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10 Most Profitable Ecommerce Innovations of 2016 – And Exactly How They Did It

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Innovation lives at the intersection of what you want your brand to be and what it currently is.  It’s the pie in the sky you’re working toward. The “dream big” mentality.

It’s also the actualization of your brand promise to your customers.

That gives innovation an important role in your business, especially at a point in time in which consumers value brand transparency and shopping convenience over nearly all else.

According to PWC, shoppers today “have higher expectations than prior generations, value transparency, favor convenience over price and shop via mobile more than ever.”

Failing to provide for these shopper expectations is an inhibitor to your success.

How you prioritize and execute on these needs is crucial to your brand growth now and in the future. Technology certainly helps, and can be the bridge you need to close the gap between customer expectation and brand capability.

But for your brand to be truly innovative, you must go above and beyond. Technology can only take you so far. You have to drive that extra mile to surpass customer expectations and deliver on your brand’s ultimate promise: to be the trusted and preferred leader in your space.

We launched the BigCommerce Innovation Awards to find those leaders, and uncover the strategies and inventions hiding in the code that customers can’t see. In doing so, we were beyond impressed with the innovations coming from our BigCommerce community, including:

Here are the brands that brought about the most innovative ecommerce implementations in 2016, and what you can learn from their success.

StoreYourBoard: Grand Prize Winner for Implementing Amazon-Level Complexity at the Product Page Level

All questions and product reviews are generated by our customers, managed by us from our custom-built administrative control panel. Best of all, all of the content is crawl-able by search engines.”

Michael Leff, Vice President of Technology at StoreYourBoard

The Backstory

Search engines crawl pages while evaluating keywords, reader engagement and frequency of updates (among many key factors) to rank their final results. This is true both on Google as well as Amazon.

In fact, Amazon product pages consistently achieve high Google rankings because of how effectively high-volume sellers on that site use keywords and update product descriptions to include answers to frequently asked customer questions.

For those selling on Amazon, this is just business-as-usual, part of Amazon’s high-quality, customer-centric requirements. Sellers that don’t do this, and receive too many customer complaints, will be kicked off the marketplace.

For webstore owners, there is no such penalty for failing to update product descriptions or include an on-page FAQ.

There is quite a bit of reward though: increased search engine ranking and customer satisfaction, for instance.

StoreYourBoard, a company producing products for tricky-to-store items like bikes and surf boards, looked at how Amazon was engaging customers and providing feedback –– and then built a custom solution to increase search ranking and decrease customer calls and questions.

The Problem

25%

Percent of customers who submit a question and end up purchasing.

As described by Michael Leff, Vice President of Technology at StoreYourBoard to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

We got a lot of questions all the time through email about products on our site.

We knew there were probably a lot more people with the same questions, but weren’t asking them.

If we’re getting five emails a day with questions, we know a larger percentage of people had the same concerns or hesitations –– and those people are, in turn, not purchasing because they didn’t know how to find the information they needed.

The Plan

20%

Percent of customer submitted reviews containing product photos.

As described by Michael Leff, Vice President of Technology at StoreYourBoard to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

We wanted to make it really easy for someone to ask a question, and we wanted them to be able to do it right on the product page.

We didn’t want them to have to go open their email, copy the product link, and go tab back and forth between the product and the email.

If a customer just wanted to ask a question, it should be super easy for them to do that.

Now, we’ve built a system that allows customers to do just that.

When they ask a question, it gets submitted and goes right to our customer service department with the product link and the question they asked.

There’s no back and forth between a customer and our customer service department. No, “Oh, exactly what product were you asking about? Can you send me a link just to make sure?”

It’s all very efficiently put together so that we can quickly answer the question, and get it documented for anyone else looking for an answer to a similar inquiry.

storeyourboard-customer-reviews-1-750x978.png 750w

The Technology

1,300

Number of user-answered questions in the FAQ section across the site.

As described by Michael Leff, Vice President of Technology at StoreYourBoard to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

We built our own server to host these reviews and the questions. This is where the questions actually come in.

Our customer service department can log in, see new questions, and approve questions as FAQs to be pushed to the product pages.

The way it’s actually stored on the page is a combination of custom work using the BigCommerce API and custom frontend code in our actual theme development.

What we do is hide the content.

All of the FAQ content is in the product description as far as the technology goes. It’s hidden in these parts that are within special HTML classes. We have Javascript that parses it correctly and puts it in its own product review section and formats it correctly.

One of the really cool things about the customer reviews in particular is that we were able to build this really cool, mobile friendly landing page.

We send out emails X number of days after the customer has purchased or received the item and request reviews. That’s where we get a lot of feedback and all the reviews you see.

We were able to really customize all of that. Now, we have a really nice layout of each product with an image, customer reviews and updated FAQs.

If you’re on a tablet, it looks good.

If you’re on a cell phone, it looks good.

