How Paul Smith’s MACH Tech Investment Paid Off

hannah paul smith
Hannah Bennett is Head of Digital at Paul Smith

Paul Smith is an independent design company known for its distinctive tailoring and clothing. Founded in 1970 in a small British city by Sir Paul Smith, today the brand has expanded its footprint in more than 60 countries with over 130 stores in malls, airports, and online. 

Given its increasingly global outlook, the apparel company depends on cooperation with its large franchisee network and groups of business partners around the world. A large part of this reach comes from the management and optimization of its many media assets.

In this conversation with RIS News, Paul Smith’s head of digital, Hannah Bennett, describes how partnering with Cloudinary has allowed Paul Smith to remain agile and stay true to its 50-year legacy while working to optimize its online presence and satisfy customer preferences

Optimizing Digital Media Management 

Paul Smith first partnered with Cloudinary about five years ago, with a view to more efficiently managing its thousands of media assets. This was particularly business-critical for the fashion brand, which is not only known for its highly visual website style, but also generates roughly half its annual revenue from extensive wholesale partner channels supported by its B2B site. 

“Unsurprisingly, digital asset management is a key issue for a company that wants to release four collections a year,” Bennett shares with RIS. “As a luxury designer brand, we have to manage and retain a huge number of pictures—not only for our own retail, but for our wholesale business. We needed to create imagery in a streamlined way where we avoid duplication and make it as easy as possible for wholesale customers to work with us.” 

While its website had always been central to Paul Smith, during the pandemic online sales peaked, and – as the brand emerged from lockdowns – it became clear it could reach new heights by migrating to a MACH (microservices, API-first, cloud-native, headless) architecture. “The appetite for online shopping is not slowing down and customer expectations for a highly visual, engaging digital experience are only going to increase,” Bennett explains.

Investing in a composable, headless architecture had been on the cards for Paul Smith even pre-pandemic and the team had already begun to think about how these technologies could improve customer experience in terms of site speed, personalization, and content flexibility. 

The investment has paid off, Bennett shares: the partnership has enabled the brand to strategize more effectively and with greater agility and reduce asset management costs. The brand also tracked an uptick in video-enabled sales and an increase in revenue from search.

By adopting headless technology,  Bennett says the Paul Smith creative team has a new lynchpin holding together everything from photography to marketing. The team has also witnessed the transformation of a laborious task – moving clothing images around – to a seamless image handling process that uses naming match to automatically assign each image an SKU. 

paul smith website

Reaping the B2B Benefits 

One of the most notable changes came in the brand’s approach to its B2B site. “When launching our new B2B site for wholesale partners, we had fixed deadlines that were imperative to be met in order to sell on specific dates,” Bennett shares, and by implementing a digital asset management solution to extend digital services to its wholesale business, Paul Smith was able to run a B2B site without a designated content team for the first time.

This also alleviated some of the time spent displaying and managing digital assets during our quarterly collection releases, says Bennett. The ease with which teams could drop product videos into the DAM also led to a 45% increase in sales for the featured products, allowing for an easy, more cost-effective way to showcase recent collections.  

Nowadays, Bennett says, the solution is used across a broad spectrum of different processes throughout the business, and its close integration with both Adobe Commerce and the business' CMS lets the team process a number of custom workflows, as well as giving an efficient backup for past season images created for particular campaigns.

    How the Parternship Is Paying Off

    For Paul Smith, key success metrics include:

    B2B site:

    • +40% reduction in asset management costs
    • Major efficiency gains thanks to first-time B2B partner workflows

    B2C site: 

    • 45% boost in video-enabled sales
    • The E-commerce conversion rate grew by 31%, and per session, value increased by 26%
    • The conversion rate for men's items grew by 33.75%, and per session value grew by 19.94%
    • The conversion rate for women's items grew by 49.04%, and per session value grew by 14.96%

    Awards and Recognition: 
    The implementation was recently recognized at the Retail TouchPoints 2023 Brand Experience Awards in the Digital Innovation category. That same week, the partnership also received the first-place spot for Best Digital Experience as part of the MACH Alliance’s annual conference, MACH TWO. "[This is] a true testament to the success of our partnership," Bennett shares. 

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