An online marketplace wants in on the home installation game

BY DEENA M. AMATO-MCCOY

eBay just made a move that could help it compete with the likes of Amazon, Ikea, Walmart and Best Buy.

Through partnership with leading home services providers, the online marketplace is enabling customers to book installation services on a vast selection of eBay inventory. The company is working with housecleaning and handyman app Handy; Porch, an online platform that connects homeowners with local home repair services, and InstallerNet, an installation solutions provider for the consumer electronics industry.

When purchasing items that require installation or assembly, eBay shoppers will have the ability to add a service from the most appropriate provider during the checkout process. If services are chosen, the selected company will connect eBay shoppers with pre-screened local service professionals available across their national network.

The new services coincide with eBay’s recent launch of tire installation services in late 2017. Through the service, eBay shoppers can bundle new tire purchases with professional installation available in their local area.

“A massive amount of home and electronic items are sold on eBay daily, many of which require professional installation,” said Alyssa Steele, VP of merchandising at eBay. “With these new partnerships, we’re able to combine our incredible selection of inventory with easy access to affordable and trusted service professionals, making eBay a one-stop shop for our customers.”

The deals will help eBay compete with other companies that offer similar services. For example, Walmart offers customers both in-store and online the option to purchase in-home installation and assembly services for merchandise, including furniture and electronics. The program is available through its partnership with home services provider Handy.

Meanwhile, Ikea introduced its TaskRabbit At-Home Assembly Service in a pilot in 2016. The company introduced the program online in select markets, and in six stores in the San Francisco and New York City area. The retailer said additional stores will add the service in 2018, including those in Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., and more.

Best Buy offers similar services through its Geek Squad. Amazon also features assembly services for merchandise including furniture, fitness equipment, and recreational items, including pool tables.

“This wise initiative … shows that retailers en masse are looking to differentiate themselves by offering services that help consumers use the products they buy,” said Adrien Nussenbaum, U.S. CEO and co-founder of Mirakl.

“As consumers continue to push for more options and convenience, offering services is a natural extension that allows retailers to be a bigger part of the customer’s journey. It’s not a new model,” Nussenbaum added. “What’s new is the ability to bring many more service providers to the table using the online marketplace model. As the retail industry continues to experience a services revolution, the marketplace model provides a unique opportunity to offer a comprehensive list of third-party service provider which complete the purchase experience.”

 

Originally published on November 12th, 2019 in Chain Store Age

The Rise Of Online Marketplaces In Digital Grocery—Learning From Amazon

by Adrien Nussenbaum/co-founder and U.S. CEO, Mirakl

Grocery retailing is being profoundly transformed. Within a decade, grocery shopping as we remember it will be unrecognizable. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods in 2017 marked a milestone in the evolution of the grocery store, bringing an e-commerce first, technology-driven approach to a sector noted for its digital latency. The Food Marketing Institute and Nielson together estimate that 70 percent of consumers will buy at least some groceries online in the next five to seven years. In fact, online grocery sales are predicted to reach $100 billion by 2022 in North America alone.

Already, more than half of the world’s food retailers have begun preparations to sell their goods online. From Amazon Go to Instacart, HelloFresh to Peapod, we’re seeing a surge in on-demand, digital-first services designed to make food shopping more convenient for consumers. The shift from offline to online in the grocery sector is gaining momentum at a rapid pace.

As more consumers experiment with, or completely switch to, online grocery shopping, ensuring availability of a wide range of products over the web should be at the forefront of retailers’ minds. This is the time for grocers to make sure they have a large stake in the consumer’s mind. Brand loyalty is strongest in grocery, but mass merchants are starting to take mind and market share with advanced digital grocery initiatives. How are grocers going to adapt to offer all that customers want online?

One method in providing customers with an increased product assortment and greater customer satisfaction is the marketplace model. While the grocery industry overall grew one percent year over year, Amazon’s grocery business grew 59 percent year over year.

Growing marketplace mindset

Marketplace collaborations offer a great route to success for many retailers, and as such, many around the world are enhancing their platform infrastructures and redefining their product strategies. Using this model, they are able to grow their online grocery business through a larger product assortment of items many grocers don’t have in-store, helping to increase market share.

