Solo Brands was founded with a mission of bringing people together through a collection of trailblazing outdoor & lifestyle brands including Chubbies, Isle Surf and Stand-Up Paddleboards, and Oru Kayak. Their competitive advantage is in combining diverse perspectives and sharing innovations across their portfolio, so that each of their category leading brands benefit from one another.
As Solo acquired more brands, they increasingly desired a shared technology platform to unify each of their digitally native brands. With each brand on a different architecture, independent engineering teams were needed to maintain each with few opportunities to share code or learnings between them.
“The Vision was, could you build components for one brand, and then share them across the other ones.” says Nishant Khanduja, Head of Digital Products at Solo.
Solo Brands, together with their development agency, Form Factory, explored leading e-commerce frameworks to ultimately identify one platform that could serve as a powerful foundation for this vision. They were in search of a platform that was built with the challenges of enterprise brands in mind - flexibility, modularity and new opportunities to manage multiple storefronts with ease.
Great Scale, Great Challenges
As each of these breakthrough brands found more and more success, they also encountered a new set of challenges. It became clear that a fresh set of solutions would be needed to take each brand to the next level of success and scale.
For Chubbies, one of the leading drivers of this decision was the desire to build a shopping experience that allowed users to browse hundreds of product variants without sacrificing performance.
The ISLE team was interested in the performance made possible with a headless architecture without sacrificing on their ability for non-technical users to continuously modify and update their visually rich shopping experience.
Oru needed a web experience that was flexible and could keep up with their culture of innovation set in motion by their foldable origami-inspired Kayaks.
Finding all of those qualities in a single stack was a daunting task. While there are lots of solutions on the market to build custom commerce experiences, it was critical for Solo that they find one that offered the flexibility needed while also being efficient and easy to maintain.
The Shopify Solution
Early on, a technology stack combining Shopify's headless architecture with Hydrogen and Oxygen, and native customization functionality with metaobjects, emerged as an intriguing possibility. It unlocked the ability to pair the latest, high performance web technologies with simple ways to manage the increasingly complex data structures needed to power their enterprise-grade merchandising and user experience.
Along with a modern approach to e-commerce technology, this solution promised to take advantage of the internal team's great familiarity with Shopify, empowering them to build each brand's next generation storefront.
One challenge that emerged early on was wrangling the vast amount of product and merchandising information that these stores needed to function. Chubbies trademark product variety presented a particular challenge - they needed a solution that would allow customers to quickly browse a wide assortment of styles and colors without getting lost. The solution also needed to be easy for the Chubbies team to manage and launch large product drops.
Chubbies needed a way to layer this complex, custom data on top of their already complex set of products to enable their best in class product browsing experience. Metaobjects allowed Chubbies the flexibility to model and manage this data in an interface familiar to the entire team.
We were using probably three or four different tools to add content to the site. Now we’re using metabojects for content management. We’re also using them for product information and grouping products on the site.
Chubbies' previous system has been built on top of Shopify's metafield framework. While impressive, the system was difficult to maintain and hard to easily manage. However, Shopify recently launched metaobjects alongside metafields, as a new part of its custom data platform. This expanded the power of metafields by allowing merchants to create structured groups of fields of all types, which better solves the challenges Chubbies was encountering.
With Hydrogen and Metaobjects, the new Chubbies storefront can fetch information on several hundred product variants including current inventory positions, colors, sizes in a single request. Because of the Hydrogen architecture, these requests are made on the server and cached for nearly instantaneous loading, a feat not practically possible with other architectures.
In addition to the complexity of managing their growing data needs Solo also needed a way to ensure developers could keep pace with the large volume of features and improvements in each brand's roadmap. With Hydrogen’s modern deployment pipeline, developers now work on multiple features concurrently, deploying them when ready without one affecting the other. With a single library of shared components and combined development team the brands don’t need to create the same feature 3 times, dramatically reducing overall development time.
“We’re really excited about Hydrogen because it’s so flexible and allows us to build lots of different solutions for clients and really meet the diversity of demands with a single technology platform,” says Fairley.
What Hydrogen Means for an Agency
The combination of Hydrogen, Metaobjects, and Oxygen provided the ability to wrangle complex data and enabled modern efficient development workflows, all through Shopify’s familiar user interface. The team was excited to push the limits on this powerful, new foundation.
As Form Factory became more familiar with Hydrogen, it became clear that it could represent a foundational technology for their agency.
We’re really excited about Hydrogen because it’s so flexible and allows us to build lots of different solutions for clients and really meet the diversity of demands with a single technology platform.
Shopify’s partnership throughout the project gave Form Factory the confidence that their feedback was taken seriously with their insights helping shape the direction of the product.
“One of the awesome things is having a really close relationship - get on the phone and talk about what’s gone well in the last few weeks of builds, what’s been challenging, and incorporate that feedback into our roadmap and what features we’re shipping,” says Tim Lombardo, Senior Product Lead at Shopify.
To build world-class expertise, agencies need to find a group of core technologies they can lean on repeatedly to build custom solutions for their clients. With Hydrogen, Form Factory gained a powerful accelerant in their quest to build modern e-commerce storefronts.
We’ve seen partners like Form Factory 2x the pace at which they deliver storefronts.
With their next-generation eCommerce stack launched, Chubbies, Oru and ISLE have begun to reap the benefits of new efficiencies across their business - features are being developed more quickly, site performance is up, and engineering costs are down.
- 2x faster development velocity - Using Hydrogen’s modern development toolchain, Form Factory has been able to deliver twice the number of features per sprint without compromising site stability.
- Improved product page conversion - With metaobjects, Form Factory overhauled the Chubbies UX to allow users to instantly browse through countless variations of product styles.
- Reduced engineering expenditure - By leveraging a single platform with shared components, Form Factory has reduced redundant work.
“We can build experiences now with a lot more custom functionality.” says Khanduja, “We are just excited to build on top of this and we can’t wait for what the future holds.”