Due to COVID-19 the entire Urban Element Team will be working remotely.

A site to sell online to an International market


The Varsity Shop (Castell & Son (Oxford) Limited), part of the Shepherd and Woodward Group, originated the Oxford College Colours in the 1850s and introduced the first modern-style necktie in 1870. From then to now, The Varsity Shop has provided a wide range of College clothing and accessories for Students, Graduates and Visitors to the beautiful University City of Oxford.

As an iconic local brand, we were delighted to help The Varsity Shop evolve online, introducing an updated site that is optimised, enhanced, customer-centric and more competitive; giving the brand an edge in the modern e-commerce sector.

Bringing a Vintage Brand Into a New Age Online

When The Varsity Shop came to us, they had already decided that it was time to update their presence online. The Shepherd and Woodward Group were not new to e-commerce. In fact, they had introduced an online store in 1995. This e-commerce site had served as a side arm to the business for decades, but as with all successful brands online, innovation and adaption is key. It was time to evolve, and The Varsity Shop turned to Urban Element.

The Varsity Shop had three major problems:

  1. Too many customers were failing to pursue orders
  2. The backend system was quirky and difficult to learn
  3. The pandemic in 2020 was hindering sales in high street retail stores.

Online was their only option, and it was no longer working as they needed it to.

On engagement, the team at Urban Element set about consulting with Shepherd and Woodward Group to learn more about their challenges and their goals. We conducted a persona exercise to ensure that we would attract the right audience, and we got to work supercharging their SEO, designing their new WordPress and WooCommerce site, and conducting ongoing testing to ensure the site performed against our goals.


Bring The Varsity Shop to a new level online where they could attract a broader range of customers internationally, sell more by ensuring fewer shoppers would abandon their cart, and make the backend so simple that anyone could manage it.

Discovering the Right Personas

Bringing The Varsity Shop into the e-commerce forefront was not a straightforward task. We had complex shipping rules and delivery to deal with, considering our goals to reach markets around the world.

What's more, the competition was tough. While The Varsity Shop is a brand of integrity and quality in the UK, there are plenty of copycat brands to be found online. Differentiation was essential.

Based on our persona discovery, we set about targeting three key persona groups:

  1. Young students seeking these goods for themselves
  2. Parents of these students
  3. Individuals of all ages who buy these goods as merchandise.

Developing in-depth profiles on these personas, including where we could find them and how we could reach them, we set about creating an online marketing strategy, including keywords and SEO that would put The Varsity Shop right in front of these personas.

Developing a Platform to Optimise Conversion

At the same as identifying the personas, we worked on designing and building a new WordPress and WooCommerce site that was easy to manage on the backend and designed to move customers effortlessly through to purchasing goods.

With the personas in mind, the site was crafted to connect with their ideal audience and remove any barriers to purchase, no matter where the customers were located.

Website Traffic is On the Rise

In just the first month since launching the new site, The Varsity Shop has seen an initial 5 per cent increase in web traffic -- 1.6k new users --, which is expected to increase by 50 per cent over the next three to four months as keyword rankings begin to kick in.

Keyword Ranking is Up

Of the new users, 1,017 have come from organic search. This is thanks to a strong keyword strategy which now sees the brand ranking for 14 keywords on page 1 of Google. Most notably, 'college polo shirts' has moved The Varsity Shop up 95 places, and they now rank 5th on Google. As well, as 'oxford university beanie', moving up 93 spaces and now ranking 7th on Google.

Bounce Rate and Conversion Improvements

When The Varsity Shop came to us, their bounce rate was more than 50%. Since launching the new site, this has reduced to just 30.4%, amounting to $1.2K in revenue between 24th April and the 20th May.

Open For Business Abroad

The Varsity Shop is officially succeeding in their international expansion, with new International monetary orders coming in from the USA, Japan, Canada, Germany, Italy, and France. Not to mention, there is now market interest growing in Australia, China, Spain, and India.

Client Testimonial

"We, as a retail and tourist hotspot had to react to the current climate with a new e-commerce website. Following it's launch on Friday the 24th April we're delighted to already have received orders from around the world"
- Matthew Cox, Director of Retail Operations at The Varsity Shop.