In South Korea, one of the most digitally mature e-grocery markets in the world, superchain E-Mart, sought to eradicate customer pain points and entice new shoppers to their stores while ensuring their offering was seamlessly omnichannel. To achieve these ends, E-Mart built a marketplace platform encompassing its many grocery formats.

In North America, Alberstons’, who currently operates grocery stores in 35 states under 20 banners including Safeway, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s and Vons, is launching its own grocery marketplace to take its assortment to the next level. This online marketplace creates an endless shopping aisle that offers customers access to a wide assortment of hard-to-find products from the most experienced sellers and allows shoppers to quickly discover new items and trends that suit their tastes and lifestyles. These purchases are made directly from manufacturers and shipped to the customer for exceptional convenience.

Kroger also recently announced that they’re able to enter the Chinese market via becoming a marketplace seller on Alibaba’s Tmall.com. It’s clear that a marketplace strategy is at the heart of many grocers’ long-term planning to protect and gain market share.

Maximizing grocery marketplaces by including service providers

Grocers should launch their own online marketplaces to offer an endless aisle and access to unique products, but it shouldn’t stop there. Bringing service providers into the online experience—whether it’s personal shoppers, in-home chefs, access to cooking classes or any number food and non-food related services—is a significant opportunity for grocers to differentiate. It’s already happening with Instacart partnerships and on Amazon’s platform—why not think beyond food delivery?

In a world where convenience is king, it’s time for grocers to play digital catch up and take advantage of the marketplace model.

 

Originally published in The Shelby Report on November 7th, 2018

Albertsons Digital Marketplace goes live

By Russell Redman, Supermarket News

E-store serves up thousands of specialty products from third-party sellers

Albertsons Cos. has launched an online marketplace that provides a venue for third-party vendors to sell directly to its customers.

Announced in March, the Albertsons Digital Marketplace offers more than 40,000 specialty food and nonfood products. The virtual store focuses on natural, organic, ethnic and alternative products, including hard-to-find items such as spices and condiments, specific flavors of coffee, and unique health and beauty aids.

Plans call for the new e-store, accessed at Albertsons.com/Marketplace, to carry more than 100,000 products by the end of 2018, the Boise, Idaho-based supermarket retailer said.

“Albertsons Digital Marketplace helps customers discover exciting new products from innovative manufacturers that are then shipped directly to them, creating an infinite aisle. This marketplace is just another example of how we are using digital technologies to reinforce and extend our core capabilities of offering exciting new products and a wide assortment,” according to Narayan Iyengar, senior vice president of digital and e-commerce at Albertsons Cos. “Our infinite aisle also helps a large number of specialty sellers like small businesses and budding entrepreneurs get exposure to our vast customer base.”

Powered by technology from Boston-based e-commerce firm Mirakl, the digital marketplace also is expected to help Albertsons keep atop product trends and hot new items. Data gleaned from the marketplace can be used to help identify changing consumer interests, shopping needs by region and emerging food and wellness trends, the companies said. That capability, in turn, can help Albertsons respond to customer needs more rapidly by adding assortment from its network of sellers.

“Our digital team is focused on removing the limits on how people shop for food. Today, people are trying to squeeze the best out of each day in their busy lives. While some customers want an extended selection or unique specialty products, there are other customers who simply prefer to have bulky items like pet food shipped straight to their front doors,” explained Jon Fahrner, head of marketplace for Albertsons.

Fahrner and Karl Varsanyi, group vice president of digital product management, are key architects of the marketplace, Albertsons said. Before coming to the company, Varsanyi helped turn Macys.com into a leading retail e-commerce site in the United States. Fahrner, meanwhile, was part of the founding team at Zappos.com.

“This is just the beginning. We are excited to continue to innovate new models to better fit people’s lives,” Fahrner added.

Through the marketplace, small businesses and sellers of niche products can showcase their wares on a much broader scale. Albertsons said one artisan vendor that’s receiving more visibility via the platform is Spicemode, which sells all-natural, handmade simmer sauces and spice blends. The Chicago-based company’s products have been available online and in select retail stores, but now its offerings get a national scale on the marketplace.