The mobile-friendliness of it, and of Stencil, has really helped. It’s so easy to leave a review from an email. As soon as we get them to click on the link in the email, everyone leaves a review. No one is like, “Oh, this is a hassle.”

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StoreYourBoard’s custom review center

The Success

  • 60 questions submitted per product in the “Ask a Question” section
  • 1,300 user-submitted answers to FAQs across the site
  • 2,000 product reviews
  • 10% customer response rate for reviews
  • 20% of submitted reviews include photos
  • 25% of customers who submit a question end up purchasing

The Secret's in the APIs

“Thanks to BigCommerce’s robust APIs and customizable template files, we were able to build an FAQ and review system on our product pages to address these questions,” says Michael Leff, Vice President of Technology at StoreYourBoard. “All of the questions and product reviews are generated by our customers, managed by us from our custom-built administrative control panel, and with a push of a button, set live on the product page in the store. Best of all, the content is crawlable by search engines.”

The Knobs Company: People’s Choice Winner for State-of-the-Art Image Search Capabilities

Our search by image feature has brought on-site search time down 100 fold. What used to be done manually and can now be done automatically.

David Mason, CEO at The Knobs Company

The Backstory

Solving for search functionality is difficult. Case in point: Google updates its search algorithm 500-600 times per year. And all of that is just to help people looking for your products land on your site.

What happens, then, when you have a product catalog of more than 50,000 items?

Site visitors coming from any referring domain — whether that be organic traffic through Google or even an email sent from your marketing team — have a huge hurdle to jump before they can purchase from you.

They have to find the item they want.

That’s a hard task to accomplish with so many items available. Studies show humans can only make a set number of decisions per day –– including what to wear, when to shower and which route to take to work. If you have 50,000 SKUs, you’re asking your consumers to painstakingly navigate your catalog and use up some of their limited daily allotment of decisions with your store.

That’s just not feasible.

The Knobs Company is one such brand with more than 50,000 products. Most of their customers come to the site already knowing what they want, having seen it in a design magazine, on Pinterest or at a friend’s home. The problem is that those customers have no name, style or technical specifications for their desired item.

All they have is a photo, making on-site text searches pointless.

To help customers find the exact item they want, The Knobs Company went in search for an ecommerce innovation: on-site image search capabilities, rather than text.

“We’ve been able to integrate a ‘search by image’ feature that allows customers to search through our entire catalog using an image,” says David Mason, CEO. “This can be an image they took of their existing pieces or even an image they take off a layout in a magazine. We even have a Pinterest integration so they can search directly from their Pinterest boards.”

The Problem

20%

Percent increase in conversion rate.

As described by David Mason, CEO at The Knobs Company to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

Our buying process is the antithesis of Amazon.com. You can get to Amazon’s customer service if you want to, but it’s really hard. They don’t make it easy at all.

We’re the exact opposite.

If you look at the cabinet hardware industry, it’s pretty much price controlled. The prices are set by the manufacturers, not by the stores. Almost everybody sells at the minimum just like we do.

The big advantage that we have over other stores is the shopping experience and the service that we offer. We really want people to be interacting with us.

We want people interacting with our customer service team as much as possible. We want them consulting with us. I don’t know of any customer service team that comes anywhere near ours in terms of quality in our space.

This is our differentiator in the market. And we have people come to us, show us pictures and say, “Hey do you have anything like this? This is on my existing cabinets. I need something that will match this.” Or, “I’ve seen this knob. I really like this. Do you have anything like that?”

I’ve had customer service people spending hours looking for a match and it can be very difficult. We have more than 50,000 SKUs. We needed to optimize for customer experience, and that meant making the search process easier, based on how customers were already looking for the product.

The Plan

100%

Percent increase in revenue.

As described by David Mason, CEO at The Knobs Company to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

We were at the High Point Furniture Show displaying our knobs and these guys from Think Deeply approached us at the booth. They had this brand new technology and were looking for companies to beta test it.

It was really, really early in their whole process of developing their image search product.

Now in conversations with them, the product really wasn’t ready for market, but I was excited anyway. I’m always looking for new innovations and new technologies. I knew we had a need for a similar product, and here were people who were willing to build it out for us. This innovation in particular really came to us.

Today, you can go to Pinterest, search cabinet hardware and find Pinterest boards you like or find kitchens that you like and connect your Pinterest board to our website. If you just log in with your Pinterest account and connect it, you can search the entire site by the pictures in those boards.

You can take a picture with your phone, connect to your Pinterest board, grab a photo of something you found online and load it into our search. You can do whatever you want with whatever picture you want, and it’ll search the catalog by it.

knobs-co-gif-300x206.gif 300w

The Technology

100x

Faster site-search capabilities in comparison to before the visual search was launched.

As described by David Mason, CEO at The Knobs Company to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

For Think Deeply to work, we had to make sure our category tiers and product data were set up perfectly on the backend. We needed to be able to create landing pages by product attribute.

In order to be able to create landing pages for each of our main product attributes, we put all of our data into BigCommerce as categories. We have a million categories.

