A confession: with most fashion categories, I know even less about the topic than I know about ancient Chinese grammatical constructions – that is, nothing. But shoes? I’ve long thought people subconsciously – sometimes consciously – bucket you into a type of person by your shoes. So, a confession: my closet has far, far too many types of shoes in it.
So when reviewing the ecommerce platforms of the top footwear providers, I remembered recent visits to a bunch of their ecommerce sites, and also fond memories of going to Macy’s with my parents when I was a kid to get all types of shoes as well. So for today’s footwear ecommerce analysis, we can not just keep it to the ecommerce level but see how it ties into their shoes and branding in more subtle ways.
Let’s jump into the meat. I was wondering what ecommerce platforms are used by the top footwear and shoe providers? Let’s see the top brands and what platforms they use:
|Clarks||SAP Commerce Cloud|
|Dr Martens||SAP Commerce Cloud|
|Hoka One One||SFCC|
|Johnston & Murphy||SFCC|
|Le Coq Sportif||Custom|
And now let’s look at the summary:
|Salesforce Commerce Cloud||21|
|SAP Commerce Cloud||2|
|HCL Commerce (formerly IBM Websphere Commerce)||2|
So let’s step back and see what this means, and to see what we can find that is surprising or interesting in that analysis.
First, after reviewing the top 33 footwear/shoe brands online, we found that 21 of the 33 use one platform: Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is much, much, larger proportionally than almost any other industry we’re reviewed. Closer to half is more the norm. But here, 2 out of 3, just about.
Why does Salesforce Commerce Cloud dominate this category so strongly? Perhaps because shoe brands and footwear tend to be an old-fashioned, traditional category. The major players haven’t changed in decades. Just look up the founding dates of any of the major players and they overwhelmingly feel like a half-century ago. And as such, the major players want to go with the battle-tested, industrial-strength, “It will not just do the job, but do the job awesomely” type solution. And in ecommerce, that choice is Salesforce Commerce Cloud, since the days back when it was still known as Demandware.
But there is another possible explanation: you wouldn’t know it from the surface but footwear is a brutal business. It can even be cutthroat sometimes. Big box retailers giving deep discounts, the same product available everywhere with everyone trying to offer prices a penny less than the next guy which turns into a never-ending arms race, immense pressure (psychological and physical) for people to try them on in-store, and so forth. This isn’t a straight forward click-and-buy case.
And complex cases, with deeply integrated marketing, is precisely where Salesforce Commerce Cloud shines brightly! As an example very relevant for the shoe and footwear industry: footwear ecommerce can be made orders of magnitude more effective if tightly integrated with digital marketing: personalized site experiences, coupled with personalized mails that are consistent with the personalized site experience, and so forth. And the deep integration of ecommerce and marketing is where Salesforce Commerce Cloud shines.
A third reason that SFCC could lead the pack for footwear brands is that many footwear manufacturers and retailers have complex fulfillment requirements, such as substantial legacy or custom systems. As such, the front-end ecommerce store would need to integrate tightly with that. And Commerce Cloud is also good at that.
A second surprising data point was that of the 33 brands, there is precisely one using Shopify: Steve Madden. Steve Madden, being one of the most widely recognized brands, it’s surprising that they are using Shopify and not another platform.
The most likely explanation for that is a cost-saving move, since the core functionality of Shopify is pennies.
But there could be other explanations, as well. Given Shopify’s quick and easy approach, template creation and integration is quick and straightforward. Click, you have a new template. Remember that one of the reasons for Shopify’s huge success at the low-end of the ecommerce market isn’t just the price but the ease of use. Maybe Steve Madden’s team prioritized click-update-testing above all other factors?
The lesson there is this: there is a time and place for Shopify among the big-boys of ecommerce, even if it is just 1 out of 33 times!
Another surprising aspect is that 2 of the 33 brands are using SAP Commerce Cloud. SAP! (Hi, Wassi, shout-out!). SAP, as an old-time brand trying to get into the ecommerce cloud space, is the ecommerce platform of choice for those already on the SAP infrastructure. As such, I would guess with 100% confidence that Dr Martens and Clarks already are.
But realizing that the two that use SAP are Dr Martens and Clarks made me smile. Both are British companies, with Dr Martens even famously named after its German founder Klaus Märtens – and the Europeans seem to love their SAP. It is a German company, after all, and local domain expertise goes a long way – even in the age of the internet.
Another surprising showing on the list is that another 2 of the 33 use HCL Commerce (formerly IBM Websphere Commerce): Vans and Timberland. Here’s what’s funniest: Vans and Timberland are both classic American shoe/footwear manufacturers, so the explanation has to be the same as to why Dr Martens and Clarks use SAP. HCL Commerce is the American SAP, after all. They must have a back-end built for decades on the HCL infrastructure, so it only makes sense to use the HCL Commerce front-end.
It’s worth calling out as well the second-placed performer, Magento. While far behind Salesforce Commerce Cloud (aka Demandware) – with 5 of the 33, as compared to 21 of the 33 – it’s a good showing. Nike, Nine West, and a few of the top brands use Magento.
What’s great about Magento: it is endlessly customizable, and can be tweaked to be lightning fast. And it’s open source so you’re never beholden to one provider.
Perhaps it’s not used by more brands because it’s a technology on the way down, not on the way up. Or perhaps because it was long faltering and then eventually purchased by Adobe, which kept them distracted from improving the platform the way, say, Salesforce Commerce Cloud could do.
The conclusion? There are lots of platforms out there, with both good and bad to each one. There is not one catch-all solution, but each one has its strengths and its weaknesses – even just in one industry like the footwear industry.
Which ecommerce platform is right for you? It depends! If you want to talk about your ecommerce platform, I’d love to have a call and dive into your case and think through the different platforms and which one could be right for you. Just send me an email at email@example.com