“We started this company on the premise that global flavors should be available to everyone,” commented Amar Singh, chief flavor officer at Spicemode. “Albertsons Digital Marketplace lets even more customers begin their flavor journey with small-batch cooking sauces and spices.”

For vendors, the Albertsons Digital Marketplace offers an easy way to create an online presence and get access to Albertsons’ large customer base, noted Mirakl. The site, which uses the Mirakl Marketplace Platform, also gives vendors insight into regions where they might want to invest in building distribution.

“By choosing the online marketplace model, Albertsons Cos. is truly distinguishing itself from the competition, and Mirakl is honored to be working alongside Albertsons on this journey,” according to Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder and U.S. CEO of Mirakl.

Added Iyengar, “The Mirakl team, and McFadyen Digital’s team, have been instrumental in achieving our launch goals.”

First Published in Supermarket News on October 17th, 2018.

Albertsons launches an online marketplace for food, wellness and household products

By James Melton, Internet Retailer

The marketplace is launching with 40,000 food and wellness products, with an emphasis on natural, organic, ethnic and “alternative” products. The selection will grow to 100,000 SKUs by the end of 2018, Albertsons says.

Grocery retailer Albertsons Cos. LLC today launched an online marketplace selling about 40,000 food, wellness and household products. By the end of 2018, the site, Albertsons.com/Marketplace, will offer more than 100,000 products, the company says.

Albertsons—the third-largest grocer in the United States in terms of market share and No. 178 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 1000–announced plans to launch the marketplace earlier this year. The new marketplace will allow vendors to list products for purchase on the platform, with the marketplace handling several front-end e-commerce functions, including search, product descriptions and ordering, in exchange for a commission on each sale.

The marketplace website is built on theMirakl Marketplace Platform.

Albertsons says the goal of the new marketplace is to create an “infinite aisle” where customers can buy directly from manufacturers, with an emphasis on natural, organic, ethnic and “alternative” products. The marketplace also will provide the retailer with data about customers nationwide that could help it identify shifting consumer interests, regionally specific shopping needs and new food trends, Albertsons says.

A spokeswoman for Albertsons says most of the items sold on the marketplace will be items currently not available in Albertsons’ stores, though that could change. “Eventually, sales data will be used by merchandisers to stock items in store based on regional preferences,” she says.

Some of the marketplace sellers, she says, are completely new to Albertsons, while others are current vendors. The website includes a section called Seller Stories, which provides background information about manufacturers selling on the marketplace.

For brands that sell on the website, Albertsons says, the marketplace offers the chance to reach consumers nationally. For example, Albertsons points to marketplace seller Spicemode, which makes sauces and spice blends. Prior to joining the marketplace, Spicemode was available online and in a limited number of stores, including Whole Foods Market locations in 10 states.

Albertsons operates grocery stores in 35 states under 20 banners, including Safeway, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s and Vons. Albertsons is owned by a consortium of investors led by Cerberus Capital Management. For a limited time, the spokeswoman says, members of the Albertsons just for U loyalty program will earn points every time they shop on the marketplace.

The new marketplace represents just one of the ways Albertsons has sought to create and acquire a bigger online presence. For example, in August, Albertsons teamed up with venture capital firm Greycroft to create a $50 million fund that will invest in emerging companies and technologies in the grocery sector.

Greycroft focuses on investments in web- and mobile-based firms, including e-retailers. Its current portfolio includes stakes in grocery e-retailers, including Thrive Market (No. 208), Boxed Wholesale (No. 345) and luxury apparel and accessories consignment reseller The RealReal Inc. (No. 184).

In January, Albertsons launched a platform called Albertsons Performance Media, “powered by” Quotient Technology Inc. The platform works with consumer brands on their digital advertising and in-store targeting efforts.

Last September, Albertsons acquired the meal-kit delivery service Plated for an undisclosed amount. In the second quarter of fiscal 2018, which ended Sept. 8, Albertsons reported that e-commerce sales, including sales of Plated meal kits, grew 113% compared with the same period a year earlier.

Albertsons and drug store chain Rite Aid Corp. announced a planned merger in early 2018. But those plans were abandoned in August after the deal failed to win enough support from shareholders.