For instance, length of product is an attribute. The main length that we have is the drill center, the distance between the two screws on a pole. If a customer has pre-drilled cabinets and they’re replacing existing poles, they know that they’ve got holes that are three inches apart. They only want to be searching for poles that have three inch drill centers. We made small variants like that categories across the entire site.

One product might be under 30 different categories because it’s got a length and it’s got a width and it’s got a finish and it’s got a collection. It’s crucial for us that each of those be pages that people can access, where they can see all the products in the collection, all the products of this size, all the products in this finish.

It was incredibly important that BigCommerce had all of those categories –– however many of them there are –– and that it was all structured really well. Think Deeply then works off our category tiers.

The Success

  • 20% increase in conversion rate
  • 100% increase in revenue
  • 100x faster site-search capabilities for product-specific searches
  • Solidifying company status as customer experience leader in the space

A Powerful Combination of API and Category Organization

“The BigCommerce API allowed us to easily connect all of our products to the image search feature, enabling the entire feature to work,” David Mason, CEO at The Knobs Company. “It has brought the search time down 100 fold for these specific search times, which used to be done manually and now can be done automatically.”

Awesome GTI: Innovation Award Winner for an Unparalleled UX in the Automotive Industry

The whole project showcased a level of innovation in our marketplace above and beyond what the customer base is used to seeing.

Wayne Ainsworth, Operations at Awesome GTI

The Backstory

Cars are rarely bought online. After all, buying a car means taking it for a test drive, hands on the wheel, foot on that accelerator, new car smell wafting throughout.

The same is true for automotive parts, though the experience is quite different.

When looking for parts, many consumers end up at a service station, visiting a brick-and-mortar in the same way hoards of people used to flock to malls when they needed an item.

Few retail sectors still see this kind of foot traffic. Of course, there is a driving factor: not everyone knows how to install the new items (which service stations and brick-and-mortar parts shops can do for you). It’s often more convenient, then, for consumers to go in-store to both purchase and have their vehicle serviced.

Awesome GTI, an online Audi parts seller, doesn’t buy into this traditional thinking.

Instead, the team has worked hard to migrate more than 50,000 individual SKUs to a modern ecommerce platform, redesigned the entire site from the ground up to optimize for user experience and is keeping site and product content fresh to increase search engine rankings and discoverability.

This kind of work may sound like business as usual for retailers in other sectors. Fashion and beauty, for instance, have long had to optimize for user experience and product transparency on page to win conversions.

But, in the automotive space, this type of site experience isn’t unusual –– it’s unheard of.

The Problem

40%

Percent increase in average order value.

As described by Wayne Ainsworth, Operations at Awesome GTI to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

I joined the business four years ago, and at the time, AwesomeGTI had a Magento website. It was OK, but as I’m sure a lot of companies and people know Magento as a platform needs to have a lot of resources dedicated to keep it maintained, keep it updated and keep it running smoothly.

My initial role was to come in and do a little bit of fire fighting because there were a few problems. Various parts of the site that weren’t working as expected and a few other development issues. That quickly turned into a full time role within three months.

I then spent then 12 months trying to configure Awesome GTI’s Magento installation, but it had been modified in such a way that the core files had been modified, rather than using the extension system.

Overtime, that meant there were various exploits, patches and fixes required, as is the case with a lot of open source platforms. We couldn’t develop the site further because there were so many inconsistencies with the files and various other things.

So, I went to the shareholders. I said, “Look, if we want to move forward, we have to seriously look into the concept that we’re going to have to move away from Magento, start almost from scratch.”

Now, obviously as soon as I said that they were very scared, you might say –– as anybody would be. At that time, there was over 75,000 products on the site, not including variations. The database was huge, but the way I saw it, we didn’t have choice.

The Plan

24%

Percent increase in mobile traffic to the site.

As described by Wayne Ainsworth, Operations at Awesome GTI to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

We did the due diligence. We spoke to everybody we thought we needed to speak to about which platforms were the best. We narrowed it down to BigCommerce and Shopify Plus.

Well, let me say, BigCommerce was a no brainer for a lot of reasons. One was the enterprise package that BigCommerce was offering was, for us, exactly what we needed. At the end of the day, we have very little resources to help on a development level. It was just me and maybe one other guy that helped with products. That was it. BigCommerce offers, as part of the enterprise package, a catalog transfer, which was a huge.

I imagine even for the transfer guys at BigCommerce, that must be such a huge undertaking. We have so many products in our catalog.

The fact that that was on the table straightaway and the fact that it all went so smoothly and everything worked so well, we know we made the right decision. We’ve never looked back since.

Fast forward to today and our average order volume has gone up by something like 40%.

The Technology

75%

Percent decrease in abandoned cart.

As described by Wayne Ainsworth, Operations at Awesome GTI to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

The shareholders by their own admission are not technical people. They’re old-school engineering, automotive guys.

They just know that we have a website and it works well.

