John Gonsalves Brings High-Tech Innovation to TaylorMade Golf

John Gonsalves has helped launch several direct-to-consumer programs that are keeping TaylorMade at the front of the sports e-commerce pack

Photo: Ollie Neglerio

John Gonsalves says he always played TaylorMade products, even before he joined the company in 2011. Now vice president of direct-to-consumer and digital at the golf equipment manufacturer, Gonsalves is helping bring modern digital solutions to a fairly traditional sport. Gonsalves’s initiative has earned TaylorMade the Best in Class eTail Visionary Award from eTail West for its subscription-based financing program called The Turn, as well as a cutting-edge online customization platform for its renowned Spider and Spider X putter. The VP’s early adoption of e-commerce is helping keep TaylorMade at the forefront of its sport.

Early Adopter

Gonsalves spent twelve years at GSI Commerce, from the early days of online retail into the 2000s. “My path was obviously a bit different from a lot of those in commerce. I didn’t come from a technology or marketing background; I came from the merchant side of things,” Gonsalves says. But GSI proved to be a valuable training ground for everything tech, and Gonsalves built out extensive experience in infrastructure, customer service, and the other necessary components of a strong e-commerce offering.

The VP says he pitched countless brands in the early days, advocating for a move to direct-to-client commerce and the value of selling on the web. One of those clients was TaylorMade. “The golf space was a bit slow to adapt,” Gonsalves admits. “I came here a number of times to try to convince them to get into the direct-to-consumer business, but they weren’t really ready at the time.”

Around 2011, TaylorMade finally came around and, in turn, the hunter became the prey. “TaylorMade called and said they wanted me to launch their e-commerce effort,” Gonsalves recalls. “The timing was right for me, and so off I went.”

John Gonsalves TaylorMade Golf
John Gonsalves, TaylorMade GolfPhoto: Ollie Neglerio

The Turn

One of Gonsalves’s biggest victories thus far has been the introduction of The Turn, a subscription-based financing program that allows customers to make payments on clubs and, if desired, trade in and upgrade to newer models. If upgraded, payments on the existing clubs stop and payments on the new clubs begin.

Since its 2017 introduction The Turn has led to a 15 percent increase in sales and a 30 percent lift in overall conversions. “We realize that it may be cost prohibitive for some of our customers to behave the way that our professionals do,” Gonsalves explains, “and so we want to continue to find ways to optimize the buying experience and make it meaningful for the customer.”

The motivation for The Turn is TaylorMade’s recognition that as purchase cycles continue to elongate and consumers seem to be placing higher premiums on not owning as many consumer goods—an evolution is necessary on businesses’ part to meet consumers’ new expectations.

The Spider

In May 2018, TaylorMade announced MySpider—a new personalized consumer putter program that allows customers to customize hosels, sightlines, and colors of one of the company’s incredibly popular Spider putter. The online platform boasts ease of use and Gonsalves says that outfitting a custom putter online is fun whether or not a purchase is the end goal.

“The putter is probably the most personal thing that you have in your bag. It’s the place where golfers can have the most personal expression,” Gonsalves says. “We are really proud of being able to overdeliver on the service experience and have a completely personalized product at your door in well under three weeks.”

The MySpider program has expanded to its new Spider X putter and HiToe wedges and Gonsalves says that more products are on the horizon. The VP says the ease of use online is an ideal entry point for burgeoning markets where e-commerce isn’t as highly adopted by consumers. While North America and Japan have matured their e-commerce capabilities and culture, TaylorMade is spending considerable time working to build infrastructure, competencies, and talent in Europe and South Korea where golf is strong, but e-commerce is still developing.

The Payoff

With nearly twenty years of e-commerce experience, Gonsalves says having the continued opportunity to innovate and bring the sometimes-slow-moving sporting goods industry to the cutting edge is a gift that keeps on giving. “Having spent most of my life in sporting goods, many companies were slow to adopt to e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales, and golf was often even a little further behind than that,” Gonsalves says. “I’ve loved having the chance to meet the evolving demands of our consumers because I’m inherently curious of how people will continue to interact with our products.”

Jana De Anda, president of Excelerate Solutions, has seen how the consumer is always top of mind for Gonsalves. “He tracks consumer trends across a variety of industries to maintain clarity on the future and apply best in class approaches to his business,” De Anda explains. “John’s success is driven by his belief that golfers deserve innovative digital experiences and his willingness to take risks on their behalf. Our team enjoys partnering and collaborating with his team because it allows us to test the boundaries of conventional digital thinking.”

Gonsalves says that he still sees a great number of areas where TaylorMade can make golfers’ lives better, be it from the clubs in their hands or the way they use technology to enhance their experience. “I continue to be energized coming to work and solving interesting problems in a sport that I love.”

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