First published in Internet Retailer on October 16, 2018

‘It’s the Amazon approach’: Post-IPO, Farfetch’s path to profitability – Glossy

By Hilary Milnes

Farfetch, the online marketplace that aggregates luxury clothing and accessories from brands and speciality boutiques all over the world, has a heavy burden on its shoulders. Now public, the e-commerce company built on an expensive infrastructure of data technology, is setting out to prove it can change the way fashion operates.

It’s well-positioned. Its shares started selling on the New York Stock Exchange Friday at $20 each, targeting $885 million,and landed it a $5.8 billion valuation, topping expectations of $17 per share and a $5 billion valuation. By noon, stock prices had already shot up 42 percent, to $28.45 apiece, raising the company’s valuation to more than $8 billion.

For a company that’s never turned a profit, that’s a big price tag. But stockholders are placing a bet, rather than buying into something that’s already proven — just like the story of retail marketplaces.

“Farfetch is benefitting from being at the crossroads of two extremely highly valued industries: luxury and online marketplaces,” said Adrien Nussenbaum, the CEO and co-founder of Mirakl, a retail marketplace platform. “As a result, it’s being valued at the same multiples of the Amazons and Alibabas of the world. At some point, investors will want to see profitability, but with marketplaces, investors have proven to be patient with profitability.”

Thanks to its marketplace model, Farfetch doesn’t own the product it sells, which according to its S-1 filing, is a 5.7 million-item count carried from 3,200 brands. So, unlike traditional multi-brand retailers as well as Farfetch e-commerce competitor Yoox Net-a-Porter, it’s not burdened with overhead, the volatility of accurately predicting inventory buys, and dealing with unsold merchandise at the end of the season with promotions and buybacks. As a result, Farfetch has navigated global expansion nimbly: It’s inked deals with Chalhoub Group in the Middle East and JD.com in China to service local customers as well as onboard more regional boutique sellers.

And while Farfetch spent nearly $50 million acquiring customers in 2016, and counted a total of 1.1 million active customers in its S-1 filing, its easiest path to profitability is in building out technology for other fashion companies. Farfetch Black & White, an e-commerce management platform, and Farfetch Store of the Future, its in-store technology platform, fill out Farfetch’s total business services. Black & White operates the e-commerce sites for brands like Manolo Blahnik, and the Store of the Future operating system is used most notably by Chanel, which doesn’t sell online, to bring in-store technologies to life.

“If you piece it all together, Farfetch is in a position to replace wholesale, at its most ambitious,” said Thomas Sineau, retail analyst at CB Insights. “It’s an intermediary retailer brands can use to raise awareness and reach, as well as improve their own direct channels. To justify its valuation, you have to consider that it’s more than a luxury marketplace: It’s a proprietary technology company. It’s not working with third-party tech companies doing business with a bunch of similar companies.”

In the pursuit of profitability, Farfetch’s goal is that this investment will eventually pay off financially. It currently has a team of 631 data engineers and scientists investing in the data technology, including machine learning and algorithms that inform its marketing and e-commerce decisions, and is fed back to brand partners so that Farfetch is positioned as an invaluable source of customer insight. It’s also investing in the technology it believes will shape the way people shop both online and in stores, like augmented reality and personalization capabilities that link store channels.

The other piece is luxury customer service. Nussenbaum reinforces the Amazon parallels: Amazon is allowed to cut its profit losses so long as it’s diversifying its revenue channels and servicing the customer in such a way that harbors long-time loyalty. Through initiatives like 90-minute delivery, white-glove concierge service, and personalized recommendations, Farfetch is developing the way the next generation of luxury customers shop.

“In a lot of ways, it’s the Amazon approach: Don’t focus on inventory. Focus on customer experience, data capturing and perfecting the marketplace model,” said Nussenbaum.

Of course, luxury e-commerce competition poses a threat as Farfetch fights for market share, but Sineau sees a future of fashion where Farfetch is sitting pretty regardless.

“We’re going to see consolidation in this space, so it’s not out of the questions that someone is likely going to come knocking. It could be Kering, when you consider how Farfetch has cozied up to Gucci,” said Sineau. “Not all platforms will need to exist on their own, and Farfetch has proven itself valuable.”