They came to me three months after the site relaunch and they said, “How have you done this? What have you done?”

I said straight up I have not actually done physically anything. This is just BigCommerce doing what they said they were going to do out of the box. These features that we looked at when we decided to go with BigCommerce are working as intended.

Our previous website had zero mobile responsive design on it. We now get 45% of our traffic from mobile. And, the system is making it easy for people to purchase.

Our bounce rate is reduced. The amount of time that people spend on the site has increased. We know that the sales are drastically up across all mediums, not just mobile. We’ve been able to better track the payment system.

I personally use the BigCommerce Analytics more than Google Analytics because it gives me a more scope. Google Analytics is mainly used by the shareholders, the sales manager and the general manager to see what is working in marketing. To be fair, for them it’s easier for them to use Google Analytics because that’s what they’re used to using.

I am getting them more on board with BigCommerce Analytics though because some of the stuff just works really well. I do that with anything the platform comes out with. I ask, “Do we need this? Can we use this? Is it going to help?”

So far, we haven’t had any reason not to use all new tools and integrations because everything we’ve done has just worked.

I don’t have worry about server maintenance, or software maintenance anymore. I know that the infrastructure is so solid that we would never have to worry about down time.

It’s all come along so well in fact that we have a second site rolling out this week on the BigCommerce platform and we have a third one in development, which will be another enterprise level site. We are working on a fourth business using the BigCommerce platform as a B2B system.

Now, we are confident that as far as from a customer point of view, we’re able to offer our customers a far greater level of customer experience, a far better buying experience and a much more streamlined process.

The Success

  • Migrated 50,000 products from Magento to BigCommerce
  • Average order value increased 40%
  • Abandoned cart rate down 75%
  • Mobile traffic increase of 24%

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

“For our industry, the whole project showcased a level of innovation in our marketplace above and beyond what the customer base is used to seeing,” says Wayne Ainsworth, Operations at Awesome GTI. “In the U.S., there are now some big corporations that utilize a lot of the features we have brought to market on our site, all of which wouldn’t have been possible without the BigCommerce platform.”

Caden Lane: Innovation Award Winner for Customer Controlled Product Page Customization

We’ve had record breaking growth, and our business has become almost 100% direct to consumer.

Katy Mimari, Owner at Caden Lane

The Backstory

The year was 2009. The economy was crumbling. The U.S. was on the verge of the Great Recession.

Caden Lane, a wholesaler of baby bedding and diaper bags to larger brands like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, decided to add a shopping cart to their existing online catalog.

The decision to sell online was a difficult one. Caden Lane would now be a direct competitor to its distribution partners. But, it was a decision that needed to happen to ensure Caden Lane’s long-term success.

In that year, many of its high-end baby boutique distribution partners would close, leaving Caden Lane to fend for itself in a new B2C market.

The business needed to diversify its channel mix to avoid going the way of their shuttered friends.

The Problem

195%

Percent increase in traffic to the site.

Selling B2C rather than B2B requires an entirely different mindset. Katy needed to figure out how to standout in a crowded market –– a market that in many respects was already selling her product.

She was competing against her former partners, for her own sales.

With few resources and little B2C experience, Katy began to research –– noting which features on other successful websites both within and outside her own industry were catching her eye.

One thing stood out above the rest: personalization.

Across the web, the B2C industry was optimizing for personalization –– and brands that got it right were winning. Katy knew that for the baby furniture and bedding market, personalization could play a pivotal role.

Every parent and child is unique –– in both style and preferred materials, down to the nitty gritty details. But parents are time strapped, more so than almost any other online shopper. Convenience plays a pivotal role, and many new parents were shifting to Amazon-only shopping as a result.

Caden Lane offered all product possibilities, but Katy knew the brand needed to offer increased personalization at an unparalleled level of convenience.

mix-and-match-homepage-750x303.jpg 750w

The Plan

267%

Percent increase in conversions and transactions.

First, Caden Lane needed to switch from Magento to a cloud-based platform that offered more flexibility. Once relaunched on BigCommerce, Katy worked with several preferred partners and programmers to customize mix-and-match features that allow customers to pick and choose different pieces of their baby bedding from a single product listing.

This removed the need to click around from tab to tab. Instead, all items could be added to cart from a single page –– moving customers further down the funnel with every click.

The Technology

33%

Percent increase in revenue.

“As we learned about SEO and prioritized our direct-to-consumer approach to marketing, we realized how our current platform didn’t offer us the ability to manage our backend or design template very well,” said Katy Mimari, Owner at Caden Lane.

“After months of research, we decided to switch platforms and joined BigCommerce. Since then, we’ve had record breaking growth, and our business has become almost 100% direct to consumer. We absolutely credit BigCommerce’s themes, simple backend and product management, and the ability to customize our website for our own customer’s needs.”

