Spree Commerce

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Free Stickers Courtesy of Sticker Mule!

Posted on April 10, 2013 by Lynne Brehmer

We are really excited to announce FREE custom stickers courtesy of Sticker Mule for all SpreeConf registrants who sign up and submit their artwork by April 26th. Sticker Mule is a long time Spree user and big supporter of the design community. They help thousands of people, startups, bloggers, artists and companies order awesome custom stickers that are printed beautifully and ship fast. Check out some of their amazing designs in their online gallery.

As part of the free custom sticker giveaway Spree is also offering a $75 discount to attend SpreeConf. Just enter promo code “STICKERMULE” when registering at spreeconf.com. The two-day conference takes place May 20th – 21st in Washington, DC and includes a full day of training on Spree and Ruby on Rails and presentations from e-commerce and Ruby experts including Sandi Metz, Adil Wali, and Eric Koester.

Once you have registered for SpreeConf you can take advantage of the free custom sticker offer by emailing your artwork to lynne@spreecommerce.com. Please provide either vector artwork (.ai / .eps) or the highest resolution bitmapped image (.jpg, .png, .psd) you have available.

SpreeConf DC Speaker: Gregor MacDougall

Posted on April 09, 2013 by Lynne Brehmer

Last Thursday we introduced you to SpreeConf speaker, Peter Berkenbosch who will be discussing how to thoroughly test your Spree store at SpreeConf DC May 20th – 21st in Washington, DC. Today we’d like to introduce you to Gregor MacDougall. Gregor is a Senior Software Developer at FreeRunnning Technologies and will be speaking at SpreeConf with his colleague Clarke Brundson about his experience migrating a large scale PHP based e-commerce store to Spree. Learn more about Clarke in a future blog post.

Gregor MacDougall

Gregor MacDougall

Senior Software Developer
FreeRunning Technologies

Gregor is a software developer with over 15 years of experience. He focuses on a large variety of web applications built on top of open source software using agile methodologies. Gregor’s SpreeConf talk will discuss how he and his colleagues at FreeRunning Technologies took a large, custom built, error prone, unmaintainable PHP ecommerce platform, and made a gradual transition to the Spree cart, checkout process and models. He’ll explain how they avoided a single, large switchover date, opting instead for a series of small incremental improvements leading towards the end goal. You’ll learn how these techniques can be applied to your own e-commerce migration projects in order to help you make a similar smooth transition.

Getting to Know Gregor

We asked Gregor to give us his thoughts on the latest happenings in the Ruby space and some of the interesting projects he’s working on right now.

What trends are most exciting to you right now?

I’m excited by the improvements being made in software craftsmanship, specifically, writing less code, better code, and more reliable code. I support the effort being made to continually improve the way that we write code through both changes to our processes and our tools. I’m proud of the fact that I write better code today than I did in the past, and you should be too!

Any interesting projects you are working on that others might be interested in?

I’ve been working on a lot of Spree related projects lately, including some extensions that others might find useful:

  • spree-license-key – Automatically sends out a software license key to a user once their payment is captured, so that they can activate the software.
  • spree-multi-domain – Enables users to run multiple spree sites off of a single instance. I’ve been focused on improvements to currency selection, shipping methods, and the payment methods are available for a specific store
  • spree-custom-store-email – Allows for customized e-mails to be sent for a specific store (from spree-multi-domain). We’ll be working on something similar for product specific e-mails in the near future.
  • spree-pre-order – Provides the ability to create multiple payments for a single shipment. The first is a deposit which is automatically captured on purchase and the second is a payment to complete the order once the item is ready to ship. It’s tied to a specific payment processor right now, but we’re looking to improve that in the future as well.

What are you most looking forward to at SpreeConf this year?

I’m most looking forward to meeting the members of the Spree core team, and talking with them about the future direction of the project. We have a few different projects using Spree, including a very large project which will support 60+ stores moving forward. We have a small wishlist of things which would be helpful to include in the core Spree application for a store this size. We also have ideas for improvements to the extension system. I’m also looking forward to meeting other developers maintaining large stores to talk about styling sites, customizing Spree, and the business side of things. Continual improvement isn’t just something we apply to our code!