Orginally posted on Glossy, September 21st, 2018

The consumer movement taking place in the retail industry

By Adrien Nussenbaum, U.S. CEO and co-founder, Mirakl

The retail industry is in a state of constant competition to gain customers and build loyalty. With threats like Amazon, grabbing customers’ attention has never been more important and, in some cases, necessary to survival. As shopper expectations change, and digital continues to evolve online and infiltrate brick-and-mortar, customers are expecting more experiential and service-based shopping from retailers.

The rise of this consumer movement can be attributed to a number of integrated forces. According to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the exponential growth of the on-demand economy is estimated to reach $57.6 billion by the end of 2017 in the U.S. alone. Additionally, millennials are more likely to spend money on experiences rather than objects, according to research conducted by Harris and Eventbrite. More directly, there’s the pressing need for retailers to differentiate from the rise of the global generalists, who now own more than 50 percent of global sales, according to a recent report.

As such, it comes as no surprise that retailers are exploring strategies to develop a share of both the on-demand and experiential wallets.

We’ve seen plenty of retailers seek to differentiate themselves by offering new services and experiences — including Nike’s NYC immersive experience with a basketball court and treadmills to track running patterns and strides, Sephora’s in-store makeover service, and even Casper’s Dreamery, where customers can take a 45-minute nap for $25. So how can retailers get started with this growing trend?

The wrap-around service

Ultimately, services are being introduced across verticals to directly increase product sales, for both first time and repeat purchases. IKEA’s acquisition of TaskRabbit in 2017 was an unspoken admission that few enjoy battling through the construction of yet another Billy or Hemnes. Rather than shy away from a perceived customer negative however, IKEA addressed it head on and in doing so, created an opportunity to eradicate a barrier to purchase and potentially deliver a new incremental revenue stream.

To be a category-leader is to make the most of your superior knowledge of your specialism. Helping customers to better select, use and maintain the products you desire to sell is a key defensive strategy in the battle with online generalists.

Increased brand relevance

Upon recognizing the extreme passion for adventure amongst its customers, lifestyle camping and outdoor retailer REI decided to take things one step further by organizing REI Adventures. These outdoor adventures and treks give brand-loyal customers the opportunity to explore different parts of the world, led by experienced REI guides.

To become part of the customer conversation outside of the narrow buying window has long been the holy grail for marketers short on relevance. As more and more retailers rally around the “one-stop shop” strategy, services will be an ever-more-popular tool to extend relevance.

New revenue streams

Many brands are finding success in leveraging their existing reputation and product range to add new, related service lines into their mix, including Amazon. Amazon is utilizing its marketplace setup to quickly acquire a scale of service providers for consumers to progressively rate. The company is banking on the strength of its brand to drive trial of the new service. Time will tell if this proves to be a notable revenue stream.

But not only is the service itself an additional revenue stream, it can also convince customers to spend more time, and money, in the store. For REI, the customers who participate in one of the retailer’s adventures will likely need new gear and they will turn to REI for a full-circle experience.

A new service delivery model

Take a global view of the leading players in the delivery of services online and you’ll see a consistent trend — they typically do not ‘own’ nor directly provide the inventory of services they sell. Whether Uber with taxis or Airbnb with hotel rooms — high-growth companies utilize third parties to offer services and build a better customer experience. Retailers struggling to stand out should consider this approach and provide unique services that will keep customers coming back for a great, all-in-one experience. Welcome to the services revolution.

Orginially posted on Retail Customer Experience on September 13, 2018

 

J.Crew quietly launched a new platform that takes a page out of Amazon’s playbook

  • J.Crew has quietly launched a new selling platform that is similar to Amazon  Marketplace.
  • The new service, known as J.Crew Marketplace, enables third-party sellers to list items for sale on its website. J.Crew handles payment for these items, but they are shipped directly to customers from sellers.
  • The new platform is part of J.Crew’s strategy to make the brand more diverse in its offerings and appeal to more customers.
  • Amazon Marketplace has become one of the most successful areas of the e-commerce giant’s business, and it is now responsible for more than half of all units sold on Amazon.

J.Crew has quietly launched its own version of AmazonMarketplace.