The Success

  • 195% growth in traffic to the site
  • 267% growth in conversions and transactions
  • 33% growth in revenue
  • 18% increase in conversion rate

Control Over Customization

“We also custom coded our sale banner to show up on every product page. Now, if a customer lands on a page other than our home page (through a link, or google ad) they still will see the notification of the sale or promotions without having to leave the page,” says Katy Mimari, owner and designer. “We have also benefited from BigCommerce’s Google Shopping integration, and how easily we can pick and chose each product to be included in it, with the ability to alter the listings easily.”

Man Crates: Innovation Award Winner for Building an Automated Laser Etching System from Scratch + Next Day Delivery

Shipping with ludicrous speed as our volumes have increased took as much innovation and collaboration as anything else we’ve ever had to do as a business.

Sam Gong, Co-Founder at Man Crates

The Backstory

Man Crates is a unique gift box for men. The business sells both generic and custom gift boxes –– and it’s those custom boxes that forced the team to rethink their shipping practices.

After all, in a time constrained culture where last-minute ordering is commonplace (and retail behemoths like Amazon have accustomed customers to short shipping times), Man Crates often receives custom order requests at 4 p.m. on a Monday to be delivered that Wednesday.

“Shipping with ludicrous speed as our volumes have increased took as much innovation and collaboration as anything else we’ve ever had to do as a business,” says Sam Gong, co-founder of Man Crates.

Two major problems presented themselves when it came to creating and shipping custom orders in less than 24 hours.

First, “making personalized products requires a team of graphic designers reviewing orders and creating unique print files with highly-trained laser operators to produce each piece. Adjusting and centering font size and the layout of the design are all important tasks that raise quality, but this takes a lot of time at the computer. Applying etching adhesives, aligning physical pieces in the print tray, and calibrating the settings based on the material properties of the glass, wood, or metal to ensure crisp etching takes a lot of time at the laser.”

Second, “providing speedy, accurate, and reliable service is an absolute necessity, and we’ve had really aggressive, guaranteed shipping times since the day we first started. This has been a challenge to maintain as we’ve grown from a three-man team in a garage into a fifty-person company with multiple distribution centers around the country.”

To solve for both of these issues and build processes that scale, the Man Crates team looked to BigCommerce’s APIs.

The Problem

25%

Percent of custom orders as total of all orders.

As described by Sam Gong, Co-Founder at Man Crates to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

There’s the turnaround time for shipping, which is difficult. Then you combine that with personalized orders, which is something customers really value when you’re selling gifts. It’s especially challenging to scale these two customer perks hand-in-hand.

In the very first days of the company, we worked with TechShop. It’s one of those local makerspaces. You can go in and take a class and learn how to use a laser etching machine or any other machine, and then rent time by the day.

This is actually how we started doing personalized orders. We were renting time on these machines. It got to the point where this became the absolute slowest, worst part of the business.

Then, in the 2013 holiday season, we got to a couple days before Christmas and our working queue was just so backed up that we had to stop selling them, and then our laser team pulled heroic shifts. I think people got eight, 10 hours of –– well –– tons of overtime those weeks. They just kept the lasers running around the clock so that we’d ship out all the orders that we’d committed to ship out and then we had to stop sales because we didn’t want to promise somebody a Christmas gift that we weren’t able to deliver on time.

So, we asked ourselves, “Do we innovate, or do we get rid of these personalized orders, which we know customers like. Is it just such a drag on the business to try to keep producing these, and maintain our shipping times that we need to have to be a gift company?”

We looked around for solutions. Nothing. There may be a few other companies that have a private solution for this that they’ve developed in house the same way that we have, but when we were looking, we found nothing. This isn’t a common enough problem that there’s software on the market you can buy for this automating laser etching for personalized orders.

But, our personalized orders make up 20-25% of our business. We had to figure out how to scale it.

The Plan

4000%

Percent increase in revenue in 4 years.

As described by Sam Gong, Co-Founder at Man Crates to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

This innovation is really a couple super talented engineers and a genius named Jason Hall.

Jason is our resident Ron Swanson. He’s just the everyday, every-man handyman.

We said, “We’re going to run a laser shop in the warehouse. Help us figure out how to do that.” And Jason was like, “OK, I’ll figure out how to do that.”

So, Jason put in an order for six more of the lasers we were using. It was so many, the laser company sent a rep down to see what we were doing.

He then rewired the warehouse with higher voltage electricity that you need if you’re going to run these really big machines, and put in air ducts and built a whole ventilation system himself.

Today, we’ve got 16 lasers all plugged in to this system. Each laser can do 35 or 36 orders per hour. Over the holidays, when we’re in our really busy time, we’ve got shifts that trade off, so the machines are running 16, sometimes 20 hours a day, producing a ton of value for the business.

The Technology

#4

Fastest growing retailer in the U.S.

As described by Sam Gong, Co-Founder at Man Crates to Tracey Wallace, EIC at BigCommerce.

Today, as soon as we get a new order on the website, BigCommerce notifies our routing system via a webhook. We download all the information via BigCommerce’s API, and then the routing system passes that off to our manufacturing system’s internal API.

