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Interview: Jenny Buchar, e-commerce operations manager, Skullcandy

Fashion headphone retailer’s e-commerce operations manager talks about website re-platforming and hiring brand representatives

Online-only fashion headphone retailer Skullcandy is based in Park City, Utah, US, in an elevated position amidst a mountain range.

The firm has specific e-commerce sites for the US, UK, Canada and another website for the EU that is translatable into three languages. The US site relaunched on the Demandware e-commerce platform in October 2014, and the others will follow suit.

But there has been keen debate in recent years about whether retailers can remain pure play, and Jenny Buchar, e-commerce operations manager at Skullcandy, admits this can sometimes be a challenge for her company’s brand.

“We have the most control over the experience online,” she says.

Some third-party retailers do stock Skullcandy’s products, and Buchar says the firm thinks of this as offering a “bigger ecosystem” for its customers to buy from, despite not having access to data about customers who purchase in this way.

“We really try to collaborate product launches globally, so if a product is found in a store, it should always be found online as well, so in that way I think it’s a pairing,” says Buchar.

“We need to be the best record of our brand, and provide as much product information and understanding of the brand as we can online because that’s what we own, and then really it’s a partnership.”

A major focus for retailers as consumers’ shopping experience becomes more omnichannel is tracking a single customer’s journey, which Skullcandy struggles with because of the wholesale nature of its business.

“That is an area where we could be better and we are looking to be a little more in sync. I think that’s a very natural struggle for people in our situation,” says Buchar.

“Customisation and really understanding who our consumer is is critical to us this year, and partnering with our IT team to manage the data really well is also a goal for this year. As the data grows, it becomes a bigger project for us.”

A platform for brand reps

Skullcandy uses its US website to attract customers that it labels “brand aficionados” – its target audience of 18 to 32-year-olds who love music, action and sport and who are “sophisticated trendsetters who break from the herd and live life loud”.

To try to bring a more interactive feel to its website, the firm introduced integration with Instagram to pull user-generated content to the home page and some product listing pages.

Buchar says: “It keeps things fresh at a fast cadence, and we have amazing brand aficionados that we really want to elevate and help tell the story of Skullcandy authentically.”

Just as Skullcandy products are sold in third-party bricks-and-mortar stores, they are also sold on online marketplaces such as Amazon, but Buchar says the firm’s focus on its website offers the full brand experience, not just products.

“I think the customer we really want to service best on is the brand aficionado, the one who gets us and wants to come to for the brand experience,” she says. “There are a lot of people who, of course, buy for price parity, and that’s OK too – they’re still using our product, which is great.

“In Europe, our distribution is actually pretty quick. I’s a localised or centralised fulfilment centre, which serves many countries with short fulfilment times, so I think we’re doing really well abroad. It’s in the US where we have to expand. The shipping times can be long coastally, but we offer free shipping and we realise that is important to our consumers.”

Finding the right team members

Because Skullcandy is based in a remote location in the US, Buchar says it can sometimes be hard to find staff with the right skills for the job, but what is more important is to find people who are the right fit culturally and like the brand.

“Training has become really important to us because we are more after attitude and the right personality and disposition and to find a team member, first and foremost, who has the same drive as the rest, and train and coach from there. That’s been our approach,” says Buchar.

“There is a rigorous cultural onboarding, or rather filtering, before anyone is hired. Park City is a different landscape for hiring, but you also get a lot of creative thinkers.”

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Since launched on Demandware, Buchar says the e-commerce and IT teams have seen greater efficiency in how its sites are run, and employees have a better idea of their roles in the business.

Buchar describes Skullcandy’s IT and e-commerce teams as “very blended and extremely supportive” and adds: “We are very lucky and I see a lot of crossover. I work directly with the senior director of our IT team, as does my team and his team, so we are very blended. We are fortunate in that way.”  

The main advantage of moving to Demandware was its automatic updates, says Buchar. The firm’s previous platform required someone to actively initiate the updating process.

“We have been able to plan further ahead than ever and not have to stay up into the wee hours of the night doing very important work, but allowing things to release on a cadence,” she says.

Looking ahead, Skullcandy will focus on moving its other sites to the Demandware platform and then look at launching in new regions.

“We have identified some key markets that we’d like to open up, but first and foremost we are allowing the sales team to penetrate those areas before we tackle e-commerce there,” says Buchar.

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