What do you hope SpreeConf attendees remember about your talk when they get home?

I want SpreeConf attendees to remember that you can make large changes in large projects by doing things in small steps. It can be difficult to make that choice since initially it may seem easier to bite the bullet and do everything at once. However, an unfortunate situation often arises.

You have the old system (which is technically awful, but responsible for making money), and the new system (which is technically good, but running only for developers). The new system doesn’t support all of the features for the old system, so you can’t roll out the new system to everyone. A money making opportunity arises, that requires features only supported by the old system, and some new custom functionality. The company decides that it needs to make those changes, so they get made to the old system. Now, you’re trying to hit a different target for the new system. Because the old system is responsible for making all the money, it gets priority, and the new system gets pushed back.

If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know how frustrating it can be, and how challenging it can be to launch the new system. I want people to remember to think hard about making the decision to throw out old code, and replace it with better code. Your intentions are always in the right place, but the uncertainty involved with such a drastic change can mean that all of your efforts will be put into a project which will never get finished, never be rolled out to production, and never make money. It’s a situation that you should always pause, think twice about, and consult with your colleagues regarding the risks and rewards. Take some time and see if you can break it down into smaller chunks, so that you, and your team can be productive.

Do you have any interesting picks – blogs, technology, books, new companies to follow?

We’re big vim users and fans of Tim Pope a man who has improved my productivity greatly. On the technology front, I love RSpec (for Ruby testing) and Gerrit as a code review tool. For books, I enjoyed reading Succeeding with Agile by Mike Cohn, Working Effectively with Legacy Code by Michael Feathers, Managing Software Debt by Chris Sterling, and Continuous Delivery by Jez Humble and David Farley. For companies, I can only follow the self promotion route and talk about my current place of employment FreeRunning Technologies, a bunch of nerds who write solid code, and solve tough problems for a reasonable price. What more could you need!

Come meet Gregor and hear his talk about migrating a large scale PHP based e-commerce store to Spree at SpreeConf DC, May 20th – 21st.

Braintree Sponsors SpreeConf DC

Posted on April 04, 2013 by Lynne Brehmer

We’re really excited to announce Braintree, the fastest growing payments platform for online and mobile commerce, as the happy hour sponsor for SpreeConf DC. SpreeConf is a two-day event taking place May 20th – 21st at the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC and features training on Spree as well as presentations from thought leaders in the e-commerce and Ruby communities. The Braintree happy hour takes place the first evening of the conference on May 20th at Policy, one of the most popular restaurants and lounges in DC’s vibrant U Street neighborhood.

Meet the Spree Community

In addition to the happy hour, we’ve built several other networking opportunities into the SpreeConf schedule to allow you to meet some of the really cool and interesting people that are part of the Spree community. You’ll have a chance to meet the Spree core team and discuss and debate the future direction of the Spree platform. SpreeConf is also a great opportunity to meet other Spree developers from around the world and compare notes. And of course, Spree isn’t just for developers. We have plenty of founders and store owners that come to our conferences as well. Whether you’re a startup or an established online business, there will be other business owners for you to network with and learn from.

Conference tickets are selling fast so make sure to secure your spot at SpreeConf DC before we’re sold out.

Customer Spotlight - Hucklebury

Posted on April 03, 2013 by Lynne Brehmer

We’d like to introduce you to Hucklebury, a vertically-integrated online retailer selling better fitting, high quality men’s shirts at reasonable prices. Learn how they are using Spree and what marketing techniques they are using to build their brand. We sat down with Parag, co-founder of Hucklebury, to learn more about their business model and how they leverage Spree to target their customers’ needs.

How did the Hucklebury business get started?

