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SOG Knives Delivers Cutting Edge Ecommerce Experience with BigCommerce and Mercutio

How a knife manufacturer cut out site problems by switching from Magento to BigCommerce

3.2x184%4.5x
increase in revenueincrease in conversion rateincrease in mobile revenue


50%2.6x$100,000
decrease in page load speedsincrease in revenue from customers using site searchestimated savings in annualized ownership costs


Metrics reflect online store sales from January 2020 – May 2020 compared to prior year for the same time period.


“Genius Is 1% Inspiration and 99% Perspiration”

When Vietnam War fanatic and industrial designer Spencer Frazer became aware of the existence of a highly-classified U.S. special operations military unit in Vietnam known as MACV-SOG, he instantly became enamored. One of the tools the unit carried on covert missions was a unique combat knife, which Spencer greatly admired for its sculptural and functional design. In 1986, Spencer was inspired to design an updated version of the original SOG knife, paying tribute to the special ops unit that created it. What began as a single product turned into a comprehensive line of various tools including knives, multi-tools, packs, lights and gear.

This was the beginning for SOG Specialty Knives, a manufacturer whose innovations are today field-proven by US Special Forces, Police, First Responders, Adventurers, and everyday users. 

When Steve Miller joined SOG in May 2019, he was tasked with assessing the current state of the business, its partnerships and the performance of the Magento 1 platform SOG used as its ecommerce foundation. After digging into the site metrics, Steve knew something needed to change.

SOG Site Struggled With Magento

As told to BigCommerce by Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce.

I don't want to be overly emotional about it, but after looking at some of the issues we were facing on Magento 1, I realized it was a disaster. The website was treading water for four years before I joined SOG and took a deep dive into the metrics. Upon doing so, I found that our average page load times were extremely high, 13 seconds on average. In ecommerce, that's a conversion killer. Industry research shows that 70% of shoppers admit that page speed influences their likeliness to buy from a site. Even a 100-millisecond delay in page load times can decrease conversion by 7%. Also, while it was a responsive website, it didn't work well on a phone and mobile checkout was a major problem. As such, our mobile conversion rates were below 0.2%. Average mobile conversion rates are at least 1%.

The site was too hard to navigate and shop, and we had a multi-step cart and checkout process that was difficult to use. We didn't have address verification in the cart or form field auto-complete options, which resulted in a high cart abandonment rate and we couldn’t control search results on the site in any way to give the best results back to customers. All in all, the Magento site was an almost unshoppable experience.

SOG had hired our agency partner Mercutio to help repair the damage, and I immediately found them to be an excellent partner. Together, we had to determine very quickly what our next move was, and for many reasons, we both agreed on BigCommerce.


BigCommerce Offers Rich Features For a Competitive Edge

As told to BigCommerce by Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce.

SOG didn’t have onsite developers, so we were spending a fortune on hosting for Magento. On top of that, we hired Mercutio to maintain and prop up the website. Our time, energy and money was gobbled up by trying to fix all of the issues versus trying to develop a cool site that sells to, educates and inspires our customers. We faced a dilemma when we started to review new platforms to replace Magento. There were the enterprise solutions at the very top — super expensive, clumsy and hard to use for a company our size — and at the very bottom there were the simple tools that somebody who may sell on Etsy could use to get a website up and running.

Then there's this middle ground where Mercutio and I agreed a SaaS solution like BigCommerce really fits the bill. It suited our mid-sized business model and had many of the things we had been searching for to make it easier to run our business. We no longer have to worry about hosting, PCI compliance or costly site and security updates. We found BigCommerce is chock full of easy-to-implement applications that were priced affordably and have worked to solve many of the problems we were experiencing with our Magento site. Now, with BigCommerce, I don’t have to spend my time thinking about the details related to operating the site; instead, I can spend more time strategizing about how to delight the customer and how to tell our new brand story in a really invigorating way.

Along with BigCommerce, we selected Contentful as the CMS to input branded content onto the site. This allows us to have a slick content management experience while using BigCommerce as the ecommerce engine. Along with building a new website, SOG launched a new brand position in 2019, and needed a strong content management system to support our growing content program and allow the new branding to really shine.

BigCommerce and Contentful have opened up opportunities for us to create the kind of website that positions us to publish content like our recent new brand and product launches in a way that really makes our site unique. Running on BigCommerce and working with Mercutio has made our site stand out from our competition in a lot of ways; there are few ecommerce websites in general, and none in our product vertical, that sing like ours does. There’s so much flexibility with BigCommerce to create that custom look and feel that we harnessed to tell our unique brand story, and I think through the deliberate design process outlined by Mercutio, we've done exactly that.

“[BigCommerce] suited our mid-sized business model and has many of the things we had been searching for to make it easier to run our business.”Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce

SOG and Mercutio Join Forces to Create a Flawless Site Experience

As told to BigCommerce by Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce.

When I look back on working with Mercutio to launch our BigCommerce site, I view it as one single team that worked together on this project. I’m extremely proud of how we worked together and what we came up with. Based on Mercutio’s original proposal, the development costs and time were right on budget. Working with Mercutio really was an excellent experience. They had great discipline and great talent, handled everything so well and were so easy to work with. That’s not to say that there weren’t challenges, but we worked through them together and, in the end, they were an ideal partner.

