[Case Study] How Hawkers Uses Shopify Plus to Disrupt the Sunglasses Industry

[Case Study] How Hawkers Uses Shopify Plus to Disrupt the Sunglasses Industry

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It was the summer of 2013, and Hawkers had a problem.

Thousands of their sunglasses, imported from the US, were tied up in customs at Madrid. Customers were banging down their door for these eye-catching shades, wondering where their orders were.

Andreas Klein, the newest member of the Hawkers crew, had his first task: to get these sunglasses out of customs and into the hands of their customers. Several phone calls and a lot of elbow grease later, he succeeded.

In a serendipitous twist of fate, this delay actually worked in their favor.

The delay gave their sunglasses an air of exclusivity that so many brands would kill for. It was because you couldn’t get them that drove more customers their way, even though they knew it would be weeks (if not months) before they received their orders.

In fact, that first summer, they sold 200,000 sunglasses — after being in business for just a few months.

Let’s take a few steps back to the beginning and see how they got there ...

An IT Team, Selling Sunglasses?  

Earlier that year, in February, four developers teamed up to write apps to help ecommerce businesses sell products on Facebook.

One of them had a pair of sunglasses, and an idea — why not test the process themselves? They put 20 of those sunglasses in a BigCartel store and set up a Facebook ad campaign using a coupon.

To their (pleasant) surprise, they blazed through the original stock and wound up overselling. With the money they got from those orders, they ordered in more glasses.

At the time, Hawkers was the only option for people in Spain who wanted sunglasses in a variety of vivid colors.

They offer everything from your standard gold polarized lenses to an orange-pink called “Nebula” to bright cerulean blue, with several frame options for each color. Of course people wanted them — Hawkers couldn’t keep them in stock, and kept ordering from their supplier in the USA as sunglasses flew off their cyber-shelves.

It was the right product, the right time, and they were at the forefront of ecommerce business riding the wave of Facebook and Google.

This is about when the dust-up with customs comes in. Even after that was sorted, fulfillment continued to be an issue.

Sunglasses that were ordered in July weren’t shipped until September. Hawkers managed to sell their supplier completely out of stock and had to wait for them to get more stock before shipping to customers.

This is also around the time that Andreas entered the scene. He’d been working in the banking world for years and he wanted out. His background in international commerce (he speaks four languages), allowed him to navigate the customs hold-up gracefully.

But with Andreas success came another challenge - Hawkers went from having nothing to do to 10,000 orders to fulfill, overnight.

Part of the problem was their BigCartel store - they couldn’t change or customize the system, and their only options for an order were “shipped” and “unshipped” . They also couldn’t connect it to any of the logistics providers they were using at the the time.

The Hawkers team switched to Shopify Plus as soon as they could.

We wanted something that was #1 in being technologically ahead of everyone else — two of our founders come directly from IT and that was their priority.

By the end of 2013, Hawkers started selling their own brand of higher quality sunglasses at same price point, and after replatforming to Shopify Plus, they were ready to reach new heights.

The Skyrocketing Sunglasses Company

With manufacturing in their own hands, and their logistics running smoother thanks to Shopify Plus, Hawkers was free to focus on their brand.

“We were never really a sunglasses company,” according to Andreas. “We’re more of a marketing agency with a great product that we know how to brand and sell. Shopify Plus helped us to focus on that rather than the technology." 

“The only thing we know about is mathematics. How much money do we put into marketing, and what’s the return on that?”

Their laser focus on marketing and ROI as well as their drive to experiment has helped them grow extremely fast. 

A Drive to Innovate

Hawkers has got this far with a combination of guesswork and smart scrappiness. They jump into new opportunities headfirst.

“Others might say, well, that’s not a sure bet, or, let’s wait for someone else to do it and measure their results, but we don’t. We just think, let’s do it, why not, see what happens, and then measure the results and tweak from there.
Our founders are still young so they're not afraid. Between the four of them, they put $300 each into the business at the beginning, so their attitude is that if something goes wrong, they've only got $300 to lose.”

 

Their next focus is breaking into the American market, and they’re set to do it with an over-funded Kickstarter. The backer benefits started at about a dollar a pair in limited quantities — the more backers, the higher the prices have gone for the sunglasses.

“It was just another idea we had to make some noise. Right now, we’re really focused on getting our name out there more.”

There’s also a new department at the Hawkers headquarters. This five-person team has one job: give away sunglasses. All day, they search Instagram, looking for influencers so they can reach out and offer free sunglasses.

“If they promote the glasses, then that’s great. If not, that’s great too, because they’ll at least wear them around their friends and that gets us out there.”

Shopify has been with them throughout and scaled as they went from hundreds of orders a day to ten thousand or more.

When asked how Shopify has grown with them, Andreas said, “It’s actually very difficult to answer that. If the platform is supporting what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter how many orders you have coming in, or if you have half a million visitors in a day. It just works and you don’t have to think about it.

Over two and a half years, Hawkers has gone from 5 employees to 65 and currently sell over 10,000 glasses a day. They’ve spawned knockoffs galore in Spain, and now they’ve set their eyes on becoming a must-have accessory in the United States.

And with their track record, it looks like a solid bet. In fact, if you’ll forgive the turn of phrase...you could say their future’s so bright, they gotta wear shades.