September 23, 2014, 2:11 PM

A watersports gear manufacturer makes a bigger splash online

Slingshot Sports shoots for faster and wider growth on a new e-commerce platform.

Lead Photo

Founded in 1999 by brothers Jeff and Tony Logosz, watersports gear manufacturer Slingshot Sports was one of the pioneering companies that helped propel the extreme sport of kiteboarding—where daredevils speed, twirl and soar over water on their boards.

Now Slingshot is ready to shoot its business-to-business e-commerce operations into new heights of performance as well.

The company, based in Hood River, OR, built a loyal following as one of only a few companies selling U.S.-made kiteboards and related equipment. It has since expanded its product offerings to include gear for two more water sports: wakeboarding and stand-up paddleboarding, which has recently seen a surge in popularity.

Slingshot launched its first e-commerce site in 2009 and used it for three years, until it re-designed the site in 2012 using another e-commerce technology platform through early 2014. That replatforming helped to spur growth, at least for a while, as Slingshot doubled its revenue as it expanded its business to more than 50 countries.

But with its larger, more complex business, Slingshot realized it needed more capable e-commerce software to go with it. It decided earlier this year to return to its prior e-commerce technology provider, NetSuite Inc., and deployed NetSuite’s SuiteCommerce e-commerce software to launch a new B2B e-commerce site in April. Slingshot also uses NetSuite’s Internet- or cloud-based enterprise resource planning software to manage its back-end business operations, including financial and inventory management. The tight integration between that back-end software with the NetSuite customer-facing e-commerce makes it easier than under Slingshot’s old technology to show updated inventory availability to its e-commerce customers, the manufacturer says.

Using the new e-commerce technology platform will allow the company to grow its online B2B business quickly, says Greg Kish, North American sales and marketing director at Slingshot Sports. “The biggest benefit of NetSuite is scalability and how we can grow so quickly with it,” he says. "NetSuite gives us one system as a single source of the truth, and it can be easily customized to our needs.”

Slingshot sells its products through more than 450 clients worldwide. That includes 330 dealers in the United States, mostly small “mom-and-pop” shops, Kish says, and about a dozen larger stores, including boat dealerships that sell Slingshot’s wakeboarding products. By this winter, the company expects about 25% of its orders to be placed using the new B2B platform—and by next summer, it expects 50% to 75% of orders to come through the e-commerce site.

One of the most appealing aspects of the NetSuite B2B platform, Kish says, are the features it offers Slingshot’s dealers, including letting them track their orders and other information in real time. “We all shop on the Internet,” Kish says. “We just expect the ability to track everything, and know our clients expect the same thing.”

The ease of use comes from a new user interface that provides a consumer-style shopping experience and allows Slingshot dealers to track real-time inventory, product warranties and customer service claims in a matter of minutes, a process that would have taken several phone calls and follow-ups in the past, Kish says. The new system will also take any risk out of the ordering process for dealers, especially over weekends, says Slingshot Sports’ operations manager Nick Stuart. Under Slingshot’s former system, dealers might be hesitant to place an order over a weekend, often the height of their sales week, because of the inability to communicate with a sales representative and check inventory.

Slingshot understood the need for real-time inventory four years ago, when it began publishing daily updates of inventory records using the Internet-based Dropbox file-storing service, Stuart says. He started using the free service around 2010 to share the availability of each product with the company’s dealers early every morning. “It was immediately very popular,” says Stuart. “It demonstrated the need for a B2B e-commerce site with tracking capability.”

Now, with the new e-commerce site’s built-in inventory tracking, “the trick is for us to educate our dealers” to use it, Kish says.

Another benefit of the new SuiteCommerce technology for Slingshot Sports, Kish adds, is the ability to replicate the platform for multiple subsidiaries. Earlier this month, at board sports tradeshow Surf Expo, the manufacturer announced its new skateboard subsidiary, Moonshine Manufacturing, which will begin shipping longboard skateboards this fall for orders received on a new e-commerce site. Stuart says launching another B2B operation using the NetSuite platform took a minimal investment. “We were able to launch Moonshine Manufacturing’s B2B site relatively cheaply within just 2 months,” he says.

Slingshot says it plans to replicate the same template again for any future subsidiaries, should opportunities arise.

Slingshot also uses NetSuite’s customer relationship management software to help improve the productivity of its sales representatives, who can access customer buying preferences and other records via a web browser. Slingshot uses NetSuite OneWorld financial management software to help oversee its Moonshine MFG brand manufacturing subsidiary, producing a new line of long skateboards that will debut this fall. The company also uses budgeting and forecasting software from NetSuite partner Adaptive Insights for strategic planning.

The cost to companies to deploy NetSuite SuiteCommerce software starts at $1,600 per month and is adjusted upward based on the type of installation and the number of users, the company says.

For a free subscription to B2BecNews, a weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industryclick here. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes the monthly trade magazine Internet Retailer.

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