Exclusive Q&A: Fireworks retailer sees explosive e-commerce growth

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Red Apple Fireworks celebrates online success during its busy July 4 season and all year long, with assistance from the BigCommerce e-commerce platform.

Doug Burda, a former lawyer who hated practicing law and launched Red Apple Fireworks in 2011, explained to Chain Store Age how a year after commencing online retailing in 2018, his company moved its online operations to BigCommerce. The Nevada-based company ships fireworks to almost every state in the U.S., in accordance with all applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations.

What made you decide to switch to BigCommerce?We’ve been in business since 2011, but we started selling online in 2018 using another e-commerce platform. Unfortunately, we had to deal with a number of security issues, including a cyberattack due to a script vulnerability. It took us an entire weekend to get the site back up and lost a significant amount of revenue as a result. We were spending a lot of time just trying to keep the site up.

At times, it felt like we had to duct tape the platform together just to keep our site from falling apart. We knew we needed a better option and looked at BigCommerce and another platform. After really digging into the two platforms, we were excited about BigCommerce for several reasons, including its stable hosting and high standard for uptime, its content delivery network, native image optimization, site speeds, and security. BigCommerce appeared to have all the best practices in place.

What benefits does BigCommerce provide?
The impact on our business has been incredible. We switched to BigCommerce in 2019, and the growth we’ve experienced since then has been off the charts. Just looking at April-May 2020 on BigCommerce, compared to April-May 2019 when we were on our previous platform, we’ve experienced a 533% increase in online orders, 445% increase in gross online revenue, 146% increase in site users, 108% increase in page views, and 133% increase in conversion rate.

We saw universal increases in nearly all metrics. I think the conversion rate going up so much is particularly exciting. We also received incredible tech support that was essential in helping us launch our website. We appreciate how BigCommerce takes care of all the IT stuff like firewalls and intrusion detection to make sure our site remains up. This was really a big thing for us in terms of switching over to BigCommerce.

Red Apple is also taking advantage of BigCommerce’s capability to allow multiple stores to be managed within a single account, which has enabled us to launch new warehouses that are closer to our customers. In a matter of months, we were able to come up with a different way to serve customers on the East Coast.

How difficult is it to integrate your best-of-breed solutions?
When we were looking at switching, BigCommerce’s seamless integration with Braintree, our preferred payment processing tool, was a big factor. Since then, we’ve been able to add a lot of new features that benefit our customers because it’s just so easy to integrate with the third-party applications. To communicate with our audience in a more personalized manner, we began using Klaviyo for email marketing. powers our PyroCoin rewards program, and manages our customer reviews. 

Are there special strategies you used to handle the annual July 4 demand surge?
Incredibly, we didn't experience any site downtime this July 4 season! As a result of BigCommerce’s uptime guarantee, coupled with our new marketing and e-commerce merchandising initiatives, we boosted our conversion rate by 40%, which helped us nearly double our online revenue from last season.

On the hiring front, we start preparing to add to our seasonal team in March by asking our department heads to communicate the additional team members they foresee they will need. We then begin to work with a specialized staffing firm to find the right fit for each open position.

Lastly, probably the biggest hurdle in the surge for July 4th is the actual physical fulfillment of our product for in-store pickup and shipping orders. We are continually refining this process so that we can provide an industry-leading experience for our online customers even during the busiest time of our year.