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Born out of Chouinard Equipment Ltd in 1989, Black Diamond Equipment has since grown into a global ecommerce success, serving climbing and skiing communities across three continents. With a vision to “engineer and empower the future of mountain sports and be one with the communities we serve,” Black Diamond is a leading manufacturer of climbing, skiing and mountain sports equipment based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
As a “company of users,” the team is heavily immersed in the climbing and skiing communities and committed to constantly innovating and improving its products — and this commitment to community also extends to its ecommerce strategy.
Content limitations with Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
With a desire to foster a strong community and inspire its athletes to adventure more, Black Diamond sought to achieve this same goal across both its offline and online endeavors. However, its original website lived on a monolithic platform, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, which meant the company was largely beholden to developers if it wished to make site updates or modifications. And as a seasonal brand with numerous product introductions throughout the year, this posed a major challenge.
“Their inability to move quickly in the marketplace through their digital channel was part of the reason Black Diamond was looking to move on to something that gave them more agility and flexibility,” explained Penny Porterfield, Vice President of Business Development at developer agency The ZaneRay Group. “It was very expensive for them to try to innovate, add features or even just operate their platform or their website.”
In addition, Black Diamond is widely known for its world-class content. Take a look at their website or Instagram profile, and you’ll find numerous photos, videos and customer stories of climbing, skiing, running and more.
“They have a lot of stories to tell, and they have a really passionate community. Their brand represents the alpine climbing community, but all things alpine is really what their product is focused on,” explained Kirk Cornelius, Vice President of Strategy and Communications at ZaneRay.
But without the ability to blend its product content and stories throughout the user experience, Black Diamond’s content felt siloed and disconnected from the brand. On top of that, integrating content often required time, money and heavy reliance on developers, which meant the team was unable to innovate on the fly.
“They weren't able to tell the stories, and they weren't able to do it quickly enough. The community comes to Black Diamond’s website not only to shop, but to be inspired,” explained Cornelius. “They come there to see their athletes doing things that motivate them to go try out new things and new adventures.”
“Their inability to move quickly in the marketplace through their digital channel was part of the reason Black Diamond was looking to move on to something that gave them more agility and flexibility.”
Finding flexibility with BigCommerce’s headless solution.
In hopes of finding a more flexible ecommerce solution, Black Diamond turned to developer agency and BigCommerce 2021 Headless Award Winner, The ZaneRay Group. The mountain gear brand wanted to create a clear buyer journey from homepage to checkout, weaving its brand content (from full-page images to ambassador adventure films) throughout the customer experience.
To help meet Black Diamond’s needs, ZaneRay determined that the best approach would be an API-forward headless ecommerce framework, which would decouple its front-end presentation layer from its back-end server-side layer. Thus, they recommended BigCommerce to support Black Diamond in its ecommerce goals, as it provided the headless architecture and open APIs to quickly create custom integrations and functionality.
“BigCommerce was a great choice for Black Diamond, primarily because it gave them a more flexible platform,” said Porterfield. “Headless was very new, but BigCommerce was already in the API-first game.”
With the flexibility of BigCommerce’s headless framework, Black Diamond also achieved an independent, yet cohesive administration of Black Diamond’s EU site while leveraging common product data, a single CMS instance and other key services. Black Diamond was able to house its US and EU site under one ecommerce roof and uniquely serve its customers across various markets.
“Black Diamond was able to work with different payment processors and offer some of the merchandizing a little bit differently. Things like that are really important to different types of markets,” said Porterfield. “BigCommerce really gave them an ecosystem to work globally.”
Together with a flexible, new CMS, BigCommerce gave Black Diamond the freedom to execute on its vision without a heavy dependance on developers. With the freedom to manage its site directly, Black Diamond was able to leverage its technical team to integrate a PIM setup as well as an ERP system.
“Working with just APIs, it was very straightforward to connect their ERP system, and they were able to do that for both Europe and the US,” said Porterfield. “BigCommerce allows merchants to leverage the resources and the talent that they have and put their money where it's best utilized in other places.”
In addition, ZaneRay helped the Black Diamond team build out its ecommerce ecosystem with Prismic CMS, a third-party search platform, migration of reviews, a new ESP and, most notably, a custom Pro Program.
“Black Diamond wanted the Pro Program to be integrated and branded as if it's seamless into the entire experience,” said Porterfield. “Pros are very important to them — they’re the people who are really representing and excited about their brand.”
Blending the brand and shopping experiences.
Working with some of the top photographers in the world, Black Diamond was investing significantly in content prior to launching its new headless site on BigCommerce. However, this content was largely housed on the brand’s social media channels, as the team felt limited in how it could represent the content on its old platform.
But after switching to BigCommerce, Black Diamond knew it needed to make a change in how it displayed its content online. Knowing that its customers were not only visiting its site to shop, but also to get inspired by other customer stories, Black Diamond decided to include both “Shop” and “Experience” tabs in its site navigation. This way, if a customer is looking to simply watch videos and read through content, there is a dedicated space just for them.
“But there are still product loops being woven throughout that experience section of the site, and vice versa, too,” explained Cornelius. “When customers go to shop, Black Diamond is also able to pull those ambassador stories into the actual product pages. So it really allowed us to seamlessly integrate the shopping experience along with that brand experience throughout the site.”
Agency Partner: The ZaneRay Group
“BigCommerce really gave them an ecosystem to work globally.”
“Working with just APIs, it was very straightforward to connect their ERP system, and they were able to do that for both Europe and the US. BigCommerce allows merchants to leverage the resources and the talent that they have and put their money where it's best utilized in other places.”
Freedom to innovate without constraints.
With the ability for both technical and nontechnical users to easily make changes to its site, Black Diamond has been able to significantly increase its marketing velocity and increase online sales. With the freedom of BigCommerce, the team is now enabled to directly manage its digital launches, new campaigns and new products.
“With BigCommerce investing in open source out of the gate, headless was really the right direction to go with Black Diamond,” said Cornelius. “When we first started meeting with the BigCommerce team, we walked the Black Diamond team through our headless accelerator store and showed them right there how their digital team could build out web pages on their own — and I think that's where the light bulbs went off.”
“With BigCommerce investing in open source out of the gate, headless was really the right direction to go with Black Diamond.”
Elevating the customer experience.
With the freedom to make changes on the fly, manage multiple sites from one back-end and infuse content throughout its buyer journey, Black Diamond has all the tools it needs to excel in the long term.
“Black Diamond recognizes that its digital channel can not only grow rapidly when they have their inventory and all things are placed there, but also that the team is really enabled to grow their business quickly,” said Porterfield.
Its headless framework, coupled with a passion for inspiring its customers, provides Black Diamond with the right equipment to elevate its customer experience over time. And with BigCommerce as its trusted partner, the Black Diamond team will be well equipped to reach new ecommerce heights, no matter where their next adventure takes them.
Published: April 2023