The thing that I appreciate most about Mercutio was when I came on board, they were doing maintenance on the website, fixing some of the problems resulting from really sloppy work done by our previous partner. Having spent a lot of time discussing what they can do for us, I realized that Mercutio’s ability to help us drive our business was much deeper than merely putting out fires as they arose. So, in addition to partnering with Mercutio for site design, site development, and maintenance, I've also now used them as a strategic partner for brainstorming and roadmap preparation, campaign creation, design and more. Really, I use them more as a full service agency, and they've never let us down.

Mercutio is essentially part of my team, and I believe they truly care about our business and our brand. I feel like they're an extension of SOG in a way that a lot of other agencies I've worked with haven't been. They're also just fun to work with. I'm happy that we went down this road with them. What we've built with Mercutio and the results we’ve created from it is something that can act as a showcase for what Mercutio is capable of. They continue to deliver post launch, having recently developed a way to overcome some technical and design challenges that enabled us to sell a category of products we haven’t been able to sell online before. These 13 products currently account for 15% of our total website revenue! Mercutio’s work continues to make a huge difference to our business.


Filling In the Missing Pieces

As told to BigCommerce by Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce.

Some things I love about the BigCommerce app store are the variety of apps offered, the ease with which apps integrate for nontechnical people like myself and the results we get from using the apps. One important app we use is Signifyd, which focuses on fraud relief. We were using a rules-based system prior to Signifyd on the Magento site, and it was only approving about 96% of our orders. We talked to the Signifyd team in detail about how their AI platform works with BigCommerce, and were able to work out a proof of concept with them that they exceeded in terms of performance. They're approving about 99.8% of our orders right now, which is a huge improvement for us.

Additionally, we use Addrexx for address verification and form field auto-completion, an important feature we were missing from our previous site. Without address verification and form-field auto-completion, we were experiencing high fallout of consumers in the cart and checkout process. Now, with Addrexx, a customer comes to our website and can input the most archaean addresses and Addrexx will auto complete their entry and offer up error messages if something doesn’t look right, giving them a chance to fix it. It satisfies the customer by making it easier to fill out the form, and it satisfies us by letting customers go through the checkout process more quickly and easily. We’ve also saved a fair amount of money by shipping packages to the right addresses, whereas before we were getting a lot of returns due to incorrect addresses. It's a win-win all the way around.

One of the most exciting apps that we recently launched is Klaviyo, our new email platform. Mercutio managed the transition from our old platform and did it quickly and efficiently. We are so psyched to make the move from our old email provider for a million different reasons, but the biggest is the way Klaviyo plugs into the BigCommerce store and uses customer data in a way that gives us so much more data and control over building segments and lists., and using actual customer behavior that we just didn't have before. We've always been a “batch-and-blast” email campaigner, and now we've been able to start to slice and dice our file and figure out how to send emails to the right people. One of the first emails we sent on Klaviyo had a 50% open rate and 10% click through rate. I've never seen numbers like that before, and we are just getting started. We set up our email flows for automated emails really quickly, opening up a whole new world of opportunity for us in the way we communicate with our customers.

“Some things I love about the BigCommerce app store are the variety of apps offered, the ease with which apps integrate for nontechnical people like myself and the results we get from using the apps.”Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce

We found BigCommerce is chock full of easy-to-implement applications that were priced affordably and have worked to solve many of the problems we were experiencing with our Magento site.Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce
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Continuing to Delight Customers During the Pandemic

As told to BigCommerce by Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce.

A lot of businesses have changed things internally, but during COVID, we've stayed the course with SOG’s rebranding and the new product development plan we have been working on over the last two years. We really believe the decisions we're making with our products and how we're presenting them to the customer with our new brand push is absolutely the right thing for our business. Even during the COVID outbreak, this new brand positioning and product strategy is performing exceptionally well, particularly on our new website.

We have seen quite a spike in business and a lot of new customers coming to the website. One of the things that we're doing differently right now is trying to strategize how we're going to use a tool like Klaviyo to continue cultivating those new customers and new buyers in the future. The DTC channel is far and away the most profitable channel for SOG, so there's a big push to continue to grow it.

We're certainly grateful that our business is doing well, but we understand the gravity of the pandemic. A large part of our growth during this time has been due to how we have been able to use BigCommerce to present our new branding strategy, and ongoing releases of new products and updates of old products. We're starting to sell products as purpose-engineered, well thought out solutions that work together and maximize the customer’s experience every day. The products are now developed through extensive work with subject matter experts to inform every detail of product design with the goal of helping customers solve problems in their lives. It’s an interesting and exciting time to work at SOG because everything's changing. 

If anything, I would tell other retailers to make sure you have a thorough go-to-market plan so that you're prepared. Moreover, it’s crucial during this time that you're taking your customers seriously, trying to understand what their pain points are, meeting their needs and delighting them, whether they're small or large.


Big Future For SOG With the Help of BigCommerce and Mercutio

As told to BigCommerce by Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce.

Between implementing new website changes, product releases, and doing more with our metrics, there are a lot of considerations for us moving forward. This year for SOG, it's about continuing to make the most out of the customers that come to our website and creating the best experience for them.

There's plenty to do. It never ends, and that's one of the coolest things about this business. Plus, it’s always exciting to build a strategy to get to where you want to be. There's always something interesting and exciting to work on. We truly believe there's a big future for our brand, and with the support of BigCommerce and Mercutio, we're going to reach it.

“It’s crucial during this time that you're taking your customers seriously...”Steve Miller, SOG Knives Director of Ecommerce

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