Boathouse Increases Lookbook Engagement, Conversions With Zmags Creator

As one of Canada’s top retail destinations for action sports apparel and accessories, Boathouse Stores has expanded from a small business to a thriving omnichannel organization.

Now selling through more than 70 stores across Canada, Boathouse also operates a successful e-Commerce site and engages customers through social media and its On Deck Blog.

Since launching its e-Commerce site in 2008, Boathouse has recognized several shifts in consumer behaviors and preferences. For instance, half of the retailer’s traffic is now coming from mobile devices, whereas a few years ago, it was less than half of that amount, according to Marc Schwartz, Digital and Marketing Strategy Leader at Boathouse. Based on this trend, the retailer launched a new responsive site.


But most notably, Boathouse noticed customers were demanding richer, more engaging content.

“Content plays a huge role in ensuring a positive customer experience which, in turn, leads to higher conversion rates and more sales,” Schwartz said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “As part of that, increasing the frequency of how often we deploy new content to our site is important in creating a compelling reason for our customers to return.”

To accelerate content production and publication, Boathouse implemented Zmags Creator in February 2015. After plugging a “simple line of code” on the e-Commerce site, the retailer was positioned to publish immersive, shoppable lookbooks.

“Prior to launching Creator, our average page view time was 30 seconds,” Schwartz noted. “However, with two separate lookbook collections — both featuring animation, rich imagery and video, and made shoppable through Creator — our average page views have skyrocketed 800%, and customers are now spending up to eight minutes on a lookbook.” Boathouse also has seen Creator campaigns garner conversion rates 85% higher than other channels. 

Accelerating Content Creation

Although Schwartz noted that Creator has impacted the customer experience, the technology also has improved employee productivity and overall content quality.

A small team of designers and marketers, Schwartz and his colleagues had limited resources and relied on a third party to manage the web site. “Any changes and enhancements require advance planning and require coordination with the outside agency, so any technology or content changes to the site were time consuming and costly — usually thousands of dollars.”

And when new content was published on the Boathouse e-Commerce site, there were major limitations in the design, especially regarding video, scrolling and animations. It also wasn’t shoppable.

“Adding any of these capabilities through our commerce platform would have required custom coding,” Schwartz explained, “and that’s always expensive and time consuming.”

Now, the Boathouse team is equipped to create powerful branded content on a consistent basis, including comprehensive lookbooks focused on specific product lines. The retailer also can create “mini lookbooks” for mid-season campaigns, and plans to implement richer content using Creator throughout the e-Commerce site. 

Creator also touts a variety of widgets that allow the Boathouse team to make lookbooks and other content even more compelling. In addition to adding a variety of animations, images, texts and videos, one widget allows the team to integrate content from anywhere on the web. That means Boathouse can add Twitter feeds, store finders and even Spotify playlists to its content.

“The ease of use and the speed with which we can create and deploy new content to the web site has allowed us to move more quickly,” Schwartz said. “If I see a trend we can capitalize on, then I can add it to my site within a day.”


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