The biggest story in retail may not be what you think… A little over 400 years ago, the buy and sell model of retail began to replace the open air market. In this new business model, “stores” selected products, bought them in bulk, and marked them up for resale to individual buyers. Retailers acted as guarantors of quality and kept a reliable assortment of goods on hand, at fair prices, for the convenience of their local towns & villages.
Stores were cleaner and better organized than the smelly and cluttered markets of old. They also offered “single point accountability” to shoppers who had, for millennia, negotiated directly with the farmers, the butchers, the cobblers, and others to meet their daily family needs. The suppliers were also happy because they could focus on growing, baking, or whatever they did, without having to sell or worry about too much unsold product. This made life easier for everyone!
For centuries, stores and their merchants have picked what we see and defined how we shop. They have set the prices of goods and employed strategies to guide our decisions so that they can maximize efficiency on their inventory and capital investments. In large part, they have decided which products win and lose. If a product company couldn’t get into stores, there were few other efficient ways to succeed at scale.
Overall, the model has worked really well but now it’s changing again…
Today’s BIG RETAIL STORY is the re-emergence of The Marketplace after centuries of being dormant in the West. eCommerce growth, the story that you DO read about every day, is just one of several “causal factors” allowing marketplace selling, as a model, to re-emerge and exist in ways previously unimaginable. Now MILLIONS of sellers and HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of shoppers come together to deal directly. New product companies and brands frequently achieve 8-figure sales results before ever getting their first buyer appointment at a big box store and without millions of marketing investment to generate awareness and traffic. The retail business-to-business relationship no longer dominates what the consumer sees!
Individual shoppers are again negotiating directly with the makers in “real time,” Many of these makers of soaps, razors, shoes, and more are leveraging cheap & easy access to global manufacturing and supply chains to bring their goods to market. While this has all started in eCommerce, it is “working back” to physical retail as retail stores put the biggest marketplace winners into the big box.
The retail & tech companies who own the marketplaces have good reason to be happy. They get to feature incredible product assortments and make a “cut” on every sale without having to own the inventory. They also charge brands for space, for marketing, for customer service, and even for outsourced logistical services such as Amazon’s FBA. They’re rapidly become lenders and transaction processors, international shippers, and offering individual brands and sellers working capital loans, payment processing, and much more…
Initially, Amazon and Alibaba have been the biggest enablers to change but it’s spreading. At the time of this writing, about 50% of items leaving Amazon’s facilities are sold without any influence by a retail buyer and Amazon, at latest estimates, represents about 44% of US eCommerce. Walmart, Jet, and others also show indications that they want to grow their marketplace models which will, in turn, help them to offer value and competitive assortment to their shoppers.
Marketplace selling is now also becoming one of the clearest paths to the coveted big box buyer appointment. What until recently was centrally planned is now decided by capitalism and competition (with a little bit of Artificial Intelligence thrown in). Even traditional store pricing is being disrupted by markets and AI. So, while marketplaces are still a relatively small part of US retail, they are punching WAY above their weight class.
To compete well, brands have to have the best product offerings, the best pitch, and have the loudest voice. They have to learn how to plan, execute, and react much faster than ever before because marketplace selling is truly “real time.” Winning requires superior data and analytics specific to these markets, automation tools to manage the ebbs / flows of supply and demand, and new approaches to marketing and promotion.
WHY ARE WE HERE?
As fans of entrepreneurship and of innovation, we find these changes incredibly exciting. The bold new retail landscape makes it easier than ever for small companies to get started and it encourages BIG companies to innovate faster and in more meaningful ways. It’s fuel for a more competitive landscape and, frankly, a much more interesting consumer goods industry.
We want to help give that innovation a nudge. We do this by partnering with brands that have something new to offer and we help them to succeed using eCommerce marketplaces as their growth accelerator. Why?
- Because we love product innovation
- We’re inspired by the people who create and nurture it
- We know how to help these people grow business, faster
Our founding team has worked on the front lines of the eCommerce direct-to-consumer transformation, including on the world’s biggest brands and at the biggest retailers. This small and mighty group, along with our partners, seamlessly blends insights, strategy, and execution capability. We are Bold Thinkers who Know How to Get Stuff Done.
WHAT WE CAN DO FOR YOU:
If you just need help with an item listing refresh or a promotion, there are plenty of companies out there that can help. We’d be glad to refer you. If you’re looking for a highly strategic and efficient Marketplace Plan, well-executed, then we hope you’ll reach out. We’ll help you through the entire cycle from opportunity assessment through launch and optimization.
- We’ll assess potential for your business on the Marketplaces: You’ll get a clear report that identifies your “size of prize” as well as product and positioning opportunities that can help get your brand noticed. We’ll tell you which parts of your current portfolio represent the most likely wins today and any “whitespaces” (variants or related category opportunities) that you should consider for the future. We’ll also help you understand who your true competitors really are and how they’re winning – you will likely be surprised!
- We’ll help you design the right Marketplace value proposition: Setting the right product configuration, sizing, and pricing is critical in a hyper-competitive environment. Shipping economics also play a major role. Small “tweaks,” including those delivered through bundling, packaging, and even virtual content, can make a huge difference. Depending on your competitive situation, promotions and dynamic algorithmic pricing adjustments may also be important – our tools can help you optimize and automate these activities.
- We’ll deliver content excellence for your Marketplace Brand Store and Listings: We’re not looking to replace your eContent agency or internal team – if you’re happy with what you’re using, we can work side by side with them. We will, however, provide them with insights and strategies that can help get your content to rise above the pack, both with consumers and with relevant search algorithms. Then we’ll track your ranking progress for you.
- We’ll A/B test your content to maximize your exposure and conversion: Much as we’d all like to think that we can intuitively pick the best item title, main product image, or description copy by looking at it, it doesn’t work that way. The most successful sellers A/B test their content evaluating, to high degrees of statistical significance, different alternatives for the product’s presentation. We can manage that entire process for you helping you to ensure that you’re “optimized” – most brands see double digit growth impacts from this alone!
- We’ll manage your eCommerce promotion and marketing: Our goal is to drive momentum for your products by driving high-potential traffic to your already optimized product content. We have data to measure a lot more than you may be used to which means that our team and yours can quickly see what’s working and what’s not. Whether it’s managing bids on campaigns with hundreds of keywords, managing Amazon coupons or giveaways, or driving listing traffic with influencer and social media marketing, we’ve got you covered.
We know that you can find most of these services from other providers but you’ll likely need to “piecemeal” a solution and that can lead to messy and expensive outcomes. We can be your “one stop shop” for the best strategy and results. We’re confident that you won’t find a more insightful, more automated, more efficient, and “easier” solution than ours.