When you go to buy sunglasses – or really just any old pair of glasses – you always do a “view source” to see what platform they’re using, right? Of course, of course you do. And you’re not the only one. So do I! Doesn’t everyone?
So I compiled the list of the top 25 glasses & sunglasses retailers in the USA, to see what ecommerce platforms they use and to see what is interesting or surprising about it. Let’s jump in. First, here are the companies, and which platform each is using:
|Glasses & Sunglasses||Platform|
|Cutler And Gross||Magento|
|Garrett Leight||Magento; Shopify|
|Maui Jim||SAP Commerce|
|Oakley||SAP Commerce Cloud|
|Oliver Peoples||HCL Commerce|
|Ray-Ban||Magento; HCL Commerce|
|Tom Ford||SFCC; Amplience|
And here are the top platforms, taken together, in the sunglasses and eyeglasses space:
|SAP Commerce Cloud||2|
So there are a few interesting things about this list.
The most important observation, by far, is how strongly Shopify dominates this list, with 11 out of the 25 shops using it. Across almost all retail and direct-to-consumer industries we’ve surveyed, Salesforce Commerce Cloud has been the leader in all except for two, electronics brands (that have a preference for building their own, customized platforms surprise, surprise) and watch brands (where Magento just nudged out SFCC to top spot), so it is shocking that after studying dozens of retail industries, to find ones.
It’s surprising because Salesforce Commerce Cloud’s feature set for high-volume ecommerce stores is orders of magnitude better than Shopify. It makes sense that the big stores need the complex features; big ecommerce sites just have very different needs than smaller ones, such as complex ERP integrations, tie-ins to physical store locations, and so forth – things that Shopify just can’t handle. Not even Shopify Plus.
But why is the glasses space different from all others?
The answer comes in one word: Luxottica.
Here’s an open secret in the glassware industry. In fact, it’s honoring it too much to call it even a “secret”, albeit one that’s open; it’s common knowledge to all in the industry: almost every single glasses brand out there you can think of, that you know of, that you’ve used and bought, is actually owned by just one company. That company is Luxottica.
(There is a glaring exception for the startup fighting in this space, Warby Parker, but we’ll get to them later. Think about this as applied to the traditional glasses companies.)
In case you’ve never heard of them, well, that’s the point. They don’t sell any glasses themselves; they just own companies that own other companies that own other companies that ultimately end up with them indirectly owning all other glasses companies.
“Monopoly? Ha! Monopolies are for the small guys, not for anything that actually matters,” I can just hear some guys in a backroom saying. (And I know one of those guys’ soldiers is reading this now, so, “Hi! I once had your job – do it with a smile!”)
Because of this de facto monopoly, there’s an interesting dynamic: effectively, one huge player and then tons and tons of miniscule, tiny players.
Or framed differently (no pun intended): as a monopolist, they can suck all the money out of the industry, leaving only small shops run by less sophisticated players left to compete.
This is an interesting example of one of my oft-repeated observations (copyright Morgan 2010, and it’s only become truer since): “There is no SME [small and medium enterprise] industry” or framed more broadly, “There is no middle class.” In business, kinda like in everything, you go big or you go home. And Luxottica is the example par excellence of this dynamic.
The result? Shopify, for the win! With lots of tiny little shops trying to figure their stuff out in a space where Luxottica has sucked all the air (aka, money) out of the room, you’re left with lots of relatively smaller players who are happy to pay $30/month to Shopify to run their ecommerce shop.
I will confess: I’m a glasses nerd. I’ve spent far too much money on far too expensive glasses. Oliver Peoples, I see, runs HCL – that is, IBM Websphere, rebranded. Okay, so Oliver Peoples is clearly tied into the IBM infrastructure; alas, my beloved OP sunglasses I wore until I destroyed them in a bike crash in Palo Alto in what feels like a previous life. Versace runs Salesforce Commerce Cloud – cool glasses, and from a first-rate fashion brand, of course they run Salesforce Commerce Cloud, that feels like a requirement for fashion-first retail brands. Mykita uses Shopware – an old fashioned choice, but easily explained because of Die Deutsch Konnection; there are lots of home-team advantages for choosing software built down the street.
But the elephant in the room when discussing eyeglass ecommerce – well, the second elephant since the first is Luxottica, but we got that one out of the way – is Warby Parker. Their subscription try-on model, combined with hipster-cool style, and one of The Original viral marketing videos – it’s a triple win. They’ve been conquering the space and fighting the good fight against Luxottica. (Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if the fight is a show and they’re secretly funded by Luxottica… but that, alas, is another story!)
What software do they use? They are the shining case on why custom software makes sense. We often see companies, with very standard use-cases, toying with the idea of building very custom software. UV‘s general take is: building your own platform makes sense usually when you have very custom needs. In direct proportion to each other. You want people to click ‘buy’ on your necklace and Paypal you the money? No custom software needed. You’re building your own rocketship, to be controlled like a drone, to go up to LEO attitudes (Low Earth Orbit, where, you know, they tell us satellites and the International Space Station apparently orbit around the Earth from) to see if there is indeed a “firmament” ceiling there or it just peters out into space. And when it’s in LEO, there your custom-build LEO-drones will come out and, while exposed to the immense weather conditions and temperatures of the limits of “outer space” are going to perform experiments while flying hundreds of miles per hour, and the software you want to build needs to control all these devices and survive all these conditions including the expected crash-land into the Atlantic. Yeah, you may need some custom software for that. Oh, and good luck with that one, let us know how it turns out.
Warby Parker, with a super innovative model, is a great example of the need to build your own platform. Try on lots of glasses virtually? Ship multiple pairs quickly? Expect them to be returned, and restocked immediately? Site must be super smooth? Allowing users to input their own results from the try-on and images that are then manipulated in real-time? All coupled with AI that needs to be industry-leading for the business plan to be executed successfully? Any reader of this series knows I’m a huge fan of Salesforce Commerce Cloud… but even Salesforce can’t do that without being re-written from the ground up to be, well, the Warby Parker platform.
In conclusion: lots of platforms, lots of strengths and weaknesses for each. If you want help figuring out which platform is best for your needs, let’s talk! Just drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org