The new service, which is appropriately called J.Crew Marketplace, soft-launched this spring, according to J.Crew.

It functions in the same way as Amazon’s own Marketplace. Customers can purchase an item through the third-party seller on J.Crew’s website. That item is then shipped directly to the customer from the seller. If the customer decides to return the item, it is shipped back directly to the seller. J.Crew handles the payment on both transactions.

A spokesperson for the company would not confirm what percentage of sales J.Crew deducts from each purchase or why its website says that these items cannot be shipped to Washington, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania or Oklahoma.

The partnered brands include a mix of smaller, boutique labels including New York-based jewelry brand Odette and swimwear company Onia. Neither of these brands has its own store, but their products are sold online and in other retailers. Both brands said they launched on J.Crew’s website in May.

It’s hard to spot anything different on its website, especially as J.Crew already partners with other brands such as Gola, Nike, and New Balance, which are listed in an almost identical way. The only difference here is the note that informs the shopper that this is a “J.Crew Marketplace” item and will be shipped directly from the seller.

J.CrewJ.Crew

However, there’s a big difference behind the scenes. J.Crew doesn’t hold the inventory of these brands, which means it doesn’t need to worry about shipping, returns, or whether it will be left with unsold stock that is prone to discounting.

This new marketplace is part of J.Crew’s new strategy to make the brand more diverse in its offerings and appeal to more customers. Amazon’s own marketplace has become one of the most successful areas of its business and is now responsible for more than half of all units sold on Amazon.

“We must reflect the America of today, which is significantly more diverse than the America of 20 years ago,” new J.Crew CEO James Brett told The Wall Street Journal in August. “You can’t be one price. You can’t be one aesthetic. You can’t be one fit.”

J.Crew’s new look

Brett has been leading the charge in J.Crew’s turnaround efforts after several years of flagging sales. The store had been accused of becoming unaffordable and impractical under the leadership of its former CEO, Mickey Drexler, and longtime creative director, Jenna Lyons. To combat this, Brett has lowered prices, added plus-sizes, and most recently started selling its low-cost Mercantile collection on Amazon.

His strategy seems to be paying off, as J.Crew’s same-store sales numbers turned a corner in the company’s most recent quarterly results after dropping for the last three years. In August, J.Crew’s namesake brand reported a 1% increase in comparable sales for the second quarter.

On Monday, J.Crew unveiled its new look with a diversity-driven ad campaign that features groups of people from creative and non-profit organizations dressed in J.Crew clothing.

 

Originally posted on Business Insider by Mary Hanbury, September 11th, 2018

Three Steps to Transition Your Apparel Brand into a Lifestyle Brand

By Adrien Nussenbaum, Mirakl – 08/21/2018

It’s been a challenging few years for the retail industry, and apparel retailers have been among those hit the hardest. And while there may not be a single explanation for why this is, there are a few key drivers. For one, it’s no longer fashion brands that set the trends, rather customer expectations are now driven by influencers on Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms. Compound that with competition from emerging, more nimble retailers and e-commerce giants such as Amazonmaking a play in the space, and you have the perfect combination for friction and challenges.

So, how do fashion and apparel retailers evolve and stay relevant in today’s highly competitive, social media-driven landscape?

You must build a “lifestyle” brand — plain and simple.

This is a risky endeavor that requires a very clear vision and a deep knowledge of your core customers and, as such, there are many opportunities for missteps. The benefits, however, can be substantial and lucrative if a brand establishes itself as a truly unique business capable of being an integral part of customers’ lives.

So, how can a retailer or brand take the leap and successfully craft itself into a lifestyle brand? There may not be a simple answer, but getting to know your customers, building a well-crafted image and a carefully curated online assortment can certainly catalyze this transformation.

Get to know your customers

Your brand may want to add new pieces to your collection, but how do you know what your customers want? As a lifestyle brand, simple product missteps can ruin your customers’ trust. But, as is usually the case in today’s e-commerce landscape, data is the key to avoiding those missteps. Through a multitude of data collected both in-stores and online, you have access to your customers’ preferences, shopping habits, page visits, etc. — all extremely valuable in building and evolving your customer experience and overall offering.

