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The 11 Most Technically Innovative Ecommerce Brands

Brett Regan

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In ecommerce, glitz and glam matter – a lot. In fact, brands that focus on the look & feel of their sites or who bring to market a whole new business model often grace the headlines of The New York Times, Fast Company and Forbes.

What gets overlooked, however, is technical innovation. After all, it’s a harder pitch.

How can you sell something to a reporter that you can’t really see? Something that isn’t necessarily visible to the consumer’s eye?

Those technical innovations encompass automation, data orchestration and technical SEO, to name a few, and are as important to a brand’s growth as site UX or a unique business model.

BigCommerce’s entire platform is built on this notion: that extensibility in the form of APIs, SDKs and open architecture is the real meat and potatoes for online brands.

That’s because the pace of change has never been faster, and business agility is now the single biggest competitive differentiator in retail.

This is why every year, BigCommerce hosts our Innovation Awards, a call to those ecommerce brands out there who have used extensibility, agility and technical innovation to save their employees time, reduce manual errors and grow business revenue.

And this year, we present to you our 3rd Annual Innovation Awards. You can find the winners here, and below, the details of 11 finalists, broken into 4 categories of achievement.

2020’s Most Innovative Online Brands
  1. BrickHouse Security.

  2. John Paul Mitchell Systems.

  3. HVAC Parts Shop.

  4. Gator Kennels.

  5. Tracks N Teeth, Inc.

  6. Lighting Style.

  7. Anchor and Crew.

  8. Total Home Supply.

  9. StationeryXpress.

  10. Speed Addicts.

  11. QE Home.

Best Technical Ecommerce Innovations

Technical innovations are the ones you experience as a consumer and can’t imagine shopping with that brand without it.

This year’s most innovative ecommerce brands have:

  1. Built the next generation of streaming TV, i.e., less ads and more shopping, built-in.

  2. Solved for multi-location shipping complexity to give back to veterans who gave all they had.

  3. Used WebDev to custom code unique FAQs for all product pages on a complex product purchasing journey.

Below are their stories, their inspiration and their results.

BrickHouse Security: WebDAV Implementation for Unique FAQs on Every Product Page.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

BrickHouse Security’s products need extensive product description detail for consumers as well as to rank for SEO. We needed full-HTML per-product FAQs with the potential to handle multiple complex layouts.

The requirements were simple, but seemed insurmountable for every partner we talked to. Here was what we needed:

  1. Something great for SEO. The crawlers must think it’s just part of the page.

  2. Straightforward to edit and manage for our internal teams.

  3. Allows sophisticated HTML formatting, if needed.

  4. Cannot be several custom fields chained together.

  5. Cannot piggyback the bottom-half of an existing BigCommerce field.

  6. Content is housed in BigCommerce.

  7. Didn’t want to have to pay to subscribe to a third-party tool.

The solution was dead-simple and obvious-in-retrospect. The best innovations always are.

Business Impact of the Innovation

Our products are more complex than the average online purchase, so this content was needed to boost customer education, and thus conversion. Having a content solution like this is empowering to both the marketing and support teams.

Also, BrickHouse lives and dies by SEO, and this content had to be on the page properly for the bots.

We are beginning to leverage this webDAV injection solution elsewhere on our site, where blocks of content are needed over and above the provided WYSIWYG areas, sometimes with one-off layout complexities that the WYSIWYGs can’t handle.

This solutions is scalable, and allows us to run a BigCommerce site with powerful amounts of content.

Technical Innovation Implementation

I used javascript that loads an HTML file from a neatly-organized folder on the WebDAV. The solution is straightforward, old-fashioned, and quietly powerful.

In the Stencil theme, we simply print this code where we need the block:

That div tag is processed by a small, 6-line javascript function in the header of the product page. You can see it at work here:

See the page here.

BigCommerce is easy to use, but also offers a wide-open play field at the enterprise level. The WebDAV is a lifesaving high-end feature that doesn’t get enough attention.

Most Innovative B2C Use Case

The segment to which you sell your products comes with its own unique set of challenges. In the B2C space, winning customer mindshare is the name of the game before you can even try to get them to convert.

And with thousands of online brands –– more every day! –– launching to try and steal away your customer’s time, how you win loyalty, and how you solve for complex challenges without ever burdening the customer makes all the difference.

This year’s most innovative B2C use cases include brands that:

  • Leveraged their partner network to drive more traffic and more sales.

  • Reduced customer shopping confusion and support wait time with on-site search functionality that saves consumers and employees precious time.