We just built the system so they could talk to each other much the same way that our systems talk to BigCommerce. Im real time, we’re passing data from BigCommerce into our manufacturing system. When we see an order come in with the SKU, we know that means we need to add a certain print file to the working queue. Then, based on the number of print files that we have for each type of product, the system assembles them into giant print trays.

These lasers are big. Picture half of a truck bed.

If you’re running one order at a time, your laser operator’s spending a ton of time opening up the machine, putting the new glassware in there so it can be etched, and then running one piece at if that’s how you’ve built your print files.

One of the big innovations the system has is it’s taking all of the orders we need to print and arranging those print files in single trays so the laser operator can just fill a jig with all the pieces they need to run all the orders. Then, the operator puts that jig in the laser, and hits print.

Step away for 45 minutes, and it’s all automatically laid out.

The Success

  • Custom orders account for more than 10,000 orders on Man Crates, and without the automated process, they’d have to shutter that side of the business
  • 4000% growth in 4 years
  • $21M in revenue
  • 20-25% of business comes from the custom order business
  • #4 fastest growing retailer in the U.S. according to the 2016 Inc. 5000

Personalization and Convenience in a 2-Day Turnaround

“No joke, you can order a completely original, monogrammed Whiskey Appreciation Man Crate at 4 p.m. on a Monday and have it delivered to San Francisco or New York by Wednesday. And that’s with ground shipping.”

Innovation Award Finalists

The above winners were first chosen as part of the Innovation Awards Finalists. In that group of 10, narrowing down winners was extremely difficult. The award judges worked tirelessly to determine which brands would earn the final winners title.

Our five other finalists have equally amazing innovation stories from 2016 –– and we’d be remiss to not share them with you.

  • Fit Online: Launched home-grown multi-product comparison tool for fitness fanatics, increasing site engagement 50%
  • Hydro Empire: Integrated curated product page bundling options, increasing AOV 30%
  • ICHIBAN Toys: Improved product quality by moving from U.S. to Japan, increasing B2C conversion 100%
  • Spinning.com: Built a world-class model for running a lean international business, increasing global presence 100%
  • Wire N Cable: Brought offline B2B business to ecommerce, increasing revenue from $0 to $1M in less than 1 year

Fit Online: Multi-Product Comparison Tool for Fitness Fanatics

Most competitors regurgitate the manufacturer’s information in their stores. Our challenge was to stand out from the crowd.

James Reeve, Founder and CEO at Fit Online

The fitness equipment industry is booming thanks to a cultural shift and new focus on exercise. Like athleisure, the fashion term for workout clothes, fitness equipment is seeing increasing sales from individual consumers as well as fitness startups –– i.e. CrossFit, Pilates, barre and yoga studios.

Unlike athleisure, though, fitness equipment has technical requirements and differences, many of which are subtle and nuanced. Most fitness equipment brands use different terminology for the same technology as well as different information hierarchies. This makes it virtually impossible for consumers to compare products like-for-like.

Fit Online, a fitness equipment seller, took on the task of addressing this challenge –– rewriting all product descriptions into a proprietary format and configuring their website to allow for side-by-side comparison of up to four products at a time.

This solved for the customer need –– giving site visitors a tool that a full 50% of customers use.

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On the backend, however, updating thousands of SKUs and product data sent in from manufacturers was a much bigger problem. Fit Online sought to create a system that would enable the team to scale their editing, writing and formatting needs.

Using the BigCommerce custom fields tab to deliver product specifications rather than the usual WYSIWYG product description field, the team was able to transform the provision of product information from rambling and disjointed sentences into structured and standardized data.

Then, the Fit Online team identified 15-20 key attributes (i.e. horsepower, user capacity) for each product type (i.e. exercise bike, treadmill) and set up custom fields for each attribute.

This means that the specifications list for all products now have identical order, layout and definition.

“Most competitors regurgitate the manufacturer’s information in their stores. Our challenge was to stand out from the crowd and present product information in a standardized format which was able to be easily compared between models and fill a market void,” says James Reeve, founder and CEO.

“In an environment where the number of competitors has tripled in the last three years, we have increased our conversion and customer satisfaction ratings. We have built up a reputation in the industry for being ‘the place’ to get reliable, comparable information, and customers frequently give feedback that our site has by far the clearest product comparison feature in the industry.”

Quick Stats

  • 50% increase in on-site engagement
  • #1 in industry thought leadership and word of mouth

Visit Fit Online

Compare technical specs of your favorite workout equipment now, or decide to shop by fitness goal to see which products will help you get there faster.

Hydro Empire: Bundling Options That Increase AOV 30%

We maximized the shop-ability of products through an add on tool we built and integrated on our shopping cart. This curated list of items are exactly what the customer needs and is not simply a glorified up-sell tool.

Arny Pollack, Director of Operations at Hydro Empire

For many brands making more than $5 million through their webstore, the goal isn’t to bring in more traffic.