Amazon has proven again and again that data is key. Instead of selling your customers’ favorite products on Amazon, where you lose access to their habits, maintain autonomy over your apparel and preserve the power to evaluate your own data.

Craft and share your vision

Most fashion brands and retailers have a vision and dedication to serving customers — that’s nothing new. Lifestyle brands, however, take this to an entirely new level. Not only do they serve the customer, they align their brands with customers’ interests, beliefs and attitudes to build a unique connection. Take advantage of the information gathered about your customers, establish a clear-cut vision and identity, and build a community around that to create a true lifestyle brand.

A great way to build a community for your loyal customers is to create an online presence that truly represents the lifestyle your brand represents. The store is a great place for customers to convene, share common interests and experience the essence of your brand. However, an expansive online presence and community can also enhance the in-store experience by offering easy access to not only your product offerings, but a way connect with like-minded individuals and consume relevant content.

Carefully curate products

Now that you’ve collected customer data and established a clear vision, it’s time to use that information to carefully curate your product selection. In order to do so, without carrying additional overhead and inventory, retailers should develop well-vetted brand partnerships that complement the particular lifestyle they’ve chosen to cultivate.

As a best practice, brands should resist the urge to be an “everything store” and focus on creating a curated offering that makes their online experience unique from other apparel brands. When expanding their assortment, a lifestyle brand should only invite select, quality brands and third-party sellers into its platform. When considering inviting a new brand into your online experience, ask the following:

  • Do we trust them?
  • Would our customers trust them?
  • Do they share the same values as our customers?
  • Will they represent our brand well?

It’s essential to only offer products that your customer base will embrace as an extension of the brand they love. By expanding your product offering, you will create an opportunity to collect additional data about customers and build an even better understanding of loyal customer groups. These data sets will make you far more in-tune with your customer and as such, help you grow into a sprawling and focused lifestyle brand.

While it’s a bold venture to grow your business into a lifestyle brand, it can have tremendous payoffs. By getting to know your customers, crafting your vision, and investing in a carefully curated online assortment, you can create a better overall customer experience, and, in turn, drive loyalty.

 

Adrien Nussenbaum is U.S. CEO and co-founder of Mirakl.

Bark sells its dog toys on Urban Outfitters’ online marketplace

The dog toy retailer known for subscription service BarkBox is selling its products on UO MRKT to reach new shoppers. In September, Bark will launch an Urban Outfitters-specific dog toy line.

This week, dog toy and treat retailer Bark—known for its subscription service BarkBox—began selling three of its product collections on apparel retailer Urban Outfitters Inc.’s online marketplace, UO MRKT.

Selling its products on another e-commerce site will get Bark’s products in front of more shoppers, says a Bark spokesman.

“As we look to further build out our retail partner network, we typically have to choose between mass accessibility and volume-driving partners and influential, like-minded brand partners. Urban Outfitters is both,” the Bark spokesman says.

Bark designs 99% of its SKUs, and the retailer has a manufacturer produce them. Bark sells its subscription service on BarkBox.com and has a separate site Barkshop.com where shoppers can buy single products without a subscription.

Even though Urban Outfitters is not a traditional retailer where consumers shop for pet products, there is a clear demographic overlap, the spokesman says. For example, both sites have a similar younger shopping base: 47.9% of shoppers at UrbanOutfitters.com are under the age of 34, according to Top500Guide.com, and 40.7% of shoppers who visit Barkshop.com are under the age of 34, according to SimilarWeb data. The Urban Outfitters platform will allow Bark to “further lean into the cheekiness, attitude and millennial-savvy nature of our brand in a way that we haven’t been able to before,” the spokesman says.

“As dog people, we relate with our customers on a uniquely personal level and are committed to finding new ways to connect with them in non-traditional destinations and experiences,” says Rich Sargente, general manager and vice president of sales at Bark. “We’re excited to have Urban Outfitters as our next partner to allow us to further lean into the clever, raw personality that has kept our growing audience engaged with us over the years.”

Bark began distributing its products with Target Corp. about a year ago, where they are available on Target.com and in Target’s 1,800 stores. “We look forward to continuing to strengthen [the Target] relationship in the years ahead as we expand our network of unique retailer partners, each of which we serve with custom collections and marketing strategies that directly relate to their specific customer bases,” the spokesman says.

