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Plow & Hearth Puts it All Under One Roof with ShopVisible eCommerce Platform

The Challenge

Madison, Virginia-based Plow & Hearth (www.plowandhearth.com) had an enviable problem. Shifting its primary marketing focus from retail print catalogs to online marketing had driven tons of traffic to its five “home and garden” websites. These unique, but related websites were flourishing, but growing pains were straining the capacity of its homegrown platform. It lacked stability, as well as the features and functions needed to grow the eCommerce business further.

All these Plow & Hearth family brands are individually marketed and each had their own flavor and audience niche.

  • HearthSong: Classic Toys | Outdoor Play Toys | Educational Toys | Water & Pool Toys | Fun With Gardening | Dolls & Dollhouses | Active Games
  • Magic Cabin: Pretend Play | Wooden Toys | Fairy Dolls | Rubens Barn Dolls | Dolls & Plush Dolls
  • Wind & Weather: Weather Instruments | Garden Art | Whirligigs & Wind Spinners | Outdoor Wind Chimes | Rain Gauges | Garden Accents | Outdoor Thermometers
  • Problem Solvers: Storage Solvers | Kitchen Organizers | Travel Accessories | Space Savers | Mud Rugs & Doormats
  • Reuseit: Reusable Bags | Water Bottles | Food Storage & Food Savers | Bento Boxes
Built on the same “back-end” platform, each site had been introduced to the market at different times, with different front end look, feel, and functionality. Brianne Forst, Plow & Hearth Director of eCommerce summarized the need. “Our homegrown platform was outdated. On the front-end, we needed a facelift, a reinvigorated marketing touch, and an improved ability to talk to our customers. On the back end it was important to have a platform that would allow our sites to look very different, but have some consistency in asset management,” she said.

The Solution

ShopVisible met all Plow & Hearth’s needs since a SaaS platform was an essential building block requirement. “We are a marketer and distributor of goods and need to be focused on that. Moving to SaaS allows us to bypass time consuming and expensive IT build-outs on our site and engage as many marketplaces online as we need to,” said Forst.

On the front end, ShopVisible designers provided a common set of wireframes with a unique design for each brand. In usability tests, customers responded very well to the “look and feel” and professional appearance of each site. Brand designs were unique but readily identifiable as part of the Plow & Hearth family. For back-end management, the Plow & Hearth design team can work in the same environment across brand sites. This greatly simplified development and administration and saved time and money.

Integration with legacy systems was a priority for Plow & Hearth. “Our data has always been complex,” said Forst. “It was incredibly daunting when considering partnering with others. ShopVisible ensured us they would partner closely with us to manage all the nuances of our data, creating a clean exchange. This was also incredibly helpful given we were resource-strapped and would not be able to rebuild internal systems or data sets. “

The Benefits

Plow & Hearth’s ERP, CRM and other legacy systems are now integrated with the ShopVisible eCommerce platform, and today data flows smoothly between Plow & Hearth systems and the ShopVisible platform.

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to make sure the eCommerce sites have the correct inventory, pricing, ratings, and other important data elements applied. This also includes data feeds from third parties such as PayPal, Google, eBay, ExactTarget and other marketing partners.

Another significant integration involved incorporating the Google Commerce Search engine for internal site searches. Advanced features include category searches, ratings, price sort, and behind the scenes an override that can force product rankings such as bestsellers or other products with specific promotions attached.

“The nimbleness and marketing mindset of the ShopVisible people and platform are crucial to our longterm success,” said Forst. “We are impressed with the flexibility and adaptability of the platform. They have structured it to accept as many marketing opportunities as possible, allowing us to be reactive to new technologies and marketing promotions.”


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