If you want to start an arts and crafts ecommerce company (or replatform one) which platform should you go with?
A great way to go about answering that question is to see what your competitors are using! And we’ve done precisely that. Let’s look at the data, and see if there are any interesting conclusions. Let’s jump in, here are the top 19 brands, and which ecommerce platform each is using:
|Arts & Crafts||Platform|
|Create For Less||Custom|
|Factory Direct Craft||Custom|
|Hobby Lobby||SAP Commerce Part of Big 3|
|JOANN||SFCC Part of Big 3|
|Let’s Make Art||Shopify|
|Melissa & Doug||SFCC|
|Michaels||SFCC Part of Big 3|
|Oriental Trading||Oracle Commerce|
|The Loopy Ewe||Custom|
And here is a summary of it, by platform:
So there are a few interesting things about this space. One of which is, unlike many other retail spaces, it is overwhelmingly dominated by three chains, which we can refer to as The Big Three: Hobby Lobby, JOANN, and Michaels. So these three deserve a special look,
(Some talk about The Big Three accounting and consulting firms, or The Big Three car companies – but we love arts and crafts here, so we’re going to repurpose The Big Three for our purposes!)
Of The Big Three, one runs on the SAP ecommerce platform (Hobby Lobby) and two run on Salesforce Commerce Cloud (JOANN and Michaels). What’s interesting is that this makes perfect sense and is perfectly predictable. Here’s why.
Hobby Lobby is The Big One of the Big Three; they’ve been around since 1972 and basically own the space. And has a massive operation with a massive back-end, and they have very complex coordination problems: integrating inventory and stores, and absurd quantities of products need to arrive at the right place at the right time. It’s quite the opposite of the little Shopify store! Hobby Lobby’s back-end infrastructure runs on SAP, so SAP Commerce Cloud is the most logical choice for them. Indeed, when your whole company runs on SAP, it usually doesn’t make sense to use any other commerce front-end; the integration costs are rarely worth the benefits.
But JOANN and Michaels, on the other hand, are serious and large companies – but without the legacy infrastructure of Hobby Lobby. As such, Salesforce Commerce Cloud is actually the ideal choice for them. Salesforce Commerce Cloud has historically been ideal for ecommerce sites with substantial volume (over $10 million/year) – but those without any back-end integration to SAP, Oracle or IBM – because with those, it makes sense to use the respective commerce cloud platforms. So check, check, check!
Let’s reframe that point. There’s really only one reason to use the SAP, IBM (now HCL), or Oracle Commerce Cloud: if you’ve already spent tens of millions of dollars over many decades and have bled installing these platforms to run the entire tech and inventory back-end of your systems, then just graft their ecommerce platform on top. Go for it. While if you’re a tiny company, Shopify is perfect. But there’s that middle ground: not quite large enough to have that painful legacy software to deal with, but not quite small enough to just smile and be happy paying Shopify $29.99 a month. And that’s the sweet spot that Salesforce Commerce Cloud has historically played in.
But wait, there’s more! It gets more interesting because Salesforce is not aggressively going after the mid-market. Having recently made the strategic decision that they want not only the “humongous” companies but just the “merely huge” companies to use their ecommerce platform – those are not the technical words they used, by the way! – Salesforce is now targeting companies making a mere few million dollars a year as their new target. It will be curious to see if, over the next few years, more and more mid-tier companies end up adopting Salesforce Commerce Cloud, in the arts and crafts space.
Here’s a sign: many more of the top 19 companies, 8 – almost half! – are using custom-built, home-grown ecommerce software. In the dozens of direct-to-consumer industries we’ve reviewed, almost none of them have such a large proportion of them as having been custom-built. Today, there is little reason to build your own ecommerce software, unless you have very idiosyncratic needs. A decade ago, when the ecommerce industry was a lot less mature, this wasn’t as true but the times they are a’ changin’. This is a strong clue that many of the mid-sized companies are due for a replatform and upgrade any moment now – and for these mid-tier companies, Salesforce Commerce Cloud is a great pick.
There are a bunch of others that show up. Artist Craftsman is going headless with BigCommerce. Cheap Joe’s lives up to its name by using Magento. Color It and Let’s Make Art both use Shopify, and as smaller competitors, that makes sense.
Kit Kraft uses Spree, which is one of the more interesting platforms out there: built in the “hipster cool as of 10 years ago” platform Ruby on Rails, and open source – that alone makes it feel much more likely to be modern than most other platforms out there. But I haven’t personally used it yet so I can’t give Spree the full thumbs-up quite yet.
Let’s round it out. Even in a space as niche as arts and crafts, there are lots of brands using ecommerce platforms – and each has different needs and different technological and business legacies to deal with – so that leads to lots of different platforms being used. For your up-and-coming arts and crafts brand, which platform makes the most sense for you? Let’s have a call, dive into it, and figure out what direction makes sense for you. Just drop me a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org