Earlier this year it embarked on an arrangement with Funboy, a California pool float company, to sell Bark-themed pool rafts (human and dog-sized) on Funboy.com and Barkshop.com.

The Bark products available on Urban, which include dog toys, dog photo props and tote bags made for walking a dog, are available both on UrbanOutfitters.com and BarkShop.com. In September, Bark will launch a line of “fun and seasonal toys,” specifically for Urban Outfitters, the spokesman says.

Urban Outfitters launched its marketplace in May, and it is integrated into its main shopping site. Marketplace products appear alongside Urban’s own products, and if the product is sold by a marketplace seller, Urban Outfitters labels it as a “UO MRKT” product. The retailer is working with marketplace technology vendor Mirakl for UO MRKT.

Originally published by Digital Commerce 360 on August 14th, 2018

Back-To-School Gives Retailers Opportunity to Win Back Customers

By Adrien Nussenbaum, August 2, 2018

Students and parents see summer vacation as a time for relaxation and a carefree attitude; however, the season is anything but for retailers selling the items students need when they return to class in the fall.

While approximately a quarter of shoppers heading back-to-school or college start their search for new items at least two months prior to the start date, the majority stock up three weeks to one month in advance and about 20% wait until a week or two before school starts, according to a 2018 report by the National Retail Federation.

According to the same report, back-to-college and back-to-school are expected to be two of the largest consumer spending events of the year, second and third only to the winter holidays. Based on last year’s results, households will spend an estimated average of $942 on back-to-college shopping and $685 on back-to-school shopping for grade schoolers.

Given these statistics, those in the business of selling apparel, electronics, shoes and school supplies still have time to capitalize on this peak season and cater to customers in ways that will earn their trust and future business.

Expanding product offerings by going stockless or managing stock in an efficient way, ensuring consistency between online and offline stores and providing complementary services to customers, are some of the prime opportunities retailers can pursue to come out on top against competitors.

Resolve Stock Shortages

When it comes to pleasing customers, efficiency is key. Out-of-stock items and long lags in product delivery are quick ways to lose business, especially for time-poor households. According to recent consumer research from Mirakl, 71% of shoppers who experienced an out-of-stock went on to complete their purchase by going to a different retailer and 33% told us this made them less likely to shop with that retailer in the future.

According to a recent study from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, out-of-stock rates for eCommerce purchases are nearly double what occurs in physical stores, ultimately costing online retailers up to $17 billion a year.

In response to retailers’ inventories often failing to live up to consumers’ expectations, retailers shouldn’t fall into the trap of offering more than they can carry at sufficient stock levels. Offering thousands of product lines if the store only carries a few items in each size will backfire when customers want an item but can’t get it in their size.

An alternative to the stock shortage problem is going stockless completely. With this setup, the supplier or a third-party vendor holds items ordered by customers in its own warehouse and releases them when customers place orders for specific products. This just-in-time selling method makes it feasible for retailers to promote add-on items by experimenting with new product lines buyers may be interested in while they’re already in the mindset of shopping for the upcoming school year.

Guarantee Compatibility Among Channels

For retailers operating across multiple channels, synchronizing online and offline is crucial. Each shopper has their own preference when it comes to researching products to potentially buy, along with where they go to purchase them.

Whatever a customer’s preferred method, being able to access a store’s full inventory online and in-store with minimal discrepancies allows back-to-school shoppers to make confident decisions, which in turn could reduce return rates.

Provide More Services

In addition to a stockless inventory or a well-managed stock with consistency across all retail channels, finding unique ways to accommodate customers can also secure sales. From ridesharing apps to food delivery companies, services are at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Integrating convenience is yet another layer retailers can add to the online or in-store shopping experience, giving shoppers more options other than a product and its price when making buying decisions.

Amidst the stress parents and students feel during this back-to-school crunch time, high-quality customer service initiatives such as footwear departments offering in-store shoe fitting services can entice buyers in the moment and lead them to brand loyalty in the future.

Time is of the essence for those looking to improve their sales this back-to-school season.

Originally published by Multichannel Merchant on August 2, 2018