August 16, 2011, 3:52 PM

When it comes to content management, HauteLook opts for self reliance

Online retailers face seemingly overwhelming choices for content management systems.

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Retailers face an overwhelming task when shopping for a content management system. There are a slew of content management options vying for attention—ranging from products sold by major vendors such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle targeted at large organizations to smaller-scale open-source systems—along with price tags that typically start at $50,000.

Because of the wealth of available options retailers have to determine what their needs are, says Steve Rowen, managing partner of research and advisory firm Retail Systems Research LLC. “It really comes down to what is your brand’s identity,” he says. “How do you aim to connect to customers and what else do you need your site to have?”

For Kevin Diamond, chief technology officer at HauteLook, that meant deciding that the flash sale retailer, which he helped build from scratch in 2008, needed a system that would adapt with the retailer’s needs. 

When he and four others founded the site in 2008, he couldn’t find a vendor that fit his site’s content management needs. “At the core of our business is the fact that our product catalog changes on a daily basis,” says Diamond. “Every day we introduce new sale events so we needed a solution that could handle inventory being presented that way. We also needed the ability to have items go off sale a specific time later on—at varying lengths. And, just as importantly, we had to have a certain way to present sales for a specific brand in a certain way.”

Because the retailer has always considered itself a technology company that happened to sell retail products, Diamond decided to focus on hiring engineers who could build and tweak its own content management system. As the flash-sale retailer moved from one sale a week to three a week to its current 20-something offerings a day, the site’s engineers adjusted the content management system to adapt to those evolving needs, says Diamond.

While HauteLook built its own content management system, that may or may not be the right approach for another retailer, says Rowen. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach because every retailer has different needs,” he says.

HauteLook is No. 156 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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