February 12, 2013, 12:02 PM

Smith Optics moves to a new platform to foster multichannel selling

The eyewear brand selected hybris software to overhaul its e-commerce site.

Lead Photo

After eight years in operation, manufacturer Smith Optics Inc.’s home-grown e-commerce site reached a breaking point, says Ross Copperman, Smith’s global e-commerce sales manager. The brand, which sells sporting, tactical and prescription eyewear, as well as snow helmets online and in several thousand stores nationwide, is growing sales exponentially. But the manpower needed to maintain basic functionality on its e-commerce site was “bordering on asinine,” Copperman says. Rather than continue down that path, the manufacturer chose to overhaul its site to a more flexible and functional platform from Germany-based vendor hybris software, he says. The process begins this June. 

While Smith considered all the major players in e-commerce platform software, Copperman says hybris stood out in its ability to support both business-to-consumer and business-to-business commerce equally and easily. Business-to-consumer selling for Smith is simpler than business-to-business, where it makes most sales, he says. The manufacturer’s b2c site, SmithOptics.com, sells only at manufacturer-set prices and charges for shipping, which means its prices are typically higher than its resellers’ prices, he says. While b2c sales come in passively, Smith works actively to promote its wares and help outside stores to sell them.

With a complex assortment of products on mismatched schedules—some have seasonal releases and others don’t—keeping the site up-to-date has been a burden for Smith’s team of about 10 in-house and contract software developers and engineers, he says. It’s also been difficult to create customer segments and use them to personalize shopping on the site and in other marketing efforts, such as e-mails, he says.

In addition to simplifying how Smith updates product information on the site, hybris includes functionality to manage customer sub-groups, which Smith will extend to help its resellers, Copperman says. For example, the brand might help stores in a particular location with geotargeted promotions, such as highlighting an in-store sale to customers visiting SmithOptics.com living in the corresponding metro area, he says.

The homegrown site has also hampered Smith’s abilities to share product information externally. Smith must keep a database of product details, including descriptions, images and video, to share with stores separate from the information on its e-commerce site, he says. That makes it hard to keep a consistent brand appearance everywhere and creates a challenge for stores to sell across channels. As the site stands, stores can only fill out-of-stock or alternative color, size or style requests for customers by calling to reorder items, he says. The new site will allow stores to place online orders for customers via SmithOptics.com and ship to their homes.

That’s because the re-platforming will create a single data repository for all Smith product information available to both consumers and resellers, Copperman says. Through its back-end software systems, including inventory management, the brand will be able to feed select product information to stores as needed, which will automatically match the availability of products on its e-commerce site.

The new hybris system will also improve the manufacturer’s web content management by replacing what Copperman describes as a “kind of a two-headed monster maintaining the database of product attributes and related imaging—including 360-degree views and video—and having a separate task of being a web site,” Copperman says. On hybris, his staff will be able to address both jobs at once to ensure proper presentation of products and related imaging.

“Hybris has roots in b2b which will allow us to provide our inventory and availability to any of these mom-and-pop stores and allow them to protect their sales and have greater access to inventory that they don’t have on hand,” he says. “We want to make it extremely easy, convenient and simple for them to capture that sale—if we don’t, one of our competitors will.”

Copperman declines to say how much Smith is paying for the software, but says he expects it will “pay itself off quite quickly, especially from the efficiency we’ll gain.” He will keep all his staff, using their extra time to develop new improvements for SmithOptics.com and figure out ways to push those benefits to Smith sellers nationwide, he says.

Hybris offers retailers revenue sharing, subscription and on-premise software licensing models for pricing, the company says. A revenue-share contract, for example, can start as low as $10,000 per month and go up according to the size of the business and its needs, it says.

Hybris ranks eighth among e-commerce platform providers in Internet Retailer’s Leading Vendors to the Top 1000 E-Retailers guide.

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