Below are their stories, their inspiration and their results.

John Paul Mitchell Systems: Partner Program Implementation to Drive Consumer Conversions.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

We built a custom commission structure to pay salons in our network a commission on every order we get through the website that comes from their specific URL and codes.

This helps us to bypass competitors through direct traffic and professional word of mouth recommendations from stylists around the globe.

Business Impact of the Innovation

Using this model, we sold more than $2,000,000 in product in 2 years on our site through direct salon relationships.

Technical Innovation Implementation

BigCommerce’s built-in coupon codes and open architecture allowed us to use baseline functionality to get the program started, and then scale it by building in a custom 3rd party app to better track, measure and manage the commission and salon program.

HVAC Parts Shop: On-Site Visual Search Across Model and Revision Numbers.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

We had been trying to find the best ways to get our customers the information they needed as effortlessly as possible. We decided we wanted to have a product finder tool where the customers could input their model number for their HVAC system and it would bring up the list of parts they could use.

Our previous website host could not give us the tools we needed to make this product work. We were being completely inundated with phone calls and customers messaging us on our live chat feature on our website.

Sometimes we would have customers waiting on hold for 5-10 minutes before someone would even acknowledge them. Some of the customers would become so irritated that they would go to one of our competitors before we would even have a chance to help them.

Business Impact of the Innovation

Switching to BigCommerce has made a big difference.

  • Our bounce rate has lowered by 40%.

  • Our customer are able to find the parts they are needing with less confusion which has increased sales.

This one new feature created such a positive change in our efficiency and effectiveness in filling orders. Customers can access their heating and cooling system information at a click and pressing of a few buttons.

This has reduced our inbound phone calls dramatically!

This leaves us to help customers with the real issues, and also provides us the extra time to get all of our shipments out in a timely manner.

This has resulted in our business having tremendous success since we have begun our journey with BigCommerce, and we look forward to seeing what the future has in store for this partnership moving forward.

Technical Innovation Implementation

Now that we are with BigCommerce and the help of Arizon Digital, we created a model number search tool. When a customer enters their model number, it brings up all of the parts that exist for that model.

This has cut the amount of customer calls because they are able to find their parts much quicker and with less confusion.

This was truly a big undertaking, as these parts are never permanently set, and they must always be monitored.

However, we worked with BigCommerce to fine tune exactly what we were looking for in our product finder and they built it for us.

BigCommerce used our suggestions and built us a tool that was exactly what our customers needed. It gives our customers easy access to HVAC information specific to their system.

Most Innovative B2B Use Case

When selling B2B, customizations reign supreme.

  • How you talk to specific customers.

  • The price points you show them.

  • The products you show them (or don’t).

These aren’t just nice-to-haves in B2B. They are must-haves, as in, you can’t do ecommerce without them.

This year’s most innovative B2B brands have not only nailed the customization and personalization requirements of B2B online sales, but have gone even further. Some of their innovations include:

  • The displaying of all custom projects within related product option search results to close the mental gap between what is offered and what can be customized at a product level.

  • Combining model number text search with visual search capabilities to help B2B buyers more quickly narrow down their search to the exact items needed.

  • Back-office data orchestration from on-site activity to CRM and ERP sources of truth to keep customer relationships humming and finance happy.

  • Launching a B2B side alongside the B2C site, all on the same URL, to continuing earning SEO benefits but serving various audiences and growing revenue 3X.

Below are their stories, their inspiration and their results.

Gator Kennels: Custom Project Display Within Larger Category Hierarchy.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

Our business sells commercial dog kennels to other businesses such as veterinarians, dog groomers, dog boarding, and animal rescues. We had to find a way to display the products we sell, as well as the customization of the products that is possible.

Business Impact of the Innovation

Since creating our website on BigCommerce 2 years ago, our business has nearly tripled!

Technical Innovation Implementation

We are able to show multiple product options (with pictures) that help display the ‘standard’ upgrades to the kennels. This helps us with options like color, gate upgrades like tempered glass, and bowl-feeder options.

We also created a number of ‘products’ that actually display previous projects we’ve created. This allows us to display more customizations we’ve done, yet still have the ability to categorize the ‘projects’ to match the product line.

It also helps display ‘featured’ projects on the homepage to get our customers’ attention. The built-in search feature of BigCommerce allows customers to search for keywords that are important to them.

Not only will they find the actual product-line we sell, but they will find ‘projects’ that have matching features to see examples of what is possible!

