ModelCars Case Study is top player in the online hobby retail industry offering the largest online selection of hobby model products via a combination of dropshipping and warehouse fulfillment.

Project overview

ModelCars was recently purchased from the original owner/operator of 10+ years. The legacy system operating on an outdated custom LAMP stack platform. While the business was active, it was significantly outdated in design, technology, marketing and operations.

The new ownership, an experienced player in the online hobby industry with multiple properties, needed a complete online strategy for migration, branding, marketing and fulfillment.


Migration required a migration on an accelerated timeline. The buyout was contingent on transferring the property within two weeks and continuing use of the legacy platform was not an option. A new platform needed to be identified, migration completed and production ready within the short timeframe.


ModelCars existing ad-hoc branding and design needed a complete overhaul. The existing branding was neither relevant, current or understandable. ModelCars needed to clearly convey their unique selling propositions in an attractive and relevant format.

Inventory and Fulfillment Management needed a fast solution to build out online selection and speed fulfillment. Additionally they needed to prepare for a long term inventory management plan that was profit conscious.

Conversion Optimization

The current solution suffered from very low conversion rates. ModelCars was plagued with the wrong traffic, a catalog that produced more anxiety than interest and a purchase path that failed to give customers confidence


Whirlwind took a top down approach, starting with requirements analysis, discovery and market analysis. We had to work fast so smart decisions needed to be made using limited information.

In order to make the best use of our limited time, the product was broken into phases. The first phase would address all tasks that were required to complete a successful migration. The second phase would focus on improvements.

For phase I to be successful we needed to migrate to a new platform that would be ready for production in under two weeks. The focus was to find off-the-shelf solutions to address all requirements and adhere to the 80/20 rule -- focus on getting the categories, products and functionality in place that would address 80% of your sales. The platform needed to allow for fast setup, theming, configuration, have a wide breadth of existing app solutions. A platform with proven capabilities in dropshipper integration was required to immediately provide the wide selection of products that would be central to their USPs. After mapping requirements to the major platforms available, Shopify was identified as the best route.

Phase II focused on rebranding, marketing and conversion optimization. With the site launched we could afford the time to dig into the details that would drive our rebranding and CRO efforts. Identifying key characteristics of the target market, review of existing customer habits combined with a competitive analysis allowed us to zero in on the USPs that would have impact and the optimized method to present these USPs. The addition of an email marketing specialist would allow ModelCars to utilize the massive list of previous customers and email registrations that had collected dust under the previous ownership. Analysis of previous and current website customer browsing and buying habits revealed bottlenecks in the user experience as well as conversion issues. Targeting these bottlenecks would be key to improving the conversion rate of the website.




A seamless transition from old ownership to new was provided via a fast migration process. Within two weeks a new website was presented with cutting edge off-the-shelf design and functionality that significantly improved upon the previous store. hit the ground running with over 2000 of the most popular products on the market and was able to offer one day shipping via dropshippers directly integrated into the fulfillment process.


Focusing on the nostalgia of model building combined with 'passing the torch' to the next generation provided a brilliant brand approach ripe for the 2020 holiday season. We identified several USPs that helped capitalize off of history/capabilities and also exploit competitor weaknesses. These USPs, along with additional targeted graphics and verbiage throughout the customer experience provided the piece-of-mind and trust customers needed to feel comfortable completing a purchase.

Inventory and Fulfillment Management

A dual-focus inventory and fulfillment system was built to address the near term need to use dropshippers, as well as the long term transition to warehousing product. Direct integration with dropshippers provided a low-involvement approach to quickly ramping up product selection and automating the fulfillment, inventory and catalog updates in real time. As high-demand product is identified (or predicted) and purchased directly from manufacturers, can switch to warehouse inventory/fulfillment, increasing product margin and better addressing demand.

Conversion Optimization

CRO issues fell into two categories for First, the majority of traffic to the website was the wrong traffic -- visitors uninterested in the product. This was addressed through targeted SEO improvements and utilizing best-of-breed email marketing approaches resulting in a higher return customer rate and better qualified visitors.

Second, the website had a high percentage of exits early in the catalog navigation process. This was addressed by restructuring the home page, navigation and taxonomy to focus on product demand and user browsing habits resulting in increased session to cart ratios. Finally, the product page, cart and checkout pages were optimized using proven CRO approaches that re-prioritized content, proper implementation of merchandising tools, influencing perceived value and reinforcing trust throughout the purchase funnel.

The result was an immediate boost in conversion rate by over 200%.

Client feedback

This was the third phase in a time-sensitive project. Whirlwind successfully migrated a site to Shopify in record time, updated the theme and assisted with all the issues along the way. They were extremely responsive and didn't just meet deadlines - they beat them. I will be doing more work with Whirlwind in the future, and strongly recommend their services.

Thompson C.
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