performed the job it was intended for. However, what no-one could have anticipated at the time was that this search function would not scale up in line with the growth of the group, which has been trading under the name Popken Fashion Group since 2012 – especially following the acquisition of GINA LAURA GmbH & Co. KG. “We reached the end of a cul-de-sac with our old search tool, and had to find a way out,” recalls Hauke Wessels, Online Shop Development Team Leader for the Popken Fashion Group in Rastede.

Today, continues Wessels, the Fashion Group has twelve different shops in five languages and representing two brands. “Previously there were of course fewer, but the problem lay in the fact that with each shop that was added over the years, the runtimes of the old search tool drastically increased – both with regard to data export and indexing times.” For a while, out of necessity, the group did its best to get by despite of these difficulties. “However, when we wanted to launch our US shop, we had reached a point where we knew: it couldn’t carry on this way.” Thus, the decision was made that the linking and implementation of the search function should be completely revamped. “In so doing we wanted to stick as closely as possible to the standard set by Hybris with Accelerator.”

The new search function should enable quicker updates

At this point in time people weren’t really talking much about FACT-Finder, as Wessels explains: “Originally we wanted to go with the new search function on Solr, this was as good as decided. But when you are replacing a component as important as the search function, you take another, very close look at everything. We had Hybris show us the Solr search tool and also had a look at what other solutions are available on the market. We even had another look at our old search function, with a view to checking the new search concept against it. And then in the summer of last year employees from FACT-Finder called in to see us, and this proved to be a very pleasant visit.”

In order to be able to offer a high level of user-friendliness in future, Popken Fashion Group places a great deal of value on automation, ranking-control and personalisation.

A cost-benefit analysis was then quickly performed within Popken Fashion Group and a catalogue of requirements put together. “It was really important to us that we should have the ability to apply updates quickly.” In addition, continues Wessels, they wanted to get away from the SKU level (Stock Keeping Unit), as it doesn’t make much sense for a search tool. “We now wanted to export and index data differently.” But that’s not all. Wessels and his team had another, much larger goal in their sights: “With the new solution we wanted to keep the time required for the indexing of the entire data pool for all countries and all clients to under one hour, this was our very clear objective.” In addition to this, they wanted to be well positioned with regard to the topics of automation, ranking and personalisation, for “if we are going to invest in a new search tool, it should be fit for purpose for a number of years and – unlike our old solution – it should be scalable in line with our own expansion,” notes Wessels.

FACT-Finder impresses with its speed and capacity to learn

On 26 September 2015 the “Proof of Concept” was carried out at Popken Fashion Group with FACT-Finder. “The clear concept and the simplicity of the technology impressed me immediately,” says Wessels, adding that the technical department found FACT-Finder’s capacity to learn and the automation to be very appealing features. “The search is not aware of clusters, which is a good thing, and in addition FACT-Finder reads the index very quickly. The search server is, therefore, immediately ready. The solutions we had previously from other providers were much worse in this regard.”

At the end of 2015 the decision-makers in finally settled in favour of the market leader when it comes to “Search & Navigation” , especially on account of the assured indexing time of no more than ten minutes.“ FACT-Finder was the only provider that had the courage to make this claim. For us this was the decisive argument, the solution came in well below the specified one hour limit.” What’s more, FACT-Finder also had the edge over the competition because those at the Fashion Group recognised the technological advantage that this search function had over the others.

Stable performance and new merchandising possibilities

Since May 2016, FACT-Finder has been live in the online shops of the Popken Fashion Group. The company hosts the search function itself and operates a 24/7 hotline to this end. “When it comes to the general server load, we are a great deal better off thanks to FACT-Finder on account of having redesigned the category pages.” The matter of ranking has now also taken on much greater significance within the Popken Fashion Group. “Previously it ran via our PIM system, which had been developed over time. The most recent product from the catalogue had to be right at the top,” explains Wessels, adding: “This used to be important. Today we can rank products automatically according to customer ratings, product availability and sales figures, which is of huge advantage. It supports conversion, so that the relevant products are further up the list of results. Since the integration of FACT-Finder, the search function has seen much more active use in our shops.”

“It couldn’t have gone any better”

What Hauke Wessels is most delighted about is the fact that his wildest expectations regarding the performance and speed of the search tool have again been exceeded, or to be more precise, undercut: “The new indexing times are simply unbelievable – They are currently running at two minutes not ten.” This isn’t the only reason why Wessels is thoroughly delighted with FACT-Finder: “We like the technology because it performs very well, but at the same time has been kept as simple as possible. Server operation is also easy to manage: We set up four servers for the search results alone, however, one would have presumably been sufficient. We really are delighted with the performance.”

Wessels also only has words of praise for the project realisation and the successful cooperation of the FACT-Finder team with the Popken Fashion Group: “It couldn’t have gone any better. The go-live process was absolutely seamless, which was fantastic.” Wessels goes on to tell us about the ‘transition to FACT-Finder: “The day after going live, I got to the office really early to enjoy the calm before the storm I was anticipating. My colleague from the technical department had even arrived an hour earlier, as he wanted to be prepared for every eventuality – and nothing happened. FACT-Finder ran like clockwork right from the outset.”

About the author


Stuart Patterson

is the Sales and Operations Director at FACT-Finder for UK and Ireland. Stuart brings a wealth of ecommerce experience having worked in both UK and Irish markets extensively. He has worked with small entrepreneurial start-ups to Global brands such as BMW, Vodafone and Mindshareworld. Stuart brings a fresh outside the box type of approach based research and best practices. He has 10 years ecommerce experience across all verticals. As a previous business owner he knows how to create bespoke ecommerce solutions tailored to specific requirements and objectives.

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