Tracks N Teeth, Inc: Text & Visual Search Capabilities Across Thousands of Model Numbers.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

We’re an online marketplace for aftermarket parts. We have over 90,000 items from a variety of different vendors and suppliers for sale on our website.

These parts have multiple manufacturer part numbers that can point to the same part, and each part can fit multiple makes/models for a variety of manufacturers.

We had to solve the challenge of creating an easy-to-use customer search experience and came up with a results-oriented visual search to help our customers find the right items for their equipment.

This has increased our conversion rate and led to a higher number of online orders.

Business Impact of the Innovation

The project just completed about 2-3 months ago and we are still making tweaks to the finished product.

We are seeing online ordering increase by about 20% and our goal is to further drive online purchasing as we leverage more data and continue to refine the search experience for our customers.

Technical Innovation Implementation

We were able to utilize BigCommerce to build a custom front-end and back-end management solution for our database and connect them through the flexibility of the BigCommerce platform.

This allowed us to build exactly what we wanted without being hindered by limitations of a platform and still having the cart experience and site uptime that BigCommerce has built-in.

In doing this, we are one of the only online parts vendors offering a truly easy to use visual search.

Lighting Style: B2B UX and SEO Excellence Across the Board.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

Our business started as a very successful B2C online store. However, half of our business is now B2B, and we faced an immense challenge in ensuring that BOTH our B2C and B2B customers were equally serviced – and that our B2C offering was not harmed.

We looked far and wide for another business that had adequately solved this challenge, but could not, as we needed the same category and product pages looking and behaving completely differently depending upon customer type.

BigCommerce helped us solve this challenge by having an incredibly flexible platform that allowed easy and high quality customization.

Business Impact of the Innovation

After going live with our new solution, enabling the customer to choose completely different experience depending upon whether they were B2C or B2B, overnight our B2B inquiries and sales doubled – while our B2C sales (thankfully) were unaffected. Perfect!

Technical Innovation Implementation

BigCommerce’s customer groups were a lifesaver.

You can build completely different experiences on your site based on which customer groups your customer is placed in.

Now, we can show products only to some customers, build out custom price lists, hide products from other customers and so on.

We don’t have to manage 2 sites. It is all one site, with different ecommerce experiences built in for B2B and B2C consumers.

Best Customer Experience Innovation

Our best customer experience innovation isn’t about design – though that certainly comes in to play. It is instead about UX and brand cohesiveness across channels including international sites, wholesale partnerships, B2C sites, marketplaces and more.

This year’s best customer experience innovation winners include technical innovation like:

  • Centralizing an international sales organization along with 150+ reselling partners, all while increasing owned website conversion.

  • Theme framework editing and development to showcase extensive product information and comparison charts to help consumers make the right choice for their need.

  • Real-time product customization to help consumers visualize the product they are creating – and to one up competitors who can’t figure out how to do the same.

  • Decreasing total cost of ownership $100,000 annually and using apps and tools to provide 360 degree product images, automated product reviews and more.

  • On and offline customer experience synchronization through point of sale, design frameworks and shipping and delivery options for local customers.

  • Automated copyright protection based on IP address to save both the brand and the consumer legal headache.

Below are their stories, their inspiration and their results.

Anchor and Crew: Centralizing International Sales Across 150+ Reselling Partners.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

We needed to be able to improve our online conversions while carefully balancing the requirements of centralized international sales alongside promoting all our 150+ retailers in an equalized manner fair to everyone.

Business Impact of the Innovation

Our brand has grown tremendously since switching to BigCommerce and making the above changes.

ANCHOR & CREW are now launching with Zalando (Europe), Secoo (China), Harvey Nichols (UK + Europe), Nordstrom (USA), Lotte (Korea), Cleor (France) and more.

Everything that has been put in place online is to help us successfully communicate our brand aesthetics, while at the same being a fantastic space for our fans to discover every inch of the brand in a non-overpowering, non overly-sales-desperate way.

Technical Innovation Implementation

Paramount to improving conversions is ticking off all the reasons customers shop elsewhere. We have worked tirelessly to find a platform that provides a branding-driven environment that does just that.

Aesthetically the website has improved 10x to showcase our Instagram (when hovered over our header’s blue bar as to not be overburdening white space), seeing improved product listings with graphics and a well-refined layout (for example, showcasing a countdown timer for delivery, showing graphics such as ‘as worn’ or all our retailers, giving customers bullet-pointed ‘quick details’ etc.) and having the better laying-out of all assets across-site (for example, having addthis social shares and a delivery countdown in strategically located places).

