Dave’s Guitar Shop – An E-commerce Website Win

“Sleeping Giant Studios has helped us grow our business by designing and managing our website and online presence.  Their knowledge of website design, e-commerce, and best practices have made a big difference for us.”

– Dave Rogers, Owner of Dave’s Guitar Shop

Blog_Daves-DaveDave’s Guitar Shop was started by Dave Rogers in the early 1980s and today is one of the largest independently owned guitar shops in the U.S.. It ranks as one of the top dealers in the country for well known brands such as Gibson, Fender, Martin, Paul Reed Smith, Rickenbacker, and many others.  Dave also buys and sells a large number of used and vintage guitars ranging from the neighborhood kid’s electric to a 1923 Gibson Lloyd Loar “Master Model” F5 Mandolin (yours for $225,000).

In addition to their inventory of guitars, amps, and accessories for sale, there is Dave’s Private Collection, which consists of well over 300 unique, irreplaceable guitars that Dave Rogers has collected over the years and put on display. This is a collection that puts most museums to shame and makes all guitar aficionados drool as their collective jaws hit the floor upon walking up the stairs leading to the collection.  Pardon the pun, but it is the proverbial “stairway to heaven”.

Some Background

We had identified Dave’s Guitar Shop as an ideal client long before it became one.  Dave had developed a business model that included a product mix, distribution model, and audience that we felt was a perfect fit for e-commerce.  He appeared to be doing quite a bit of sales via phone or mail order with lots of ads in industry magazines and the like.  I initially approached him in the 2003 or 2004 and pitched him on how we could help market his business and products online and increase his sales.  I recall him being very cordial and listening intently but letting me know that he was happy with the website that he had.  I thanked him for his time and left. offers strategies on how to optimize your website.

Blog_Daves-CollectionFast forward to 2009 and we received a call from Dave asking about website design services.  I pitched Dave our solution at the time, which consisted of a custom Content Management System that Sleeping Giant Studios had developed in-house in 2000.  We were right at the cusp of switching over to WordPress as our primary CMS but felt that we weren’t quite ready to implement e-commerce on WordPress at the time.  We had some additional meetings to address questions and details and Dave approved the project.

Within the first year of launching the site, organic traffic on the site had increased by 300%.  Two years later,, we approached Dave  about upgrading to WordPress, which he agreed to.  After some training on how to use WordPress, Dave’s team had the site humming along with product and content updates happening daily and we continued to see an increase in all major Key Performance Indicators.

Time For An Update

By 2014, the site had grown considerably and we had internally identified several opportunities to improve the performance of the site based on new technologies and our analysis of data in Google Analytics.  Dave had hired additional employees to help with sales and content management of the website and traffic was continuing to climb.  The e-commerce plugin that we had implemented in 2011 wasn’t as flexible as WooCommerce, the e-commerce plugin we had standardized on for WordPress e-commerce sites in 2012, and the design of the site was not mobile friendly or responsive.

Seeing as the website had continued to grow and perform, Dave agreed to the following updates to the website:

  • Updated visual design and layout of the website.
  • A switch to the WooCommerce e-commerce plugin.
  • A customized WordPress theme that included a responsive design.

Visual Design

The older version of the website included a long global navigation area that ran down the left sidebar of the entire site.  It was convenient and quick for viewing on a desktop but presented user experience issues for mobile users, particularly on smartphones.  We elected to use a more flexible horizontal global navigation bar that incorporated drop down navigation for deeper dives into the site.


We decided to evolve the visual design and style of the site to reflect a more “vintage and blues” feel that parallels the overall culture and brand of Dave’s Guitar Shop.  We also designed larger visual ad elements on the home page to allow for more promotional opportunities and put more visual emphasis on featured products and the social blogging and announcements that Dave’s team were planning on doing.

At the product page level, we “aired things out” and increased buffering and spacing between visual elements to give the pages a more balanced and less tense feel.  We put more focus on the product imagery and changed the colors of the calls to action on the page to get them to pop.  All of these changes have resulted in positive improvements in the performance of the site.


When we designed and built our first version of the Dave’s Guitar site in 2009, we had not fully transitioned over to becoming a WordPress shop so we used a custom, in-house built Content Management System and e-commerce solution that was written in ASP.  While the solution worked fine and contributed to helping increase online sales on the website, it was not as user friendly as other content management systems.  We understood that we didn’t want to be in the business of developing website frameworks and content management systems, which is why we made the switch to WordPress.


When we updated the site to WordPress in 2011, we used the  WP-Commerce plugin to facilitate e-commerce functionality on the site.  The switch to WordPress and WP-Commerce was a significant improvement over our in house solution and the team at Dave’s Guitar was happy with the change.  However, we had to custom develop several functionality improvements in order to address some of the needs that Dave’s Guitar had – notably with regards to how shipping and tax were being handled.

In 2012, we were fortunate to come across WooCommerce  and we began testing it out on a few of our e-commerce sites.  We haven’t looked back.  We found that WooCommerce was more flexible and had a good stable of functional extensions ready to go.  Their support has been stellar and the have done a fantastic job of constantly growing and curating their ecosystem of functionality building extensions.  We implemented WooCommerce on the Dave’s Guitar Website which the Dave’s team felt was a significantly better content management experience when compared to the previous e-commerce solution we had used.

Responsive Design

When we started working with Dave’s Guitar Shop, mobile website traffic was practically nonexistent.  Today, it is north of 35% of their total traffic and the trend isn’t slowing down.  This, combined with Google’s recent announcement of giving priority to mobile-friendly websites in its mobile search engine results made responsive design mandatory.


As little as a year ago, many people had a hard time believing that users would be willing to purchase products such as a $1000 guitar with a smartphone.  However, the rise and emergence of mobile devices has been so rapid that e-commerce transactions on smartphones are now quite common, and even the stats quo on many websites.  Ensuring that the Dave’s Guitar Shop website was optimized for smartphones was always a priority but the metrics showing the amount of mobile e-commerce conversions simply confirmed our instincts.


“Sleeping Giant Studios has consistently identified opportunities to improve our website that have had a positive impact on our sales and they’ve always been very responsive and quick to address any support needs we’ve had.”

– Dave Rogers, Owner of Dave’s Guitar Shop

Since launching the latest version of the site in May of 2015, we have seen significant improvements in several areas that we measure via Google Analytics.  Average order amount has increased, conversion rate among mobile users has increased, overall onsite conversion revenue has increased, and many other key performance indicators continue to grow and see gains.  Dave’s Guitar Shop’s commitment to continuously improving their website by investing in the opportunities that we have identified has been a huge part of their success.  We couldn’t be happier to be working with such a great client and partner and we look forward to continuing our successful relationship with them.

What Next?

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