It is to sell more to those people already on your site.

After all, you already have their attention. Now, you just need to figure out how to convert them with the highest possible order value.

Hydro Empire, the garden superstore, has figured out a way to do just that –– while also providing a holistic shopping experience to newcomers.

When buying gardening supplies, it’s rare that you only need one item. From potters and plants to gloves and shovels, gardening is an industry with naturally high product count orders.

However, not all products have a high margin. Customers can checkout with various products and still maintain a rather lower average order value. Plus, not all customers know exactly what they need for each project –– and few online consumers take the time to search an entire site looking for individual items.

Hydro Empire looked to solve this problem. The goal was to showcase a list of additional items curated by gardening experts alongside each product.  

What they built is a product page bundling tool –– allowing existing and prospective customers the ability to add all necessary items for a single project to cart while on a single page.

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“Notice we have a mix of items that have checkboxes to the left. If you look at the bottom of that list, you’ll see other items with buttons mixed with sizes. These are options with sizes,” explains Arny Pollack, Director of Operations.

“We built this custom so that people can choose their size, which is something unheard of in a standard up-sell feature.”

“For example, if you need to order gloves to go with your product, we are now able to let you select the size you need without having to leave the page and select that size the way traditionally it needs to be done.”

Quick Stats

  • 30% increase in average order size
  • AOV is more than $250 per order
  • 100% increase in conversion rate

Visit Hydro Empire

Begin building your personalized gardening bundle today, or read up on their blog to learn the ins and outs of successful gardening.

ICHIBAN Toys: How to Double Sales (Tip: Moving Abroad Required)

I discovered our products should be a passion and a way to show everything I’ve learned. Each new project should build upon the experiences of previous projects, working to resolve the weakest elements.

Christopher White, Founder at ICHIBAN Toys

According to the internet, Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

To me, that sounds like a rut. Christopher White, founder of ICHIBAN Toys, would agree.

In 2014, though his company was experiencing great growth and sales, White felt his product offering was missing choice quality LEGO pieces, among other things.

Solving for quality, though, was a task low on the priority list.

“My time was spent in producing more product, emails, admin and shipping, rather than designing new kits and working in the B2B market. My wife and I are the main part of the company, and then we get additional help when needed. I couldn’t figure out how to overcome this [lack of time] challenge.”

Instead of ruminating on the issue, White decided to take matters internationally –– uprooting his life in the U.S. and heading to Kyoto, Japan.

The move forced White to make a significant business change –– and re-prioritize.

He sold off all his inventory and began networking to learn how to build LEGO kits to the extraordinary perfection Japanese crafts are known for.

With a new environment, new tools and supplies all under his belt, White could spend more time building out his B2B services and creating new, high-quality LEGO kits that built on the innovation from the product series before it.

“I discovered that our products should be a passion and a way to show everything I’ve learned. Each new project should build upon the experiences of previous projects, working to resolve the weakest elements,” says White.

“Value comes from quality; not just from price. This change of thinking and perspective is what I think innovation is, and [to achieve that], it required me to surround myself with this different attitude toward a product.”

This change in thinking –– from quantity to quality –– affected White’s entire business. He has now upgraded to a new, responsive theme and relaunched the ICHIBAN website –– all in a single day. Because all BigCommerce themes maintain product data, variants and copy, there was no need to re-upload products or have any effect on already successful SEO efforts.

Plus, though his B2B business is his main focus, ICHIBAN Toys still caters to a B2C audience, many of whom buy every single one of the company’s new product kits.

“Our B2B services have never been stronger. Our clients now say we are often the first company they go to for corporate gifts and tradeshow giveaways. They and our consumer customers are impressed with the higher quality products. Some of our customers buy every single new product we launch –– our kits are quite expensive! It’s encouraging to see that our customers find value in our kits,” says White.

Now that I have the right thinking in mind, I’m excited for ICHIBAN Toys to experience the fullness of our innovation when we move back to the U.S. from Japan and resume operation in the U.S. beginning in May 2017.”

Quick Stats

  • 100% increase in B2C conversion rate
  • 10x increase in newsletter signups
  • #1 in industry thought leadership and word of mouth

Visit ICHIBAN Toys

Check out all of ICHIBAN’s custom lego kits, like the Kyoto Minamiza Kabuki Theater or the Police Spinner V4.

Spinning.com: The Mechanics of a Lean International Business

Our previous solution proved limiting in allowing the business to expand its global footprint across the consumer ecommerce channel. The need to efficiently service our consumers globally has become a key strategy.

Stewart Guest-Smith, VP of Digital and Strategy at Spinning.com

Imagine a quickly growing brand that requires multiple websites, in multiple languages and currencies, pulling products from various fulfillment centers across the globe and serving customers micro-moment content on various product capabilities (for instance physical, educational, online and commercially driven).

Now, imagine being the ecommerce leader responsible for scaling your operations throughout Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.  

This is business-as-usual for Stuart Guest-Smith, VP of Digital and Strategy for Spinning.com.