Our front-end developer team worked exceedingly hard in pushing the website’s layout to the maximum on both desktop and mobile, and there are very few differences between the two in terms of experience, web-speed, interaction and content.

Our website is very SEO optimized and this is reflected with our seamless customer experiences in learning about the brand.

In particular, our Instagram dropdown is quite unique compared to competitors. Not every consumer uses social media and we have attempted to overcome the physical bridge between social networks and our website by portraying equal graphics in a balanced and accessible manner.

Total Home Supply: Theme Framework Editing for Unlimited Product Information.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

We sell complicated heating and cooling products and it’s easy to forget that not everyone knows as much about these products as we do.

While we make it easy for customers to contact us, we want to make our web experience as easy, seamless, and informative as possible.

Our products often require accessories, add-ons, or configurations that customers might not normally know about or understand. In our early years, we were constantly handling the same questions over and over again. This presented a barrier to our customer when trying to complete a sale.

Business Impact of the Innovation

Since switching to BigCommerce earlier this year we have seen a steady increase in sales. In September alone, we saw a 50% increase in our total number of orders.

We also saw a 36% increase in revenue month over month and almost 80% year over year.

BigCommerce and the flexible technology it offers is allowing our small team to grow without needing to constantly add new staff or spend thousands on development.

Technical Innovation Implementation

BigCommerce and the flexible Stencil framework have made innovation on our site easy. We have been able to customize Stencil inside of our small company without bringing in outside developers, allowing us to affordably bring new features to our customers.

For example, one of our top selling products is the Amana PTH153G35AXXX. The product page for this item was customized to make shopping as easy as possible.

  • We provide multiple high-resolution product images as well as a product overview video.

  • Our AC BTU calculator is right on the page to let customers know if they are looking at the right product.

  • We were able to customize product pick lists for the common accessories and show a picture of each one once selected.

  • The customer can click to expand the image and get more details. This makes deciding what it needed much easier.

Our mini split air conditioners are even more complicated. With many configuration options, we want customers to see what all their choices are.

  • For these we create a custom styled description like what we have on the LG LMU36CHV.

  • We created a mobile responsive description that presents a picture of each indoor unit and helps the customer understand it.

  • To top it all off, we have further customized our drop-down options to only allow valid configurations of products. We were able to customize the theme to do the required calculations in the background. If you select something that will not work, the site will not let you complete the purchase and will tell you why. This ensures that the customer will get a system that works! We are the only site in our industry to offer this type of configuration.

Overall, we love what we have been able to do with BigCommerce. We created a user focused site that will increase conversions and help us to grow.

StationeryXpress: Real-time Product Customization on PDP.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

An ecommerce business challenge our company has overcome is the ability to view instant and accurate previews of your stationery, notepads, napkins and other personalized gifts on our website.

Customers today want to know exactly what to expect, and providing a manual preview emailed to each customer is simply not possible or fast enough in today’s world.

We first overcame this difficult obstacle by using an iframe and lots of tricky code to manipulate our “Warranty” section on our website. We changed the warranty section to what we called our “Build A Preview” functionality.

Now, customers were able to view a very accurate preview of what they can expect, view different font styles, colors, and motifs for their personalized gifts.

We then just recently went a step further by working with a BigCommerce third-party developer by showing our customers the changes and personalizations LIVE as they select them.

The preview then follows you throughout the checkout process and a custom link is generated and attached to the order at all times. We’ve only been live with it for a week and the customers are raving!

View the example live.

Business Impact of the Innovation

We saw an immediate increase in monthly conversion rates from an average of 1-2% to almost 4-5%!

Customers were feeling more confident than ever being able to see the items they are ordering and knowing what to expect. We have almost tripled our sales from last year and plan on adding this new instant preview feature to all of our products to continue this trend.

With our newest innovation with our live preview function, the customer experience has been made even easier and more enjoyable. In only 1 week of being live, we have heard from multiple customers how much they enjoy this new instant preview feature app and how they cannot wait to receive their order. We never heard things like that before!

A huge thank you to BigCommerce, the BigCommerce Community and BigCommerce Developers as well as tech and customer service support. We couldn’t have done any of this without you!

Technical Innovation Implementation

The BigCommerce platform has been immensely helpful for us in solving this difficult challenge of instantly providing our customers with previews.

With our first solution of editing and manipulating the warranty section, we were able to use a built-in section of our BigCommerce store to show specific product previews for each product. It also looked like it was built right in on the storefront.