The idea for Hucklebury.com originated during a trip I took to London in 2009. During that week I visited a friend who worked at Savile Row, a place where the best tailors in the industry are located and the craftsmanship of tailoring got started. I was amazed at the details and the time that goes into the construction of a single shirt. It was at my friend’s store that I met my Hucklebury co-founder, Dhawal. Dhawal and I discussed how we were both unable to find tailored shirts of the same quality at home. We felt that the mass produced shirts they sell at the large retailers didn’t do the average man justice. The fabric used to create these shirts was poor quality and the fit was horrible. There was always so much extra fabric in the chest, arm hole, and back. We saw a business opportunity to solve this issue and offer a high quality, tailored shirt at a reasonable price. With this concept in mind we self-funded Hucklebury in 2011 and launched the brand in September 2012.

Do you have a background in fashion?

Yes, my mother operated a 75-person garment factory with 60+ sewing machines when I was growing up. At the factory, they designed, manufactured and exported scarves, chiffon, shorts, and white shirts to brands like Marks & Spencer in the United Kingdom. Later on, I pursued a Masters in Engineering and learned how to remove inefficiencies in manufacturing using six-sigma. Now I apply my engineering learnings as well as the creative skills from my mother at Hucklebury.

Dhawal, my co-founder, has a background in technology. He got his first taste of programming at age 8 with QBasic. Since then, he has been playing with computers, robotics and web development. Dhawal fell into entrepreneurship when he was 18 and led his team to create the ‘Push-up Pal’ for a class – a product that was later featured in The New Paper (Singapore). He also worked at Qik in 2008 where he did web development and was their 5th employee. Qik was later acquired by Skype. His passion for programming and entrepreneurship led him to the opportunity to co-found Hucklebury.

What makes your shirts different from those available at large retailers?

Most large retailers sell mass produced shirts that are really boxy. We’ve reduced the fabric around the chest, sides, and back to get a more tailored and fitted look. On top of that we also made subtle improvements in other areas like the collar to improve the fit. Most collars collapse after a few washings. Our collars have a special interlining that helps them remain standing for almost the entire life of the shirt. Even after multiple washes the collar won’t collapse and fall down. Another innovation we’ve made is to the second button. Some men like to keep their second buttons open. But, most shirts on the market have the button too high or too low for this look. We’ve adjusted the location of the second button to make the fit just right if you leave it open.

We are also unique because we’ve eliminated the middleman, work directly with the factory, and bring the product directly to consumers. Most retail stores mark up their prices a lot because of the middlemen involved. As a result things get quite expensive. Skipping the brick and mortar retailers and offering our shirts directly to consumers online allows us to provide high quality products at reasonable prices.

Who is the target audience for Hucklebury?

Our demographic is men between ages 25 – 45 for whom appearance is important as well as a high quality shirt that fits them well. We offer two different fits for this demographic – slim fit for men who are athletic and regular fit for the average man. We are focused on the U.S. market but we do ship internationally. We’ve shipped as far away as Australia, India, and Singapore.

How do you market the Hucklebury brand?

We’re taking the grass roots approach. We did a soft launch of the brand through social media and blogs focused on menswear to see what the response was to our product. We were trying to understand what our target market thought about the shirt design. Did they like it? What could we improve? The result was a very positive response regarding the features and qualities we are focused on. We also run contests every month on our Facebook page and use other media channels like online and offline print media.

How did you find out about Spree?

I have to give the credit for finding Spree to my technical co-founder. Dhawal is highly focused on the technical side. We were looking for an open source platform that was easy to customize, responsive, and the design looks great. As a start-up we didn’t want to spend a lot of money up front not knowing how our business model would work out. We liked that Spree was built on Ruby on Rails because Dhawal was familiar with this technology and really liked it.

What do you like most about the Spree platform?

We love the level of control Spree gives us over our store. Any add-on feature we need is usually available in the Spree extension library and if it isn’t then the Ruby on Rails framework makes it very easy to add. The rapid pace of Spree upgrades gives us peace of mind that the platform is here to stay. On top of that Spree has a growing and extremely helpful community. Whenever we run into a roadblock there’s always someone available to help.

What’s next for Hucklebury?

Technically, we’re going to continue to expand our product line. Now we offer 18 different colors. In the next two to three months you will see twice as many colors and fits and styles. We are also actively collaborating with other media outlets in terms of partnership efforts. We continue to refine our marketing based on our learnings, SEO, content strategy, and retargeting efforts.

Shop the Hucklebury website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.