CommerceHub cutting half its Seattle engineering staff, moving positions to HQ in New York state

CommerceHub’s Seattle office. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

CommerceHub, an Albany, N.Y. company that helps retailers with their online presence, is cutting approximately half its engineering staff in Seattle.

The cuts will affect about 30 positions, mostly in engineering as well as some redundant management positions, CommerceHub’s Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development Erik Morton told GeekWire. CommerceHub is moving the engineering positions back to its headquarters in Albany because it wants to centralize those teams. Morton added that the Seattle engineers have the option of moving to Albany, but he didn’t expect many to take the company up on that.

The cuts leave about 50 people in CommerceHub’s Seattle office. About half are engineers, and the others focus on account services. Morton emphasized that the company remains committed to Seattle, especially in its account services group, many of which are ex-Amazon employees who know exactly what it takes to compete with the retail giant.

CommerceHub first came to Seattle about two years ago when it completed the purchase of Mercent, a company that helps retailers sell on e-commerce marketplaces. CommerceHub’s core mission is to help many of the world’s biggest retailers competing with Amazon like Walmart, Home Depot and Best Buy up their online selling without having to take on a bunch of extra inventory or storage.

“We integrate electronically to the retailer so that they are able to send orders through our platform and then we turn around and electronically integrate with up to 11,000 brands and distributors,” Morton said. “If 100 retailers wanted to connect electronically with 100 suppliers, that would require 10,000 different IT projects, because everybody has to connect to everybody else. But if you put a platform like CommerceHub in the middle then everybody just connects to us once and we do all the data translation and all of the underlying modeling to make it possible for everybody to do business with each other.”

The rise of Amazon has forced CommerceHub’s customers to be more innovative than they were in decades past. Many of the biggest retailers are now growing their online presence and trying to figure out the best ways to create complementary experiences between stores and e-commerce. Amazon is even following this trend, Morton said, as shown by its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market and its push to open more brick-and-mortar stores.

The secret to Amazon’s success, Morton said, is that it figured out the fastest way to grow in e-commerce is simply to sell more stuff. Morton said Jeff Bezos years ago decided it made more sense to sell everything, rather than tell customers what they want.

“It took retailers years to recognize that this is the formula that works, and now they are trying to replicate it and some of them are actually doing pretty well,” Morton said. “Everyone right now loves to say traditional retail is dying because they’re closing stores, but there are quite a few retailers, and Best Buy is a great example, that are still growing very fast online.”