With our second and more recent approach to our instant live preview feature, the BigCommerce Third-Party developer website (where we found this new developer!) has proven to be invaluable!

We have also had to reach out to BigCommerce a number of times to help with some technical issues and BigCommerce support has always been there to lend a helping hand.

We are extremely happy and satisfied with the BigCommerce platform, third-party developers and the BigCommerce technical and customer service support!

Speed Addicts: Decreasing Total Cost of Ownership $100,000 Annually.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

Speed Addicts was founded in 2003 from a dorm room at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The company started on eBay selling closeout and discontinued motorcycle parts and accessories.

The founder’s story.

As Speed Addicts grew, we started selling current model parts and accessories. Marketplaces offered low barriers to entry, but minimal branding and high costs per transaction.

Over the years we made multiple and costly attempts to create our own webstore. Online automotive parts sales offer unique technical challenges as it pertains to a “shop by machine” user interface.

As a smaller firm we need a solution that was both affordable and capable of selling motorcycle parts.

Until we found BigCommerce the idea of building a webstore with “shop by bike” capabilities was well beyond our budget.

Business Impact of the Innovation

Speed Addicts now has a website with every feature we could have wanted all while staying within our budget.

The site we have today would have cost $50-$100,000 just a few years ago.

Since we completed our build earlier this summer, our webstore sales have increased dramatically. BigCommerce is enabling Speed Addicts to rely less on marketplace sales and instead focus on increasing our branding footprint and successfully competing with much larger ecommerce sellers.

Technical Innovation Implementation

BigCommerce, along with the third party software in the app store, allowed Speed Addicts and Intuit Solutions to build a highly customized webstore with “shop by bike” capabilities that was well within the budget of a small firm like ours.

In addition to the “Part Finder” app, Speed Addicts also uses two other app store products “InStockNotify” and “xSellco”. Both of these apps offer what use to be expensive integrations at a fraction of the price.

Another integration Speed Addicts uses on BigCommerce is “Imajize.” Imajize is the best 360 image viewer on the market today.

See the page live here.

Lastly we use Shopper Approved for our merchant and product reviews.

QE Home: Branded Physical & Digital Commerce Experience Without Interruption.

Inspiration Behind the Innovation

With 75 retail locations across the country, our challenge is to integrate our brick & mortar presence and experience with our digital channel(s) to strengthen our brand and meet the expectations of today’s consumers.

First, the brand experience of how we sell online had to emulate the rich experience that our customers have in stores. We wanted to create a solution that more closely integrates how we merchandise our product in stores and apply it the online space in order to streamline the omni-channel shopping experience.

Even more challenging, as a result of the unique nature of our product, we had to build a solution that allowed us to merchandise our primary product offering into “collections” of coordinating and correlating items. Within each collection, we had to enable our customers to choose different optional a la carte items; and for every item, our customers are required to identify specific required attributes, such as size, color, and quantity.

To tie the online shopping experience with our stores, we had to enable our customers to search for product availability in their nearest stores. This required that we set up near-time updates of over 15,000 SKUs across 75 store locations.

Now, every 15 minutes, inventory is updated for all 75 of our stores right across the country and featured in every single product page on the site.

And finally, to complete the store/digital integration, we needed to provide customers with the option to pick up at a store location of their choosing. The Ship To Store program had to be trackable at every point in the fulfillment process, and a system to communicate the order status to the customer, the fulfillment center, customer service, and the store, was required to facilitate the entire process.

Business Impact of the Innovation

The new site launched on September 10, 2018. So far, we are seeing some excellent metrics related to customer engagement with the site; specifically, a 20% increase in page views and time spent on the site. We have also seen a good lift in overall company sales since the site launched.

In addition, the website is accessible to all in-store staff to support their sales via kiosk orders.

So far, since we launched the site, there has been a 25% increase in number of kiosk transactions made by stores.

Technical Innovation Implementation

Because of BigCommerce’s open architecture, we were able to work with our technical solutions team to build special architectures, both on the front and back ends, to accommodate our special merchandising requirements, our near-live inventory integration with stores, and a ship-to-store option with tracking capabilities.

Specifically, the checkout API endpoints really became a game changer for us and we are able to do so much more that we first thought.

Along with the open architecture, the ability to leverage already existing features that would normally be additional costs on other platforms came out of the box, making the cost and the effort a lot lower on BigCommerce than other platforms would have been.

Utilizing key partners in the ecosystem allowed us to not just deliver on what we wanted to accomplish, but are allowing us to look at a Phase 2 that is limitless.