Digital Ecommerce Transformation With Focus on Enterprise Algolia Search for Retail Online Sales

Pier-1 Stores Have Gone Online

First Glance


Pier 1 is an iconic home decor and furniture retailer that started over 50 years ago. They became famous for their unique home items from around the world. Facing the challenges of a rapidly changing retail landscape, Pier 1 made a strategic pivot towards becoming an online-only retailer by utilizing Shopify Plus. With a huge list of home furnishings, decor and accessories, Pier 1 needed an easy, yet powerful way for online customers to browse items. In 2022, the team behind Pier 1 reached out to Sunrise Integration for a custom ecommerce development.


Our collaboration centered around providing expert design services, Shopify Plus development and implementing custom search functionality powered by Algolia. Using Algolia, the Pier-1 site could improve the way customers discover and engage with the products online. This project aimed to make shopping at Pier-1 online a great experience.

Custom Design and Integration for Pier-1

The Challenge


In transitioning Pier 1 to an online-only retail format, Sunrise Integration encountered several development and design challenges that were crucial to solve for creating an efficient shopping experience. With such a big catalog of items, the search needed to be powerful and quick. It was important that customers could find what they needed right away. So we had to start with a solution that focused on search.


Developing search features that can handle large catalogs, complex queries and still return relevant results is challenging. Algolia integration was central to our strategy, enabling us to provide Pier 1 customers with fast, accurate search results. However, tailoring Algolia to meet the specific needs of Pier 1's diverse inventory required meticulous configuration of search algorithms, including relevance tuning, synonym management, and handling misspellings to ensure users find exactly what they're looking for, even with vague or partially incorrect queries.


Once the search results were returned, we needed to make sure that the results looked good. This design challenge was important to ensure searching was as straightforward and efficient as possible. This involved strategic placement of the search bar, predictive results and auto-complete search suggestions. The results had to be displayed in an organized, visually appealing manner that aligned with Pier-1's branding requirements.


A well-designed, powerful search system enhances the overall shopping experience. When customers find relevant results, they continue exploring and ultimately purchasing. Addressing these challenges was essential in completing Pier 1's online-only business model.

Algolia search implementation with Pier-1

The Solution


To overcome the search and design challenges for Pier 1's Shopify store, we came up with some smart solutions that made the website not just good to look at but also easy to use. We used a custom integration with the Algolia API including real time search queries. The final solution involved the following custom tools and integration work:


Smart Search with Algolia


Algolia is a powerful, cloud-based tool that makes searching really fast and smart. Sunrise Integration has been a longtime Algolia partner and we use it for enterprise clients who need a comprehensive solution. We configured it in such a way that it uses multi-indexing for smart product matching. We also used the search to provide related results like matching Shopify Collections. The integration involved:


The first step is configuring Algolia's to match Pier 1's large catalog needs. This meant organizing items and ranking products to ensure the most important ones show first. In order to manage the large amount of product data, we had to work on an indexing strategy that helped organize the products.


Product Indexing Strategy

We organized all of Pier-1's products in Algolia's system so that every item could be found quickly based on what you type in the search bar. This is a process that involves indexing the products within Algolia's backend system. Indexing is like organizing a library of books so you can find what you need quickly. This involves breaking down the product information into manageable pieces that can be searched in milliseconds. This process analyzes text for search relevance, creating a map of all possible search terms to their corresponding data. This information is stored in an "index" that the search engine can access quickly via an integration with the Algolia API. So now, when a customer searches, Algolia looks at the query, figures out what's important and prepares it for quick results.


Product Synchronization

We made sure that whenever new products are added to Pier 1's catalog, they automatically get updated in Algolia too. This way, the search always includes the latest items. This sync is critical to ensuring that the search stays up to date.  


The Algolia backend configuration pages



Custom Design on Shopify


Pier 1 uses Shopify Plus and our expert team knew we could tailor the pages and search results to provide a pleasing user experience. Our design team was able to provide high-fidelity comps of improved UI/UX designs for the PDP, PLP and search features. Having a well-optimized Product Detail Pages (PDPs) and Product Listing Pages (PLPs) is crucial for convert visitors into buyers. Well-designed pages make a strong first impression, encouraging visitors to explore and make purchases. The ability for Pier 1 to showcase products attractively while providing all the necessary details can significantly impact conversion rates.


Custom Design

We designed a unique look for the PDP, PLP and search results page that fits perfectly with Pier 1's style. This made the pages not just useful but also nice to look at with relevant product and collections. By integrating links to related Shopify collections within the search results, we provided customers with a more contextually rich browsing experience. For example, a search for "outdoor furniture" yields not only specific product listings but also links to "Patio Sets" or "Outdoor Decor." This guides customers through Pier-1's catalog in a way that feels more natural. This layered approach to search results invites customers to explore Pier-1’s offerings more deeply, increasing engagement on the site.


Liquid Programming

Shopify uses a programming language called Liquid to build and customize pages. We used Liquid to make sure the search results page showed the products in a way that's easy for customers to find what they need. Shopify Liquid allowed us to dynamically display products, collections, and results that matched user queries. This customization yielded results for specific products, related collections and even blog pages.


Although the actual search engine logic was powered by Algolia, integrating the results into Shopify’s framework required the flexibility of Liquid. We integrated Shopify with Algolia’s API, fetching the search results from Algolia and displaying them within the theme. This included auto-complete suggestions and instant search results as users type their queries.


Custom UI/UX design for the Pier-1 Shopify site
Improved Pier-1 Online Shopping

The Outcome


Sunrise Integration took on the challenge of transforming Pier 1's online shopping experience by implementing a smart, Algolia-powered search function and customizing the design on Shopify. Through meticulous indexing and synchronization of Pier 1's product catalog with Algolia, we ensured that customers can find exactly what they're looking for with incredible speed and accuracy. This enhanced search capability and custom responsive design gives Pier 1 a solid foundation to support and retain customers on the Shopify site.


Customers can now more easily navigate through a wide range of home decor products, making their product searches more relevant. Pier 1 is now well-equipped to attract customers, drive sales and stand out in the competitive online retail market.


Pier 1 adds to Sunrise Integration's long list of clients in the furniture and home decor space. This experience not only showcases our expertise in tackling the unique challenges of online furniture retail but also demonstrates our ability to innovate and adapt to the specific needs of this industry. Having worked extensively in the furniture and home decor sector, we've gained valuable insights into consumer behavior, market trends, and the competitive landscape. This knowledge enables us to offer strategic advice to our clients, helping them stay ahead of the curve and meet customers' evolving needs in the world digital commerce.