As the world’s largest cycling brand, their team’s website requirements span the globe. Each country’s audience is a little bit different. Each segment (B2B versus B2C for instance) is a little bit more nuanced. Every change to a site a little more complex.

For years, Spinning.com used a custom solution to help them achieve world-class online store status, despite their complex needs. With consumer buying behavior shifting and their international customer list quickly expanding, a custom platform no longer made sense for the team. They needed an integrated solution that offered world-class marketing capabilities while accounting for their technical complications.

“Our previous solution supported growth across the commercial segment, but it’s proven to be limiting in allowing the business to expand its global footprint across the consumer ecommerce channel,” says Stewart Guest-Smith, VP of Digital and Strategy. “The need to efficiently service our consumers globally has become a key strategy for the business going forward. To support the increasing consumer demand across Europe, China, UAE, Latin America and Africa the business required an alternative, integrated platform.”

The goal for the team was scalability and efficiency was key. Here’s exactly what they did:

  • Built the ability to federate content to 20 stores globally through the use of an integrated Product Information Management (PIM) solution.
  • Leveraged the PIM to publish all types of content (blog, website, transactional and educational assets) in translated text through the use of a real-time API based translation service.
  • Utilized the PIM to connect to multiple ERPs, across two different settlement centers, and publish transactions in real-time.
  • Leveraged the architecture to provide federated login SSO/SAML to allow a seamless experience for customers across multiple products servicing purchasing, learning and events based services.
  • Utilized the newly developed payment solution to allow Spinning.com to service it’s global subscription membership program.
  • Leveraged a unique product to provide automation and workflow engagement of email, allowing the business to develop various workflow campaigns to drive conversions of transaction based emails.

For the Spinning.com team, the use of a SaaS ecommerce platform with a sophisticated PIM has streamlined business processes, creating a more efficient workflow for all site updates, warehouses, shipments and customers on the front-end.

This is how you run a world-class, international business.

“This future-state solution provides a seamless and well-structured experience to our consumers. It allows us to extend our ecommerce landscape and service the demand across channels that have been previously well under-serviced,” says Guest-Smith.

“Strategically, the BigCommerce implementation provides direct top-line growth benefit and operationally will be more economical as an overall solution than our previous custom product.”

Quick Stats

  • Hundreds of hours saved across distributed teams with more time to focus on marketing, promotion and brand building, rather than technical challenges or manual tasks.
  • Worked with Jasper Studios for all product information management efforts.

Visit Spinning.com

Spinning.com isn’t just where you go to buy your cycling supplies. The site also offers education on where to find the best trails and classes, as well as a community to help cyclists connect online.

Wire N Cable: A Case Study in Going from $0 to $1M in Less Than a Year

Because of these roots to the industrial age, ecommerce for the wire and cable industry has been a slow moving, painful process. We set out to change that.

Josh Heller, President and Owner at Wire N Cable

There are few industries that have been completely undeterred by the prevalence of ecommerce. In the wire and cable industry, however, ecommerce is a nonstarter. Customers still fax in orders, using a machine plenty of digital natives (i.e. millennials) wouldn’t even recognize.

There has been no change in how the industry sells for decades. It’s door-to-door or pick up the phone, leave a message and include your facsimile number.

Wire N Cable set out to change that. In early 2016, the team launched an ecommerce website, unsure of the market’s willingness to buy online.

For the first time in the industry, a single wire and cable retailer was using online loyalty programs, Google Shopping, SEO, Amazon, eBay and even a mobile app to drive a clientele base used to faxes and print catalogs to an online destination.

The results have been tremendous: $0 in online revenue to more than $1.1 million in less than 12 months.

“We have thousands of positive comments and feedback stating how easy it is to use our site, and that’s all thanks to BigCommerce. I don’t want to forget to mention the speed of the site as well,” says Josh Heller, president and owner of Wine N Cables. “We utilize PriceWaiter, rewards, and many other features in the BigCommerce app marketplace. All of this brings an experience to a clientele base that is used to faxing in an order or getting mailed catalogs!”

Quick Stats

  • 142,862 visitors from Google Shopping
  • 23% conversion rate on traffic from Google Shopping, with an AOV of $232
  • 1st page search results on Google for target keywords
  • $77,237.37 in revenue generated from PriceWaiter integration
  • $800,000 quoted out to customers via Quote Ninja integration
  • $80,000 in monthly revenue from Amazon sales
  • $20,000 in monthly revenue from eBay sales

Wire N Cable

The wire and cable industry is just not reaching their own era of the dot com bubble. Check out what the industry’s very first website looks like, and even put their Make an Offer tool to the test. Online, truly anything is possible.

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  • Thanks for the awesome post. Innovation is necessary for any kind of business but no eCommerce business will be able to create its authority without innovation. You can’t say a big name who success without innovation. We won’t able to create a brand without innovation. I think if you want to be successful you need to create follower. You will only be able to create follower by innovation.

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