Last updated: Hackathon proves DTC is in the fast lane

Hackathon proves DTC is in the fast lane


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Direct-to-consumer (DTC) has been a bright spot in retail, as customers can have a closer relationship with brands and brands get to own invaluable data.

In fact, eMarketer found that for digitally native brands, DTC e-commerce sales increased by 40% in 2020, surpassing their initial prediction of 24.3%. This hyper growth means that brands of all types need to take advantage of this sales channel if they want to simplify the shopping experience for customers.

To explore the speed and flexibility with which brands can spin up online DTC shops, three product expert teams took part in the Canadian SAP Commerce Cloud Hackathon to put the latest retail technology to the test.

The hackathon challenge

Teams Ecenta, LiveArea, and SAP Services worked to create more functionality in less time by exploring SAP’s Upscale Commerce solution using three popular use cases. Ecenta tackled seasonal inventory liquidation, while LiveArea was tasked with a buy online pickup in store (BOPIS) use case, and SAP Services worked on a temporary pop-up store.

With their challenges in hand and 36 hours on the clock, each team set out to get their minimum viable product live in order to complete their first transactions, build extensions, and leverage the out-of-the-box capabilities most effectively. The prize? A $5,000 CAD promotional video from Contented Brothers to highlight their innovative approaches to e-commerce.

The key to winning the hackathon was balance: Meeting the requirements set out by the judges and saving time to make the customizations and style choices that would give them the edge on the scorecard.

Tackling retail realities

Warehouse and sample sales were largely canceled in 2020 due to COVID, so many retailers were left with too much inventory from previous seasons. Team Ecenta’s charge was to think like one of these retailers and to create a mobile-friendly online store that allowed consumers to purchase what was in stock in the warehouse (with the ability to communicate bundling and packaging specifics to staff), schedule stylist appointments and in-person pickup, and more.

LiveArea was assigned a BOPIS retail scenario that so many brands had to deal with during COVID: Trying to maintain in-store inventory while consumers stocked up on large quantities of goods. Offering bulk quantities is typical for stores like Costco, but this introduced new challenges for other businesses.

LiveArea worked to offer cases of products to simplify the buying process. For example, buying a case of wine to pick up in store is much easier than buying 12 individual bottles of the same wine. However, this does add additional inventory management concerns for retailers, both on the backend and in terms of in store logistics.

Lastly, the SAP Services Team was tasked with setting up an online motorsports pop-up shop that allowed for easy bundling and special orders tied to live events.

What the teams learned 

Ecenta found Upscale Commerce especially helpful because it offered the essential element of flexibility.

“One of the big benefits is for an organization to have speed and agility to get a storefront, to bring their product catalogs in, to get creative in the system. That’s going to help them be quicker, faster to market, and ultimately provide a competitive advantage for them.”

Team SAP echoed the importance of flexibility: “Upscale Commerce is technology agnostic right so you can integrate any kind of framework, any programming language. Developers have the option, the choice to use wherever they want, in order to develop their extensions or custom components and integrate them with Upscale.”

In terms of Ecenta’s use case to build a liquidation system, the team commented, “the ability to quickly stand up these types of storefronts to get rid of excess inventory, and do it in a way that’s very specific to a use case or business problem, I think is exciting. And it allows companies to have a lot of flexibility with what they do.”

The plug-and-play ability in Upscale Commerce makes it faster than ever to spin up a storefront and get rid of excess inventory in no time.

Team SAP brought their extensive commerce expertise to the fore and reminded others, “no matter what tool you’re using, your feature requests are always going to be growing. So what tool can grow with you, and keep pace with your innovation needs?“

Even well-established retail experts can learn something new from the latest technologies. They explained that the team was “able to create multiple components, and add them to Upscale. It was quick, easy, and overall, a great experience and a great learning process for us.”

The judging and final results  

After 36 hours of hard work and final presentations, it was time for deliberation among the judges made up of SAP global leaders, SAP Canadian leadership team, and esteemed customers. Judging criteria included overall creativity, use of available product extensions, ease of shopping experience, time-to-market, and how well the solution encouraged long-term loyalty and advocacy for the brand.

In the end, Ecenta won “Most Creative” and scored the highest of the three teams. “Best Use of Technology” went to LiveArea. A new category was added in the heat of the hackathon for “Best Effort,” which went to SAP Services.

The idea behind the great Canadian Upscale Commerce Hackathon was to get these teams thinking about and creating mobile-first online shopping experiences. Their quick ingenuity made it clear that brands can go direct to consumer in just a matter of hours and days to offer customized, mobile-first interfaces that help them reach customers across devices.

The teams were able to make use of the flexibility, as well as the speed an agility built into the solution. While these three use cases were just a fraction of the challenges facing modern brands, they illuminated just how fast brands can transition their businesses to DTC with the right tools.

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